The Grassroots to Global Reckoning – Part 2

July 14, 2022

Solutions Mapping team UNDP El Salvador/TECHO

TECHO El Salvador

This is the second piece of a 3-part series that covers key insights around the practice of Solutions Mapping, as experienced in the first learning cycle of the UNDP El Salvador Accelerator Lab around water and livelihoods, including an interpretation of the multiple facets of Solutions Mapping; the role of the UNDP Accelerator Labs in the Grassroots to Global ecosystem; and the UNDP El Salvador Accelerator Lab’s attempt to understand how we can assess a community’s preparedness to adopt exogenous innovations or create their own by leveraging the UNDP Accelerator Lab’s three practices.

In the previous entry, I introduced what I called the “Grassroots to Global reckoning”. I say reckoning because it has been a long and reflective process of interpreting what does “Solutions Mapping” really mean and what is our role in transforming the way UNDP approaches development.

In this entry, I wanted to share some thoughts on what the shape of our puzzle piece as Solutions Mappers can look like, what other pieces might be out there, and try to imagine how the full puzzle looks like, through the UNDP El Salvador Accelerator Lab’s experience working with the Appropedia Foundation, the largest sustainability wiki in the world.

Since the UNDP Accelerator Lab’s Solutions Mapping practice is still in consolidation, the conceptual roots, guiding principles, and tools, are constantly evolving. I already referenced Prof. Anil Gupta’s work on grassroots innovations, but many solution mappers have produced knowledge products seeking to explain the practice from a conceptual, but mainly practical standpoint, including excellent work from the mappers in Sudan the Phillipines and Paraguay, among others.

However, one element that is still a relevant part of the existential discussions among mappers, is that of tools. Which tool should we use to document solutions? What is the key information we should collect? Should we create a new platform to house all the solutions we identify in our country? are some of the recurring questions that continuously arise in these forums.

I got some preliminary answers as we, (the UNDP El Salvador Accelerator Lab) and TECHO El Salvador were preparing to carry out a community profiling activity in six coastal communities in La Libertad, incorporating a solutions mapping module and document grassroots innovations around water and livelihoods, we discussed how to document our findings on the ground but, more importantly, how to give back this information to community leaders after the exercise and not just extract information from them.

If only there was an open, editable, easy to use platform to document development projects…

TECHO being a fertile ground for incubating development and NGO professionals, it was no surprise that the Executive Director of the California-based Appropedia Foundation is Salvadoran, runs the organization from El Salvador and is (like myself), a former “Techero”, and both the AccLab and TECHO had been in separate exploratory talks with Appropedia to identify synergies in our work.

We had found a perfect opportunity to put in practice what I consider one of the main value propositions of solutions mapping as a practice: Not reinventing the wheel. So, we reached out to Emilio Velis, Approppedia’s ED and gears started to turn.

Appropedia is a wiki-style website that describes itself as “the site to develop and share collaborative solutions in sustainability, poverty reduction and international development through the use of sound principles and appropriate technology, original research and project information”

It checked the boxes of what we needed for our community profiling and solutions mapping exercise: It was free; it was editable by us and community members; it was modular (you can organize content in modules).

Did I mention it’s free?

In general terms, Appropedia’s platform was a perfect fit for documenting grassroots solutions, as well as relevant information from the communities we worked with. However, we got so much more than we signed up for in the process.

Community leaders scrolling through their communitie’s Appropedia page

TECHO El Salvador

Please click on the Appropedia link to learn more about the expected and unexpected results of this experience, and see what we mean!

If you are done, let me just leave you with a final thought:

The synergies with partners like the Honeybee Network and Appropedia are crucial for Accelerator Lab’s mission to be successful and for the Solutions Mapping practice to add value to the G2G ecosystem. By leveraging each group’s strengths, we will be able to activate an expanded global network of development professionals dedicated to unearthing the most ingenious, appropriate ways in which we can address development challenges, “upload” them into a digital space for universal access, and “download” them in other contexts for inspiration, adaptation, or scale.

We are only planting the seeds for that ecosystem to thrive, but it is encouraging to find such inspiring partners along the way.