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Social Science is an umbrella term encompassing a range of academic disciplines including: anthropology, sociology, political science, economics and psychology. While each is unique in approach and perspective, the social sciences are all loosely tied together by an interest in society and the relationships between individuals and institutions in society. At InWithForward, we apply various social science constructs and methodologies in our work to inspire, test and advance our approach to creating change in the social sector.
Ethnography is the study of people and things in context. It is a research practice that involves immersing oneself in the lives of individuals, communities, organizations and systems with the goal of understanding such entities in a deep and nuanced way. At InWithForward we do this to better understand the individuals and organizations we serve. Through this human-centered perspective we can observe a wide range of ideas, practices and norms that can then be used as insights to design solutions that are informed by the needs of our partners and end-users.
Impact evaluation is important to help us understand not only what has changed, but how. In evaluating the what, when, how and why of implemented change we can replicate what works, improve on what needs work and move beyond what is holding us back from achieving our goals.
Research is a process of investigation driven by questions into a given context or situation. Research practices are the techniques, strategies and ways of thinking that guide how we find answers to such questions. InWithForward employs a range of research practices in order to devise insights that can lead to impactful change for our end-users.
Behavior Change combines sociology and psychology in order to promote change. At InWithForward we are interested in achieving behavioral change at multiple scales: individual, organizational and systemic. The goal in applying behavioral change is to shift from a current state to a desired state. This involves applying theories and practices that help to shift the ways in which we do things.
Theory of Change
A theory can be thought of as an idea on how change can happen. Change is what we hope to achieve in our work. A theory of change is a methodology for us to better understand what we are trying to achieve and how to get there. Theory of Change involves identifying long term goals and outcomes and then defining the conditions that are necessary to achieve them. Developing a Theory of Change is a helpful way to enlist relevant stakeholders into the decision making process around shared goals and objectives.
Leadership is not a title or a specific trait, but a “process of social influence” that engenders the flourishing of others and our organizations. It is not an official role. It is not about authority and power. InWithForward’s approach to leadership is guided by the belief that anyone can be a leader. Leadership is about influencing and stewarding individuals, teams, organizations and systems towards a path that promotes impactful change across the social sector.
Leadership starts with the individual. Anyone can activate the leader within. This requires the cultivation of curiosity and reflexivity that promotes awareness of self and of the others we engage with in our work. InWithForward’s approach to leadership at the individual level involves the adopt of routines and practices that develop and support qualities that are required to influence others towards the achievement of social impact goals.
Leadership at the team level involves strategies and practices for promoting the agency of teams to solve emergent challenges and pursue opportunities as a group of individuals working together. Key themes for team leadership are communication, influencing and conflict management. At InWithForward we also believe in modeling, which means the ways in which we work as a team should model effective team leadership approaches amongst our partner organizations.
Leadership at the organizational level is all about fostering a culture that promotes flourishing at multiple scales: amongst staff, between partners and with end-users.
At InWithForward effective organizational leadership means supporting staff to be curious, vulnerable, and generative. This also means holding space for stumbling at times as well. The outcome of organizational leadership should always be the creation of conditions where continued development and growth can occur.
Leadership at the level of systems is about influencing the broader social sector landscape to continually explore new ways to create impact within the communities we serve and the organizations tasked with effecting such change. This requires modes of leadership that sends signals across social systems that inspire the field to ask difficult questions, model change we seek to achieve and incentivize organizations and institutions to experiment more and take risks. At its core, systems level leadership is about distributing power across systems to promote agency at multiple levels- from service users to ED and back again.