Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

The 5Ps #3

In the early days of an SDi enterprise we consider the issues, stakeholders and their intentions – and the complex environment in which they mesh. This helps us to broaden our apertures and create new understanding. As this exploration ripens, we take our enhanced understanding and transform it into new possibilities. This can take the form of developing future scenarios and/or pilot projects. To maintain momentum and deepen learning, we share stories, practice new skills and assess the outcomes of our initiatives. As we learn by doing, members of the MeshWORK endeavour continuously refine, adapt and align the 5 components to achieve superordinate goals.

Practical application: An appreciation for Afghan culture played an integral role in our collaborative approach to successfully addressing socio-economic needs in impoverished villages. Close observation showed us positive deviance and culturally-relevant solutions. Brainstorming helped us discover common ground. Collaborative forums facilitated collective action. Storytelling generated momentum. A collaborative approach, embraced by our senior and junior leaders, helped build a countryside network of stakeholders. This network coalesced around mutual interests that focused on security, stability, development and governance at the local, regional and national levels. By building bridges between Kabul-based organizations and rural communities, we helped our partners connect resources with needs and thus make inroads into building sustainable support systems.

These collaborative efforts produced tangible results. Our assessments showed that security conditions improved when we instituted these collaborative programmes which also allowed Afghans to bring goods to market and generate income to provide for their basic needs. Afghan local police successfully withstood attacks and protected their communities. Rural Afghan citizens consequently began to respect and appreciate their local police. Logistical systems grew to connect Afghan central government resources with rural community needs and provide the beginnings of a pipeline of services. Rural Afghan leaders, seeing the success of these initiatives, requested similar programmes for their villages. As a result, rural Afghans, working with multiple stakeholders, successfully mobilized over 40 districts and 100 rural villages in less than 2 years. Senior NATO, embassy and Afghan officials applauded these collaborative efforts. Ultimately this MeshWORK effort continues to evolve, grow and reach new villages every month, demonstrating its power and sustainability.

Apply SDi theory to multi-stakeholder collaboration is a challenging endeavour but one that is sorely needed in our complex and uncertain world. Successful multi-stakeholder collaboration requires risk-taking, persistence, patience and a balanced and integrated blend of the 5 Ps (Purpose, People, Place, Process, Practice). A well-designed process and supportive container enable stakeholders to learn from each other as they collaborate and overcome the inherent challenges in tackling wicked problems. Appreciating one another’s worldviews, participants develop overarching goals that transcend stove-piping and individual agendas. With sustained practice, stakeholders coalesce around a superordinate purpose to mobilize resources and align in  collective action.

In Afghanistan we applied MeshWORK principles in a comprehensive fashion to help stakeholders address urgent and important needs. Senior leaders set a positive example in our organization and in the NATO headquarters in Kabul. They empowered their units to flatten communications and build partnerships with a wide variety of stakeholders. They also supported the strategic placement of liaison personnel throughout the country to form a dynamic network for information sharing, decision-making and action. A dependable communications platform enabled the network to quickly bring stakeholders together to share information, solve problems, connect needs with resources and build relationships. Our teams at the grassroots level built trust and confidence as stakeholders saw that the network responded to their concerns in a timely manner. As a result of this cumulative effort, we took isolated pockets of coordinated action and transformed them into a countrywide collaborative network.

A successful MeshWORKs enterprise requires competent facilitators, dedicated participants, an effective process, pilot projects and compelling storytelling. Members of an effective Spiral Streams Team seek a healthy balance between analysis, action and reflection as they learn and develop a collaborative mindset over time. They also practice integrating the right mix of relationship building, task accomplishment and process development as they address their common challenges. When done right, multi-stakeholder collaboration generates dynamic results that make a positive impact in society and create healthy social networks. A systematic approach that thoughtfully integrates the 5Ps helps create the synergy necessary to transform ourselves, our organizations and the complex challenges we face into new possibilities for peace and prosperity throughout the Spiral of Life.

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