We were privileged to host almost 40 practitioners from 20 organizations in the workshop with the purpose of exploring the topic together and taking the thinking forward in Finland and internationally. Our international partner institutions, UNDP and Climate-KIC, that are already practitioners of the approaches joined our space for co-learning to explore the topic more themselves as well. The goal of the event was to build a shared understanding of innovation portfolios and how to use them.
From Ministry of Finance to #localgov, from innovation funds to charities and foundations. Love the mix of people that @sitrafund was able to gather to discuss the practice of portfolio sensemaking and design pic.twitter.com/RTKjgyqeIw— giulio quaggiotto (@gquaggiotto) January 27, 2020
The hypothesis behind the approach we were exploring in our workshop is that perhaps the barrier hindering us from making a better global or societal impact is not the lack of ideas and projects but rather in their relationships to each other. To echo thinking from Ingrid Burkett (then) from TACSI (The Australian Centre for Social Innovation), perhaps we are focusing too much on working on single-point solutions and too little on systems change.
The question is how do we shift from single-point magic bullets to enabling systems transformation with multiple organizations, levels and interventions? Systems change requires embracing the spaghetti of actively facilitating the relationships between people and their organizations. And not only doing this for the programme at hand but also over time to have a lasting impact on whatever is being tackled.
Day 1 of the workshop had the goal of providing an overview into innovation portfolios. Chief Strategy Officer Tom Mitchell from the European Union’s climate innovation initiative Climate-KIC started the presentations by telling about how their organization has evolved its role into orchestrator of an ecosystem of over 2000 partners. Climate-KIC is not only a funder but uses its portfolio to pool resources, facilitate shared and adaptive learning by doing between problem owners (cities, governments, companies, etc.) and those participating in projects.
Tom Mitchell @tommitchell_kic from @ClimateKIC sharing how their organization is using innovation portfolios to set up innovation ecosystems around climate change.#SitraLab https://t.co/8TrcM30q8k pic.twitter.com/qEEfWXadLt— Mikael Seppälä (@mikaelseppala) January 27, 2020
Tom Mitchell’s slides:
Director Gina Belle from the CHÔRA Foundation is one of the consultants that has helped both Climate-KIC and UNDP Accelerator Labs develop their practices around innovation portfolios. Gina provided an inter-organizational perspective into portfolio practices that help support tackling complex problems. Gina spoke in detail about the theory and practices of Portfolio Design, Portfolio Composition, Portfolio Sensemaking and Portfolio Experience.
Gina Belle’s slides:
Whereas the traditional approach to portfolio management focuses on projects, Chief Storyteller Tony Quinlan from Narrate spoke about using Cognitive Edge’s SenseMaker in building portfolios of experiments. Tony’s main point was to highlight that uncovering the narratives of the people within a domain helps see the different perspectives people might have in relation to it. Because people’s perspectives vary, also the experiments should be tailored to fit the different clusters of perspectives rather than take a “one-solution-fits-all” approach. SenseMaker and the approach of using it to build a portfolio of experiments helps especially in helping people coming from different backgrounds coverge towards a shared direction.
Sensemaking nuts and bolts. Key skill to develop: pattern recognition and abstraction. @tquinlan shows practically how through “acoustic sensemaking” :-) before going into Sensemaker software pic.twitter.com/nEHOEtSkNL— giulio quaggiotto (@gquaggiotto) January 27, 2020
Tony Quinlan’s slides:
Day 2 of the workshop focused on the innovation portfolio practices. It was opened by Giulio Quaggiotto from UNDP who spoke about the practices that they are using to bridge the gap between the complex sustainability problems and the current practices. Giulio introduced UNDP’s new Portfolio SenseMaking and Accelerating Protocol that they are using to help enable better impact.
@gquaggiotto talking about Sensemaking as an approach that can challenge us to reshape our portfolios so that they work towards second order change and create entirely new structures and ways of seeing the world #sitralab #transformation #sensemaking #innovation pic.twitter.com/b0MmFF43Gs— Gina Belle (@gina_a_belle) January 28, 2020
Giulio Quaggiotto’s slides:
After the presentations Gina Belle and Learning Services Lead Solla Zophoniasdottir from Climate-KIC facilitated a pair of workshop sessions to help us get an understanding how to do this in practice. The first one was on Portfolio Composition which is about exploring how a set of projects might support each other and making decisions on which ones to fund. The second workshop was on Portfolio SenseMaking which focuses on building learning between the different ongoing projects. Portfolio SenseMaking helps uncover the structural changes and support that the projects would need in order to succeed and help the projects converge in terms of learning.
Day 2 of portfolio and sensemaking workshop in full swing @SitraFund Day 1 was about learning from practitioners. Day 2 is about learning by doing :-) Now testing portfolio composition (what do you want to have in ur portfolio), then portfolio sensemaking pic.twitter.com/vvaidjRD4p— giulio quaggiotto (@gquaggiotto) January 28, 2020
The workshop materials can be downloaded by clicking here.
In terms of next steps, over the course of the spring of 2020 we will be continuing to learn more about the portfolio approach and the capabilities related to it. We will do this in a series of workshops with the Finnish organizations that share interest in exploring how to apply the approach.
Also, we’ve noticed that it seems like there is a lot of interest in the approach. In addition to excellent blogs and articles from UNDP and Climate-KIC working out loud to share their insights into how to do this in practice, there is very little in terms of public guidance. We hope to help contribute to extend the understanding of the portfolio approach by building a toolkit for practitioners.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can contribute take this approach forward and help enhance our collective capabilities in making an impact.