How we work

Methodological approaches

Foresight: We help clients experiment with alternative futures to give them a feeling for the strategic risks and opportunities at hand. The process opens minds to alternative strategy options and lets participants check if any given strategy will be robust/resilient, in all futures.

Strategy: We assist organisations to develop strategic rules of thumb that align all stakeholders. The process identifies the options to pursue, and opens the door to running “safe to fail” experiments that can develop a strategy/policy progressively and organically.

Playification: We use software tools to visualise work, and let management/stakeholders play with the results. Also, we have developed role-playing games to let management play other stakeholders, and see how they react to alternative strategic moves and future challenges.

Our Working Style

4Sing offers consulting - where we run the whole project end-to-end - and also capacity building - where we coach the client in developing their own foresight, playification and strategy capability.
In some cases we also offer to embed our personnel in a client organisation to complete a specific project. In all cases the emphasis is that the client knows their business/policy area best, and we are simply empowering them to find the best solutions for their area of expertise. Often we also recommend that outside stakeholders be included in the process, so as to broaden the expertise available, and make sure all stakeholders are aligned in implementing the strategy.

We help by conducting interviews and running workshops to design the project – so as to establish the vision, the mission, the goals, the milestones and the metrics – as well as to ensure that it takes account of the needs of other stakeholders, notably by undertaking stakeholder analyses. Once the project is up and running we can embed a colleague with your organisation for a period of time to help collect, collate, and review the numerous other sources of relevant information such as reports commissioned for the project, existing policy documents, best practices and evaluations of similar projects elsewhere, and then synthesising them into short key decisions papers, where the alternative options when taking the key decisions are made clear. These decisions and options can then be discussed with outside stakeholders in a multi-stakeholder workshop to ensure buy-in. Moreover, we can help develop a software based implementation plan that allows participants to visualise the state of implementation of the project, step by step.

Creating a lively event

For organisations that want an insightful and interactive conference, seminar or panel, moderated in a way that stimulates the audience to be informed and engaged, so as to make the event stand out.

What can 4Sing offer?

For conferences, seminars and panels of all shapes and sizes, 4Sing can help in the prepation, delivery and documentation. Before the event starts, 4Sing identifies the client’s goals and helps to prepare the agenda, engages with the speakers, and prepares an annotated agenda outlining who does what, when. During the event, 4Sing can provide one or multiple moderaters, and electronic platforms for participants to interact with speakers and each other. After the event, 4Sing can summarise the key findings in a document, or an E-Book or even a film.

The nature each event will vary according to the objectives set by the client, and the themes they are dealing with. Hence there is no “one size fits all” recommendation. In some cases 4Sing will propose the use of software to enhance audience interaction, in other cases 4Sing will advise against it - depending on the circumstances at hand. In all cases, 4Sing assists the client to make the event as interactive as possible and to encourage those in the room to engage with others present, as they form a “strategic community” - a group of people with a common interest in the themes being discussed.

Why have a professional moderator?

Understandably, organisations sometimes give their own staff the role of moderator, or take a journalist for this role. However, often it is better to take an outsider who is focused on making events special, and who does not only know how to facilitate, but also to structure events and prepare a suitable documentation. 4Sing can provide support and assistance up-front in determining how to reach the organiser’s goals best, and can advise on how to structure the different sessions, in communicating with speakers and any relevant participants, as well as in interacting with those dealing with logistics. All in all, this makes for a lot less stress for the client, and a more polished experience for the participants.

Establishing a foresight process

For senior officials who want to develop a forward looking policy framework drawing on the knowledge in their organisation and wish for support of neutral outsiders in this.

What can 4Sing offer?

4Sing can provide an end-to-end process that includes interviews with officials, before two or three workshops. The initial focus in the workshops is on goals, key decisions, the positions of other stakeholders, and how the outside world (those things over which the organisation does not have decisional power) could change in the future (“scenarios”). The focus in later workshops is on the strategic options available, and judging which options are robust whatever scenario may come to pass, and agreeing on an implementation plan.

Why develop your own policy/strategy using scenarios?

The process of developing scenarios of how the outside world may develop over the next couple of years allows officials to gain insight into the current and up-coming challenges in their area of competence and to decide on the key parameters of the strategy or policy they wish to pursue. By conducting the process with in-house staff participation, the knowledge derived is then retained.

