In May – June 2020, Knowledge SUCCESS hosted a four-week virtual design thinking co-creation workshop with 19 family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) professionals working in Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa. In this interview, workshop participant Valérie Gystiane Tsemo shares her experience as a member of Team Success Group.
Can you briefly describe your role as an FP/RH professional?
I work as a program manager for the NGO Femmes-Santé-Développement (FESADE), which is based in Cameroon. We work on resource mobilization for the implementation of projects related to family planning and reproductive health. I’m responsible for developing and implementing these projects. I also monitor and coordinate these projects. Another aspect of the work is collecting information from the field. I am involved with the central coordination.
And I am also the FP2020 Civil Society focal point. Through the country work plan that has been developed, we are positioned in terms of activities. And currently, I am mobilizing resources to implement the various family planning activities that have been identified in the country plan.
During the workshop, you were tasked with reimagining ways FP/RH professionals access and use knowledge. What were your expectations going into the workshop for what would be discussed, what you would create? And how did the workshop measure up to those expectations?
I admit that I had no predetermined expectations. I was quite curious what the workshop would actually entail. The approach that was used or the theme of the workshop sounded really intriguing to me. So I wanted to find out what’s behind it and develop the strategies and approaches that we should be using.
The workshop completely satisfied my curiosity with new learnings, and another way of rethinking activities. And this spirit of spontaneous creativity. I entered a completely different world from the traditional one that I already know.
How did moving from what was intended to be a face-to-face workshop to a virtual platform impact your experience as a participant?
This was my first time participating in a virtual workshop. And this experience has had a very positive influence on me in terms of knowledge-learning, networking and on my day-to-day interactions.
However, time was quite limited. And perhaps did not allow us to fully expand upon our discussions with other participants or have deep discussions about our experiences. The workshop did create synergy between participants from different countries and created a new family for us. The only aspect that has been lacking is human contact, which is quite important when teaching new concepts and skills.
Our team – we called ourselves “Success Group” – has kept in touch even after the workshop ended. We are continuing to think about and exchange ideas about our prototype.
What did you like about your team’s solution and why do you hope it moves forward into development?
The illustrated graphic that we proposed had a community approach and is easy to explain, easy to use, easy to understand. It’s a dynamic and innovative illustration.
Do you think gender dynamics are an important consideration when developing KM solutions—why or why not?
Gender dynamics is an important consideration because the work to deconstruct gender stereotypes has shown that the promotion of family planning or any other health topic cannot be dissociated from the fight against gender inequalities. And we really need to have a sensitive approach to this if we want our actions to have a real impact.
My NGO for example is truly motivated by a gender transformative vision, and we hope to contribute to the success of civil societies working in the FP/RH field.
After participating in our workshop, what do you see as the top benefits of using a design thinking approach to problem-solving?
There are quite a few benefits. It has allowed us to develop a spirit of constant creativity, and a dynamic that strives for continuous growth.
If you were to facilitate your own co-creation design thinking workshop, is there anything you would do differently to improve the process? If so, what would you change?
I think I would revisit the time allotted to each session. I realize the workshop had to take into account the geographical location of all the participants. But in terms of the workshop’s structure, the practicum aspect should be favored. Because that’s where there’s the most participation – and the most learning – during sessions. The group discussions too – I think we needed a little more time.
What is your biggest takeaway or learning about knowledge sharing in the FP/RH community from the workshop? Did participating in this workshop with other FP/RH professionals provide you with any new perspectives on knowledge sharing?
In general, the biggest points to remember are the knowledge, approach and methodology. Through the presentations and the practicums, we were able to explain and better understand the concepts. We really appreciated the facilitators’ explanations around the approach. The way the modules were structured was very precise and allowed us to examine each phase.
So yes, participating in this workshop with the other FP/RH professionals provided me with new perspectives on knowledge sharing.
To give a concrete example—before the training, we submitted a project dealing with FP/RH issues to a donor. And the donor gave us a number of comments on how to improve the project. The virtual co-creation FP/RH workshop helped us understand the relevance of their feedback. And we plan on using the strategies and tools from this workshop to maintain our vision.