Sensemaking to tackle data and decision fatigue
As development practitioners working in climate crisis situations, we have a rich experience of designing responsive projects that speak to country needs. However, in a rapidly shifting environment, with data coming through multiple assessment reports and watching emerging signals in our environment, most of us experienced data and decision fatigue. It became increasingly hard to make sense of seemingly competing needs and demands in the short term while planning for an uncertain future. Through the systems lens (iceberg, leverage points, systems mapping), we were able to apply a new frame to our thinking and consolidate multiple data points. These include the evidence and analysis from the assessments (cold data) undertaken by the UN and other agencies. But also includes vital data that emerges out of own experience as development professionals – the interrelational information, the connections between elements, the contextualized specifics, the amorphous data points which are hard to measure – often known as warm data. This helps draw a fuller picture of the issues at hand and see new patterns which were previously not visible. Through these processes, we were able step back, reflect, and zoom into priority focus areas in an integrated way and in alignment with long-term sustainability goals.
Collaboration as a playful process of discovery
For the work of the United Nations, collaboration is not just an aspirational ideal or outcome. It is critical so that we can leverage our collective might on complex problems. However, this is easier said than done. As we designed the sensemaking sessions, we knew it would take more than just bringing together 15+ UN agencies. We needed to create a space that helped them imagine future possibilities and explore strategic alignments. Through structured facilitation, we ensured the process was playful and took individuals away from their daily constructs allowing for emergence. They worked together to build programming entry points and helped each other see different perspectives. These interactions lay the ground for future collaborative work which was evident in our anonymous check-out surveys.