With people and planet
WE dream and Dare
WHAT WE DO
In a curious and appreciative environment, we help you explore the intention and purpose of what you do. On this journey, we help you and your organisation co-design strategies for collective action to connect where you are and what you dream.
We hold trusting and daring spaces for the emergence of collective intention and action – inviting you to revisit paradigms, Theories of Change, organisational designs and mental models with critical thinking, playfulness and foresight.
Complex challenges such as transforming a business model or working on systemic issues such as climate change require not one smart person but a thriving pool of intelligences. We embrace collective sensemaking as a means to shed a whole array of lights on the challenge and tensions at hand while widening the solution space.
We enjoy unorthodox combinations of methods such as system mapping, ethnographic research, warm data, and human-centred design with playful and experiential exploration by means of dialogue, role play, storytelling or constellation work. We thereby hope to open brave spaces for new insights, possibilities, and capacities to arise.
Spaces for learning and co-creation foster self-organisation, emergence and synchronicity in organisations.We help you shift from reacting against the past to mutual leaning into an emerging future.
We spark leaders and learners by creating a learning environment with generative practices.
Breakthroughs come when people learn together about their assumptions and the multiple contexts that influence actions and possibilities. From management over operations to evaluation, there is a great deal for all of us to learn and unleash mutual learning and leadership!
Multi-actor-partnerships are a great pathway to getting things done beyond what may seem possible just by oneself. Together with you, we build vision and momentum for meaningful and value-generating partnerships.
We help align partner intentions, surface needs and strengths to identify where the magic lies. With you, we explore how you may pool resources, knowledge and networks to get there in concrete and measurable steps.
Are you open to expand, deepen or transform the way many donors have been working towards and thinking about impact and scaling? Let’s invite the wisdom of your ecosystem, learn about what matters and identify solutions before we help tailor and embed them within local contexts.
We facilitate collaboration and learning on eye-level within your network including donor, innovator, and ecosystem partners. Guided by needs and demand, we delve into core problems and explore concrete opportunities. With your key partners, we closely engage to co-create new or iterate proven solutions until fit for purpose.
SENSEMAKING IN ACTION
Diálogo Brasil: Anchoring behavioural shifts in a human-centred Theory of Change
We are supporting Diálogo Brazil to develop their theory of change for a communication & social media strategy that encourages pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours in Brazil.
Over two years, we facilitated this process using design thinking, behavioural psychology and ethnographic research, and generative practices. We facilitated two projects – theories of change for reduced meat consumed by Brazilian families and reducing farm deforestation by Brazilian farmers, which in both cases, shifted Diálogo Brazil’s perception of their target audience not as a change object, but more as a change agent.
ECOM Agroindustrial Corp: Facilitating purpose and strategy
Working within Betterpreneurs’s leadership programme to grow innovators at ECOM, we facilitated an organisation strategy between where the senior leaders are and what they dream for ECOM East Africa.
We used generative practices and future sensing to inspire collaborative actions today to create meaningful futures for ECOM.
Global Environment Facility (GEF): Innovation in the evaluation system
We supported the GEF to co-design its evaluation system with its implementation agencies so that it can help the agencies deliver not only on accountability but also on learning.
We combined Systems Thinking and Design Thinking in order to gain a user-centered view on how to enhance participation, learning, and innovation in evaluation systems.
UNDP Good Growth Partnership: Learning and evaluation
We facilitated learning and evaluation of UNDP’s Good Growth Partnership over the last two years.
Our unique learning and evaluation approach has invited a collaborative process to question and update how the partnership views the relationship between the purpose of the partnership, the design of the partnership and the realities and achievements of the living partnership system.
UNDP Peru: Mapping social and land conflicts
With indigenous communities, farmers and government officials, we facilitated systems mapping and collective sensemaking for the entrenched social and land conflicts in the Amazon landscape. We facilitated this sensitive and heart-breaking process using systems practice, storytelling, and many generative practices.
UNDP Green Commodities Programme: new farmer-centric approach for transition
We led the development of a new farmer-centric methodology, which integrates systemic, human-centred, and behavioural tools to explore producers’ needs, challenges, and potentials for transitioning towards a more sustainable food system.
Swiss Development Cooperation: co-creation process for the call of funding
We facilitated the co-creation of the call for funds for the Swiss Development Cooperation with its partners using Systems and Design Thinking as well as Theory U.
Climate Alliance ‘s Change the Power Partnership
We facilitated learning and evaluation of the strategy, purpose, vision within a European multi-city partnership to empower cities and towns in climate transition.
