Introducing the new ITK Stakeholder Power Categories tool!

Introducing the new ITK Stakeholder Power Categories tool!

Today’s blog is from Jonathan Rotner

Learn more about ITK’s newest tool and the equity lens embedded in it.

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On first glance, this new tool might look like yet another 2×2 grid that helps your team prioritize its outcomes and actions. But this one comes from Team Toolkit, in collaboration with MITRE Social Justice Platform, so you know it drives outcomes and actions towards impact and equity.

Giving voice and a vote to those who are affected by an effort leads to more impact.

The ITK Stakeholder Power Categories tool prompts you to consider which stakeholder groups to prioritize, and it explores ways for you to integrate them into your teams. Using this tool can help your team adjust its goals, so they reflect the needs of those who will be most affected by the effort. It’s not walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, it’s walking that mile together!

Or, restating the goals of this tool in a more systems-engineering way, stakeholder engagement can be time-intensive, and this tool helps your team quickly categorize and assess which ones to engage, based on power and impact. For this activity, power over the effort refers to the ability to influence or control the behavior of people. Power comes in many forms: individuals have power, history has power, systems and the status quo have power, laws and norms have power, ideas and values have power, money has power. Impacted by the effort refers to the many ways that outcomes can affect an individual or group’s first-hand experiences.

Another goal of this tool is to highlight impacted stakeholders and to ideate on how to elevate their roles on your effort. Oftentimes, collaborating with those that are impacted will result in their endorsement of your effort and better outcomes for all. Deferring to those that are impacted may be the best way to ensure that the work continues and transitions to an engaged and invested community after your team moves on.

Direct participation from those who are overlooked or excluded leads to more equity.

A team’s assumptions about data, people’s behavior, potential uses, and the environment all shape an effort’s outcomes. These assumptions stem from team members’ own, often subconscious, social values, and they can be replicated and encoded into what the team designs. Unfortunately and unintentionally, those with the greatest need (i.e., those groups at the margins) often aren’t part of the design team; and so the final solution mimics the design team’s experience, rather than the lived experience of those with the greatest need. Therefore, the Stakeholder Power Categories tool asks how your team might increase participation, ownership, and self-governance of those who are highly impacted by the effort.

Direct participation by those at the margins is critical to reducing gaps in equity. These stakeholders can provide real context and experience in the domain where the effort will operate, and they can share information about how previous attempts to address their issues fared. These stakeholders can also help your team understand the different needs of different communities and how different approaches might distribute harm.[1]

Education and exposure are powerful tools. Sharing decision-making power has powerful outcomes. Equity-driven design thinking shows that when teams design for those at the margins, everyone benefits.[2]

So how might your team use the tool?

Start with the “when.” This tool is best used after you have identified a comprehensive and representative set of stakeholders that are relevant to the effort. (Or revisit this tool as the effort evolves, to ensure that the right set of stakeholders are still involved.)

The activity starts by helping your team get a better a sense of what the stakeholder landscape looks like, through the lenses of power and impact. The instructions first ask you to consider how much each stakeholder will be impacted by the effort. This section is intended to expand collaboration beyond the usual players.

Next, the instructions ask your team to consider the amount of power each stakeholder has over the effort. This part of the exercise helps your team think through the many ways in which inequality and internal assumptions can creep into the design, despite everyone’s best intent.

The “Notice and reflect” section promotes equitable outcomes. Before grappling with changing course or shuffling priorities, look at the 2×2 grid you just filled in. Read the quadrant descriptions and notice the patterns that have emerged: Are there any quadrants that are over- or under- represented? Did the team miss anyone?

The ITK Stakeholder Power Categories tool offers four questions that prompt your team towards different ways to make change. These questions suggest that those with lived experience (having personal knowledge or first-hand experience of the problem) are key contributors to a proposed solution. Answering these questions will not only help your team assess who should join the effort, but also help your team start to think through how you’ll invite them to do so.

And like all ITK tools, the final part of the tool reemphasizes that you act on your insights. What did your team discover after going through the exercise, and what will it do next?

Seriously, tell us! Team Toolkit can’t wait to hear about it.

Interested in learning more about other ITK tools with an embedded equity lens?

