This project aims at enabling UNDP country offices and innovation specialists in working collaboratively towards new innovation approaches in international development. The goal is to recreate the journey of discovery and communication for initiatives with a systems lens, breaking barriers and distributing the power of decision making.
Need for intervention
The innovation team at UNDP Eurasia is working continuously in an effort to impart a new innovation practice for systemic thinking onto the upcoming projects of various country offices but the imbalance in process knowledge within these two structures is acting as a barrier. Considering the newness of the approach, breaking silos during the discovery phase itself came out to be the strongest need from the perspective of both the country offices of the region and the regional hub innovation facility.
This project took place via shadowing the process and intervening as it happened. My main responsibilities were around breaking down the complex process into basic building blocks and providing suggestions via journey mapping, workshop with multiple country offices and internal teams.
Team - Aditi Soni, UNDP IRH Innovation Hub
Challenging the world’s wicked problems
UNDP is currently changing its landscape of dealing with the world’s most pressing issues and for that, is looking at new innovation frameworks like ‘Thinking in Portfolios’. This approach enables country offices and local bodies to think with a systems lens, enable experimentation with ideas and ultimately de-risk innovation practices. The innovation team at UNDP Eurasia is working continuously in an effort to impart this new practice onto the upcoming projects of various country offices but the imbalance in process knowledge within these two structures is acting as a barrier. My goal was to envision this new method of portfolio thinking as a service offering for better engagement within the two teams. Considering the newness of the approach, breaking silos during the discovery phase itself came out to be the strongest need from the perspective of both the country offices of the region and the regional hub innovation facility.
Key Players and their current communication cycle
Following and adapting to a new process comes with nuances that go beyond its on-the-job application
Chaotic on-boarding creates lack of trust
In the current onboarding journey, no one knows what to expect, where to look or what to do, creating a chaotic atmosphere for an already new and resistant approach. As a result, this increases the work for the innovation team by adding to the level of hand holding and affecting the timeline of the entire process to be followed. In turn, reducing trust and interest of the country office colleagues. The three main factors that lead to this resistance in the beginning are: having no common ground of information for all, lack of ownership from the perspective of country offices and the variable journeys and needs of all the people involved in the process. Hence, a clear need for creating a space of interaction and distribution of decisions came out as the scope of intervention.
Portfolio Exploration Toolkit
A platform to choose your way through portfolio thinking, based on the country goals and process familiarity, acting as a bridge between innovation method experts and appliers.
1. Fostering internal knowledge share
To embed decision making, this tool has a new narrative around selecting potential approaches that are centred around the needs of the COs rather than the frameworks used in the process. This makes the countries directly align to the method they’d prefer to reach their potential goal, either via a quick filter or personal interaction. Likely for someone who is making decisions.
2. Preparing the country offices
Along with looking at snippets about the process or tools, selecting the right competencies, it also allows the innovation team to conduct quick briefing workshops for cohorts. Best suited for someone joining midway, new to the organisation or just a resistant colleague. For an organisation that is so deeply interconnected, trust comes via looking at experiences of the neighbouring regions and countries and the tool also provides information around that to co-create a community of change makers.
The Impact of Early Communication
While discovering this new approach is an initial part of the entire journey, if done correctly, it comes with high impact of continuous and long-term engagement, leading to projects that are rich, believed in and worked upon through utmost collaboration and expertise. It leads to increase in co-creating the process rather than following what’s told. This new toolkit enhances dialogue within the teams, supports the journey of learning by doing and shifts the perception from resistance to intrigue among the involved regional offices.
Reflections, next steps and new learnings
Being a very new space of intervention, this project taught me how designing for complexity comes with its own set of intricacies and interconnectedness. It made me experience research-on-the-go, working in never ending loops of tangled challenges in developmental projects and thinking big and small simultaneously. The biggest learning for me was realising the importance of empowering change makers and providing them with agency via co-creation and feedback loops, to help them in making this world a better place.