Portfolio Exploration Toolkit

This project aims at enabling UNDP country offices and innovation specialists in working collaboratively towards new innovation approaches in international development. The goal is to recreate the journey of discovery and communication for initiatives with a systems lens, breaking barriers and distributing the power of decision making.
Collaborative
STUDENTS INVOLVED
Aditi Soni
ABOUT
United Nations Development Programme
Challenging the world’s wicked problems
UNDP is currently changing its landscape of dealing with the world’s most pressing issues and for that, is looking at new innovation frameworks like ‘Thinking in Portfolios’. This approach enables country offices and local bodies to think with a systems lens, enable experimentation with ideas and ultimately de-risk innovation practices. The innovation team at UNDP Eurasia is working continuously in an effort to impart this new practice onto the upcoming projects of various country offices but the imbalance in process knowledge within these two structures is acting as a barrier. My goal was to envision this new method of portfolio thinking as a service offering for better engagement within the two teams. Considering the newness of the approach, breaking silos during the discovery phase itself came out to be the strongest need from the perspective of both the country offices of the region and the regional hub innovation facility.
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Chaotic onboarding creates lack of trust
In the current onboarding journey, no one knows what to expect, where to look or what to do, creating a chaotic atmosphere for an already new and resistant approach. As a result, this increases the work for the innovation team by adding to the level of hand holding and affecting the timeline of the entire process to be followed. In turn, reducing trust and interest of the country office colleagues. The three main factors that lead to this resistance in the beginning are: having no common ground of information for all, lack of ownership from the perspective of country offices and the variable journeys and needs of all the people involved in the process. Hence, a clear need for creating a space of interaction and distribution of decisions came out as the scope of intervention.

The toolkit: Fostering internal knowledge share

A platform to choose your way through portfolio thinking, based on the country goals and process familiarity, acting as a bridge to share basic on-boarding information. To embed decision making, this tool has a new narrative around selecting your potential approach that is centred around the needs of the country office rather than the frameworks used in the process. This makes the countries directly align to the method they’d prefer to reach their potential goal, either via a quick filter or personal interaction. Likely for someone who is in the state of making decisions, like a project head.

The toolkit: Preparing the country offices

This part revolves around providing guidance on selecting the right team and competencies, helping them navigate around what skillsets suit the journey of thinking for systems. Along with looking at snippets of information about the process or tools, it also allows the innovation team to conduct quick briefing workshops for cohorts before the introductory sessions. Best suited for someone joining midway, new to the organisation or just a resistant colleague. For an organisation that is so deeply interconnected, trust always comes with examples and this happens here in this toolkit via looking at the experiences of the neighbouring regions and countries around this newly adapted approach and co-creating a community of change makers.

The impact of early communication
While discovering this new approach is an initial part of the entire journey, if done correctly, it comes with high impact of continuous and long-term engagement, leading to projects that are rich, believed in and worked upon through utmost collaboration and expertise. It leads to increase in co-creating the process rather than following what’s told. This new toolkit enhances dialogue within the teams, supports the journey of learning by doing and shifts the perception from resistance to intrigue among the involved regional offices.
Reflections, learnings and next steps
Being a very new space of intervention, this project taught me how designing for complexity comes with its own set of intricacies and interconnectedness. It made me experience research-on-the-go, working in never ending loops of tangled yet exciting challenges in developmental projects and thinking big and small simultaneously. The biggest learning for me was realising the importance of empowering changemakers and providing them with agency via co-creation and feedback loops, to help them in making this world a better place. In the stage ahead, we will take it further by incorporating the same attitude and principles onto the next steps in the process to carry on the collaboration that is built and bloomed while UNDP country offices discover the methods of portfolio thinking for systems transformation. Credits: This project is an ongoing effort with the Innovation Team at UNDP Eurasia. Illustrations via Blush Design (Croods by Vijay Verma)
special thanks

students involved on the project

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