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Call for Learning Space Concepts

Building this year’s conference with you and for you

In response to the health risks related to large gatherings, we have decided to go 100% virtual - #SEEP2020 will be entirely online! We see this as an opportunity to diverge from our traditional request for session proposals to a more experimental, participatory, and flexible model. We think of this year’s approach as co-creation – crowd-sourced and peer-supported – all of it to unlearn, learn, and take collective action. 

In this Call for Learning Space concepts, we are looking for conveners of provocative learning experiences that will spark thinking and beckon participants to question, debate, and collaborate. We are counting on you, our members, to reflect on the conference theme, Disruptive Collaboration: navigating a radically uncertain world and technical streams below to co-design a program that inspires transformational learning through interactive experiences and hands-on application of innovative concepts to real work. 

#SEEP2020 Technical Streams

Technical Stream 1: The Nexus Imperative for Market-Based Programming 

COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on livelihoods and employment. Marginalized and highly vulnerable households and fragile, crises-affected environments will be hardest hit. Given the complexity of a truly global crisis, a systems approach to relief and recovery is the key to building back better. Market-based programming holds potential to support local markets to rebound more quickly, restore and rebuild livelihoods, foster sustainable and decent employment, and become more resilient. Equitable and sustainable market-based solutions in the economic aftermath of COVID-19 mandates collaboration, coordination and partnerships between humanitarian, development and peace actors on a scale never seen before. It also requires continuous investment in and support of local leadership at all levels. This technical stream posits that connecting the nexus for market-based programming is no longer an aspiration - it is an imperative.

In light of the aforementioned, we have prepared a set of questions and prompts to consider as you reflect on the design of your Learning Space concept:

  • How can collaboration, coordination and partnerships between humanitarian, development and peace actors foster inclusion and equality?
  • What are the building blocks of collaboration that could ensure the sustainability of market-based solutions and food systems?
  • How can the community connect more efficiently with local entrepreneurship networks to serve as a lever for growth, but also enable resilience and safeguard against shocks?
  • How can innovative digital solutions foster collaboration, coordination and partnerships in market systems between humanitarian, development and peace actors?
  • What are the roles of the humanitarian agencies in market systems development and sustainability (building on existing communities, enterprises and resources)?
  • How can humanitarian interventions systemically integrate and utilize local market actors to prevent collapse of existing markets and supply chains? How do we ensure that the interventions are inclusive and diverse?
  • What is the moderating role for gender, race or ethnicity in fostering successful or not-so-successful local entrepreneurial leadership and bridging the divide between humanitarian and long-term programming during this pandemic?
  • What are the emerging successes and failures practitioners, donors and policy makers need to pay attention to in bridging the divide between emergency response and long-term recovery using a market-based approach?
  • What innovative government and private sector policies are we seeing to enable a more localized entrepreneurial leadership to bridge the divide between emergency response and long-term recovery?
  • How can NGOs’ relatively short-term market–based interventions be aligned with governments’ long-term market-based strategy and priorities to ensure scalability and sustainability?

Technical Stream 2: Financial Inclusion: COVID-19 & Risks to Four Decades of Progress

The global health crisis poses real risks to four decades of progress in financial inclusion. As markets falter and livelihoods are decimated, it is likely that tens of millions of low-income clients will simply be unable to pay back their loans, microfinance institutions will fail, and microfinance investment funds will falter. Moreover, unprecedented capital flight is expected from emerging markets. Some of these cascading effects are already being felt. Where will the bleeding stop? Which clients and institutions will be saved? How, by whom, and who decides? This technical stream will explore early response and recovery efforts at the level of the client, the institution and the financial ecosystem in emerging markets, and provide some suggested avenues to deal with this new reality.

In light of the afore-mentioned, we have prepared a set of questions and prompts to consider as you reflect on the design of your Learning Space concept:

