Impact story

How Chayn’s Strategy Co-creation Process is inspiring La Sobremesa

A Latin American consultancy is adapting Chayn’s strategy process for themselves, as well as three more organisations!

Image of people smiling and laughing, with two people joined hands. La Sobremesa's logo overlaps the image

All of this started with an image. And then, it was as if everything fell into place. “The missing piece,” is what she calls it.

When Anca Matioc first came across a tweet about a process for strategy co-creation at Chayn, she was struck by it.

Matioc is the founder and director of La Sobremesa, a consultancy in Latin America that facilitates change and learning processes in civil society organisations, networks, and funders. For years she’d been keeping an eye on the work of Hera Hussain, founder and CEO of Chayn, as both had been involved in co-founding Open Heroines and had remained in touch. Naturally, when Chayn began sharing its strategy process in 2021, Matioc was interested in exploring it.

Chayn's process map for strategy co-creation. Includes the following steps: 1 - preperation; 2 - strategy day, May 2021; 3 - synthesis, June 2021; 4 - draft slides, July 2021; 5 - partner workshops, October-November 2021; 6 - public comment, January 2022; 7 - Final report, February 2022
Image caption: Chayn’s process map for strategy co-creation
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It was a tweet with a very amazing image that had the entire process mapped out. So there was this step-by-step image. And I was like, ‘That's what we need to do!’ This is what's missing. The missing piece. And I hadn't really seen, well, two things before.

1) I hadn't really seen strategies with a lot of community input and

2) I hadn't seen anyone talk about their strategy process before.

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What was Chayn’s strategy process?

Chayn’s 2022-2025 strategy was co-created by our staff, volunteers, and board; we then facilitated four open workshops with peers in our sector, bringing together over 60 people from across the world to challenge and validate our thinking. These included policy experts, researchers, campaigners, funders, designers, user researchers, and nonprofits, including frontline and grassroots movements. The feedback was incorporated into slides, which were opened for fresh input from allies in our global community. The process continued from 2021 to 2022. Our final strategy is available here and the entire process is documented in our blog series.

Read our strategy blogs
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Chatting with La Sobremesa

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La Sobremesa is a term for engaging in deep heartfelt conversations after sharing a meal.

So we sat down with Matioc to discuss the impact of our work on theirs. What we never expected to hear was the extent to which Chayn’s strategy process has inspired them. Not only has our work led to La Sobremesa’s own strategy co-creation, but it has also had a domino effect. “It was just like a double whammy,” Matioc said. They have drawn further inspiration to support strategy building at three organisations they are working with. And Matioc is sure our work will continue to be used by La Sobremesa long after.

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Taking a creative approach to documentation

“The illustration was critical,” Matioc tells us. With months and goals specified, this was a timeline set against a classic Chayn background. Clear, with easy-to-understand language and eye-catching details, we love incorporating such maps into most of our work.

Another important part of what inspired Matioc was the series of blogs. “I don't think it was too detailed. And I don't think it was like scraps. I think that you were giving us enough to chew on.”

Documenting our work, including successes, failures and learnings, is something we frequently do in our commitment to being open and holding ourselves accountable. For our strategy process, we did this every step of the way, inviting readers like Matioc on this journey.

From this very mess and chaos emerged important learnings for Matioc.

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That was really informative because you're not just seeing the final product,” she said. “And all of this mess that we had to get through and chaos that we had to process…It was like this is really how it's happening, and what we're learning in real-time.

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Illustration of an ipad with a tweet thread. The user @AncaMatioc shares Chayn's strategy process

The impact of working in the open

In the Latin American context, Matioc said very few organisations are working on and sharing strategy documents in the open. This is often due to the political risks they face. And yet, she recognises the great importance of working in the open.

In fact, Matioc did a deep dive to find out which organisations, both global and Latin American, are openly sharing their strategy or theory of change, and documented it in a Twitter thread. The first organisation on the thread? Chayn.

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“It's just extremely important to share the work that you're doing and how you're doing it and the struggles that you come across. Because everyone's having them,” she said.

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Through her research, Matioc also gathered insights from others, yet, Chayn remained “hugely impactful.”

