We were honored to collaborate with the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program during two consecutive Fora - one in Johannesburg and one in Boston - with African Ministers of Health, Education, Finance and other departments, from around 20 different countries. We took the Ministers through a process that combined systems thinking and empathy for personas that represented realities on the ground in the continent.
The termite mound is our adaptation of a systems thinking tool, often seen in the form of an iceberg. We used it as one of the foundations for the workshops with the Ministers, along with personas, prioritizing grids, and ideation tools specifically tailored to their high-level roles and approach to public innovation. The tool aids our thinking about complex situations and shows the different levels of intervention in a system.
The mound is our African metaphor for a system, which represents a living system in a way that an iceberg cannot. In short: you see the mound above the ground, yet a large part is happening underground. An entire delivery system, if you will. The health of the mound is fully determined by the health of the soil. The soil stands for the leadership of a country.
When we first meet social problems, we think that what we see is what needs to be solved. Yet if we look closely, transformative solutions often lie elsewhere. One cannot change this entire system alone. But one can collaborate and find strategic investment points.