We want to enable a wider community to do what we love to do: enhance collaboration through activating collective intelligence. 

It’s time indeed for Somos Más to share what we’ve learnt during years of working with pan-European organizations. We’ve chosen to channel our learnings into a ToolKit. You can go through this article to read the process we’ve followed, or you can download the framework of our toolkit clicking here.

Sharing our experience

The most exciting part of designing a toolkit is the fact it allows to assimilate experiences from real projects: discuss what you do, how you work and why you are passionate about what you accomplish.

We first gave shape to our main methodology, creating a common framework for designing processes, and shared the result with our amazing client DAFNE, the Network of Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe. The objective is to have a proof of concept by the people we’ve facilitated during one of these processes.

Indeed James Magowan, Co-ordinating Director of DAFNE, offered this comment on our collaboration:

“I’ve learned so much working with Somos Más: the entire approach, my way of dealing with meetings and people. I hope we can continue to work together in some form, as we put our Engagement Strategy into practice.”

Visualizing our methodology

We harness collective intelligence to build or rebuild organizations, networks and communities based around what is alive in the ecosystem — focusing and building on what works well, rather than trying to fix what doesn’t.

The toolkit we’re developing is based on methodologies like Appreciative Inquiry, Human Centered Design, Agile, Art of Hosting and many other approaches.

By hosting meaningful conversations we encourage our clients to think in terms of solution-based design instead of the overused problem-solving method.

The methodology at the basis of our design is a diverging-converging triangle, where each angle represents one of the main steps of our process.

This shape enables use to visualize how:

  • We have a diverging (create choices) and a converging (make choices) moment at each step, as in the Design Thinking approach
  • We follow an incremental, iterative process with empirical feedback: we start from Appreciation to Ambition and Activation, starting again from Appreciation — as in Agile approaches
  • Every loop is moving our impact from an internal triangle (the grey triangle) to an external one (the black triangle) with a sort of wave effect — as in the Human Centered Design Approach, we start by solving the problem of a tiny amount of people [quoting Muhammad Yunus] to then solve the problem of a bigger community
  • Between the waves is a spiral, connecting the internal and external triangles and potentially pointing to the infinite — as in a Lean approach: from Minimum Loveable Product to Global Impact

Three key steps and the DAFNE challenge

Let’s now see how the three main steps of our model were implemented during the collaboration with DAFNE, a network of 25 donors and foundations networks from across Europe, with a collective membership of over 7,500 foundations.

DAFNE approached us when the organization was on its tipping point of transforming from an informal community of executives to a formalized and active network of networks that helps to build and strengthen the philanthropy infrastructure at European level. Together with DAFNE we defined as main goals of the collaboration to increase:

  1. the direct value of DAFNE activities for national members
  2. the amount of participation and member-led activities under the DAFNE umbrella
  3. active exchange of knowledge between members and stakeholders at European level
  4. DAFNE visibility and representation at European and national level

Step 1: Appreciation: Identify and Validate

During this step, we look for what is already in the ecosystem, so we focus on what is working well, being aware of needs and ambitions, validating them with the people involved.

In our case study, we went deeper into the challenge interviewing DAFNE members through an Appreciative Inquiry approach and carrying out a survey to validate main insights we’ve received during the interviews. As a result we were able to map key challenges regarding network diversity, equality & capacity building, the community spirit, resource constraints and stakeholder involvement

Step 2: Ambition: Design and Plan

We develop the vision and identify what could work well in the future, then we co-design scenarios and prioritize actions in order to define a strategic roadmap. Most of the times, this step requires a workshop. During the workshop we build on the inputs from the previous step and other research to enable participants to co-design a strategy going forward.

In the case of DAFNE, a 2-day-workshop was based on the Pro Action Café methodology (day 1) and on the Project Canvas tool (day 2).

Step 3: Activation: Act and Measure

We focus on the deployment and implementation of the proposed roadmap by developing specific actions and measuring the results to review and adapt.

For DAFNE we helped to write up an engagement strategy that included proposals on how to adapt the governance and membership model, the engagement strategy, knowledge and working hubs as well as concrete hands-on activities and a 6 month roadmap going forward.

“As a result of our collaboration, we really have a sense of ownership and interest in the practical implementation. The approach lead to a very sustainable product.”

(James Magowan, Co-ordinating Director, DAFNE)

The toolkit

“A tool is just a tool” is a common mantra in the design world. Here at Somos Más we couldn’t agree more. For this reason we decided to start sharing our framework, and not one of our tools.

On the other hand, tools and methods are strategic to both systematise common points between processes and guide people through the process itself. This is the reason why, we’re going to share regularly the new tools we’re using and a snapshot of the process where we used it, moving away from an action-research approach to embrace an action-research-enable approach.

Call-to-action: the community of practice

The part we like most in our toolkit is in the footer, where we reveal how we’d like to share our learning (following the Creative Commons guidelines) and how we design with passion. Everyone can contribute to or take even more from this process.

If you feel like an activator in your organization or in your ordinary work, and you want to join our community of practice, write to us at together@somosmas.org.

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You can download the framework of the Collective Intelligence Toolkit by clicking on this link.

This work was collectively produced by: Carolina Escobar Mejía, Rochele Melo, Maria Claudia Herrera, Mira Bangel, Linda Mitchell and Guglielmo Apolloni.

We’d like to thank James Magowan and the whole DAFNE team for giving their feedback on this article.

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Some useful links for further reading:
Appreciative Inquiry
Human Centered Design
Art of Hosting
Double Diamond in Design Thinking