June 16, 2014

Where We’re Going

In celebration of the launch of our new website, we’re taking a look back at Reboot’s three-and-a-half years of growth and change—and looking forward to our plans for the future. Over the last two weeks, we kicked off with Our Story and What We’ve Learned. This week, we’ll be looking ahead.

Experimenting with our model and examining our results is a constant process for us. After three years of learning, over the last several months we’ve developed a new strategic plan that builds on the work we’ve done thus far, and focuses on expanding uptake of Reboot’s empirically-backed ideas across our broader community of practice.

As we often get questions from clients, partners, and candidates about our trajectory, here are a few of the areas that we’re planning to grow (with your help!).

Sharing and Advocacy

This new website is one of the major steps in an effort to increase our advocacy among our community of practice.    From the outset, we understood that our mission would be best fulfilled if we paired the empirical evidence drawn from our consulting projects with strong advocacy for change. When we first started, however, we didn’t have much evidence of our own and had no desire to join the ranks of those who advocate without having ‘the ground truth.’ As a result, our external communications have been small compared to all that we’ve wanted to say.

That’s changed now that Reboot has learned through more than 30 projects in 17 countries. We feel confident taking stronger and more public positions on the issues we care most about. We know that  the open inquiry and context-specific design that we have brought to our projects can benefit many more organizations than we can serve directly. We’ll be much more active as contributors and participants in the community, and hope that we can help decision-makers and fellow practitioners in their attempts to serve the public good. We expect this to also produce more opportunities for feedback and learning amongst our team, further improving the quality of our practice. To extend our efforts, we’re actively looking for partners with common interests who may want to collaborate in helping our shared knowledge reach a wider audience.

Systems Integrator

We have seen some of the greatest impact when we’ve worked with and between multiple actors, including international donors, governments, grassroots advocacy groups, and local communities. It is our ability to understand these group’s varying incentives, capabilities and perspectives that allows us to better align those factors towards social progress. One client called us the “systems integrator” of governance, and we agreed with the importance of this role.

Moving forward, we plan to more formally embrace this value add by pursuing initiatives where we can serve as an independent bridge among these diverse actors. We’re not quite sure what this will look like in practice, but we’re brainstorming with collaborators on how we might gain the financial independence to allow Reboot to function in this role without the support of a client resourcing.

Highlighting the “Operational”

Having worked with some of the world’s largest bureaucracies, we’ve learned that operational processes can significantly hamper or enable delivery of impact. Increasingly, we have been working with our clients to help them understand how they can do better, more innovative work through adapting their operational procedures. Funding and contracting modalities, and the incentives they impose, frequently prevent responsive, effective problem solving and lead to poor outcomes.

From conducting an institutional ethnography of a major bilateral donor to informing policy dialogues on how to approach performance evaluation of public financial management systems, we’re excited to help our partners ensure their organizational physics aren’t a barrier to impact.

Greater Flexibility

We’ve had the great fortune to work with some amazing clients and collaborators, and have cherished these experiences. But in these past years, we’ve also learned the constraints associated with sitting in the consultant chair.

Increasingly, we see opportunities to advance our vision of inclusive development that are not attached to an existing client or partner. We get frustrated when these opportunities for impact pass by because we can’t rapidly identify a client with the interest and unprogrammed resources. Even more heartbreaking are those instances where a successful initiative comes to an end to the dismay of all parties solely because of resource availability. While we’ll continue our consulting work, and the success we’ve built, we’re finding new opportunities that may give us the chance to address some of the consulting model’s limitations.

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In setting these new goals, we are in many ways back to where we started—cautious optimists with lofty ambitions.  We have come this far thanks to the support and inspiration of our trusted clients, colleagues, and the spirit of debate and improvement that defines the broader field. We’re looking forward to deep discussions and hard work for years to come, as we continue building a 21st century social contract together.

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