[1] “The Spectrum of Community Engagement to Ownership.” Facilitating Power Engagement approaches. Community Commons. Accessed June 29, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/facilitatingpower/pages/53/attachments/original/1596746165/CE2O_SPECTRUM_2020.pdf?1596746165

[2] “Design for the Margins: City Accelerator Guest Commentary.” YouTube, July 16, 2014. [Online]. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7O9etlevyw

 

 

 

Introducing the new ITK Quickstart Stakeholder Engagement Canvas!

Introducing the new ITK Quickstart Stakeholder Engagement Canvas!

Learn more about ITK’s newest tool and the equity lens embedded in it.

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As part of Team Toolkit’s collaboration with the MITRE Social Justice Platform, we are excited to announce the addition of a new tool – the ITK Quickstart Stakeholder Engagement Canvas!

The ITK Quickstart Stakeholder Engagement canvas is a quick way to begin developing a plan for effectively engaging a stakeholder. This tool is best used early in the process, but it’s an important step whenever you need to interact or collaborate with the people involved, interested, or impacted by your project.

This canvas is divided into two complementary sides – “Analysis” and “Engagement”. The “Analysis” side of the canvas helps your team identify and assess a stakeholder’s needs, wants, and influence. It also helps your team get clear on their wants and needs, which will help identify where the team’s priorities do or do not match with the stakeholder.

The “Engagement” side of the canvas helps your team consider how to approach the first (or next) engagement with the stakeholder. It asks your team to consider the context surrounding this stakeholder so that your team can work to avoid any missteps. It also encourages your team to consider two notional scenarios: A wildly successful engagement or a bad engagement. Similar to the Premortem, the practice of imagining these future scenarios will help your team identify potential problems, risks, or blind spots before they occur.

In addition, the embedded equity lens helps your team explore four additional considerations beyond the default to help create more equity-informed engagements. This helps broaden your team’s thinking and raise their collective awareness, both of which can help inspire new thinking and opportunities for innovation.

The first equity-minded consideration asks your team to identify relevant historical events that may continue to impact the stakeholder today, rather than focusing only on present-day conditions. The embedded equity lens asks about past disappointments and historical harms that the stakeholder may have experienced. It prompts your team to consider how they might be more mindful of these occurrences when engaging with the stakeholder.

Another equity-minded consideration that this tool asks about is lived experience (a.k.a. relevant first-hand experience) that the stakeholder may have. This is often an overlooked, but critically important, type of expertise.

The third equity-minded consideration is the explicit discussion of power, which is often imbalanced in inequitable situations. It’s also often uncomfortable to name or discuss. By including power questions on the canvas, it allows for a more open and direct conversation with your team rather than relying on someone to bring it up on their own.

Lastly, the fourth equity-minded consideration is to prompt your team to examine their own biases and assumptions that they may be bringing to this engagement. The ability to notice and reflect are critical to equity driven design thinking, which encourages us to create not just inclusive and diverse solutions, but to create equitable solutions.

While there are many stakeholder-related methods and tools on the market, our goal with this new ITK tool is to help teams quickly get started or get unstuck when thinking through how to engage a stakeholder. We encourage teams to use the ITK Quickstart Stakeholder Engagement in combination with the ITK Stakeholder Identification Canvas or other market tools to begin developing your stakeholder engagement strategy. Revisiting your engagement strategy throughout your effort will ensure that the right set of people, groups, and organizations are involved at the right time.

We hope you find the ITK Quickstart Stakeholder Engagement canvas useful, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Interested in learning more about other ITK tools with an embedded equity lens?

Introducing the new ITK Stakeholder Identification Canvas!

Introducing the new ITK Stakeholder Identification Canvas!

Learn more about ITK’s newest tool and the equity lens embedded in it.

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As part of Team Toolkit’s collaboration with the MITRE Social Justice Platform, we are excited to announce the addition of a new tool – the ITK Stakeholder Identification Canvas!

The ITK Stakeholder Identification canvas helps your team ideate a more comprehensive & representative set of relevant stakeholders to your project. In addition, this tool embeds an equity lens to help your team be mindful of the needs and priorities of the larger community, which may not be immediately apparent.

As a refresher, recall that equity-driven design thinking encourages us to create not just inclusive and diverse solutions, but to create equitable solutions. Equitable solutions are available to all (e.g., equal access), and they also help equalize who benefits from the solution (e.g., many groups benefit, not just one).

