This Week: How to Build a Snowman for Responsive Project Implementation

Today’s post is inspired by the snow day DC received last week and the numerous snowmen that popped up thanks to it. This is a four-step “guide” to building a simple snowman for a responsive project or initiative. What do I mean by a responsive project? I mean one that that is first responsive to the real needs of citizens, puts them at the center, continues to make changes based on those needs throughout the implementation process, and, finally, is responsive to future needs by making sure that what was learned (in whatever format) is available for others to use in a helpful format.

First you start with the base: Feedback Lab’s post on “Why Preparation is a Necessary Component of a Successful Collaborative Effort” emphasizes the importance of having a strong base before stacking higher. The article highlights a few things that should be included in your base for collaborative projects and most are important whether you’re partnering up or not: find the right partners, obtain a process for changing course if needed, have clearly defined goals, roles, responsibilities and expectations.

The base very much has to take the core into account. When engineering a snowman, the base must be larger than its center. It responds to the needs of its core. Likewise, if our core is our citizens, you have to take into consideration what it needs.

As I mentioned, the core of our snowman is our citizen. This is the heart of the project - the citizens whose lives you hope to help improve in one way or another. Citizens should be engaged in the planning and provide feedback throughout the process. This also harkens back to your base of having a process for changing course if needed. There should be room to make alterations based on the feedback received.

The article “Why Citizen Engagement is Not What You Think” wonderfully illuminates the ‘why’ of citizen engagement when it’s done right. While the article is written towards local government officials, the why is still the same in a development context.  My favorite line says, “Local Governments [or Development Partners, NGOs, etc.] need citizens, as individuals and in groups, to become partners in solving community problems and seizing opportunities.”

And to top it all off we have the noggin. Your head should be full of data, feedback, monitoring and evaluation results, etc. So what are we going to do with it? Here’s where we hope we don’t actually pack your heads with ice. Do something with it! Make it in a usable format for yourself and make it widely available to others.

The post “Sharing Data for All the World to See” tells a simple but effective story of an NGO trying to share their results with citizens, but they did it in the wrong format that couldn't be understood by the audience. A simple change of the platform and a clear visual graphic allowed others to better understand and put to use the data that had been collected. This is key to using your noggin properly.

And finally, you need the right accessories - something for the eyes, carrot nose, sticks for arms, and maybe even a scarf or hat. You also need the right tools. How are you gathering your data and feedback, and how are you making them available? The right tools can make all the difference.

In the works is an Open Development Toolkit which we hope will be a helpful guide to all of the right accessories.

By the end hopefully you have a happy snowman!

Weekly updates are written by Taryn Davis of Development Gateway; email her your tips for next week's update to get a shout-out in the post.

Tags: open development toolkitopen datacitizen engagementcitizen