System transformation is the holy grail of development work. As development professionals, we strive to design and implement solutions that will stand the test of time, resonate through existing systems, and change them for the better. The Strategic Development Goals ask no less of us and so we must rise to the challenge, especially in this time of global upheaval and increasing uncertainty.

But what does it take to transform a system? We are often quick to point to what we believe are the best solutions, based on our experience in development and our assumptions about how all the puzzle pieces that make up a system fit together, regardless of if we are talking about healthcare, governance or another system that forms the foundation of modern societies. Yet, in our rush to deliver, to satisfy targets, to meet deadlines, we often forget to stop and think, to re-examine our assumptions about how the world works. But we cannot build better solutions without a foundation of accurate assumptions and we cannot lay that foundation without a deliberate sensemaking process that requires both time and intellectual effort.

COVID-19 is not only challenging our assumptions about long-standing systems, but it is also increasing the urgency of systemic transformation. Though the impact of the pandemic on human development is overwhelmingly negative, there is a thin silver lining shining through as the world slows down: the time to pause and reflect, to re-assess outdated schemas and weave better ones. At UNDP North Macedonia, we decided to make the best of that time to pioneer the first fully digital UNDP sensemaking workshop, applying the Systems Transformation Framework developed by the CHÔRA Foundation to our strategic planning process and our response to COVID-19.

To learn more about what that process entailed and what we learned from it, get the full story on the UNDP Eurasia Regional Innovation Center blog.

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