Connecting the Dots to Make Great Impact
by Paula Apines
When we started WeSolve in 2020, it was in the midst of the COVID surge, focusing on a handful of projects that were driven by the pandemic. We set out to address challenges heightened by the community quarantines and lockdowns, such as the shortage of quality public transport, improving the civil registry for COVID relief distribution, and analyzing procurement practices for PPE supplies. A year later, we began looking at other societal problems we could tackle and saw that many of them were interconnected. Our hypothesis is that if the problems are related, so are the solutions, opportunities, and actors that can help solve them.
Building a foundation on collective impact: the SDGs and problem owners
From the inception of our practice, we saw the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and framed our impact around its targets. Very quickly, we saw that the goals can and should be connected for greater impact. In fact, many of the existing efforts and backbone organizations leading the way in social change work together with other organizations on different but related issues.
More importantly, we also centered our initiatives on the “problem owners”, those most affected by the problems: people who have been marginalized, and areas and groups that have been left behind or pushed aside. We take a leaf from the pioneers of Collective Impact and affirm their call to go to these communities and listen to their stories, why they experience marginalization, what changes they need, and how they envision their future. It is from their experiences that we center the definition of the problems and with them, design with other stakeholders and actors the possible solutions.
For sustainable transport and mobility (mainly focused under SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities), our partners in the Move as One Coalition emphasized the need to bring power back to public commuters and transport workers and to bridge trust across the sectors affected by mobility challenges as well as those who can change policies and systems. To bridge government and non-government groups, Move as One works with iLead, an emerging backbone for budget advocacy for social justice and public accountability, to co-build recommendations for policies and targets for safer and humane mobility systems.
Core to our work is harnessing data for public use and decision-making. As such, we initiated Data for Empowerment, an initiative for data development in the country. We are also co-designing ways to better engage the broader public to hold power to account with the volunteers at the Citizen’s Budget Tracker. Data development cuts across all issue areas since this is integral to monitoring and evaluating whether we’re making a difference in the lives of people.
One of our first areas of research looked into the challenges of birth registration in the country, and this produced the BilangTao project, an effort to further scope out and design community and institution-based solutions to address barriers to accessing social services due to the lack of proof of registration. We have partnered with one of the key microfinance institutions in the Philippines to pilot our scoping in key localities where they operate.
Along with this effort in addressing access to basic services, we also explored other opportunities in building a pandemic and future-proof circular food system in Metro Manila, primarily to address malnutrition among mothers and children. As a result, we are starting an alternative food hub system with the Tanging Yaman Foundation, an emerging backbone organization for the multiple communities that they work with.
These are many areas we have touched on the past year, and it is only the beginning. We grow our impact by linking these areas together systemically and harnessing connections as opportunities for change.
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Refining and growing impact
“Making together work” is not new. But the work that goes behind building connections, fostering relationships, and synergizing impact every day across different groups is not yet common.
As we grow our impact, we also refine our practice and we are beginning to clarify some key pillars that cut across our work:
- Data. As mentioned earlier, data is key to locating and tracking our impact, guiding decision-making, and further envisioning where we collectively want to be.
- Public-Private-People Investments. All change efforts require investments, financially and otherwise. But the key to unlocking investments to support change efforts is blending resources together. Each sector has its own core resources or superpowers to invest. But while pooling resources is a huge help to furthering advocacies and projects, what we need to generate more meaningful and lasting impact is for these different groups to journey in that change together, i.e. learn from and with each other, co-design, co-organize the change needed
- Trust-building. Across different groups and sectors, trust is key in collaboration and working together. Different groups can better communicate honestly, hold spaces for compromise and understanding, co-create, and commit when there is mutual trust. This is relationship-building requiring time and journeying together.
WeSolve is a work in progress, and will ever be so in the spirit of collective impact and systemic change. As we journey with our partner coalitions, backbones, fellows, and communities, we also shape our practice and our impact together.
And so, we continue to look for partners, advocates, co-collaborators, and just about anyone who wants to build impact and shape change together. If you are looking for a space to make a difference together, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pau is the Development Manager at Wesolve Foundation Inc.