Designing a roadmap to funding with the aid of the concept of systems thinkingAlethea
Over the 3-day long session, the Fellows were oriented on the concept of system thinking and logframe training that they can take back to their respective communities, to design impactful roadmaps which would generate funding. Essentially, the aim of the session was to train the Fellows to put down their ideas in such a manner that they get due recognition and funds required to bring those ideas into execution, which would aid in bringing about positive changes in their communities.
Session: Tipping the Scales: Turning ideas and local knowledge into funding and change
1st July, 2019:
During the first day, the Fellows were introduced to ‘systems thinking’, a holistic way of thinking for identifying root problems and finding out the relationships and linkages that exist in a given system such as the indigenous food system. The concept of systems was explained and further clarified to the Fellows through practical mapping exercises. The Fellows observed that in looking at the cause and effect, indigenous communities also do reflect on the interplay of various components such as land, soil, seed, animals, culture, traditions, language, history, etc. in the evolution and practice of indigenous food systems. They concluded that contemporary systems thinking has a lot of common ground with indigenous thinking. The key message was to focus on links in between ‘Siloed’ processes.
The exercises of system mapping did however provide a deeper understanding of problem definition. Anna Bruni Sabhaney, Founding Director, The Confluencers Ltd, shared the BACON acronym she has been using in her work to investigate and make sense of information on complex problems. This recommended approach entailed:
Brainstorm: Put all issues, ideas, feelings, values and beliefs associated to a problem in one place
Associate: Physically place items that are relevant next to each other
Check lenses with others: Negotiate which links are more/less important, make adjustments
Order: Identify an entry point into the system for intervention and highlight the parts that are more important to your organisation or project’s work (boundary)
Navigate: Highlight different possible routes (strings of processes and links) and solutions that are available for travelling around the systems. In short, the systems thinking is a ‘way of learning your way to effective action by looking at connected wholes rather than separate parts’ (Open University).
The next phase of the first day session was used to explain and characterise the context, problems, motivation and behaviour of end-users (target groups), which is a crucial part of any successful project design. It is also important to write down and validate one’s assumptions. End users (target groups) could be farmers, young mothers, adolescent girls, youths, politicians, funders, etc., and everyone in the organisation should know who their end user is.
Unintended consequences and risks of a project were discussed along with risk management, resilience and vulnerability. It is always useful to maintain a register of all possible risks. In reviewing risks, it was suggested that one should review them from the ERIC point of view: sequentially,
E=eliminate or R=reduce or I=isolate and C=communicate
While reviewing options, one must compare the options of ‘DO NOTHING’ and your proposed actions. The ‘DO NOTHING’ option becomes the baseline for measuring any proposed intervention.
Group exercise on systems maps: Here, participants got divided into 5 groups. Each group identified one problem and mapped all issues associated with a problem. This exercise helped the Fellows to understand the linkages and interrelations between the systems from the perspective of different stakeholders. A key challenge and learning was the need to separate and avoid trying to create ‘order’ while brainstorming, as this could lead to simplification of the system.
2nd July, 2019 :
The second day was essentially used to talk about intent: project mission and vision. This was a very important and useful presentation because it helped all the Fellows to develop clearer ideas of these concepts. Also, the concept of project cycle, objectives and outcomes were explained and practiced using the tool termed ‘SMARTER’ (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound, Evaluated and Reviewed) for the development of objectives. In the last part, the structuring of a budget and prioritising interventions were at the center of the discussions.
- In simple terms, vision is about one’s dream for the future, for example, “One day, indigenous youths will attain the future they want”. It exists at a scale that goes beyond one’s organisation.
- Mission is about how and what approach one would use to help end users achieve the future they want.
- Outcomes are about benefits and the changes observed, such as change of mindset, increased autonomy, empowered communities, enhanced learning of new skills, greater confidence, increased trust. Outcome is about values.
- Outputs are the physical results of activities undertaken as part of the project and the overall work plan. Mapping of resilient crops is an activity and the Mapping Report is an output used to assess the completion of an activity.
- While framing the vision of the organisation, the root ‘why?’ and element of emotion/feeling should be taken into consideration.
- If we want to fulfill our intent/vision, we need to set short term objectives and milestones to regularly check whether we are headed in the right direction.
At the end of the session, the Fellows took part in a group exercise to come out with the vision and mission statement, and develop a possible project with the help of the logframe tool.
3rd July, 2019
The last day with Anna was devoted to measuring change and progress. At first, the Fellows went through the ‘Theory of Change’ which is a concept of capturing one’s designed pathway of change. This was followed by measuring progress and by comparing and selecting suitable indicators for measurement. They also had a very useful session on how to engage with the donors and the importance of careful strategic thinking when deciding which donors to approach and using what resources.
Anna then described and explained a framework for proposal development that is widely used by the HM Treasury in the United Kingdom. The last section was on approaches for good storytelling and presentation skills. In the end, a very useful exercise called ‘The Essential Pitch deck’ was practiced by the participants. Basically, all Fellows mapped their own systems with their problems and then developed a simplified project proposal which was presented to the other session participants.
Comments from Fellows:
“Now, I have a better understanding of the different terminologies of the logframe, i.e. vision, mission, outcome and output. While developing a proposal, selecting end user is critical if we want to achieve the goal of the project.” – Merrysha Nongrum
“For discovering the main problem that needs to be solved, it is necessary to navigate all the links, and for doing that it is necessary to use many disciplines which will provide a better understanding.” – Edgar Monte
“Systems map is a list of components which helps structure a system and communicate with each component for the result.” – Chenxiang Marak
“I used to write a number of project proposals when I worked with an organisation in Indonesia. Having this training is a great privilege to further improve my skills.” – Nofri Yani