Black and white, water and fire, ying and yang, Outcome Mapping and Logical Framework – is it really like this? Corinne Sprecher from the International Team at AGRIDEA discusses in her blog post the attitude of individuals towards two opposing concepts. With the example of Outcome Mapping and Logical Framework Approach she shows, how the process of dealing with the polarities could look like. And how the eagerness to see the positive aspects of two poles could enhance (an unexpected) learning, of searching for complementarities, combined with the great potential for creating new ideas and new solutions.
By Corinne Sprecher, Agridea
Outcome Mapping Lab 2012 – “learning to adapt”
Just over 10 years ago IDRC published the Outcome Mapping (OM) Manual and OM started to contribute to planning, monitoring and evaluating social change interventions in international development. Thinking and practice have evolved since, as application has expanded and experiences have been made. In February the Outcome Mapping Learning Community hosted a laboratory for OM in Beirut under the slogan “Learning to adapt”.
With “only” close to two years of experience in OM I participated in the OM Lab pretty much as a newcomer to the “scene” and as such I have not paid much attention to the title “learning to adapt” in the beginning. Only as the lab went on, the slogan started to engage my interest and my reflections: What does this motto tell us about the development and discourse in the OM community? What lies behind it?
From Differentiation to Opening up
In my personal experience I remember OM being presented to me in opposition to the Logical Framework Approach (LFA). I remember experts often defining and explaining OM ex negativum, its strengths were underlined by the weaknesses of LFA. This phenomena can be put in a historical context where OM has come up as a solution to weaknesses of known, conventional PCM methods, such as LFA. Experiences have been made with LFA and frustration has come up that made at least some look for alternatives. However, as a young professional my conceptual focus has always been on OM, not LFA. Thus, I much more focused on: What is OM, rather than what it is not. What are the strong points of OM in general, and not in differentiation to LFA. And this way I developed my own rationale for OM.
I was very curious to meet the founders of OM and other development professionals at the OM Lab in Beirut, and particularly to hear what is discussed 10 years into practice. What experiences are others making? What rationales for OM have others developed? ? And what astonished me: Actually, I could hear very little critique about LFA. In contrary, I heard more people asking questions about how to integrate OM and LFA. Or more broadly – as the title of the event also puts it – how can OM be adapted?
It felt to me like the OM community is opening up. In the early days of OM for developing and strengthening the new approach, it must have been important to differentiate. Partly out of frustration with one thing, a new thing developed. For building a new community, boarders were drawn and one first turned away from the established, the known, the “old”. Now, after 10 years of building up, experimenting and applying OM, it seems the time has come to face the “outside” again and look at other approaches – including LFA, which is still in many development agencies the mainstream.
Between the poles of two opposing ideas
Reflecting about this perception, a picture came to my mind – a picture known from polarity management. Two opposing ideas are facing each other. After concentrating for a while on one of the ideas, the negative aspects of it become more apparent, and this then makes the opposing pole more attractive again. An oscillating movement begins.
Adapted from: http://www.requipabcd.org/
Let’s take the example of breathing. Inhale deeply. Doesn’t this feel wonderful? But for how long? At some stage, our body has too much carbon dioxide. We exhale, get rid of it. This feels much better, until we have too little oxygen. And so on. The question hence is not: What is more important or more enjoyable in breathing: inhaling or exhaling? This would be absurd. Of course, we need both. Breathing is the oscillation between two polarities, inhaling and exhaling.
Do OM and LFA represent polarities of the same? Probably not the methods as such, but the philosophy behind and some characteristics of the two approaches can be seen as polarities. Some that come to my mind:
- flexibility versus order
- focused on behaviour versus focused on products
- problem driven versus vision driven
- SMART versus Einstein‘s „ all is relative“
- logical results chains versus evolving development processes with unexpected results
- embracing complexity versus reducing complexity
Using the energy between the two poles
Considering these examples, I ask myself: Are these problems to solve or ongoing polarities we must manage well? Both poles have positive characteristics, only a too extreme focus on one of them can turn it into a negative trait. Flexibility can become chaotic, order can turn into stiffness. The solution will not be to decide either on flexibility or order. The picture illustrating such a “either – or” duality thinking is a pendulum, which can only swing from one extreme to the other, shining light on the negatives (or the positives) of one polarity and then back on the negatives (or positives) of the other. The incompatibility of the two is underlined. In contrary, polarity management is moving from the negative characteristics of one pole to the positive characteristics of the other. An intensive process of analysis, learning and understanding is initiated and this can generate a creative and energetic dynamic for developing new ideas and solutions. Development and innovation is happening in between the well-balanced positive poles.
The question will hence not be LFA or OM, but how to best balance the strong points of both without drifting into the negative extreme of one pole and what new solutions will come out of this dynamic. Learning to adapt. Or better, learning to actively engage with opposing ideas and innovate?