Filed under: Development 2.0 Social inclusion Social innovation

futurespotters at work

Read about how we’re bringing people in from the edges through our recent workshops in Georgia, Armenia and Egypt (Photo:UNDP in Egypt)

At last month’s ‘Spot the Future’ workshop in Cairo, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Conceived as part of a radical shift in thinking on our end, this initiative is looking at what people are already doing to make the future they want in their communities.

We’re using this lens for the first time to involve more people in defining what a post-2015 agenda should look like (and are thrilled to have partners like the UK Government’s Open Policy Unit take note of it).

Before we began, Edgeryders co-founder Nadia El-Imam said she was purposefully being vague about everything in order to let people decide for themselves what direction the two-day workshop would take. It was this notion of ‘minds wide open’ that I believe directly led to its success.

I didn’t think we could open ourselves up and openly share ideas in such as short time because it can be hard to build trust.

However, it turns out if you’re honest and open then trust can be built in no time.

In Egypt, I’ve often felt that skepticism and individualism are two barriers to fruitful collaboration. People tend to value their own work greatly, are generally skeptical of other people’s intentions, and are afraid of losing control of their work.

Therefore, collaboration is very rare, and when it does happen, it’s usually between people who already know each other, regardless of whether or not they have the necessary resources.

I learned that when skepticism was removed from the equation, when people felt like they could truly be open and trust one another – then interest, collaboration and teamwork were quick to follow.

Simply by sharing your ideas without any limits you’ll attract the right people.

Collective action is key, and it was Nadia again who put it perfectly:

“When the world tells us we have to be small we have to remind ourselves that we can be giants together.”

For me, that was the most important outcome from the workshop: to elevate the concept of collaboration to truly have an impact on the society that you live in and care about.

There should be no skepticism because it’s in the whole community’s best interest that we work towards a common cause. I was also pleasantly surprised to see all the talented and creative attendees so open to changing their mindset and so eager to work together.

More than one participant mentioned that they had forgotten how to communicate and had forgotten how much they missed that feeling. So as a follow-up to the workshop, the first step will be to ensure continued communication. 

Don’t lose interest, don’t lose trust in yourself and others, and don’t wait. What we tend to do is get so excited during an event, workshop, or whatever and then completely forget about it.

Trust in the fact that there are some people out there that really want to help.

Don’t waste time – just go for it!

Also, take a look at what other people are doing and you might find something you never knew you’d be interested in and YOU could be of help to them.

Finally, accept constructive criticism and build on it because at the end of the day it can truly lead to real improvement and impact.

Becoming institutionalized

I also understand that a lot of people don’t want to work with institutions because of their perceived bureaucratic processes and top-down approach.

But this is not necessarily the way things have to continue, and this is why we are so excited to be a part of this process.

We are in a new era where citizens are realizing that having money isn’t the most important part in achieving their goals and where there is no need to rely on big institutions.

We can do things for ourselves with the help and support of one another. It’s this mentality that has catalyzed grassroots organizations like Edgeryders into existence.

But the truth is that we really want to help and genuinely care, if we didn’t we wouldn’t be experimenting with this new methodology and wouldn’t be here trying to reach out to you.

We want to work more closely with citizens who have the solutions to their own problems, because we won’t always know the answer.

We already discussed the possibility of replicating these workshops in different governates throughout Egypt to spread the message and see what other ideas people are hatching.

So if you need any help, get in touch! We are open to suggestions and here to learn from you, and we hope that you can also learn something from us.

This is just the beginning of our journey TOGETHER, and we are excited to see where we go next! Don’t let the conversation stop!


*This post was adapted from the Edgeryders blog