In my last article, I wrote about disaster management solutions arising from my speaking session at Ehingbeti: Lagos Economic Summit 2021. Another question that I addressed was the critical success factors required for the implementation of effective collaborative models in Lagos State to solve societal problems.

To start off, one must commend the government of Lagos State for setting the direction with its THEMES agenda, which maps out its developmental areas of priority as well as for forming partnerships with different organisations in the private sector and other sectors, in the spirit of SDG 17. One will argue that a collaborative approach to problem solving ensures that implemented solutions are sustainable.

Still, in implementing sustainable collaboration models from a design point of view, it is recommended that the state follows a human centred design approach when designing public services and policies to enable the creation of social and environmental value and not just economic value. This approach involves not just bringing public and private sectors together but involving citizens and users/recipients of the services in the design of solutions especially young people to ensure that we have a more inclusive society and to reduce the gap between the haves and have nots. This will provide the state with better understanding of the actual needs, challenges and requirements of the people of Lagos State in order to provide good quality and relevant services that meet those needs.

The human centred design approach will also allow trust to be built with citizens as partnerships will be formed; people will feel that they are actively involved in coming up with solutions to solve problems and not only being informed or consulted. The fact is that active involvement and participation enables co-creation of viable bottom-up and cross-sectoral solutions not just imposed top-down answers.

Ultimately, this approach will facilitate the design of interventions based on actual needs and not assumed requirements. It will also allow resources to be applied, without waste.

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However, in order for this to work in solving societal challenges, three things need to be in place according to Alexander Lau and team from the Singaporean Prime Minister’s office in their paper titled Design-led Innovation in the Singapore Public Service.

The first is the need for empathy towards all stakeholders. This entails the state knowing and understanding, without making assumptions, where all the relevant stakeholders are coming from- their needs and concerns as well as their roles and responsibilities in resolving the problem being considered. This is an essential element for this approach to policy and service design.

Secondly, there must be strong willingness to work collaboratively. Lagos state is already exceling in this area with the various strategic partnerships with other organisations. This willingness to collaborate should now be extended to include users, recipients of services and citizens who are affected by the policies to ensure more viable and sustainable solutions that create social, environmental and economic value for the state.

The third prerequisite is that there needs to be willingness to experiment, to try new ideas and test assumptions with the different stakeholders involved in the design process. This is particularly important because having different stakeholders involved will allow for multiple viable options to be formulated, before final selections are made. Although, critics might argue that this approach could be costly and time consuming, nevertheless, it is still better to pay more and spend more time at the beginning when the problem is manageable rather than implementing non-viable solutions that are subsequently discarded. After all, the right stich in time saves numerous more in the future!

Nonny Ugboma is the Executive Secretary of MTN Nigeria Foundation