Network / Ideas / Three things we learned on “Designing Collaborations” from Reboot's Masterclass
One of the slides from The Reboot's Masterclass.
One of the slides from The Reboot's Masterclass.

This is part 2 of a two-part series

This past Wednesday, three Meedanis had a chance to attend The Reboot’s Masterclass on “Designing Collaborations for Urgent, Courageous Change,” a 1.5-hour session on cross-sector collaboration. We will be sharing our team’s insights for the other two sessions of this webinar series.

As the workshop describes itself:

COVID-19 demands that we build diverse coalitions to advance equitable and effective response efforts. These efforts must draw on the radical imaginations of our artists, the moral courage of our activists, the innovation of community organizers, the agenda-setting influence of our media, the values of our civil society leaders, the infrastructure of the private sector, and the reach of our public institutions.

At Meedan, we work at the intersection of a number of different sectors — journalists, academics, policy researchers, human rights workers, artists and others — at a global scale, and so this is a topic close to our heart. Here are three things we learned from speakers Panthea Lee, Founder and Executive Director of The Reboot and Chelsey Lepage, Associate Director of Programs:

Program and initiative design can look like agile product development, starting with the problem and people.

Focus on the problem first, invite fewer subject matter experts to the table and more the people that need the solution. Chelsey Lepage suggested framing the problem as a hunch to make everyone collaborating more comfortable when giving inputs. It was insightful to see design and product development concepts applied to program work in such a clear manner.

In agile product development, defining a good problem statement is always a challenge, and if it is not well-crafted, the user need (solution) will be unmet. Making sure the team and users are involved in the framing is the key. Otherwise, all those hours spent on meetings, coding and design will have resulted in something — in this context, an initiative — that will never be used.

During the webinar, other concepts drew on that shared parallel such as “success criteria’’. Knowing what criteria must be met so it is considered a success and how you will measure and identify it is also a core part of the product development cycle. They are embedded in the user stories, so every feature built brings value and is solving a user need. In program design this was presented in the same way: how will you know that an objective in your program was met? What will success look like? The Reboot’s webinar made clear that such as it is in product development, a fruitful initiative design is impossible without true collaboration.

Isabella Barroso, Program Manager, Latin America

When developing a collaboration, work on building relationships before focusing on the technical challenges you hope to address together.

When launching or developing a collaboration, the webinar leads emphasized the importance of thinking about collaborations as ongoing journeys, with interpersonal relationships to develop and strengthen before technical challenges become the focus. Presenters emphasized that this happens with multiple touchpoints to strengthen the collaboration, to build social cohesion, and to have “conversations as humans first, and as representatives of an organization second”. As organizations work to develop strong and long-term collaborations, the webinar emphasized that relationship building early on can help strengthen the interpersonal accountability that can help with achieving success as a team.

Over the last decade, Meedan has prioritized the development of a global community of contributors and collaborators, working together to build impactful projects at the intersection of information equity and accessibility, global journalism and digital literacy. This webinar emphasized an important value that we as an organization hold dear: as we continue to develop collaborations to address the pressing global challenges of today, we’re committed to centralizing the focus on all forms of expertise, ensuring that all stakeholders are part of collaboration design, and strengthening the foundational relationships that enable success and maximize the impact we can realize together.

Nat Gyenes, Senior Program Manager and Lead, Digital Health Lab

Living Expertise is a valuable form of expertise that’s often overlooked in favor of formal training and education.

The webinar discussed the concept of Living Experts, defined as those who “understand the lived experience of a problem or context.” These experts sit alongside a diversity of perspectives in cross-sector collaboration, such as technical experts, decision makers, implementers and allies. “Take an expensive view of ‘expertise’,” noted the webinar leaders. At Check Global and in Meedan programs overall, we aim to center different forms of expertise, and this framework made a lot of sense for how we try to implement our initiatives.

Mina Xiao, Operations

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