1: Assembling the team

Running a Wayfinder process requires that you engage with a wide range of stakeholders, and collect and analyze a variety of data and information. This work is best done by a small group of key people, a coalition, that can lead the Wayfinder process forward, manage information, deliberate and act on behalf of the wider stakeholder group. Getting the right people on-board in the coalition is critical for the rest of the process. This work card describes three important issues to think about when assembling your team: skill sets, representation, and influence in the system.

Bringing people on board the Wayfinder process is best done through a direct, personal approach to build trust and a solid relationship. Start by connecting with people you know will form part of the coalition to help undertake the Wayfinder process.

Suggested approach: Initially one-on-one discussions and small meetings

Time required: 1-2 hrs per coalition member

Facilitation skill level: Low

Resources: None


A first issue to think about when selecting people for the coalition is the skills needed to conduct a Wayfinder process. This includes process leadership and facilitation skills, as you will need people that can lead stakeholder workshops and dialogues, and move the process forward in a professional, yet empathic, way. As Wayfinder strives to bring about change, controversies will arise throughout the process, for example regarding future aspirations, problem definitions, and the reliability and interpretation of different kinds of data and information. You will need access to people through the coalition with advanced facilitation skills to help navigate through this in a positive way (see Box 1.1 below).

Rowing team practicing on the Lake Jarun, Zagreb, Croatia. Assembling a capable team of people who can work collaboratively to lead the Wayfinder process forward is essential to set it up for success. Photo: iStock.

In addition, you will also need people that are good at pulling together, analyzing, and synthesizing large amounts of data and information of different types. The Wayfinder process will both depend on the inputs of good data, and it will generate lots of information in itself. You need people in the coalition who have the capacity to organize and make use and sense of this information. Similarly, people with skills and experience in designing and implementing different types of development programs, who know how to make things happen in complex settings, are extremely valuable.

Finally, you need people in the coalition that are good at communicating. A Wayfinder process will involve many different types of stakeholders, at different levels and sectors in society. You need people in the coalition who have the capacity to reach out and talk to these stakeholders, explain the rationale for and outcomes of the process, and who are also good at listening to what the stakeholder say in return.


Another important issue to think about when selecting people for your coalition is representation. For the coalition to be successful, it must have legitimacy with stakeholders in the system at different scales. The system that you are working in is probably not homogenous, but will include different groups of people, young and old, men and women, people with different livelihoods and lifestyles, from different ethnic backgrounds and with different cultures, and more. These people may face different kinds of challenges, and have different expectations on the system. For example, if there is a conflict between wildlife protection and small-scale farming in your system, proponents of these two sides are unlikely to describe the system in the same ways, and they may also have radically different ideas about what a desirable future would look like. How can you make sure that the coalition reflects the varied groups of people that it is supposed to represent? It is critical that those people with less power in the system have a voice in the process. This can be a challenge but identifying key individuals that can represent different perspectives in the system in the coalition is very important. If the coalition is not representative, it is unlikely that it will be perceived as legitimate, which means that the chances for achieving the desired change is much lower. Also, and very importantly, if you don’t think about representation already at this stage, there is a risk that already marginalized groups become further marginalized as a consequence of the Wayfinder process.


In parallel to skills and representation, you need to think strategically when selecting coalition members. Where and how are decisions made that influence the future of your system? Rather than just assembling a team of your regular colleagues and friends, try to identify people for the coalition who has influence in important decision networks locally, and also those that can influence decisions in relevant sectors at higher scales. Many processes like this come to a halt after the planning phase, since they often lack the agency to make sure that their plans are implemented in reality. Who are the key people that need to be on the coalition to make sure this is not the case for your Wayfinder journey, so that the assessment and planning work that you do will lead to real change? One important issue to reflect on here is to what extent to you want to include people with formal decision making authority, i.e. the conventional power players, vis-a-vis forming a coalition that rather includes other types of change makers. The latter category may have less vested interests in maintaining the system as it is, but at the same time also less formal power to change it.