  • What do preliminary research findings and insights tell us about product sets, practices, and distribution channels that are helping during this COVID-19 crisis? What practices particularly hindered? What are some successful strategies that are being utilized by those Financial Services Providers (FSPs) that continued operations through lockdown, or restarted as soon as lockdown ended? What are we learning about the characteristics of ‘resilient’ communities and institutions and can these lessons be adapted to other contexts? 
  • Given the four decades of progress for populations and economies, what evidence is there that achievements in financial inclusion are helping communities to be more resilient to handle the COVID-19 disaster? What role has social capital played in enabling them to manage risk and stay resilient? How will current experience change practices around informal and formal finance for communities?
  • What are we learning in this pandemic, and in recent history, about the prerequisites for successful service delivery models? How should digital service delivery, agent networks, and person-technology balance be improved for greater resilience, safety and risk management?
  • The COVID-19 crisis is likely to exacerbate the digital divide in financial services. What have we learnt so far about ‘what works’ to improve digital financial inclusion? What are some of the digital strategies/innovations FSPs have been using in order to strengthen financial inclusion during these unusual times? How can emerging and innovative approaches/technologies be leveraged to foster greater inclusion going forward?
  • What will it take to develop sustainable service delivery mechanisms in areas currently underserved by telecommunications infrastructure, particularly at a time when donors are driven to prioritize immediate disaster recovery needs over longer-term community resilience?
  • What policy advocacy is necessary to ensure government support for microenterprises, poor communities, and the FSPs that serve them in these times of COVID-19? What is necessary to make this advocacy successful (for example how can we facilitate cross-sector collaboration)?
  • What risk management changes should be implemented by FSPs serving very poor communities in order to protect against local, regional and global crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic? How should they be supported by donors and government agencies?
  • What examples and best practices exemplify “disruptive collaboration” (between NGOs, donors, governments, FSPs, Fintechs, etc.) in the development, support and delivery of financial services to the poorest communities? In particular, how can FSPs effectively partner with Fintechs and donors to fund and implement service offerings and delivery for the post-COVID environment? 
  • What examples exist of economic, regulatory and social policy-making that are benefited and supported very poor communities and the FSPs that serve them? In particular where have country-level networks influenced policy and how do these examples inform policy-making in other contexts?  What changes are most urgent in NGOs, government policies, regulations, and financial institutions to alleviate the short- to medium-term economic and social impacts of COVID-19 in very poor communities? 
  • What financial inclusion lessons are being learned from the effects of this pandemic on internally and externally displaced persons, and the communities in which they have settled?

Technical Stream 3: Savings Groups at the Frontline of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic poses crucial health and economic risks to Savings Groups and their members. It also poses profound risks to the diverse range of programs and institutions that work with Savings Groups. Is the COVID pandemic an existential crisis for a community-based microfinance model based on frequent contact between members? And if it is, what are the implications? 

We are on the cusp of a major disruption; and the near future will undoubtedly be defined by increased experimentation. How stakeholders plan, execute, document, assess and share the results of this period of forced innovation may very well determine what the sector looks like a decade from now.    

This technical stream will explore how best to support Savings Groups and their members during this crisis, and how to effectively engage them in community-level response efforts. We will also explore the emerging plans of sector stakeholders to build back better. 

In light of the afore-mentioned, we have prepared a set of questions and prompts to consider as you reflect on the design of your Learning Space concept:

  • What is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Savings Groups and their members – especially women?
    • How have income, livelihoods, assets, physical and mental health, nutrition and food security, gender-based violence, intimate partner violence, time poverty, mobility, voice and leadership been impacted by the crisis?
    • Have the number and profiles of people participating in Savings Groups changed as a result of this crisis? 
    • Trust and community are foundational to Savings Groups – are there any significant changes due to prevalence of unpaid loans, time apart, or trauma -and what are the implications?
    • Have Savings Groups been able to mitigate the acute effects of the crisis on women and other vulnerable populations – through core operations, integrated initiatives or individual leadership? 
  • How have Savings Groups themselves responded to the crisis – and to what effect?
    • What choices have they made regarding their own operations, rules and procedures?
    • How have Savings Groups positioned themselves to support their members and communities? 
  • How have development actors, market actors and governments supported Savings Groups during the crisis – and to what effect?
    • How have development actors disseminated guidance to Savings Groups, to encourage safe(r) practices should they choose to continue to meet during the pandemic? 
    • What is the impact of the health crisis on the relationships between Savings Groups and financial institutions? Conversely, how has access to formal financial services affected Savings Groups during the crisis? 
      • How have SG digitization efforts been affected by the pandemic? Are we seeing an acceleration of these efforts? In what way?
  • How have Savings Groups been engaged in local, emergency response and recovery efforts?
    • Savings Groups are great at helping members manage household shocks. How good are they at handling systemic shocks? Are there any examples of Savings Groups mitigating risks at the community or national level?
    • How have Savings Groups been integrated into social protection programs, cash and voucher assistance, and humanitarian aid efforts? 
  • How have organizations that promote or work with Savings Groups adapted their programming as result of the COVID pandemic?
    • Given the experience of the last few months, would you change or have you changed anything about how your organization trains, promotes or works with Savings Groups? 

