Caption: UNDP Resident Representative, Aissata De and Ajara Ceesay, Solutions Mapping (bottom from right) are joined by other AccLab colleagues Omar Jagne and Yahya Jammeh (top from right) on the day of the lab launch.
Sense making and collective intelligence events have long been active in our local communities, but a village in rural Gambia might not necessarily come to mind when thinking about them. In parallel, the concept of a lab, is also not something villagers would envision as a place where solutions are designed and tested. The first task of the UNDP Gambia Accelerator Lab was to find a middle ground in this divide to be able to effectively engage all stakeholders in the lab’s key processes of tapping into collective intelligence, solutions mapping and sense-making as tools, and creating and testing a portfolio of experiments.
The lab activities began with the introduction of the lab concept, and use of the tools mentioned to engage with stakeholders within the UN system and UNDP’s external partners. This included entrepreneurs, civil society organizations, and public sector officials. Midway through our onboarding in what is our initial learning cycle, the lab held a launch event which hosted these stakeholders, but more importantly, key actors within the entrepreneurship ecosystem that we envisioned entering into partnerships with over the short to medium term. These initial activities were used to share our frontier challenge of youth unemployment while we developed a database of local actors and interventions contributing to or standing in the way of development and understanding why and how they are doing so.
Caption: The above image captures a bantaba gathering in rural Gambia.
Walking the fine line between the intended lab methodology and what we discovered in the local context meant that our approach had to be, in loose terms, universal. So, we took a Bantaba approach that adapts a norm from rural Gambia in which villagers gather around a well-known landmark (such as the community center or a large tree) to exchange ideas and address communal issues. This kitchen table metaphor where social problems and bread and butter issues are tackled, employs forms of collective intelligence, sensemaking and problem-solving and usually ends in a consensus over what solution(s) to deploy around a given challenge.