Creating a capable, effective and legitimate coalition

Not all coalition members need to possess all the skills listed above themselves, and each individual member can of course only represent some of the interests in the system and be connected to some of the important decision networks. However, given the nature of the Wayfinder process, all coalition members need to be creative, good at teamwork, and committed to working for sustainability (see Box 1.2 below). Assembling the right team so that your coalition for change, as a whole, becomes as capable, effective and legitimate as possible, will greatly improve your chances for a success. The attached case from an ongoing Wayfinder process in Senegal describes how they opted for creating two different coalitions, one at the local level and one at the national level.

Box 1.1 – Skilled facilitation

Facilitation is central to the Wayfinder process. There are few steps and processes in the Wayfinder process that don’t require working with groups of people, often with differing interests and views on what should happen in the future. Aside from the obvious skills of being able to organize getting people together etc, helping people work together towards a common set of aspirations requires some specialist skills, including the capacity to;

  • Connect and build rapport with a diversity of personality types
  • Establish and get agreement on ways of working together
  • Listen, reflect back and synthesis
  • Manage conflict
  • Probe and draw out deeper insight from stakeholders
  • Plan, structure and implement processes
  • Capture information accurately and faithful to the original intent
  • Pay attention to micro-dynamics and emotions among groups of people
  • Be flexible and have a range of approaches and tools as back-up

Box 1.2 – Job description for a coalition member

Skills, resources and network

The coalition should include a strategic combination of people that possess the various skills and resources that are needed to take the process forward. Having skills in facilitation, engagement and communication, strategic and operational thinking and ‘know how’ to get things done in complex settings are critical skills. Other important elements include having strong links to stakeholders, the ability to cross social and organizational boundaries and knowledge of power and politics in the system are important skill sets to have as part of the coalition. This includes having the links within and between communities, and at different scales.

Mindset and commitment

The individuals in the coalition should be creative, open to change and willing to challenge their own assumptions. They should share the values of the Wayfinder process (Box 2.1.on work card 2) and should have the motivation to drive change through the process. Being flexible and creative in terms of how things get done, being comfortable with uncertainty and ‘messiness’ and maintaining an ability to see the big picture are important skills for coalition member.

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2: Agreeing on principles for good practice

Once you have assembled your team, an important early task will be to agree on a set of common principles for good practice on your Wayfinder journey. These principles should spell out the ethical guidelines for the process. This work cards suggests a few useful principles that you can start your dialogue around.

Identifying a set of agreed principles that can be used to guide, design and evaluate the Wayfinder process, should be done through a discussion between coalition members. This is an important foundational step toward building an effective coalition. Revisit the principles regularly through out the process.

Suggested approach: workshop

Time required: 1-2hr

Facilitation skill level: medium

Resources: white boards/poster paper/markers/sticky notes

Why do you need a shared moral compass for the process?

Since Wayfinder’s explicit goal is to drive adaptive or transformative change, you should expect that the Wayfinder process will have an actual impact on people’s lives. It is therefore very important to make sure that there is a shared moral compass to guide the process. The more vulnerable the context, e.g. in aid-dependent communities or where there are large inequalities between different groups of people, the more important this issue is.

The principles for good practice should also clarify the agile and reflexive mindset that is needed among coalition members to deal with complex systems and multiple stakeholders. Wayfinder may be different from other ways of working that coalition members are used to, so building a common mindset around how the process should best be run, and how decisions should be made, increases the chances of a smooth and successful process.

Teenager standing in the crowd of customers at the Chitrakoot village vegetable market, Madhya Pradesh, India. Early on in the Wayfinder process, it is important to agree on a set of principles for good practice that will serve as ethical guidelines for the work to be undertaken. The more vulnerable the context, the more important these principles are. Photo: iStock.

