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My First Step to Innovation

“Not being creative and innovative enough” was a resounding response when we were asked about our worries as participants to the five-day workshop on innovation dubbed as Impact@Scale.


The first round of exercise and brain teasers seemed to be affirming this fear. Imagine my worsening self-doubt when I can only think of ten uses for a paperclip and the record is at 67! And like any fifth grader about to flunk a test, a quick scan in the room suggested that I wasn’t the only one.


The only consolation I had was the constant reminder from the facilitators that innovation is like a workout – unused muscle cramps with the tension and if you need to tone it, you have to flex it.


Let me share some of my key take away and personal resolutions on how I plan to start flexing my creative brain cells.


To continually scan the horizon. For project managers, it is quite hard to distance ourselves from our cute projects and admit that they are not the only, or perhaps, the best way, to address the problem faced by the community. We pilot, we replicate and we got stuck with the solution, which may or may not be addressing the problem. I guess that’s what makes the business sector effective – they invest in studying competition and in developing new products. We need to be more critical and untiring in looking for ways to achieve greater impact.


To look for unusual suspects. Part of the post-workshop output is to come up with a list of unusual suspects who can provide us with inspirations. For someone who has been working with non-governmental organizations right after college graduation, my list of unusual suspects looks bleak, and getting started was a real challenge. The facilitators pointed a good place to start, Google Search. I also made a commitment to learn new things every day and on the first day of this quest, this website was helpful: https://www.wethinq.com/en/blog/2014/02/18/32-Inspiring-Examples-of-Social-Innovation.html



To cheat with pride. I love that the workshop demystified the art of cheating and exposed the fallacy that the light bulb is the best representation of an innovative idea. For someone who lacks creative genes, this is exciting news. To quote Mark Twain, “there is no such thing as a new idea”. And why waste valuable resources when one can learn from the successes and mistakes of others? Just do some tweaks depending on what’s applicable on your context. And perhaps, it wouldn’t hurt writing an email to your inspiration even if it’s just a thank you note. And if you’re lucky, they might have some useful advice on how you can make things better.


To think fast and act faster. Development workers are all too familiar with logical frameworks and project management cycles where planning and analysis is as important as actual implementation. One criticism hurled at development workers is that we tend to spend too much time on perfecting our work plans and logframes, and less time to actually test our theories and assumptions. I also learn a not-so-new term – prototype! I thought that prototyping only applies to science projects but who says that one cannot apply it in the development world? Besides, I found mounting boards and building 3-D models fun, which by the way, is a good team exercise.


To find the cracks. Apart from being in a position where I can contribute to and influence in programme designing, I am also lucky to have supportive senior managers. But the most common feedback from the workshop participants which I also share is finding time to develop our projects. I have no ready answer to this yet, but it’s easy to find cracks in an organisation where innovation is welcome.


To work out loud. I learned the value of working out loud. I am not the biggest fan of the social media and my recent visit to my Facebook page was February 2013. But I could not undermine its importance especially if I plan to seek support and advice from other development practitioners and social innovators out in the field. Hence, the blog post.


So here is my commitment. I plan to blog my post-workshop assignments and hope to start some serious creative-muscles flexing.  I will let you know how it goes.


By Catherine Gordo, Deputy Program Manager, Oxfam in Philippines


  1. 8 Responses to “My First Step to Innovation”

  2. By mona on Mar 2, 2016

    great blog post…look forward to the next ones!!!

  3. By unoikorn on Mar 2, 2016

    Thank you for visiting the blog and the feedback!

  4. By Bridget Snell on Mar 2, 2016

    Really great blog post and thanks for working out loud!

  5. By unoikorn on Mar 2, 2016

    Thank you for your visit and feedback!

  6. By Jacky on Mar 2, 2016

    I’m inspired and impressed. Fantastic and I will make a note to check in regularly. Thanks.

  7. By unoikorn on Mar 2, 2016

    Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts as well!

  8. By George Gordo on Mar 3, 2016

    Cathy dear, your blog makes me proud and thrilled. Have not seen you for almost 26 years now. Can’t wait for your next blog.

  9. By Leo Roozendaal on Mar 3, 2016

    Great Cathy – I am proud to see you making efforts and communicating! Keep at it!

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