Mapping the pathway to sustainability

Let’s start mapping the pathway to sustainability.

As the cat recommended Alice in the Wonderland, first, you need to know where you want to go to, what is your final goal and only then you are able to choose the corresponding pathway:

Taking another look at the cow’s pathway.

If our long-term vision is to see “Healthy cows living peacefully and in harmony with an intact nature”, we need to focus on one specific aspect to advance towards this vision step by step. If we want to address everything at the same time, we might overload the cow and her family with too many changes at the same time or we just don’t have the capacity or the competencies to address the complexity of changes.

So, during the analysis phase, we identified a high mortality rate of calves and we found as a key root cause the malnutrition and dehydration of their mothers, the cows. And, we decided to focus on this. We could also focus only on the well-being of the calves.

Thus, at the level of well-being we would like to achieve that “calves and their mothers improve their health and life expectancy”. This corresponds to the goal of the project.

Now, we have to think about who are the social actors who influence positively or negatively the achievement of this goal.

During the analysis phase, we identified that the cows don’t produce enough milk to feed their calves. At the other hand, we identified the potential of the group of cows who got organized in a cooperative, but really did not know what could they do together to improve their situation.

So, we decided to focus on two different social actors:

  • The cows
  • The cow cooperative.

That means, we are going to design two different pathways, one for the cows, the other one for the cow cooperative.

Let’s start with the cows’ pathway.

The cows’ pathway

In order to achieve that “calves and their mothers improve their health and life expectancy” (well-being), “the cows have to produce sufficient milk for their calves” (performance).

To increase the cows’ production of milk we need their individual behavior change regarding to water consumption.

In order to “produce sufficient milk for their calves” and maybe even additional milk they can sell to buy other things for their household (performance), “the cows have to drink sufficient quality water” (behavior).

As the cows were not aware about the linkage between drinking water and producing milk for their calves; and they did not know where to access quality water, we need to “improve their competencies regarding health care” (competencies) and “access to quality water” (competencies and means).

To “improve their competencies regarding health care” (competencies), we need to inform the cows about key aspects of their and their calves’ health care, how many liters of water they need to drink per day to get well hydrated and to produce enough milk. We also raise their awareness the relevance to drink quality water to avoid diseases such as diarrhea.

At the same time, the cows need to get access to quality water (means), so they need to know the pathway to find the water spring and to check if the water is clean (competencies).

For that, we develop provide the cows with information, trainings, coaching, we guide them several times to the water source to enable them to find the pathway on their own (process: interventions, measures, activities…).

That for we need resources: facilitators and a quality water source. If there does not exist any quality water source in the surroundings, may be part of the project activities will focus on improving the water quality, or building a water pipe from a neighbor community.

The cows’ cooperative pathway

As we also identified high levels of mal nutrition and a cows’ cooperative which is quite inactive regarding this issue, we decide to design another pathway.

Because, in order to achieve our final goal that “calves and their mothers improve their health and life expectancy” (well-being), we need that the “cow cooperative assumes its collective responsibility to improve the grass” (collective performance).

That for, we need that the individual cooperative members take care about the cow’s and calves’ health planting new grass varieties and watering the grass during the dry season” (behavior, practice).

To achieve this behavior change, “the cooperative members are aware about the situation and their co-responsibility” (competency… focusing on knowledge and attitude).

For that, the facilitators provide them with information and raise their awareness with reflection sessions (activities).

The resources needed are facilitators, information materials, stationaries, a meeting room and food.

IMAGE COW pathways

Two different pathways

The first pathway focuses rather on the cows as individuals, but the more cows are using these new practices the greater their “social influence” on other cows to do the same. So, at the end it becomes a “social norm” to drink enough water to feed the calves properly.

The second pathway focuses on an existing social actor “the cows’ cooperative” and its collective practice and performance.

Generally, the level of performance is focusing on collective entities such as families, groups, organizations, communities, companies, networks, institutions, etc.; but, we can also focus on a key social group as a whole, such as “youth, farmers, tourists…”, if we want to change the “social norms and practices” of a larger group.

Now, let’s see another real-life example with shows different approaches.

Different approaches to design our pathways

In the following example, our dream or vision is to see “resilient communities living peacefully and in harmony with an intact nature”.

As this is a huge vision, we decided to start with a key aspect: water.

Grassroot and/or advocacy pathways

So, our final goal with respect to water is that “rural communities get access to sufficient quality water in a sustainable way” (well-being).

For that, we can use two different approaches.

  • Working directly with the rural communities
  • Advocating with state institutions (government, parliament) about water management policies.

With the first approach, we might reach a certain number of communities, and we are experiencing the challenges in the field, at the grassroot level regarding watershed management.

With the second approach, with the approval and implementation of national policies and laws we could reach the whole country

This depends on the capacity and experience of each organization.

In an ideal world, the most effective way is to combine both.

The grassroot work might be more fulfilling because we are in touch with the affected population and may see concrete progress.

At the same time, it provides us the experience and the authority regarding the topic and we can promote the inclusion of local voices when it comes to propose a law.

At the other hand, to reach more people and to achieve changes at a greater scale, it is much more effective to work at the level of public policies and legislation.

If our organization only have experience in one field, we can make an alliance with another organization.

This is why networking and cooperation between civil society organizations is getting more and more relevant.

Individual and/or socio-political change

The previous approaches are also related with two different types of change:

Individual or personal change:

Projects or initiatives that work at the individual/personal level seek to change the attitudes, values, skills, perceptions and practices of individuals, based on the underlying assumption that sustainability and peace is poosible only if the herts, minds and behavior of individuals are changed.

Most dialogue and training programs operate at this level, working with groups of individuals to affect their skills, attitudes, perceptions, ideas and relationships with other individuals.

Socio-political change

Programs that concentrate at the socio-political level are based on the belief that sustainability and peace require changes in socio-political structures and processes, often supporting the creation or reform of institutions that address structural root causes, grievances that fuel conflict, or promoting non-violent modes for handling conflict. Change at this level includes alterations in government policies, legislation, policies, economic structures, ceasefire agreements, constitutions, etc.

But it also incorporates changes in social norms, group behavior, and inter-group relationships.

More people and/or key people approaches

These approaches are based on our assumptions and decisions about WHO needs to be engaged for sustainability and peace.

More people approaches

This approach amis to engage increasing numers of people in actions to promote peace.

Practitioners who take this approach believe that peace can be built if many people become active in the process, i.e., if “the people” are broadly involved. This may involve mobilization of larger constituencies or expanding the numbers of people committed to sustainability and peace.

Key people approaches

This type of approach focuses on involvirng particular people, or groups of people, critical to the continuation or resolution of conflict, due to their power and influence.

“Key people” strategies assume that, without the involvement of these individuals/groups, progress cannot be made toward resolving the conflict and/or achieving sustainable development.

Who is “key” depends on the context: they may be community leaders, political leaders, leaders in a specific economic sector,  warlords, or others necessary to move towards sustainable policies, laws, etc, or a peace agreement.

They may be people with broad constituencies.

Or they may be key because they are involved in creating the problem, polluting the environment, generating greenhouse gases or war making.

And of course, we can combine these different approaches.

Ready to start?

Now, you are ready to start mapping your pathway to sustainability.

But, before, you start with designing your pathways, take a look at the following recommendations or “golden rules”.