The Ecocycle

The Ecocycle distinguishes different development phases of our work: Birth, Maturity, Creative Destruction, and Renewal as well as the type of leadership or team members that belong to each phase (see Ecocycle graphic below).

Facilitator Nancy White pointed out that mapping our activities against those phases can help identify bottlenecks: The risk, for example of giving birth to ideas for change or projects but not being able to invest time, energy or funding to go through the development stage and reach maturity (“Poverty Trap”), which points to the importance of prioritizing activities and fight the right battles. Another risk, she says, is, at the Maturity stage, not to question or stop activities, so that they can evolve and make space for renewal (“Rigidity trap”).

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Participants first made a list of activities using post-it notes, and then worked in pairs to help each other identify where to place the activity on the eco-cycle. In 4 bigger groups, they reposted the activities on a larger ecocycle illustration and, taking a tour of each of the 4 ecocycles, commented their findings in plenary.

The group pointed out that the placement of activities seems to depend a lot on how junior or senior we are, how excited we are about an activity that might be new for some and very routine for others. So, for example, data collection and analysis can be for some of us a moment of birth, and for others a mature activity. The group also saw quickly that it is important to reach a balance in activities between the four development phases in order to avoid chaos, or bureaucracy overload for example, and maintain innovation and the creation of new areas of work.

Here are some specific highlights of the conversation:

Maturity: The struggle with activities that are mature, and relate to management tasks and bureaucracy were mentioned by many as a head ache. It points to the general issue of gender researchers feeling overwhelmed with administration and not finding sufficient time for research. This discussion is not new in CGIAR. Are managerial tasks best taken over by scientists, are asking many in the room? Another participant thinks that the interaction with other social scientists is at a maturity stage (“we understand each other”) while there is still a lot of confusion when it comes to reach agreements with the biophysical scientists.

Creative Destruction: Participants struggled a bit with “Creative destruction”. Nancy White made it clear that this is a creativity stage (not something negative), a stage of change and innovation, a moment of questioning and confusion that leads to renewal. One participant gave as an example the need to deploy our listening skills to biophysical scientists in order to be able to change mind sets and create and work together.  It was also mentioned that it is important that we involve a larger group of next users and partners in the creative destruction and renewal phase. This increases the chances for them to support the birth and implementation of our ideas and activities.

Example of a group doing its Ecocycle of activities

Poverty traps / Rigidity traps: Some examples were given, like the initial willingness and interest to work in communities of practice to then lose momentum and stay inert. Another example is the feeling of many to be trapped in the rigid CRP and center systems, or having done all the research and lack time to actually write the papers. So what prevents us from implementing activities of mainstreaming? Are we trapped in poverty or rigidity? How can we accelerate the move towards a renewal of the system’s thinking and action? Many participants feel stuck between the rigid CRP and Center system. For Jacqui Ashby it is therefore key to get gender representation high on the agenda and into management teams, while at the same time work on the renewal / networking with middle level management.

Learn more: http://www.liberatingstructures.com/31-ecocycle-planning