Equity-driven design thinking helps ensure we design at the margins or at the “edge,” where those with the greatest need exist. These are the groups who are left out because they don’t have a seat the table, a voice, and/or the means to advocate for themselves.

For example, edge groups may not have power or resources; they may represent only a small portion of the overall set and are not included in the “average audience”; and/or the project doesn’t engage with them because the project team believes there isn’t enough time if they want to meet project deadlines. It’s critical to include these edge groups because not only does their inclusion often yield a better solution for many, it’s also often the case that these edge groups are the ones most likely to suffer the greatest burden or consequences of inequitable design.

So, what happens if your team is looking at the wrong “edge”? What if your team thinks they’re designing at the margin, but there’s actually more groups they should be considering?

That’s where the ITK Stakeholder Identification canvas comes in!

The ITK Stakeholder Identification canvas encourages teams to broaden their thinking by asking not only about primary stakeholders, but also about secondary and tertiary stakeholders. This helps teams build a more comprehensive set of groups to consider.

Potential secondary stakeholders could be groups that play a connector role. These stakeholders could be gate keepers, or they might provide permission, resources, or access to enable (or block) your project’s success. And of course, it’s critical for the team to identify the actual audience of focus that will receive the outcome or benefit that your project seeks to create, which may be a different group than your primary stakeholders.

In addition, the embedded equity lens asks teams to consider potential tertiary stakeholders that may be even less visible. In the “Build Empathy” section, teams are asked to consider who or what will be benefitted or burdened. This section also asks teams to consider who or what may be missing, with a sub-prompt to also consider historical actions. By asking about “what,” rather than only “who,” this expands the set of potential stakeholders to include organizations, communities, ecosystems, the environment, and more. Oftentimes, answering these questions will further broaden your team’s thinking to consider systemic and intergenerational impacts.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be an equity-centered tool if there wasn’t at least one question about biases. Fortunately, this tool has 3!

The “Notice Bias & Assumptions” section includes three prompts to encourage honest self-awareness on the team about how their perspectives may be limited or non-representative of the audience of focus. Answering these questions will also help identify if there are gaps in the stakeholder set, which means there is further information gathering or research that needs to be completed by the team.

The ITK Stakeholder Identification canvas is best used early in the process, but it’s an important step whenever you need to consider who or what is involved, interested, or impacted by your project. For true project success, it’s essential to consider and involve not only those who are actively involved in your project, but also those whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by your effort.

Get your copy of the ITK Stakeholder Identification canvas here. We hope you find it useful, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Interested in learning more about other ITK tools with an embedded equity lens?

Introducing the updated Problem Framing Canvas!

Introducing the updated Problem Framing Canvas!

Learn more about the equity-driven updates to one of our most popular ITK tools.

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As part of Team Toolkit’s collaboration with the MITRE Social Justice Platform, we embarked on taking a fresh look at our ITK tools with an equity lens.

Equity-driven design thinking encourages us to create not just inclusive and diverse solutions, but to create equitable solutions. Equitable solutions are available to all (e.g., equal access), and they also help equalize who benefits from the solution (e.g., many groups benefit, not just one). Equity-driven design thinking helps ensure we design at the margins, for those who have the greatest need, who are traditionally left out of the design process. When we design at the margins, we design for everyone.

One way we can do this is by considering who has been traditionally “left out” and to design solutions that level the playing field. In addition, equity-driven design thinking encourages us, as the designers, to take a critical look at our own assumptions and biases that we inherently bring to the table and implicitly embed as part of the final solution.

First up was one of our most popular tools: Problem Framing canvas.

Visually, you’ll notice that we’ve partitioned the Problem Framing canvas into three areas: Look Inward, Look Outward, and Reframe.

Look Inward speaks directly to the additional step, Notice, in equity-driven design thinking. In this section, participants are guided to look not only at the problem they are facing, but also how they themselves might be part of the problem. We’ve added questions to encourage groups to explicitly discuss assumptions and biases, and as part of the Reflect step in equity-driven design thinking, participants are asked to imagine which of these assumptions may be designed, reframed, or removed.