Technical Stream 4: The Promise and Perils of Inclusion in a New World

We know that the needs of persons with disabilities, older people, women and girls, youth refugees, LGBTQI persons, and other socio-economically excluded people are severely compromised in crisis and post-crisis settings. The COVID-19 pandemic not only exacerbates existing barriers that exclude people but also introduces new barriers: a potentially fatal health threat, limitation of movement, restricted access to services, disruption to livelihoods, increased discrimination and extreme strain on social safety nets and protection systems. Furthermore, as many services expand digital delivery methods in response to limitations on in-person interaction, lack of access to connectivity (including both hardware and network access) can further accentuate the digital divide and exclude certain groups from the onset.

This technical stream will explore what considerations an inclusive response should entail under such conditions. As the COVID-19 pandemic exposes vulnerabilities and inequality in existing social, political and economic systems – including the global development system – we ask ourselves: What does building back better mean through an inclusion lens?

In light of the aforementioned, we have prepared a set of questions and prompts to consider as you reflect on the design of your Learning Space concept:

  • Humanitarian and development practitioners often rely on standards and frameworks to ensure programming and impact that is sustainable and equitable
    • What does an inclusive response to the COVID-19 pandemic look like?
    • What should all humanitarian and development actors be doing to ensure the safety, well-being and rights of marginalized people in a pandemic?
  • Humanitarian and development actors often claim to reach “the most vulnerable” in their programs.
    • Who is truly the most vulnerable?
    • How does vulnerability change based on the context and how is this measured?
    • What new forms of vulnerability do we see emerging in the COVID-19 context?
  • Terminology such as “diversity & inclusion,” “diversity, equity & inclusion” and “intersectionality” is thrown around more and more in the development space.
    • What does an intersectional approach to programming look like in practice
    • When is it appropriate and needed, and when are other lenses more useful?
  • The political underpinnings of global development policy and practice are not new, but the dire need we are facing is.
    • Is the process of setting the global development agenda sufficiently inclusive and diverse?
    • What does the movement to decolonize and localize development mean for the status quo of how development projects and organizations are currently funded, led, and operated?
  • The adage is: people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
    • Does internal diversity & inclusion within organization’s staffing structures translate into more diverse & inclusive projects and programs?
    • How can organizations create equitable and inclusive hiring processes?
    • How can organizations support underrepresented staff to grow and thrive in the sector? What role do senior leaders and boards play in this context?  
  • COVID-19 related restrictions on movement and travel mean that many organizations are shifting project and monitoring activities to digital and technology-enabled solutions.
    • What innovative yet inclusive solutions are showing early signs of success?
    • How do we ensure such solutions reach those left behind in the digital world?
    • How do we create and foster inclusive digital spaces?
  • The COVID-19 crisis is deepening and reconfiguring pre-existing inequalities and exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic.
    • What does building back better mean through an inclusion lens?
    • How do we change the conditions that exacerbate vulnerability in order to build back more inclusive societies and markets?
  • The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the vulnerability of the global market systems. As restrictions on movement and the collapse of markets have reduced opportunities and access to resources drastically:
    • What roles do individual and systemic resilience play?
    • How does the situation differ for those who have been made newly vulnerable by the COVID-19 crisis?
  • How can we build back more resilient individuals, communities and markets?

Selection Parameters

At SEEP, we’re reimagining the Annual Conference. This means we are also rewriting the rules for how Learning Spaces (previously peer learning sessions) go from conception to delivery, through an iterative process that relies heavily on collaboration and co-creation.

Here are three principles, based on which we are crafting the conference experience. We think of these as the non-negotiables of the #SEEP2020 social contract:

  1. We are learner-centric. This conference begins and ends with the learner-participant. 
  2. Diversity is intentional, essential, and intersectional. 
  3. In a radically uncertain world, learning must be the prologue to action.

