How to contribute to addressing a complex problem through multi-stakeholder processes?

by Augusto Cuginotti

Starting with this question I’ve just been through a reflection on a developed approach called Change Lab that aims to create social innovation by enhancing relationships, capacities and the emergence of initiatives in the system they are working with.

It was a fascinating exploration of the what makes a complex problem and the journey to enable social innovation to emerge. Although very connected with Theory U in both topics, the approach brings different and rich experiences in the perceived 3 phases of the journey: co-sensing, co-presencing and co-creating or co-crystallizing.

  1. Collective sensing: how to convene collective experiences in a multi-stakeholder group, showing how the learning journeys have been an impact to groups talking about sustainability and child care;
  2. Collective presencing: how a retreat invite the actors to step back from the immersion on the issue to immerse in themselves and allow newness to come;
  3. Collective creating: by using rapid prototyping and artistic processes, how to engage in bringing the new into life.

The experiences from the presenters and the questions from participants made the day very interesting – first to connect to the approach, but even more to reflect on how some parts of this work are applied in the collective design of systems we have been exploring here and in the work to companies and communities.

In theory: from one side the collective design approach can learn a lot from the impact of the learning journeys (will share my perceptions and past experiences with the learning journeys in a future post) and the presence phase of the U. On the other hand the step to systematic decision-making could be consider a phase that is still unclear for the change lab approach. They could, and I’ll reflect into that later, use the Theory W (yes, I’ll join the mainstream :).

Insights that came back to me while being with the group:

  • When talking about the artistic creation process, I interpreted the acknowledgement of constraints and of guiding principles for design when I saw the video of a Picasso painting being formed.

(In a side note, and quoting a friend @a3p, it was only visiting the Picasso museum in Barcelona that I was able to understand what is the elegant aspect that he brings in his pieces).

We all know that Art is not truth.
Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth,
at least the truth that is given to us to understand.
Pablo Picasso

In the art I’m currently playing with, Which are the constraints and the guiding principles that are behind Fred Astaire, a man known by his perfection in movement and endless reshootings, and a jam tap dancer, who just have one shooting?

  • The power of context also struck me. I’ve just arrived back from a workshop presentation in Nepal and it was very clear that there were cultural needs in sharing their expertise to the whole group. This was mentioned as a challenge at a change lab that happened in India.
  • The call is clear when it’s build in contrast with the mindset. If changing the name of a project in South Africa from “vulnerable children” to “children at difficult circumstances” generate the contrast needed to shake a mindset – call an event Survival Academy also generates contrast to a different mindset and bring different people to the room. This is still unclear and I’ll interview the artist in Barcelona who first used the word contrast to talk about fundamental change.