New questions have also been added to dig deeper into who experiences the problem. We ask participants to consider the lived experiences and consequences that users who have this problem face, which may otherwise have been overlooked. We also added equity-related factors for why this problem hasn’t been solved, such as lack of authority or a situational inequity.

Look outward also speaks directly to the Notice step in equity-driven design thinking. In this section, we encourage participants to broaden their thinking to find more insights and inspiration by learning from others who may or may not have this problem.

We’ve added questions to encourage participants to consider who has been left out, as well as to examine who benefits when the problem does or does not exist. We’ve also added an equity-related factor for why others don’t have this problem, which is that it’s been transferred.

Reframe culminates the Reflect step in equity-driven design thinking by asking participants to synthesize their insights and discussions into a succinct problem statement. We’ve streamlined the suggested “How Might We” statement to help groups create more powerful, action-oriented statements.

Lastly, we’ve introduced new “Question Bank” and “Facilitation Tips” sections in the Instructions to further assist problem framing discussions. These additional questions can provide more richness to the discussion, as well as deeper inquiry into the problem.

One final important point – Although we’ve updated the Problem Framing canvas with an equity-driven lens, this tool can be used to guide discussions on ALL problems, not just equity-related problems. By embedding this equity-driven lens into the questions and the tool itself, this naturally leads to discussions that will help create more equitable solutions since they bring equity to the forefront, rather than relying on a participant to bring them up.

We hope you find the updated Problem Framing canvas useful, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Need to build consensus quickly? Try leveraging the Power of Prep

Need to build consensus quickly? Try leveraging the Power of Prep

In the world of innovation where moving fast is essential, knowing how to effectively build consensus becomes a superpower.

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Oftentimes, the most powerful outcome of an ITK session is the team building consensus together. Teams are often in a place of confusion or feeling stuck in their problem-solving process when they turn to Team Toolkit for help. Although project leaders and teammates may not have known consensus is what they needed, once they achieve this, there’s a tangible forward shift that occurs in project momentum: When a team is in agreement with each other, the team naturally switches into action because next steps are clear, and the team is motivated to move forward.

So what does building consensus look like? How might we do this effectively?

In a classic scenario of building consensus, teams may gather with blank ITK tools, then answer the question prompts and discuss together. By using blank tools, everyone begins at the same starting point and can generate their own individual responses. The main facilitator creates space for all teammates to speak up equally, and through sharing ideas and perspectives, consensus is built. While this is an effective strategy to build consensus, it may not always be the fastest route to convergence.

When your team needs to build consensus quickly, we recommend leveraging the Power of Prep. The Power of Prep occurs when one or more teammates pre-fill an ITK tool with responses that are intended for discussion. Depending on the team’s situation, these pre-filled answers could be intended to draw out the quieter voices, to confirm unspoken agreements, to explicitly acknowledge controversial areas, or more. By giving the team something to start with, this helps focus and accelerate the discussions.

Keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of pre-filling the ITK tools is to spur discussion, so always use your good judgment and discretion when putting down responses. For example, you don’t want to betray a teammate’s confidence in what they shared privately with you or widely reveal information that’s meant to be close-hold or restricted. Or, if you are the senior person in the group or are in a position of authority, make sure your inputs don’t discourage your teammates from speaking up. 

Before you begin, here are some additional Power of Prep Tips:

  1. Consider why your team is stuck and put down responses that you think will activate discussion
  2. Get unattached to what you’ve written down
  3. Now get very unattached to what you’ve written down
  4. When kicking off the session, clearly state that what you’ve written is for discussion rather than your individual perspective. Try something like, “I put this here, not because I think it’s right, but to get the process started.”

When you choose to use the Power of Prep, you must be unattached to the pre-filled responses. If not, then you may feel personally criticized when your teammates share their disagreements with the responses. This will cause you go to into a defensive mode, which blocks you from actively listening to others and being receptive to new ideas. Not exactly the most conducive behaviors to building consensus!

In addition, clearly stating that what you’ve written is for discussion rather than your individual perspective allows your teammates more freedom to speak critically about the pre-filled responses. If your teammates were afraid of disagreeing or critiquing your individual perspective, they may hold back their true thoughts which would keep the team stuck and ultimately negatively impact the final product.

So the next time you’re looking to quickly build consensus, consider leveraging the Power of Prep and let us know how it goes in the comments below!