Systems Approach

Girls learn about women who broke gender stereotypes through a jigsaw puzzle.
The activity is facilitated by an youth mentor


When we solve a problem, we create the potential for a similar problem to be solved by other people, in other places, at other times.

Creating Tools is our way of turning that potential into practice. Tools helps us to capture the learning and processes that others can use and adapt in different circumstances. 

As we work towards the solution, we ask ourselves questions like these... 
  1. What works, what doesn't? 
  2. How did know if it worked or not? 
  3. What steps did we take? 
  4. What are the principles involved? 
  5. Can we use these same steps and principles to solve a similar problem elsewhere? 
  6. What would we do differently if we were faced with the same problem elsewhere? 
  7. How can we help someone else follow the steps? 
  8. How can we make it simple so that it can be understood, remembered, and adapted? 
  9. How can we make it easy and fun to share? 
  10. How to make it grow with new learning? 
In short, it starts as a solution to an isolated problem. Then it is worked upon until it becomes a "system" of solving that problem. A "System" is something anyone can use to efficiently solve a known problem, wherever or whenever it is recognised. 

That is our Systems Approach, and Tools are the result of this approach. 

Behind the colourful pictures, fun and games, there is a Framework which may be invisible at first. 

That Framework covers things like 
  1. the Apparent Problem, which may be just a symptom of something deeper 
  2. the broader Underlying Issue that causes that, and other similar problems 
  3. the Scope of relevance of information included, in terms of Geography, Cultural references or Audience
  4. the kind of Audiences involved: certainly the final participants, but also the typical facilitator, manager, decision makers... 
  5. the Logistics: possible Venue and Duration of a typical engagement, Number of Interactions necessary, ideal Size of the group 
  6. the Size, Weight, Cost, Appearance and Feel of any material 
  7. the Experience: there must be Joy, Pride, Wonder, Reflection. It must be Meaningful and Memorable! 
We found that some things work well across different scenarios. These are: 
  1. Non-Judgemental tone: people engage more when they feel safe 
  2. Dialogue: people understand and remember better when they can talk 
  3. Small Groups: - of about a dozen people, discussions can reach some depth, without becoming too long, everyone gets a chance to participate 
  4. A Comprehensive Curriculum - to ensure that there is just enough to digest, and yet the most important points are adequately covered. 
  5. Pictures & Colours - Interpreting pictures is an active participatory process; evokes curiosity, thoughts and emotions 
  6. No Language; or Minimal, Simple, Local language - apart from low literacy, less language feels engaging even if audiences can read. Also easier to translate and adapt 
  7. Playway methods - Games help to lower defences and raise the quality of involvement 
Not all these features can be built-in all the time, but when they do come together, it can create magic!