We used storytelling, artwork, systems constellations, as well as assessment of Theory of Change for this generative evaluation.
digilab and #SmartDevelopmentFund: Scaling Rural Women Entrepreneurs
We helped contextualise, adjust and scale a great solution from Bangladesh to other countries aiming to empower rural women entrepreneurs and their communities.
In cooperation with endeva UG, we facilitated collaboration between the solution providers (United Purpose, mPower), various GIZ country offices, and colleagues from some of the digilab partners (#SDF, BMZ). In the process, we explored mutual requirements of solution and contexts, identified potential partners, and co-designed a scaling road map.
Digilab and GIZ: Scaling toolkit to integrate digital innovation with people and ecosystems
With our cooperation partners at endeva UG and minds & makers, we are designing a toolkit to support participatory scaling efforts between innovators and donor structures to make digital solutions work for local needs.
There are many shared problems, pains and also gains and solutions out there. By guiding through an iterative and participatory process, our toolkit aims to contextualise and match existing solutions with the realities of people and ecosystems. Research, prototyping and testing help us learn during the ongoing development of the toolkit.
WHAT WE CULTIVATE
System Dynamics and Innovation
We connect various stakeholder views into a whole. This way, we let the system sense itself and identify action steps to transform it in an eco-centric way. We draw from Omidyar Group’s Systems Practice, design thinking as well as behavioural insights such as OECD’s BASIC framework.
Role play, Forum Theatre, and Constellation Work
We explore and play interactions, dynamics and power structures in a brave space. This is a playful invitation to empathise with others and to try out new behavioural patterns in a system. Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, the Presencing Institute’s 4D Mapping and various improvisational methods are inspiring sources.
Future Sensing and foresight
We tap collectively into the wisdom of our future dreams and information on future likely scenarios. Between dreams and scenarios, we re-imagine futures and inspire our collaborative actions today to build meaningful futures. We draw from various approaches including Theory U, foresight and futures literacy from Zukünfte.net.
We help you shape your ideas in reality as early as possible because real life is the best teacher. We prototype using design thinking tools, drawings, and scenarios.
The team behind sensemakers collective
Dr Malika Virah-Sawmy,
“I want to create a world in which organisations strive as effective and living systems with human beings living up to their full potential”
As a child, my dream was to talk to animals and trees. I left home at 18 to be in the forest and worked for several years as a park ranger, first in Mauritius, my own island, then Seychelles, New Zealand and Madagascar.
After a PhD at the University of Oxford on human-nature conflict, I worked as a sustainability practitioner and systems scientist across the world from Asia, Australia, Africa to South America. Most of my professional work in the last 20 years focussed on sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation and natural resource management. While the initiatives I worked on had some success, I realised the ways of thinking and doing were not conducive as we cannot fix systemic issues with explicit and direct corrective policies.
A few years ago, I listened to my authentic dream again and founded Sensemakers Collective – to serve life. I’m still learning – not perhaps to talk to nature – but to listen to it deeply. In this calling to serve life, I shape-shift and serve as a facilitator of transformation, as an activist or rebel, as a storyteller, and as a community weaver dedicating myself to nature connection, social justice, community living, and North-South healing and reconciliation. I am learning to „garden“ seeds of transformation in our ways of knowing, doing and relating with mindfulness practices, embodiment, systems, psychological and behavioural sciences, and ancestral wisdom.
MA & MSc, Co-Founder
"Pooling people’s perspectives and knowledge is a wonderful gateway to a shared understanding of what is needed and to get it done.”
Whether in international development cooperation, refugee associations or during countless peer-learning sessions of international and public sector organisations – many times I have been struck by the honest caring, good intentions and impressive capacities of the people I had the pleasure working with. In a way you may find childish, I’d like to ask:
With this incredible richness of knowledge, technology and wholeheartedness in the world how might we actually begin tapping into this treasure to enable thriving ecosystems and desirable futures for all life?
Being in love with bold questions, I also am with putting one step after another until a beautiful and ambitious hiking trail emerges which – looked at as a whole – might have seemed overwhelming at first.
This is why I started to open my senses to participatory and iterative approaches which would be bold enough to embrace complexities and to dare taking collective action towards shared futures – whatever the size of the first steps.
On this journey, I am grateful to reconnect with many things which I have learned through theatre play, dancing and many conversations with my family and friends: the gist being that emotional and intuitive intelligence are just as meaningful and valuable as our cognitive abilities when it comes to how we approach and make sense of the world.