Some ideas for a workshop based on ‘How wide are the ripples?’
The ideas contained here are for a short reflection session or workshop based on some of the issues raised in the ‘How wide are the ripples’ document. We hope that they will help structure discussion and guide the analysis process. The tools are suggested participatory visualisations which we think will be helpful to frame the discussion, but can easily be adapted to your context. It is important to document the discussion that arises, as this will help give concrete examples to the ripples research process. The guiding questions are to facilitate discussion, but do not explicitly lead the discussion to a conclusion within each session. However, the final session does look at ‘ways forward’ and the amount of time spent on this session will depend on how you are intending to use the analysis for your own purposes.
Session 1: Understanding information flows
Aim: To explore how knowledge is conceived and valued within your organisation; and unpack the systems and structures that exist to support information flows.
a. Personal reflection Spend 10 minutes thinking through how you make decisions in your work. Guiding questions:
- What kinds of decisions are you able or expected to make?
- What kind of information do you rely on in your decision making process?
- What decisions you need to refer elsewhere and what types of information might you share to support those decisions?
- Where do you access information? What criteria do you use to assess whether information is reliable, useful etc?
b. Group analysis Imagine your organisation as a system. Using coloured card identify key points in the system where information is accessed or created, these could be individuals, teams, offices, databases, intranet, libraries, events, or informal meetings in the kitchen, for example. You may want to code these to make the visualisation clearer, using a specific shape or colour for different types of information point (formal, structural, personal etc), or information package (document, meeting, database). It may also be useful to add the direction and strength of the flows, using arrows of different thicknesses, to show how far and how widely different types of information flows, and show whether it is actively pushed or pulled or passively put out there.
- Where is information generated? For example, within programmes and internal processes.
- What is information used for? How is it defined, recognised and valued? What makes it relevant for decision making in the system?
- Where are decisions made? For example in programme planning, strategy development, policy, partnerships, definition of policy advocacy messages etc.
- Who are the key actors in this process? What information inputs into these decisions?
- What are the information management points or systems? Who controls these, inputs into them, accesses them? How effective are they at making different types of information available? What power relations influence them?
- Does your organisation’s theory/ official picture of information flow differ from reality?
Concluding comments: Looking at your own individual experience of decision-making, and the general organisational systems, culture and practice in your systems diagram: What are the key elements which determine information flows in your organisation? If it helps you could use a metaphor to describe your organisation and the way information flows, for example using the characteristics of a specific animal.
Session 2: Participatory processes
Aim: To look at how participation is understood and used within your organisation.
- How is participation conceived and used within your organisation? What types of participatory processes are there at different levels? (You could include some individual reflection on how you understand participation and how you have experienced it in relation to your work).
- What is considered as good quality participatory practice, (e.g. key elements of participatory practice, who ‘judges’ and on what criteria)?
- Where does the information generated by these participatory processes (you have been involved in) sit in the system diagram created in session 1?
b. Analysis of a participatory experience that influenced the wider organisation
In your group identify a specific participatory experience which became well known in your organisation. Use the image of a tree, to look at the roots (inputs) and fruits (outcomes) of this experience.
You can use the trunk of the tree to label the experience, and then address the following questions to develop its roots:
- Where, who, how, why was the process developed?
- What were the aims of the process? Was there a planned process of sharing the participatory process more broadly? Why?
- How was the process situated within the wider organisational goals/plans etc.?
And branches (and/or specific fruits)
- What was the direct impact (s) of the participatory experience?
- What was the broader impact/ influence?
- How did the experience impact on those involved (either facilitators or participants), what learning was there?
- How was the learning or information generated by the participatory experience communicated and documented?
- How closely were the outcomes of the process managed?
Look at the tree you have produced in the wider context of your organisation. Does the same wider impact happen routinely? Feel free to take the metaphor of a tree as far as you like, considering the weather, pests, fertiliser etc. For example consider:
- How does the tree interact with the environment?
- What influences it positively/ negatively?
- What conditions does this type of tree need to germinate and grow healthily?
- What happens to this image in the macro environment that your organisation is working in?
- What might influence (or interfere with) growing more trees?
Conclusion How do the two sessions link? For example how can people doing participatory work engage with the information system your organisation operates? Are there specific lessons relating to how information is valued and packaged?
Session 3: Moving forwards
Aim: To build on the workshop analysis
- How useful have you found this reflection for your work and the issues your organisation is facing?
- What are the key issues and opportunities which have been identified in this reflection process? How can you build on this reflection within your organisation? Who else do you need to involved and how?
- How would you like to see the ripples research process go forward beyond the initial outline? Could this reflection be built into an article for PLA Notes? Would you see value in a workshop and/ or community of practice developing responses to these issues and opportunities?
- What would you hope to see from others involved in the ripples process? What would you like to learn? Key questions you have, or could suggest for other organisations?
Some reflections on using these tools
The tools have been used by staff from HealthLink WorldWide, who found the 10 minute reflection on how they make decision really interesting and relevant, but the systems diagram was perhaps too complicated to bring out many conclusions in such a short time. It either needs more time, or should focus on a specific piece of work. For example, HealthLink staff discussed using the tool to look at the information flows and decision making processes surrounding their annual review, rather than the organisation as a whole. The tree worked very well, and the participants took the metaphor even further to look at their tree in relation to a wider orchard, really pulling out what made information from participatory processes flow well.
With ActionAid Knowledge Initiative the tools weren't used as such, but the questions were used to guide a general discussion of the issues and approaches. This was partly time, partly the small number of participants, and partly methodological preference of the people involved.