In order to have a significant impact in addressing wicked problems, there seems to be a consensus that development needs to be done differently. Many communities of practice with colourful acronyms (DDD – Doing Development Differently, TWP – Thinking and Working Politically, and PDIA – Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation) have emerged in support of this agenda, and last month, they gathered for two days in Jakarta for a workshop called ‘Implementing the New Development Agenda’.
The workshop included breakout sessions where various issues were discussed, including doing gender equality and social inclusion (GESI, yet another acronym!) differently. As a facilitator for that session, I thought that it would be a great opportunity to try a new tool to help us discuss GESI in a fresh way: the Fast Idea Generator.
Fast Idea Generator: an abridged try-out
We only had 1.5 hours to try the Fast Idea Generator, with a mixed group of Indonesian activists, researchers, government representatives and international donor staff members. Given the limited time and variety of backgrounds and languages in the room, we decided that the session should focus less on generating solutions and more on making participants feel comfortable using the Fast Idea Generator in their own organisations.
We started by asking each participant to think of a problem around GESI that they are dealing with, reminding them to be as specific as possible, as advised by UNDP in Jordan after they used this tool in an Innovation Jam for the Syria Crisis. Afterwards, based on the experience of UNDP Armenia, we asked participants to list all the solutions they could think of to address their problem.
We then chose two out of the nine tactics in the Fast Idea Generator, Inversion and Translation, and guided participants to use them for 15 minutes each to bend, stretch, or break the rules in their list of solutions and see whether they could come up with new ideas. With music playing in the background, of course, since ambient music can apparently enhance our creativity. We then came back together as a group to reflect on our experience in using the tool.
Inversion: an exercise in reframing power
Participants found inversion, the prompt to turn common practice upside down, to be a prompt that can be used to pinpoint power structures that are often hidden or invisible. This is a key strategy often used in the feminist movement to find spaces for change and reframe the power relations.
One of the participants worked on a problem related to the protection of women informal workers. She said that the local government in her area is proposing to formalise them as a way to provide better protection, although many informal workers prefer to stay in the informal sector. She used the inversion tactic to change the rule on who gets to frame a policy problem. The government might choose to formalise workers because it is easier for them to regulate, but if the policy problem is framed by the women informal workers, the policy issue can shift into providing better protection in the informal sector.
Another participant working with religious minority groups came up with an idea to do a simulation of harassment targeting religious minorities as a part of public campaign. If cases of discrimination need to happen first before being reported to authorities, it might be more impactful to involve policy makers and law enforcers in a simulation of a harassment case in the hope of raising awareness and empathy.
Translation: a way to gain new allies
Translation, a tactic to translate another practice from a different field, was more difficult for participants to try. GESI practitioners are used to being the ones to translate the concepts of equality and inclusion to other fields, so it took the participants some time to find how practices from another field could be applicable for their contexts.
One of the participants translated a practice of doing an environment impact assessment as a requirement for construction project approval into an idea to make a gender impact assessment a prerequisite for development projects to start. While this idea may not be completely new, it helped the group to discuss the merits of translating practice from another field. It may be useful to gain new allies, who may not be familiar with GESI but are comfortable with another field where the idea is translated from.
Doing gender equality and social inclusion differently
After the abridged try-out, the participants agreed that the Fast Idea Generator could help them find different ways to do their work on gender equality and social inclusion. The ideas may not always be completely new, but they could help an organisation stretch its comfort zone and take on an approach it has never tried before. We especially appreciated the playful feel in using this tool, which makes it easier to be creative – although issues of discrimination can be emotionally taxing to discuss. Of course, the ideas generated from this process need to be fleshed out further – we think the Thinking Hats tool could be a good follow-up to work on results from the Fast Idea Generator.
Coming back to the plenary workshop, the GESI group shared the importance of reframing power relations and issues for meaningful work to address gender inequality and social exclusion, and that the Fast Idea Generator can help us with it.
Maesy Angelina is a social innovation practitioner living in Jakarta, Indonesia. She works with development programmess to innovate for better services and policies for poor and marginalised people, while running an independent bookshop, publisher, and creative hub called POST.