As part of being an openIDEO member, I have "met" many people and have been involved in many conversations and collaborations. There's one that is dear to me and that I'd like to share.
It started in March 2014 with the Amplify challenge on women safety. During that challenge, with DFA NYU we posted an idea for a women empowerment program. As we received positive feedback, we decided to find an organization to pilot it. We used our own networks but also the OpenIDEO platform. We eventually connected with Women for Human Rights, an NGO in Nepal with whom we collaborated to refine our idea.
When our idea was selected as a winning idea, WHR was our partner to pilot the idea with women in the slum. During our collaboration, we have been in touch regularly (weekly at some point, bi-weekly on average) with Pallavi who was at the time working with WHR. Through Pallavi, we were also in touch with the women in the slum who would be participating to the program. We exchanged photos. We asked them questions and presented them with ideas for the program as well as for designing a badge.
During the Amplify challenge, I also met on the platform Pushpa from the Bhaktapur Youth Club who was doing amazing work with her club in developing sexual health program. As we were designing the program, we realized that sexual health was an important topic to cover. We contacted Pushpa and Saru from the Bhaktapur Youth Club as we were particularly interested in learning more from the train-the-trainee model. We put them in touch with Pallavi and WHR and WHR decided to have the Bhaktapur Youth Club run the sexual health program.
We were supposed to go to Nepal last May to start the pilot and were devastated when we learnt the news of the terrible earthquake that ravaged the country in April. Still we kept in touch and while we had to postpone our trip, we kept refining and adapting the program to the new situation. In the meantime, Pallavi left but we started working with Bisheshta on a regular basis. And the Bhaktapur Youth Club remained involved. In September the pilot started in Tripureshwar, a slum of Kathmandu. Eventually in January, with 3 DFA NYU members I went to Kathmandu for a research and prototyping trip (for more details on the trip see our impact story).
The trip was amazing in many ways and we achieved a lot in terms of testing assumptions and prototyping. Moreover, it was for me the opportunity to eventually meet all the actors who had been involved in this project. We have had the chance to meet Lily Thapa, the president and founder of WHR when she visited NYU in September 2014, but all the others - Pallavi, Bisheshta, the women in the slum, Puspha and Saru, were names, conversations (sometime long ones) via emails, voices (when we did Skype) and / or photos.
We were able to meet them all and this suddenly made this long collaboration even more real. Interestingly, there was no big surprise: we just smiled at each other and continued the conversation where we had stopped it via email, or Skype.
While in Nepal, we met Sanju, Bikash and the other members of the Sahayogi Saathi Youth club, a youth club that was started by some of the kids who were part of the pilot. They are an amazing group of passionate people who are deeply involved in helping with the program: the story is ongoing and the group gets bigger!
For me, this project is a great example of open innovation as it involves so many different actors (a student club in NY, women in a slum, an NGO in Nepal, a youth club in Nepal and of course, OpenIDEO and Amplify, which is a partnership between UK AID and IDEO.org and which provided funding for the pilot in Kathmandu) who over time have been able to lead to the creation of a program for women empowerment, which is currently being piloted in Nepal by the women themselves and WHR with the support of the Bhaktapur Youth Club, the Sahayogi Saathi Youth Club and DFA NYU.
Yet, this has not been an easy journey and it has required ongoing communication, the passion and commitment of a couple of people who made sure that the momentum never stopped while also embracing the ambiguity inherent to the iterative process.
How to rethink our understanding of collaboration when the boundaries become very fluid and the actors multiple?
How to support trust and communication for successful collaboration? How to make sure that all actors have a voice without ending up in a cacophony?