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SIP PROCESS 101
Listening and Meta-narrative Analyses for Portfolio Development
In order to tackle challenges that are increasingly complex, interrelated, and unpredictable, social innovation can be used to solve today’s most pressing human rights and social issues. Also, social innovation address challenges and opportunities within communities and, in many ways, favor inclusion of the most vulnerable and marginalized as well as providing a platform for voice and economic participation for those who left behind.
Shifting from single-point solutions and linear projects to an open innovation platform (variety of actors, methodologies, and interconnected actions) that is holistically framed by the principle of SDGs integration, UNDP in Thailand and Asia and Pacific Regional Hub in collaboration with Agirre Lehendakaria Center for Social and Political Studies is promoting a platform focused on transforming local food systems through a portfolio approach, with multi-stakeholders partnerships in and around local food systems in the southern border provinces including local authorities, local academic institutions, young creative groups, local incubators, schools, farmers, food entrepreneurs, consumers, local business associations, and market managers.
This portfolio of innovative solutions is developed under a process of “Social Innovation Platform (SIP)” which emphasizes deep listening, co-creation, and inter-linkages as essential steps in the journey of breaking the silos, building the partnerships, and leveraging collective impacts. The interconnected nature of food systems offers an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of integration for systemic changes that also contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Active listening or deep listening is a pivotal skill that all ethnographic researchers and design thinkers use to comprehend people, their context and people in their context. It is a set of qualitative tools that, complemented with quantitative data, allows to unveil the narratives of a community and reveal in-depth needs, challenges and opportunities existing in it:
- It involves an open attitude.
- It allows the emergence of a true understanding of the community’s reality.
- It is in connection with co-creation and prototyping: the needs and opportunities of the community are known, and these discoveries are connected to co-creation and prototyping. “The goal of this listening methodology is, not only to collect data and perform analysis to obtain a set of results (…), but also to contribute to change through the application of the methods in question.” (Jayne Engle, 2018.)
For a social transformation, it is essential to know the narratives and take them into account for the design and implementation of actions. Knowing and working with these narratives helps us to build common narratives that favor collective action.
- These are the perceptions that people and the community have about their own lives.
- They are subjective.
- They do not necessarily coincide or correspond to the ideas that people have about reality.
- They have a determining influence on actions aimed at change.
We are ultimately aiming at covering all the existing complex narratives, segmenting their unified patterns to visualize a portfolio of actions at different scales that is connected to the real needs of the communities.
Co-production for Interconnected Solutions
On Social Innovation Platforms (SIPs) co-creation will work as a mechanism to bring together new stakeholders with the emphasis on building a joint response to a complex challenge for which there is no defined answer (‘wicked’ problem).
The SIPs foster a large co-creation process at 5 different levels of action: community initiatives, startups and social entrepreneurship, large scale public-private partnerships, redesign of the current public services offered by the local authorities (innovative services that were not previously provided) and new regulation associated to the new challenges (climate emergency, COVID, digitalization, etc.).
If a portfolio is only built on already existing initiatives, the capacity to have a systemic impact will be limited. Therefore, co-creation allows to adapt the ongoing initiatives in the area but also to create new prototypes that will be added to the portfolio. A good and advanced people centered portfolio has to have a good balance between new ideas/prototypes, projects and pilots:
- EXISTING PROJECTS – Those that work and respond to perceptions, extracted from the mapping
- PILOTS – Inspiring things working in similar / neighbor cities
- NEW PROTOTYPES – From the co-creation process, addressing gaps
Creative ideation, design and prototyping of new solutions involves making things seem tangible and real. It is crucial that the key stakeholders and partners involved in the process fully understand and immerse themselves in the process. It is important to differentiate the three stages and understand them in an integrated manner, connected to the process of deep listening and collective interpretation:
Co-Creation: New ideas that respond to personas (patterns of narrative) are shared. Is the collaborative development of new value (concepts, solutions, products, and services) together with experts and stakeholders. Co-creation is a form of collaborative innovation: ideas are shared and improved together, rather than kept to oneself.
Co-Design: New ideas are developed and specified. Is an approach to design attempting to actively involve all stakeholders in the design process to help ensure the result meets their needs and is usable. Co-design involves shared decision making – everyone taking part has an equal level of power and consists of people with the relevant skills and experience coming together to create a tangible product or service.
Prototyping: Testing of new ideas. Is an experimental process where co-design teams implement ideas into tangible products or services. Teams build prototypes of varying degrees of fidelity to capture design concepts and test on users. With prototypes you can refine and validate your designs, so your product/service is right for your end user(s). The initial steps of deep listening, collective interpretation, and collaborative analysis, lead naturally to finding shared values, areas of opportunity and barriers, that motivate stakeholders involved in the process to come together to co-create. This inclusive process will lead to numerous idea sparks that are then the basis for co-design and prototyping. This process should not be understood as linear yet as an evolving system that implies rapid iterations and learning through feedback loops.
Co-creation offers the opportunity for everyone to openly discuss their ideas and opinions, so that at the end of this process several ideas are prioritized by the participants. Co-design helps structure team interactions around these ideas and align participants around specific goals and results to move forward. The final component, prototyping, is about implementing and experimenting these ideas.