Leaving no one behind — Segmenting the slogan into reality!

By Kawtar Zerouali, Regional Innovation Advisor & Frances Guy, Regional Gender Team Leader, UNDP Regional Hub for Arab States in Amman, Kal Joffres, CEO, Tandemic

To help realize the central, promise of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to leave no one behind (LNOB), at UNDP, we need new programming approaches to ensure that initiatives are at a scale that can ultimately reach millions of people who might otherwise be left behind.

In 2021, regional Innovation and Gender Teams in the Arab States worked for four months with teams in our country offices in Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen to “Design for Multiplicities” — a pilot new approach to enable UNDP colleagues to design interventions that serve multiple groups, including those most left behind, in an effective and unfragmented manner.

Initiatives tackled ranged from community-based safe spaces for women to a training and job placement programme for university graduates. Teams joined in at different stages of development of their initiatives; some had just received funding while others had already started implementation. Each team joined the programme looking to better reach and serve groups that were marginalized and most likely to be left behind.

The piloted approach reshapes the way we solve problems and helps us design more rigorous interventions. Becoming better at asking the right questions — so that we might tackle the right problems — conserves resources and maximizes chances of success.

The Design for Multiplicities pilot provides tools to incorporate a systems-approach into UNDP project design, making two simple shifts towards better segmentation of marginalized groups and serving the need of multiple segments under the rubric of one project.

Designing a potential intervention based on well-identified “detailed segments” rather than “average users” helps us understand specific forces of exclusion and inclusion that different marginalized groups face. Barriers faced by women of one minority ethnic group may be very different from those faced by women who didn’t complete primary schooling — and these two groups may well intersect to produce a different set of barriers.

Designing interventions to address the needs of multiple segments by identifying a common core of features that benefit them all and augmenting those with features that address the specific needs of different segments, shifts our approach from “one issue, one project” to “multiple issues, one project.”

Inclusion maps help us identify which groups of people might be well-served by an intervention and which are underserved.
The segment lens helps identify critical elements that influence the desire and ability for a group of people to benefit from an intervention.

In the design phase, teams synthesized the data they collected into a set of ‘Segment Lenses’ and user journeys.

Each lens captures the forces of exclusion and inclusion that a given segment of people face when it comes to making use of and benefiting from an intervention.

Each journey shows when participants might face forces of inclusion and exclusion as they engage with the intervention.

The teams looked at both a ‘mainstream’ segment — a privileged majority that might have easier access to a service — and a more extreme or left behind segment.

They designed for both segments in an integrative way, identifying what might belong to the “common core” of the intervention and what might be added to serve the needs of specific segments.

Early on, teams found out that they did not have sufficient channels to reach those most left behind. A common assumption that implementing partners or UNDP channels could be used to identify those most vulnerable came up short especially given the pandemic restrictions. Teams were forced to develop different means and criteria to target these groups.

Teams collaborated on digital project boards, guiding them through discovery and design phases.

“Applying a segment lens and using diaries techniques help unearth insights that may have been otherwise dormant. When designing for vulnerable communities, which is almost always the purpose of our work at UNDP, a segment lens can present an opportunity to make a positive shift that is likely overdue.”

In the design phase, some interventions saw tweaks that made them radically more accessible to groups that were left behind, while others saw deeper changes in the operating model of the intervention.

A team in Syria running a programme providing training and job placement services to unemployed university graduates found that women outside the city center were often not being included. Access to transport ranged from difficult to impossible. Parents didn’t want their daughters to travel at night and many people in more conservative communities held the view that women should focus on family work. It turned out transport was also a big challenge for the more mainstream segment living in the city center because it was very expensive.

The team redesigned the programme around addressing transport as a common core issue, by decentralizing training delivery and shifting it to community centers. As a result of decentralizing the training women would no longer be returning home late in the evening.

“Instead of bringing the beneficiary to the training we are bringing the training to the beneficiary.” Leen Khaddour, UNDP Syria

To address social barriers in more conservative communities, the team in Syria is building trust with parents and promoting the value of this type of programming to the wider community through a separate social cohesion program that is operating in the same communities.

Some projects saw more subtle changes that allowed them to better serve both mainstream and left behind groups.

“Our call for [competition] proposals is complex. It has too many forms and too many steps. This is a force of exclusion.” Thibault Girault, UNDP Tunisia

A programme intending to uplift citizen voices by engaging them in filming in their community had initially planned on asking for “filmmakers” to apply. It quickly became clear that no one in the marginalized group thought of themselves as filmmakers — let alone possessed filmmaking equipment. The programme was repositioned to call for storytellers and planned to include support for participants that need a device to record and would like to learn how to do so.

That was just the first of many critical breakthroughs in the programme. The team found themselves working in an environment where institutions were generally mistrusted and there was a skepticism that UNDP would deliver on this programme in a fair and equitable way.

The team designed a journey for both the marginalized and mainstream groups centered on building trust and confidence in the process, significantly increasing participants ownership and involvement in designing activities to progressively deepen trust between UNDP, institutions and participants.

“This programme made me more determined to go deeper. It changed the way I design, implement, evaluate projects, the way I select beneficiaries, design tools, and interview stakeholders. Design for Multiplicities has been a learning and a discovery process for me and is so relevant to all of our programmes.” Najoua Soudi, UNDP Morocco

At the core of design for multiplicities is a simple idea that pushes teams towards a very different way of thinking about designing programmes: we can and we must design interventions so as to serve the needs of multiple — and sometimes disparate — segments of people, particularly those left behind.

We can do this by bringing into alignment the needs of different groups of people and designing in that space.

“Design for Multiplicities” provides a methodology to include those most left behind in the design of our programmes while avoiding fragmented interventions.

We must do this because, as one of our country office colleagues put it, “this is our purpose.”

‏‏شعوب متمكنة، أمم صامدة -الحساب الرسمي لبرنامج الأمم المتحدة الإنمائي في المنطقة العربية. UNDP official account in the Arab States