Nora Sahatciu, Andrew Russell, Mjellmë Doli
06 April 2016
When we set out to design a new Common Development Plan for the UN Kosovo Team in the fall of 2014, we decided to do things a bit differently.
We were very interested in determining the substance of our new plan (the “what”) but we also wanted to use the planning process as an opportunity to take a critical look at the quality of our approach to collaboration (the “how”). So we decided to take a two-track process to the design of the plan.
The “formal” track was derived from the standard UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) guidelines while the “informal” track took its inspiration from design thinking methodologies that would allow for a wide variety of participants to work together to analyze the challenges to effective inter-agency collaboration and to collectively design and prototype solutions. These new ways of working together could then potentially be tested out in the context of new and ongoing joint initiatives related to programming (“One Programme”), advocacy (“Communicating as One”) and operations (“Operating as One”).
The second, informal track began with an initial prototyping workshop from September 15-16 2014.
The purpose of the prototyping workshop was to create a space for over 70 interested staff members from 15 different agencies to come together and explore new ways of thinking and working together. The workshop focused on identifying and naming the key challenges or patterns of thinking and behaviour that would need to be addressed in order to achieve more effective inter-agency collaboration. The idea of “Unwanted Repetitive Patterns” (URPs) was presented and the group was asked to think in terms of the “recurring patterns” that tend to block or impede efforts to collaborate.
During the workshop participants also identified eight potential prototypes for practicing new ways of collaborating on programming, advocacy and operations, using “Open Space Technology”. Four of these prototypes have since moved forward in one way or another, a 50 percent success rate. One of the prototyping ideas suggested at the workshop that received the most interest was that of promoting youth engagement.
UNDP, UNICEF, UNV, UNFPA and WHO have since applied a highly participatory human-centred programme design approach to create the first UN joint programme in Kosovo that is derived entirely from the collective creative energies of young people. More recently, UNDP and WHO have been exploring crowdsourcing and citizen-generated data for more effective advocacy on environmental impacts on health.
Six months later, at a second Prototyping Lab, the team reviewed what had changed. A third set of prototyping working sessions were held in early 2016. In this way, we are treating prototyping as an ongoing dialogue process on collaboration and as a sustained platform for strategic conversations. Ultimately, what people talk about is what they pay attention to. And what they care about is also what will help them join others moving beyond their own agency or issue-based silos into broader, more effective partnerships.
These most recent working sessions have focused on internal inter-agency business processes. We have used business process reengineering (BPR) to review processes related to joint programme design and website communications, with the aim of increasing efficiency but also to acquire a shared vision on these processes can and should work to incentivize a stronger culture of collaboration.
With the support of UNDP’s Management Consulting Team (MCT), we convened technical and communications staff from all agencies to identify pain points, rooms of improvement and new tools. This includes a complete, collaborative re-design of the new UN Kosovo Team web-site. We should have a beta version ready to share very shortly.
During these working sessions we also tackled processes related to UN Common Services. Teams from all agencies helped to identify common problems and to recommend viable solutions. This same participatory approach will be used in implementing the improved processes. We used video to help illustrate some of these problems and to propose solutions.
Support from the UNDAF Innovation Facility has allowed the Office of the UN Development Coordinator to increasing serve as a hub for these kinds of experimental activities. This way of working has begun to spin off into unexpected directions. We recently facilitated an ad-hoc collaboration by the UN Kosovo Team with the Kosovo Emergency Management Agency in piloting the first Big Data prototype for emergency response in Kosovo. We also served as liaison for UN Kosovo Team agencies with the Kosovo Office of the President to coordinate data gathering for Kosovo’s application to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which resulted in the MCC Board of Directors selecting Kosovo as eligible to develop a compact. This opens the door for Kosovo receive up hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. assistance for the fight against poverty and corruption.
So what have we learned from our journey so far?
In these rapidly changing times, where it appears that even time travel is now possible, we need to be much more agile, responsive and adaptive in the way that the UN engages in development assistance. And we need all be willing to think “out-of-the-box”. Creating time and space for collective dreaming and creativity is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
We strongly believe then that co-design of joint UN solutions and prototyping should:
Be a standardized operating procedure.
Be a collaborative and engaging process.
Be used as a means of incentivizing a stronger culture of collaboration.
What are your own thoughts and experiences? We’d be happy to hear them and share more details of our prototyping journey, including business process maps and other specific outputs from our working sessions.