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Filed under: Development 2.0 Social inclusion

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Using Critical Tasks List to outline the resources and capabilities that will be needed to implement solutions

We lead the Women in Local Democracy project, a three year European Union-funded project, implemented in partnership with the Republic of Armenia Ministry of Territorial Administration.

The goal of the project is the advancement of gender equality, the strengthening of local democracy and the enhancement of social cohesion within the Republic of Armenia. We approach it through:

Problem

We brought together over 50 project beneficiaries – diverse stakeholder representatives – for the first time: women in local government; regional authorities; village mayors; NGOs and journalists. We expected a challenge that the multi-stakeholder group would struggle to work effectively on number of issues in collaboration.

We designed a workshop with three sessions to enable frank discussion and experience sharing.

  1. Problem identification – what are the key issues they face in today’s local governance?
  2. Generation of ideas – what are the possible solutions, how can we benefit from innovative approaches?
  3. Capacity gaps – what knowledge, skills and resources we need to bring those solutions to life locally?

Why we used the tool

We applied the Problem Definition, Fast Idea Generator and Critical Tasks List in sequence to support each of the workshop sessions.

  • Problem Definition: we used this tool to give stakeholders a helpful framework to express and prioritise the problems that they experience.
  • Fast Idea Generator: we used this as a way to think differently about possible solutions to prototype.
  • Critical Tasks List: was used to structure an action plan or a model

How we used the tool

The workshop was scheduled over one and a half days (11.5 pure workshop hours in total).

We were careful to identify key stakeholders, as well as UNDP and its partners’ staff as facilitators. We knew that it would be effective to have people that know the issues more deeply and can be skillful in their response.

1. Problem Definition

We ran this session for 75 minutes. We had divided the audience into five groups and on rotation basis asked them to identify existing problems in five thematic areas of the local democracy:

  • Challenges in electoral processes at the local level for women and men candidates
  • Interaction between village/city mayor and Avagani (community council)
  • Collaboration between local government and central/regional authorities
  • Interaction and work of local government with constituency
  • Partnership of local government with civil society, inter-community organisations and media

To avoid duplication and find as many issues as possible, each group was asked to only add new issues when they were passed the list from the previous group.

At the end of the exercise, we asked the group to vote one priority issue in each field. Five issues surfaced and we asked people to join a conversation about the one they felt most motivated by.

The five most topical issues were:

  • Lack of ideological debate during local elections;
  • Limitations in Avagani: formation, capacity, proper understanding of role and functions;
  • Lack of constructive cooperation between local government, civil society and mass media: lack of formats, existing stereotypes;
  • Low engagement of residents in decision-making processes, apathy among people, insufficient efforts by local government;
  • Insufficient communication between Avagani with regional and central government over the community issues;

We used the problem definition tool to go deeper into each issue.

In the first column (‘What is the key issue?’) we asked the group to describe the issue clearly in 2-3 sentences.

In ‘Who is it a problem for?’ we asked them to focus on primary and secondary target groups that could be affected by a solution.

Columns three and four (‘social/cultural factors’ and ‘evidence’) were extremely useful for the group to work through.

With the final column we had some trouble explaining what was required to reframe issues. Instead we focused on looking at issue from a wider angle.

2. Fast Idea Generator

We began this session with some overview of social innovation principles and effective approaches to thinking differently about old practices.

We asked the group to write down current solutions that they are aware of – good or bad, effective or less effective – on issues they worked in the previous session.

We then encouraged them to step back and to think about some solutions they have witnessed (not necessarily related to the topic they work on) and were inspired by.

Using the Fast Idea Generator template, we ran a brainstorming session to edit, cut and mix the different solutions that were in front of the group. Using the different tactics – we found subtraction and exaggeration difficult – some groups were able to make up to seven different solutions.

A practice shared by a village mayor – turning the village school into local government to enable the schoolchildren to make decisions in the village for one day – actually was a typical example of inversion, and helped the group during that part of the exercise.

Each group was then asked to develop one possible solution or model from the list and prepare a presentation for the bigger workshop group. We asked them for the problem, solution, target group, how it would work, and risks.

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Brainstorming with Fast Idea Generator to edit, cut and mix possible solutions

3. Critical Tasks List

We asked the groups to list the resources (human & technical) and capabilities (knowledge & skills) that they thought would be needed to implement each proposed solution. As a capacity assessment each group was able to make a clear plan, a set of actions, and a generic budget.

We adapted the tool slightly and used four columns instead of five: activity – assigned to – budget – timeframe.

Results of using the tool

The three tools we used came handy for the overall logic of our workshop, helped to collect opinions of the participants in well-structured way, and ensure smooth transition from one section of the workshop to another.

The Problem Definition tool helped to analyse issues much smarter and more deeply. It helped diverse stakeholders find consensus on shared experiences.

Fast Idea Generator was a brilliant tool to shift thinking and find possible solutions to improve old practices.

Critical Tasks List has given clear direction and responsibilities to people.

Representatives of different sectors equally and actively engaged in all the sessions, some parts resulting in heating discussions and clashes of positions. The groups, however, reached consensus over proposed solutions.

The overall process has helped us to generate five possible solutions/models. With additional scoping work we will identify which of the solutions can feasibly be prototyped. Later this year, we are thinking to open a competition in local districts to implement those particular models.

Beyond that we intend to take up specific issues and run workshops in similar format in ten regions of Armenia.

Tips

  • In the problem definition tool, we would suggest that people provide a tangible example for the re-framing column.
  • For similar workshops, we would suggest groups of five to six people. We were working with groups of 10-12 and it was difficult to capture everyone’s input in the allocated time.
  • Taken such multi-stakeholder groups rarely meet in similar format we would suggest allocating 20 hours (two full days) to give the group a better chance to dig deeper into issues and identify more likely solutions.

**This post was originally published by Development Impact and You