Creativity and Future think
This page is by nature an eclectic mix of some of our smaller special interests. Most of them can either be considered core to a particular style of work or sit on the edge of our other special interests. All of them are worth mentioning.
Bill Crooks is an associate of Gamos and has been for over a decade. He has taken his special skills off into a side business called Mosaic Creative. We try not to feature individuals as they come and go within the business, but Bill has a special skill. He is not only able to do Cartoons but is able to have keen insight into development work alongside his cartooning. This means he can develop publications, summarise reports, and even do live cartooning at development workshops. It’s a great skill and we are currently developing videos in the same style as the RSA animations, on development subjects. He and Jackie also do role play as part of their workshops and are good actors.
Over the years we have had considerable involvement with video. Back in 2002 we proposed to DFID to research how video might enhance development – at a time when a DVD player was around £1500. We predicted costs would come down and by the time the research started VCD players were $100 and we explored field worker in about 6 countries using them to present home-made video to their communities. Now of course, video is a viable tool and we can all share our thoughts (good, bad and random) through Youtube and on small cheap playing devices. We continue to have an interest in video although we realise the days of offering to train an NGO in Africa is probably over. Where we can add value is sharing our insights gained over the years – and of course the videos (which we need to convert from DVD to Youtube uploads – and we haven’t found an intern to do that yet – watch this space).
During the 90’s Gamos was pioneering the use of creative thinking in community work. Edward De Bono argues that western education promotes critical thinking, and neglects creative thinking. We agree with him, and applied it to development activities. For instance, the development community (based on some keen insights from Robert Chambers) was promoting participatory analysis using tools such as timelines, community mapping, transact walks, etc. however our insight was that all these tools analyse the problem. They then rely on natural creativity to come up with a solution to the problem. When this process involves outsiders who have a wider life experience, the solutions are often transfers from another situation, but when these processes are genuinely indigenous where is the creativity. We first applied this to a programme in Cambodia in 1992 – coming out of 30 years of isolation, the communities did not have a wide view of the world, they had a reticence to try new ideas and they did not have basic creative problem SOLVING skills (such as where to go for information). We used De Bono techniques such as Six Hat thinking (which actually only creates space for creativity and is not a solution tool as such), and with 20 years hindsight have found that the programme has had lasting and sustained impact. We have since trained NGOs in these techniques and while it makes up a small part of our portfolio now, the principles underlie much of our work.
One of the outcomes of being engaged with creative thinking has been stepping out into future thinking. Future thinking takes a wider view (hence our landscape interest), and tries to anticipate changes. Our Best practice guide for Pro-Poor ICT for the OECD shows its use – consider our prediction that it is pointless to be worried about devices (at that time there were PCs, Laptops, PDA, phones) because within ten years there would be a box that could do all – phone, take video, even edit video. I think the Samsung Galaxy SII counts. Our other future thinks that were correct were on the use of video, the use of mobiles for money transfer, the evolution of HIV and the use of renewables. Of course there are many features of emerging life we had no insight into and we are not comprehensive futurologists, but we do believe that development activists should take a step back every now and then, read widely and see what is emerging that might improve their work. Currently we are looking at what Africa might look like in 50 years – that seems a long way away but it has already given insights that we think we can build on over the next couple of years.
Theory of Change
A current trend is the use of Theory of Change for the design of programmes. We think that what DFID currently means by Theory of Change is an extended logical model. We think logical frameworks have been very useful to the development sector over the years. However, there is a potential for Theory of Change to take us one step further. TOC relies on identifying the mechanisms of change, the why and how of change. We follow Patricia Rogers and Howard Whites work and think that’s the right direction.