Co-creating the Way: Framing the Conversation

Elena  0:00  

Welcome, and thank you once again for joining us for this webinar in a series of three, Co-creating the Way, together. My name is Elena Bonometti. I’m the CEO of Tostan, a West African based organization. Tostan has worked over the past 30 years at the community level, at the grassroots, to empower communities to develop and to fulfill their own vision of well being and it has inspired a larger scale movement leading to the respect of human rights and to dignity for all. 

We are so excited today to welcome you to this session. We are also proudly founders of a newly formed collective, which is called Catalyst 2030. I want to welcome the participation of my fellow colleagues that really want to influence others to embrace a systems change approach and advance or accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Thank you catalyst 2030. And let’s keep doing great work together. 

The purpose of this series of events is really to talk to one another about systems change and actually to grow together our field of practice. And at Tostan, we have been conveners of conversation around systems change. And actually, we have been doing that at the grassroots level. And if we were today in West Africa, and I’m calling from Dakar today, the communities we work with, we would convene maybe under a tree, maybe under a Baobob tree. And people have been convening at the grassroots to really discuss some sensitive issues. And they’re important to their heart and find new ways to fuel the social change. And so we are being proud also of convening those conversations at a particular level, in particular out of our Tostan Training Center in Thies, where we share our methodologies and we learn from others about the human rights based approach but also, you know, having lenses of social norms. And we are also you know, we are proud to have influenced global thinkers, funders to see things in a different way to use new lenses to look at the work. So that’s why it’s so exciting today to convene this conversation and we have two wonderful panelists joining our conversation. Sybil and Sanjay, thank you for being with us today. So let me introduce them very briefly. Sybil Chidiac, is Senior Program Officer on the Gender Equality team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She is responsible for developing and leading the women empowerment collective strategy with a focus on advancing women’s economic empowerment across Africa and particularly in Nigeria and Uganda. Sanjay Purohit, is the Chief Curator of Societal Platform at the Ekstep Foundation. From India, of course, technologies from Bangalore. Sanjay brings 30 years of global experience in corporate strategy, digital transformation, and sustainable development. So, thank you so much Sybil and Sanjay for being with us in this conversation. And please would you like to add a little bit about yourself because before we get into the program, and maybe let our guests know why this conversation is so important to you. Sybil, over to you first.

Sybil  3:44  

Thank you, Elena. Greetings everyone. My name is Sybil Chidiac. I am a savings group practitioner who was first introduced to the savings group concept in 1998. Through my work at CARE, and then later in 2000, when I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Porto-Novo, Benin, ever since I haven’t looked back rather, I’ve stretched my work across 20 African countries, with an initial focus on driving the formal financial inclusion of women found in savings groups then later to include additional training and services focused on strengthening women’s agriculture and nutrition knowledge and practices, all in the aims of strengthening the outcomes around income decision making and control over assets for women. Maybe first, I have to highlight that throughout my career, I never use the term systems change to describe my work. However, that is exactly what I’ve been pursuing, specifically changing the system for women, changing the ruling patriarchy that exists across many societies, especially across Africa. And with this, I can’t claim to be a systems change expert, but would like to frame my inputs to this conversation based on my practitioner experience across my various roles over the last two decades. As Elena mentioned, currently I am with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where I serve as a Senior Program officer of our Africa women’s empowerment collectives work within the Gender Equality team. Women’s empowerment collectives, are fundamentally institutions of the poor, that support the advancement of women’s human financial and social capital. In Africa, they are savings groups and India known as self help groups with added elements that drive socio-economic winds for women on their journey to greater agency. Thank you.

Elena  5:36  

Thank you so bad you bring so much to the table. Over to you, Sanjay, please.

Sanjay  5:42  

Thank you so much, Elena. It is a privilege to be here with you. TostanBanga has been an inspiration for many years.

Good evening to everyone from Bangalore India.

Looking forward to this conversation today, I work at the Ekstep Foundation which is the foundation of Rohini and Nandan Nilekani based out of Bangalore. Since 2016 I’ve been restless about one question and that is the challenges that we are facing, whether they’re challenges in education or healthcare or livelihoods, urbanization, the challenges are of exponential character, they grow and they diversify at a very high speed, whereas most of the solutions are of linear nature. So my restlessness my impatience has been to see is it possible to identify exponential responses to exponential problems. And that is what led us to the idea called societal platform thinking and that is what I work on which essentially is to apply methods and frameworks to develop exponential answers to exponential problems at speed, at scale, and in a sustainable way. We work across multiple sectors education, healthcare, livelihoods, water urbanization. And today I’m very excited to learn from the experiences of my co-panelists and share some thoughts about what we have learned in our journey of driving population scale change, which obviously you cannot do unless you change the equilibrium of the system, which runs that entire environment. So glad to be here. And thank you.

Elena  7:37  

Thank you so much, Sanjay. They are asking me for you to be closer to the mic if you can speak louder. Thank you so much. So before we dive in into our program today, it’s very exciting. thank you to both of you. I want to make sure that I unfold a little bit the program for our guests. So we are planning to talk but we also planning to hear from you because we want to as many perspectives to this conversation and really push the agenda forward. So we will have two major questions that we are going to explore around. And of course, listen from our panelists. And then we will after one question, hand it over to you for some Q&A or and also contribution, we would welcome contribution. And we will have 15 minutes where we can exchange around the first question, and then we will move, we will push ourselves a little bit farther and explore another question, and then give it over to you again, before coming together and drawing conclusions. And this is meant to be of course, on a learning experience for all of us. So, so please feel free to contribute even in the chat or you know, by asking your question, we will, of course, make some tough choices. We cannot take all the questions, but we will try really, to put all the thinking together and to lay the foundation for the next conversation. So for the second webinar of this series so be with us with the journey.