Never before have we pushed so deeply into this level of analysis.
Humanity United is a foundation dedicated to building peace and advancing human freedom. Exploited through force, fraud, or coercion, tens of millions of adults and children are living in conditions of modern-day slavery around the world.
In Nepal, more than 250,000 men, women, and children labor in harsh conditions, the majority of these workers are recruited through a system of predatory loans and seasonal advances that require entire families, including children, to work at these kilns in a futile attempt to collectively repay their debt.
Humanity United used Kumu to support a deliberate process to more fully understand and account for the complex systems and environments driving forced labor and trafficking of workers, and to discover how they might be able to more constructively engage the system to contribute to long-term, sustainable solutions.
Faced with some of the most challenging issues of humanity, Humanity United set out to discover how to make sure their resources were directed toward effective strategies that contribute to long-term, sustainable solutions.
Humanity United used Kumu to create detailed maps of the systems affecting human trafficking in the Nepali brick sector, rechecking assumptions and identifying where their efforts might have the most potential for lasting positive impact—with minimal negative ripple effects.
How do we understand and constructively engage with the complexity of the areas in which we work?
It’s tempting to prematurely skip to strategy making before completing a thorough analysis of the current situation and identifying the forces that make progress so challenging. Humanity United stepped back to reflect on the broader dynamics and work to build a diagnosis of the current state that reflects their best understanding of the system.
Once they reach a robust, aligned understanding of this context, they can then work on creating strategies that are more firmly grounded in the realities at hand. This step results in a map that captures their theory of engagement, including potential ripple effects and key learning questions.
Taken together, these maps facilitate alignment, strategy making and learning, across multiple levels of the organization.
A systems analysis doesn’t always result in radically new strategies. For some of Humanity United’s initiatives, the process surfaced a need for only minor adjustments to their approach. For others, the process brought about new strategies, identifying more effective ways to engage the system and a more targeted approach. Regardless of how different the resulting strategies were, Humanity United emerged from each process with more clarity, alignment and confidence in their approach.
In all cases the work provided us a clearer picture and a better understanding of our work.
Humanity United has taken on the challenge to become a systems-oriented organization, requiring some fundamental changes to the way they develop strategies, teams, and partnerships. The transition didn’t come without its struggles, but the leaders feel that it was well worth the growing pains and is a step towards creating the lasting change they seek.
The nature of expertise changes from having specific technical answers to asking questions that keep people's attention focused on the dynamics holding the status quo in place (root causes). The former tends to defend a specific theory. The latter favors remaining curious and attentive to current reality.