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FEATURE: When innovation for coordination becomes collaboration for innovation – Part 1


By Mathieu Lacoste, Claudia Martínez and Guillermo Llinás

Coordination is one of the primary challenges for people involved in the implementation of public policies in Colombia. Climate change issues are no different. That is why the ACTION LAB Colombia that took place this year focused on facing that challenge. The process was inspiring and creative and it resulted in the construction of prototypes to coordinate efforts to face climate change and in a network of climate partners ready to achieve more effective and innovative ways to promote climate actions in Colombia.

Coordination: A challenge for climate policy

Achieving effective and scalable actions to address climate change requires that we rethink how we organize our efforts. In Colombia, the strategies, projects and actions to address climate do not add up. There remains a clear rift between adaptation and mitigation, between sectors and territories and among local and national level mandates. In the end, we tend to analyze the leg, the tusk or the trunk separately and we fail to see the elephant as a whole.

In the final analysis, there is an indisputable and recurring element, which we continue to address only partially: a lack of coordination and articulation among diverse actors. Each actor is preoccupied developing his or her own part in the movie. Each actor lacks the time and the network capacity to collaborate and to act more effectively. Yet the way, the degree and the efficiency of collaboration between actors, public institutions and private organizations determines to a large degree whether or not we can share our successes and failures and thereby achieve more effective results.

There are many ways to explain this condition, but the most common reason has to do with the “day to day”. Problems that require immediate attention tend to inhibit us from taking the time we need to coordinate. While this is a valid reason, it is only the tip of the iceberg. There are structural factors that allow us to grasp why many processes fail to produce adequate results.

First, there are deeply imbedded institutional and organizational habits that hinder coordination. There tends to be a lack of horizontal and vertical coordination, nor an ongoing de facto practice of communication among different divisions within organizations. Similarly, in spite of the creation of inter-institutional workspaces and multiple areas to create channels for communication, dialogue and information exchanges, there is a lack of a culture of coordination among organizations. The goals, in general, are individual ones, and they do not tend to effectively define common broad objectives that encompass integrated visions and objectives among actors. Indeed, there tends to be little innovation and creativity, both individual and collective. These factors result in a low capacity to forge effective processes.

Second, the greatest obstacle is that of focus. In general, there tends to be a focus on final results, rather than on the process, emphasizing in the ends, rather than the means to achieve goals and results. This is based on the fact that the system tends to award results over the intermediate stages to achieve them while professional evaluation and individual management rewards results (real or supposed) than the legacy that remains from the process, or, in other words, the quantitative over the qualitative aspects. As a consequence, issues that address the synthesis and coordination that are the essence of any successful process are relegated to a second plane.

Likewise, any coordination process requires a focus on people and stems from the supposition that all institutions or organizations rely on people (and not actors in the sense of rational actors), in other words, on individuals with feelings, motivations, perceptions, cultures and habits that converge or diverge. Consequently, it is imperative to give importance to the role of people, since they are the ones who give impulse to initiatives and who guarantee the existence of organizations.  In many cases, people are not considered in processes. Rather the emphasis is placed on organizations and, at best, in the capacity and performance of professionals who are part of organizations. Little attention is given to the creative capacities and the sensitivities of people. Little interest is given to the topic of mutual confidence, understanding, alignment of language, which are indispensable factors to achieve desired results in a good process. There tend to be few spaces for co-creation and to stimulate participatory innovation that can flow towards new ways of relating and working together.

Likewise, we forget to consider the motors of personal and organizational forces that are necessary so that the mechanics of processes become dynamic. Personal motivations, enthusiasm, empathy and confidence are undoubtedly the multipliers and the agents that break down the barriers so that more dynamic and effective processes can be achieved.

In conclusion, it is significant that coordination is the ingredient that is lacking to generate public-private outcomes that are more creative in a world that is keen to find solutions to global climate issues. The effects of climate change throughout the country have led many people and organizations to approach the problem without taking into account other approaches or understanding the advances and results of others. Consequently, the wager on coordination is highly relevant for Colombia. An effective coordination requires time, learning, explicit and implicit rules, availability of people and institutions, appropriation of common objectives and working on ambitious goals that are greater than the sum of their parts.


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