Fragments of Impact – Launching a six-month UNDP/Cognitive Edge initiative into working with complex problems

Published by Tony Quinlan on

Cognitive Edge and UNDP are together launching a unique initiative  to engage with new ways of working on difficult problems in complex and fast-changing situations.  The programme will last six months and a limited number of participants are being invited from across a variety of NGO and government groups.

Sign up now – email Anna Hanchar (Cognitive Edge) or Milica Begovic (UNDP Europe and CIS)

The new Fragments of Impact initiative will explore the boundaries of using Cognitive Edge’s SenseMaker® software to work on intractable problems in uncertain, culturally-specific environments.  The initiative is focused on:

  • generating fast feedback loops
  • capturing data on subtle changes in attitudes, behaviors and perceptions
  • bringing user-centered design methods to development work,
  • implementing projects with the realities of politics and power in mind
  • taking small bets and low-cost prototypes before committing large investments into multi year projects

Partnering with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Istanbul and building on a wide variety of projects with UNDP, GirlHub, IFAD, PRIME and others, participants will have extraordinary access to software, experts and a training programme, all while supporting current project implementation and attitude monitoring.

The initiative will support participants’ current projects – improving local understanding and programme effectiveness – as well as developing innovative skills and capacity, including how to redesign project initiatives to reflect perception data coming from the field.

The programme starts with a two-day project definition seminar in Istanbul on 22nd-23rd June 2015.


Why join the programme?

In recent years, Cognitive Edge and its network of associates have worked in a diverse range of environments on issues such as nutrition, climate change, conflict resolution, culture and girl power – helping implementers and decision-makers to understand the environment, as well as the potential pathways of improvement.  In some cases, that has expanded to monitoring and evaluating improvements over time.

Working in fast-changing, highly-specific local contexts is at the core of most NGOs and development organisations. In those situations, operating is difficult enough, but two elements become critical:

  • Understanding the initial situation
  • Monitoring for shifts in attitudes and perceptions


The programme

Fragments of Impact has three distinct phases:


Phase 1: Education and project building

The initiative starts on 22nd-23rd June 2015 with a two-day seminar in Istanbul, hosted by the United Nations Development Programme for Europe and Central Asia, covering:

  • Principles of complexity, micro-narrative research and SenseMaker®-based approaches
  • Field examples of SenseMaker® projects to date
  • Collaborative project design
  • Alternative routes for data collection
  • Collaborative framework design

Following the event, Cognitive Edge and UNDP will design and build a small number of frameworks for web and app-based data collection by participants in the ensuing months. These frameworks will cover all core concepts that participants have agreed. Additional customisation of frameworks is available at an extra cost (see below).


Phase 2: Project implementation and data collection

For the data collection phase of the project – running from July 2015 to January 2016, Cognitive Edge and UNDP will be holding fortnightly mentoring conference calls for participants and providing basic monitoring of incoming data. This is a critical aspect of the initiative and can require new approaches from project teams, so our mentoring is to help teams think through and implement a strategy for data collection – both continuous and snapshot.

Participants will be expected to contribute to at least one of the data collection projects, but may contribute to as many as are relevant for their work.


Phase 3: Analysis, sense-making and conclusions

In January 2016, a second two-day seminar will be held.  This seminar will teach and mentor participants in using analysis tools on the narrative data collected, coach methods to develop evidence-based interventions and pull together conclusions and examples from the overall programme.

Working together with evaluation experts, we plan to write up results and produce papers based on participants’ experiences of SenseMaker® use.

This is an opportunity to become a leading user of SenseMaker® and Cognitive Edge methods as part of a raft of projects – benefiting from shared knowledge and experience, economies of scale and mentoring from Cognitive Edge associates unavailable in normal projects.  The initiative will bring together past practice with current theory and be an opportunity to develop practice-based examples of where SenseMaker® and Cognitive Edge methods can enhance current methods.  The end result of this programme will be written up and published for public scrutiny.


The cost (per project)

Cost: $3,500 includes

The project cost represents great value – it covers the following:

  • Framework building and app/website production (usually $5,000)
  • Monthly software licences for the six months of the project (usually $2,400)
  • Mentoring (starts at $1,000 per month)
  • 4 days of training on complexity, research and more (usually $4,300)
  • Academic input to the frameworks
  • Analysis and monitoring of the project

Participants will be need to fund their own travel and accommodation costs to the June 2015 and January 2016 seminars. Costs are per project, and participant projects are encouraged to send 2-5 team members.

Additional customisation/modification of signifier frameworks (e.g. additional languages):$2,000

To participate, or get further details, email Anna Hanchar ( or Milica Begovic (