Matioc believes it is powerful when organisations are transparent about their processes. “People don't talk about organisational strategies out loud. And this is very much what La Sobremesa wants to start doing,” she said. Already, La Sobremesa documents its work online in the form of photographs, videos, blogs, and tweets. But they want to do more, despite a lack of dedicated time for this work, something we can relate to. “It’s something we want to prioritise because it doesn’t really exist in Latin America. And it’s really powerful. It really is very powerful.” Matioc shares that this is not because of a lack of capacity or desire to do this in other organisations, rather it's due to the political risk and also competition between non-governmental organisations (NGO).
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“We want to prioritise talking about our organisational strategies out because it doesn’t really exist in Latin America. And it’s really powerful.”

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The importance of strategy-building

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“It was very comforting for whoever was there to see, this is the concrete thing. This is how long it took, this is how many people were involved, right, this is a realistic timeline of doing something that involves the community.”

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Documenting our process in the open has reminded others of the value of strategy-building. Matioc emphasises that strategies are road maps for organisations.

“These organisations are going to be more centred and are eventually going to have more impact because we know what we're trying to achieve,” she said. “If you do the strategy, well, then… you will know your limits. You will know what you can do, and what you don't do.”

Since the strategies at Chayn and La Sobremesa are young, we wondered if organisations were reluctant to adopt a similar process. Instead, Matioc said people are pleased to see a tried and tested framework they can replicate, and that it made it easier for them to trust the process too.

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Caption: Strategy session with Dialogos

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“I think you guys have explicitly said, ‘What we don't do.’ That was very inspirational for both La Sobremesa and Dialogos as well.”

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By “borrowing and tweaking” from Chayn’s approach for their own strategy, La Sobremesa acted as a guinea pig for their clients, showing others that they trust our work. Now Matioc creates bespoke processes for her clients while taking inspiration from Chayn.

For example, Matioc sent one of our strategy blogs to Walter Corzo, the founder of Dialogos, a think-tank from Guatemala. She spoke highly of Chayn and told him our values align with those of Dialogos. On reading the blog, he said, “This is exactly what we need.” Already, they have finished collaborating to build a five-year strategy, with La Sobremesa facilitating in-person workshops.

Even within the content of the strategy, the team got inspired by what Chayn was doing. “I think you guys have explicitly said, ‘What we don't do.’ That was very inspirational for both La Sobremesa and Dialogos as well.”

As the next step, Dialogos conducted interviews (with journalists, NGOs, funders, and board members) and sent out a draft strategy with a survey to gather feedback, much like our public comment period. Then they incorporated the feedback they gathered, and have now published and shared their new strategy with this community.

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The value of community involvement

When it came to the strategy of La Sobremesa, they adapted our approach to suit their needs. In our process, they could see the value of involving the Chayn community.

Matioc reached out to her pre-existing community, rooted in a decade of work in open data and open governance. La Sobremesa decided to circulate a survey, which remains open to Latin American organisations. In the introduction, they explain why they’re doing this.
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Your ability to explain why it is important to integrate community, to integrate external feedback; I think that's critical,” Matioc said. “Use this opportunity to sit down with what we would call, competitors, but are actually your allies to see how they're also working and how you can draw inspiration from them.

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We want to hear your voices and understand what are the main barriers, challenges and priorities you have for the coming years in order to understand how we can contribute more and better.

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Using direct outreach, Matioc got the survey in front of executive directors around Latin America and believes their 40+ responses are integral to shaping their strategy. They wrote a blog about these responses. Together, they are imagining how La Sobremesa might support their needs by building this into the very DNA of the organisation. Like Chayn, their next step is to hold workshops with organisational leaders and funders. Already, they have held an IGTV live and a Twitter space, and they plan to hold more sessions in the future.
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Learning about La Sobremesa’s work has made us realise that it’s possible to prototype a way of working, even as you sell it to clients. By engaging with our work, they found inspiration for not just their own strategy but also for others. As an expert in Latin America, they are well-positioned to adapt our process further to the local context. 

Organisations like La Sobremesa remind us of the far-reaching implications of working in the open. We feel a renewed commitment to documenting and sharing our work, both creatively and generously. We’re also pleased to see that our process is shaping so many strategies and inspiring organisations around the world to gather community input, as well as share their own work openly. 

If you’ve used our strategy process, or any other Chayn work as a model for your own, get in touch. We’d love to hear and share your stories!
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