Formulating your principles

In Box 2.1, we provide a list of principles for good practice that can be used as a starting point for creating your own principles for the process. The principles can be formalized into an ethical charter, as was recently done in a Wayfinder process conducted in Senegal (see attached case), and you may want to consider having all members of the coalition signing it to ensure that there is strong commitment to the principles, especially if the Wayfinder process is conducted in a vulnerable context. These principles can be used to guide decision making, help to design processes within Wayfinder and importantly to evaluate how well we have met these principles through our own thinking and behavior.

Box 2.1 – Principles for good practice

  • We will do no harm and not perpetuate disadvantage and injustices
  • We acknowledge and challenge power dynamics, where required for driving change towards sustainability
  • We acknowledge and manage our own biases that influence our thinking
  • We strive for transparency and accountability in the Wayfinder process, recognizing our responsibility in leading this process
  • We acknowledge and respect that there are multiple legitimate viewpoints and sources of knowledge
  • We commit to a reflective practice and to challenge our own assumptions
  • We are willing to continuously adapt the Wayfinder process to changing circumstances

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3: Developing system literacy and reflexive practice

Wayfinder, with its resilience focus, is rooted in systems thinking. It emphasizes the need for reflexive practice and learning as the only viable approach to management in contexts of complexity and deep uncertainty. Since this perspective and approach is quite different from many other approaches to sustainability, some initial capacity building among coalition members may be useful. This work card helps you get started.

Building system thinking literacy and capacity for reflexive practice among coalition members should be done using multiple learning approaches (suggestions below) that allow people to learn, discuss, test and reflect on the key concepts at their own pace and collectively. 

Suggested approach: A combination of readings, videos, presentations, discussions and hands on practical examples

Time required: 3-4 hrs spread over a few weeks

Facilitation skill level: Medium

Resources: Background readings, presentations and videos explain various key resilience and systems thinking concepts

Why do you need to practice your systems thinking skills?

The capacity for systems thinking is critical to the rest of the Wayfinder process and the sooner a system ‘lens’ is adopted the better. Systems thinking is a new perspective for many people and may take some time to internalize. This capacity will grow throughout the process, and not everyone needs to become an expert, but it is important all coalition members at least have a basic systems literacy when starting your journey together. This includes realizing that the problems that you try to solve most likely will be cross-sectorial and have important scale dimensions. It also includes understanding that all interventions in complex systems will produce a range of outcomes, included unintended ones, common input-output or linear types of log-frames will not be enough to monitor whether or not you are moving in the right direction.

There are numerous tools and guides available to support this capacity building, starting a discussion around the iceberg model (see attached activity sheet) is usually fruitful. The attached case describes how they went about to start building capacity for systems thinking in a Wayfinder coalition in Senegal.

Click here to learn more about complex systems from Rika Preiser, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University

The complexity based perspective underpinning Wayfinder is different from many other approaches to development practice. Taking the time early on in the Wayfinder process to build capacity for systems thinking and reflexive practice within the Coalition will be a worthwhile investment as this will radically improve the outcomes of the process. Photo: iStock.

Becoming a reflexive practitioner

The ability to critically reflect on one’s own actions and mindset – what we call reflexive practice – is also a critical capacity to successfully run a Wayfinder process and should be a cornerstone among the principles for good practice (see work card 2). Important leverage points for achieving systemic change lie in what is often referred to the “personal sphere” – our beliefs, values and worldviews – and changes in this sphere always start with the individual. Maintaining a flexible and open mindset is therefore a prerequisite to be able to drive deeper, more transformative change in your system.

Setting aside time for deeper reflection around the values that are guiding your actions in the coalition and challenging yourself to understand how problems and solutions are related, to distinguish real evidence from what in fact may be assumptions, and to try to reveal deeper beliefs around what you are doing and why, is essential. This is also called double and triple-loop learning, and we will come back to the importance of this kind of “ deep learning” later on in this guide. The evaluation, reflection and sense-making questions at the end of each phase, are designed to help you do this. Meanwhile, use the attached discussion guide to start reflecting on your own expectations for the Wayfinder journey.

Activity sheets

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