Participatory Systems Analysis: Resources Required
Resources required will depend mainly on the nature of the issues/problems that the project sets out to address and the diversity of actors/perspectives and. Normally, issues/problems in a local system are complicated or complex.
The following table categorizes these scenarios according to the combination of nature of issues/problems (complicated or complex) and the diversity of actors/perspectives (low or high).
In all scenarios the objective is to analyse the system with the participation of strategic stakeholders and agree on strategies, action plans and working groups. Implementation is not part of the scope of the table.
Tips to accelerate the process:
- Preparation Do a good analysis within the team before you convene the system actors. Try to back your information with credible sources. Do everything you can so that people trust what you say and perceive you as a neutral and fair player. Communication: Use the analysis you did within the team as a reference point for the collaborators. Invest heavily in the visual and communication aspects of your analysis. Use this tip only in case you do not have time to let the actors do their own analysis from scratch. Facilitation: Select the most engaging facilitators in your team to share the information. They must energize the participants and help them break the ice in a very short time. Remember that, despite time limitations, you still want the stakeholders to interact between them, not just with you and your findings. Feedback: Mix different types of participants in small groups to discuss in depth about what they agree and disagree with the team’s analysis and come up with broad strategies to address blockages and opportunities together.
- Working groups: Take the lead and be proactive when forming and nurturing working groups to implement solutions. Invest heavily in follow-up calls and meetings with individual participants or small groups.
Short time available for the analysis – typically 1-2 days
- Prepare very well:Do a very good analysis within the team. Try to back your information with credible sources. Do everything you can so that people trust what you say and that you are being neutral and fair to all.
- Communicate very well: Use the analysis you did within the team as a reference point for the collaborators. Invest heavily in the visual and communicational aspects of your analysis.
Select the most engaging presenters in your team to share the information. You must energise the participants and help them break the ice in a very short time. Remember that, despite the short time available, you still want them to interact between them, not just with you and your findings.
- Gather feedback and prioritize: Mix different types of participants in small groups to discuss in depth about what they agree and disagree with the team’s analysis and come up with broad strategies to address blockages and opportunities together.
If you have two days, you can use approx. half day to do their own analysis (see additional resources below). Make sure they present their findings, insights and proposals to the whole group.
Once the participatory process has ended, the team must take on the responsibility of synthesizing findings and next steps, and reporting back to the group.
- Create and nurture working groups: The team must take the lead in forming and nurturing working groups to implement solutions.
Invest heavily in follow-up calls and meetings with individual participants or small groups.
Longer time available for the analysis – typically 3-5 days
- Allow the participants to convince each other: Prepare well but, given that the participants will have more time to build trust and share their experiences and perspectives about the system, the investment here can be reduced.
- Let the participants lead the analysis: Rather than influencing the participants with your analysis, you can allow them to do their own analysis from scratch. In this way, they are not influenced by your conclusions. Once the analysis is done, or at critical points during the analysis (e.g. if the participants get stuck), you can disclose bits of what the team discovered.
Select the best facilitators in your team to engage the participants. Invite reputable experts to present about issues that the team identified as critical (e.g. issues where views are polarized or that are dominated by wrong assumptions).
- Let the participants gather feedback and prioritize: Use some time to explain to the participants how to use mapping, brainstorming, dialogue and clustering techniques to gather feedback.
Splitting the group into smaller groups works here as well. Get the participants to identify challenges and opportunities. Then, rearrange them according to their interest in the issues identified. The objective here is to encourage these working groups to propose concrete strategies and activities to the broader group.
Give the group time to validate and prioritize the activities identified.
- Nurture working groups: In longer workshops, the participants are more likely to create the groups they want to work with during the implementation phase
The main role of the team is to nurture the groups and serve as a technical secretary; for example, helping them meet regularly, access information and expertise, keep track of their decisions and informing the other participants about what the working group is doing.