By Charlotta Sandin, Senior Learning Advisor, and Adriana Abreu-Combs, Chief of Party, Services to Improve Performance Management, Enhance Learning and Evaluation (SIMPLE), implemented by QED in Egypt
In essence international development work aims to effect positive change and achieve impact. To maximize the intended impact, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been exploring the co-creation method: an approach that emphasizes collaboration between USAID’s many stakeholders throughout its project lifecycle, including at the earliest stages of scoping and planning. The idea represents a new way of doing business that achieves greater impact by intentionally engaging a diverse set of individuals and organizations – especially those with experience on the ground in the spaces and sectors that USAID works – to generate the best solutions to a myriad of development challenges.
USAID’s Mission in Egypt has joined the ranks of other Missions pursuing this high-impact approach, hosting its first-ever co-creation event last month. The session was designed to address the issue of women’s social and economic empowerment in the country, which according to the 2021 Global Gender Gap Report ranks 129th out of 156 countries for a variety of gender equity measures.
The goals of the co-creation workshop were multifold. It sought to encourage partnerships and alliances among organizations who had submitted concept notes about a proposed USAID-funded Women’s Economic and Social Empowerment activity, so that the agency would be better placed to tackle the multiple dimensions of its work; to facilitate brainstorming and debate on how to achieve scale and impact, to mine the best ideas; and to obtain valuable input from key stakeholders at USAID, the Government of Egypt and other local organizations with deep knowledge of the Egyptian context.
The workshop broke new ground on many fronts, thanks to the leadership of the Democracy and Governance team at the Mission in close coordination with our QED Egypt team. It was not only the first co-creation event by the Mission, but, due to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, also one that utilized innovative methods of engaging and workshopping virtually. This included hosting participants in virtual speed-dating rooms that broke the ice and allowed participants to connect informally, as well as applying the Shark Tank methodology in which integrated teams that included members from various organizations collaborated to pitch ideas to USAID, government representatives, and participants at large.
The workshop was a strong demonstration of the Mission at its best – that is, seeking advice from diverse stakeholders, building local capacity, and putting its collaboration, learning and adapting tenants and adaptive management approach into action to foster buy-in and impact.
The Mission expects final proposals (and the subsequent award) to be strengthened by the findings and discussions of the event. As one participant noted: the co-creation process meant “inspiring ideas and expertise were shared among partners.”
If there’s anything required for bigger impact in global development, it must be inspired approaches guided by deep, local expertise.
Note: this post first appeared on USAID’s Learning Lab Blog.