The Value of Design

Salamat Pagi guardians of FieldWorks! We are sadly leaving the friendly, if slightly typhoon soaked shores of the Philippines behind as we make our way to our next stop on our journey: Kathmandu, Nepal via Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After 4 days in the calm of Bacolod, Negros Occidental, we returned to the chaos of Manila. Over the remaining two days we had a burst of great meetings, workshops and events that continued to both input and shape our thoughts on FieldWorks. We were able to meet with the CSR Philantrophy lead for Microsoft in the Philippines who provided us with great insight into their workings and strategies. We have often contemplated how our final product, the profiling assessment, could be used to help CSRs but have never had the chance to test our assumptions. While engagement with a Microsoft type entity might be a way off, it allows us to start formulating a more long term approach and consider that different corporations may require different strategies so that they can leverage their resources to engage local organisations in a way that supports their strategies and strengthens their structures.

At an event kindly hosted by ASPACE Manila shortly after, we shared, with a mixed of audience of aid workers and start-ups, some of the challenges of the aid sector and our attempt to influence it. We received some positive feedback, but more importantly we discovered more “aid entrepreneurs” implementing their own initiatives.

Finally on Saturday we set aside an afternoon to reflect upon ourselves, FieldWorks, and what we’re trying to do. As you may have worked out we’re not the most verbally or conceptually succinct duo out there. With the great support of design gurus Edmond Gozo (once again teaching Chris stuff, 12 years after teaching him to dive) and the team at Fennel (JV, Julienne, Vincent) we were able to start verbalising and identifying the key elements of our end vision, mission and values.

A consistent underlying thread that ties this whole Philippine experience together has been the importance of defining the mission and values we want FieldWorks to have. Quidan Kaisahan and Roots of Health were ‘families’ working as one towards common goals. Every member of their team not only understood their specific role, but also understood how they were contributing to the wider mission. Each demanded the same values from one-another in the pursuit of that mission. It probably sounds cheesy, but it is probably because many of us have worked in companies where “values” are just things written on walls or names of meeting rooms, rather than the culture and essence of that company or organisation.

We saw this in QK’s approach to recruitment, which is cemented in their values. Something that has fallen to the wayside in the way HR systems are set up and run in larger — supposedly ‘more structured’ agencies. The framework may be there, the questions may be there, but the actual essence, the motivation for asking those questions is gone.

We’ve got another two weeks to go in Nepal and surely much more to learn. Perhaps one thing however is growing in our minds as being the key to our mission: Partnership. There are so many groups and individuals out there doing some truly amazing work or who simply have some incredible ideas and the capacity, energy, and openness to engage with others to make change — or at least try. No-one can do it alone, but often one does not know of the other, nor that there are opportunities that could lead to potentially awesome results. FieldWorks should be part of this. How remains to be seen. In one of our last discussions, one participant rightly lamented society’s lack of openness to accepting failure. In our aid experience, it is always quickly swept under the carpet, and we all move on. We have to ask ourselves why is that? Whether the result of expectations, an engrained aversion to risk, poor communication on the subject, or whatever. We all have a role to play to address this. Greater partnership and getting involved with your own skills and knowledge in a value added chain to problem solving seems like an interesting route to follow.


Originally published at fieldworks.info on October 19, 2016.