For the last two months of my internship, my main focus has been to aid the development of the capacity building programme for the DETECT project. DETECT, which stands for Integrated Space Technology Vector Control aims to combat malaria within Indigenous communities in Guyana through community-based environmental monitoring. For this, communities are using a range of environmental data collection tools such as satellites, drones and ground-based data collection. Effectively using and making environmental management decisions with these technologies requires a lot of different skills and knowledge. The capacity building programme is a framework to deliver the necessary training and build long-term capacity in Indigenous communities to enable this community-based monitoring. However, there are a range of different collaborators contributing to the capacity building programme based in the UK, Guyana and Israel with diverse backgrounds including community-based capacity building, remote sensing, research and app development. Therefore, integrating all the diverse training elements and necessary skills from different stakeholders is quite a challenge!
To address this, we used a methodology inspired by Soft Systems Methodology. We started by developing a rich picture (unstructured visual exploration) of the situation that included all the different topics, skills and ideas that we wanted to include in the capacity building framework.
Next, we set up individual meetings with the different contributors to conduct a stakeholder analysis and characterise their system of interest. Through these conversations, it quickly became apparent that the most effective and sustainable set-up would be a broad scale capacity programme for the whole community with a strong awareness of the prerequisite knowledge each topic required. So, we came up with the idea of a pyramid shaped framework, where participants could take different modules depending on their skill level and built that up over time. We identified the different collaborators that could take a lead on each module and the topics covered in each unit. Each level of the pyramid also has slightly different delivery modes for the material, ranging from offline Moodle courses provided via community-based ICT hubs, to freely accessible online courses on The Open University’s OpenLearn Create platform, as well as apps and direct training workshops.
At the same time we engaged with the communities where DETECT is being piloted to get their hopes and visions for the project. We explored this using rich pictures and participants could draw what they would like their community would look like in three years. Their visions showed flourishing communities using the DETECT technologies to support sustainable environmental management in many different areas beyond mosquito control. This further motivated us to focus on developing a really extensive capacity building programme.
After getting all these ideas and developing this ambitious vision, we are now at the stage of developing a concrete plan. As a first step, we wanted to develop a common vision among all contributors for the capacity building programme and organised a workshop to get everyone together. For this we used the platform Miro, which works like an online collaborative whiteboard that allows all participants to share their views and concerns simultaneously. The workshop helped us to get everyone on the same page, identify issues that we need to clarify and to highlight the key areas that we want to prioritise for moving forward.
This project has really helped me to get a deeper insight into understanding how systems thinking approaches can be used to facilitate the design and development of such a complex programme. It also gave me some experience in using new techniques, such as conducting a stakeholder analysis or organising workshops using Miro. Initially, I felt slightly overwhelmed by the many different perspectives and associated demands. However, this approach showed me how they can all be integrated and how keeping the whole picture in mind while appreciating those different perspectives can help to create powerful outputs. Now after our workshop, I feel even more confident about our shared vision, though the capacity building programme still remains a challenging endeavour – I’ll keep you posted on how it develops from here as we put our production plan into action!