How do multi-stakeholder processes contribute to transforming systems?
What outcomes do systemic, creative processes generate?
What could we learn from our past work that could help us to generate more impact tomorrow?
These were the questions that we were pondering when we invited Carlos Hugo Molina and Elena Diez Pinto to share their perspectives and experiences as part of Reos Partner’s “Looking Back” evaluation initiative.
Mr. Molina and Ms. Diez Pinto were involved with the 2015 transformative scenarios process, Alerta Democratica, in which 37 influential leaders from around Latin America gathered to discuss possible futures for Democracy in Latin America; culminating in a major launch and communications effort.
- Alerta Democratica generated new relationships, understanding, and insights.
- While democracy has changed rapidly since the scenarios were developed, they have enabled key actors to understand these changes and to respond accordingly.
- Further accompaniment following the scenario process would have increased its impact.
Q: What did you take away from the Alerta Democratica process?
CHM: For me there were a few major takeaways. One was the relationships with the people. The process created trust and deep connections between us. Many of us are still connected today. We have a self-managing network with a WhatsApp group. We reach out to each other when we need something, and we’ve had a few events where several of us have gotten together.
Another takeaway was new understanding. Because special care was given to selecting a group with very diverse perspectives, the discussion was incredibly rich. The analysis was also very deep. It allowed us to identify situations that, afterwards, actually did happen.
EDP: Yes, together we have a strength that none of us possess alone—we can provide complete perspectives.
Alerta Democratica also provided information and perspectives so that we could see beyond our individual countries to what might happen in the region.
CHM: The other takeaway was the pertinence of the scenarios. The themes that they address have become even more important, such as corruption, youth employment, migration, the importance of networks. The scenarios process gave us an understanding of how these phenomena might influence democracy, and how to respond.
Q: The aim of Alerta Democratica was to draw attention to the risks and opportunities of the present that can make a difference for democracy in the future. Since the end of the process, what changes have you seen in democracy in Latin America? Has Alerta Democratica influenced the responses to these changes?
CHM: Democracy in Latin America has changed a great deal in the last 5 years. In Guatemala, Chile, and Brazil, democracy is in crisis. In Colombia, the peace agreement is changing so many things. The coming elections in Argentina, Uruguay, and Bolivia might change things even more. In El Salvador there is a lot of promise. At the same time, the scenarios show that in this promise there are some risks.
It’s not just in Latin America, either. As you know, we’re seeing rapid changes in democracy around the world with corruption and authoritarianism growing.
Because of the scenarios, we aren’t surprised by these changes, and we have informed responses. We understand what is happening and why, and we act from that.
EDP: Because of the process—both the scenarios and the relationships—we have the pulse of what is happening with democracy across Latin America. In most countries, there’s someone who was part of Alerta who can give a clear reading of what’s happening, and what precautions and actions might be needed. We can also recognize things when they start to emerge, even when they are disguised. For example, the early signs of populism. And we have a shared way to talk about what’s happening. The scenarios have given us an important reference point.
The value of what we produced has proven itself. The four scenarios show what strategies and approaches will be effective in different moments and conditions and gave us tools to affect the situations.
CHM: Yes, the scenarios themselves have proven very useful. They make it much easier to explain ideas, and they give those ideas weight. For example, they have helped me to explain the problem of aging populations in rural areas, or abandonment of social services and how this might impact democracy. When I share these ideas, I’m talking with the backing of all of the organizations who participated in the process, so what I say has more weight.
EDP: When people hear about the process itself, that also has impact. Dialogue is fundamental in a democracy, especially with actors who have differing viewpoints. When we talk about the scenarios process itself, it gives a real-life example of what can be achieved through bringing a diverse group together.
Q: How do you think the process could have been improved?
EDP: Once these processes begin, they are living. They create something that needs to be nurtured and maintained.
For example, one of the most significant outputs is relationships. The fruits of these relationships come with time, but relationships don’t stay alive on their own. They need occasional interactions to stay useful.
CHM: Yes, it would have been good to provide greater accompaniment following the process. After it ended there were opportunities to have greater impact, but the accompaniment wasn’t there.
Several times, some members of the process have gotten together. Each time it has resulted in new supports or new insights, but it’s never been all of us, and it’s never been systematic.
EDP: There is unrealized potential even now. Recently, we have been saying that it would be useful to have a process to update the scenarios. Democracy in the Latin America is still not irreversible. There are symptoms of weakness. There are themes that we need to revisit and reconsider—new challenges to democracy and politics. It’s not that our analysis at the time wasn’t profound enough. It’s that the changes have been faster and greater than we could have imagined.
This interview was part of Reos Partner’s “Looking Back ” evaluation initiative, which investigates how our approaches contribute to systems change by looking at what happens in the years after an intervention starts. For more information about the project or our methods get in touch with Global Learning and Evaluation Manager Ravenna Nuaimy-Barker.
Carlos Hugo Molina
Director of Innovation, Centro para la Participación y el Desarrollo Humano Sostenible (CEPAD), Bolivia
A lawyer specializing in Constitutional Law, Carlos Hugo Molina has been National Secretary of Popular Participation and Prefect (Governor) of the Department of Santa Cruz. He provides consultation on state reform, decentralization, and citizen participation, and has published in 22 books on legal, social, and literary matters.
Elena Díez Pinto
Expert in Dialogue and Strategic Planning, Guatemala
Elena Díez Pinto is an experienced designer and facilitator of multi-stakeholder dialogue, strategic planning, and social transformation processes. She has conducted research and evaluations on various economic, social, and public policy issues throughout Europe and the Americas, and has taught in universities in Spain, Mexico, Bolivia, the United States, and Guatemala.