Based on your judgment and best efforts, your Learning Space concept will meet all or most of the parameters below. Your concept will (ideally) need to: 

  • be on-topic with your priority technical stream. How does it expand on and reinforce the notion of ‘disruptive collaboration’? 
  • articulate how you wish to benefit from the participants' experience and ideas. What are the top 1-2-3 questions you have for this crowd to help you think about the future of your work? 
  • address the top three things that people will walk away with. How will they experience learning content to be inspired to take action?
  • highlight ideas or initiatives that work at the intersection of development-humanitarian-peace-building. Can you point to experimental, proven, or emerging examples?  
  • share how your work has been disrupted by COVID-19. What adaptive strategies are you employing? Have you had to transition to response & recovery efforts where there were none planned? 
  • draw on your organizational know-how and what you see happening on the ground. Can you highlight ways that participants may contribute to your efforts post-conference? 
  • include data, evidence and community feedback. How is data is cycled back to the community, being accessed and used to move the needle on shared challenges? How are you tracking your efforts against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
  • highlight the way you think about the resilience of communities, programs, and organizations. How do you - in the project design and implementation phases -integrate adaptive management, adaptive budgeting, and practices that allow for greater resistance against external shocks? 
  • detail how your concept reflects and advances diversity. How do you approach diversity in ideas, voices, demographics, organizations, monitoring and evaluation, present realities, future trends? How do you ensure - both in your work and in your learning space – that these strategies are highlighted?   

Experiencing Learning Spaces

A Learning Space can take a variety of forms. You will find several suggestions below from which you can design your own. Feel free to introduce alternative formatting ideas as well.

Bingo Night (45 minutes)
Attendees receive a list of 25 statements or questions that elicit “yes” or “no” responses. For example: “You conduct assessments to determine the potential impacts of your intervention on the local economy over the short, medium, and long term.” Each question will be assigned a number. Those with a “yes” response can match the number on the corresponding bingo square when it is called. Each card winner receives a prize or can choose from among several prizes.

Discussion Garden (ongoing, propose and lead a channel)

Live, asynchronous, online discussion over the course of conference week. Nurtured by ideas and opinions on a specific topic, question or challenge. Topical and provocative discussion among peers is facilitated with prompting questions, followed by wrap-up notes and next steps.

Focus15s (15 minutes)

These are inspiring solo presentations like a Ted Talk featuring the wisdom, experience and enthusiasm of SEEP members. Individual Focus15s can be linked by a shared theme, topic or trend, with each group of three presentations taking place in a one-hour time block, to be followed by 15 minutes of [moderated] Q&A with the presenters.

Keynotes (30 minutes)

Inspiring and galvanizing thought leaders to share ideas and opinions on a subject close to their heart and related to the conference theme, “Disruptive Collaboration: navigating a radically uncertain world,” and one or more of the technical streams.

Insider Networking (10-30 minutes)

This is a component of your convening, not a session in and of itself. When crafting your Learning Space, think about ways to integrate networking among participants. Consider connecting people in small sub-groups through a short exercise, case study, challenge, game or problem. Give them a set amount of time to work together, and add each other as contacts on the Conference Hub once time is up to continue the conversation during and beyond the event.

Design Sprint Rooms (60 minutes)

Spaces where institutions pose a current challenge and invite peers to help ideate and design solutions, sharing from their existent knowledge assets, etc. Final solutions can then be pitched for funding or requests for collaboration/partners in order to implement/bring to market.

Peer Learning Sessions (60 minutes)

Yes, they are back! Peer Learning Sessions feature between three and four practitioners sharing perspectives and opinions on a technical subject, making for lively and instructive conversation. These sessions can be moderated, but must be interactive, provocative, and present the experience of multiple organizations tackling complex issues and unforeseen challenges with nimble solutions.

Workshop for Training Expo (2-hours)

The training expo is an opportunity for participants to invest in their education, so they can emerge stronger and smarter. During these expert-led workshops, new tools and concepts are tested and critiqued. Each 2-hour training is led by highly skilled facilitators, experienced in a range of thematic topics.

Voices from the Field (collection of 2-3 minute videos)

Collage of short videos from group members, local leaders, and field staff about their lived experiences over the past few months.

Key Dates & Milestones

Learning Space Concepts must be submitted by July 31

July 31 Your Learning Space concept must be submitted by this date 

August 15 A shortlist of 7-8 conveners per technical stream are invited to develop a more in-depth plan for their Learning Space concept

Mid-August - End-September Sub-committee members will be paired with conveners for Learning Space coaching 

October 26-30 Conference week!


Questions About the Conference?


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