Hopewell Zheke talks about systems thinking at Practical Action

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In this short video, Hopewell Zheke (Systems Thinking Advisor) talks about systems thinking at Practical Action.

My name is Hopewell Zheke. I work for Practical Action as the systems thinking advisor. My role is I work with country and regional offices, colleagues in country and regional offices, to help them define the problems that we want to address. To help them design projects. To help them identify partners that they can work with to address the problems.  The aim being that we want to work with communities. Help them understand the problems that they face. And design solutions, be part of the solutions of those problems, as well as reaching out to more communities that we may not be able to reach directly. 

We actually have a change ambition, which is to transform the way technology is used, to transform the way technology is used to improve lives of people living in poverty or vulnerable to poverty. So being a systems thinking advisor, my specific role is, firstly, to build the capacity of colleagues who are involved in project delivery, to have that skill of using systems thinking to define and understand the problems that exist in communities that we are working with. 

At the same time, also building their capacity to apply the systems thinking tools in improving the work that they are doing. But at the same time, I’m also responsible for helping the organisation define the change that we want to see. And this change is at an organisational level change at scale.  What change do we want to see? Why are we working? Why are we having projects? What is the change ambition that we want to achieve? 

So farmers, we took them through these systems mapping process. They were part of that process. So what that entails is you sit down and say, this is the environment we exist in.  What are the connections that exist to the way that we do our farming? Who else is involved in this system? Who else supports us?  What other factors can prevent us from increasing our productivity? Or prevent us from accessing markets? Or prevent us from accessing improved extension support?  And that’s really helped to bring a pictorial picture to the whole system and the challenge that the farmers were facing.

My motivation of being involved in development work is to see a real change in the lives of people, to see a real impact of the work that I’m doing. And what systems thinking has done to help me achieve this ambition is that it helped me to understand the complexities of challenges and problems that the communities that we are working with have.  And once we understand it doesn’t make it much easier or less complex, but it helps us to actually design projects and interventions that make systemic changes or huge changes within the system that then help us to achieve the impact that we want to see, and achieve that impact in a sustainable way. And reach out to even more people we are not even working with directly. Because a change in a system results in multiple changes and reaches out to more people than those that we directly interact with.

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