Crowd-sourced expertise

For innovators who want to gather input on their policy from experts or stakeholders some of whom may be spread over a wide geographical area.

What can 4Sing offer?

4Sing can provide an end-to-end process for crowd-sourcing inputs on-line. This can start with advice as which experts or stakeholders should be engaged with, through definition of the questions and issues that need to be addressed, up to and including the transposition of these questions into the on-line collaboration software platform Futurescaper™. We can advise on the sorts of incentives that can be used to encourage participation of the experts and stakeholders, and, if that is desired, can recruit and organise the experts who are to participate. The outcomes of the crowd-sourcing depend on the question sought at the start, but can be the creation of alternative scenarios of the future (how the world in a particular region/theme may change) or can be the collection of best practice lessons (on themes, sectors or cross-cutting) or can be strategy recommendations. Importantly the comments of the various participants are linked to each other by the software, and we can help the client interpret the visual results that consequently emerge.

Why use crowd-sourced expertise?

In many cases the perceptions on an single issue of people sitting in very different jobs or locations will be different. In policy making, if the ambition is to ensure that a policy is robust, it becomes important therefore to collect the insights and inputs of many people in different jobs and locations. This is the starting point logic for a crowd-sourced project.

Multi-stakeholder strategy

For leaders who want to include other stakeholders (e.g. other ministries, NGOs, private sector) in a participative strategy process, so as these stakeholders work to the same agenda.

What can 4Sing offer?

4Sing uses inter-active workshop methods and the power of software visualisation to guide a group of stakeholders through a series of steps, including: identification of key decision questions; agreement on the alternative options for answering each key decisions question, and the goals of the strategy, before allowing them to identify which strategic options best meet their goals, and hence to select one particular strategic path as being preferable. It is then possible to identify the steps needed for implementation and the milestones to be measured.

Why engage in a multi-stakeholder strategy?

One key challenge in governance is that government cannot simply decree for something to happen and expect that everything will then work. In many cases, if outside stakeholders do not work together in support of the government’s strategy, it will simply not function. Worse, if they deliberately try to undermine the strategy, it can lead to disaster. Hence in many cases it is at least worth trying to identify together some key points of commonality which allows the government to get the buy-in of these other stakeholders, not just when developing the strategy but also when implementing it.

Developing a Theory of Change

For leaders who wish to understand how a systemic change could be brought about in the world around them, so as their organisation’s policies, projects and activities can have a maximum impact in promoting that change, and to spur other stakeholders into action.

What can 4Sing offer?

Today’s challenges are also an opportunity, at least if an organisation is open-minded and prepared to think about the future and look outside of its comfort zone. This plays to our forte, as the word “Foresight” is part of 4Sing’s name and of its DNA. The 4Sing team has a long experience in helping clients and multi-stakeholder teams to backcast from a desired future state, hence allowing them to see how a new paradigm or state of affairs can be brought into being with steps starting today. This allows the client to identify strategic changes and pressure points such as trim-tabs (small interventions that have a big effect) so as to focus their efforts. Furthermore, other stakeholders can then be mobilised to intervene on issues where the client’s own organisation is not able or willing to act.

Whilst there is no “one size fits all” process, a typical engagement of this sort includes sitting with the client to see which stakeholders need to be included, a phase of gathering inputs on what is relevant (interviews, or software supported crowdsourcing) and a highly inter-active set of workshops that the 4Sing team moderates. Some clients also then wish for a monitoring system to be put into place to see if the planned activities actually take place, and if their impact is as desired.

Why Not do it yourself?

The whole process is designed to provide the client organisation with a learning experience, so as the knowledge stays with the client, not the consultant. And even in client-only groups it is often better to take a consultant from outside who can focus on the method, whilst the client focuses on the contents, as the consultant has the freedom to ask uncomfortable questions that employees do not dare ask or cannot see because of group think. Moreover, when outside stakeholders are also concerned, it becomes important to have a facilitator who is clearly neutral, and who can steer a collective thinking process, at the same time as sparking creative thinking.

Training in methods and tools

Which methods and tools are best used by your organisation when deciding on new projects, investments or strategies? And how can use of such tools and methods be generalised?

What can 4Sing offer?

4Sing is constantly experimenting with tools and methods to identify when they are best used, and under what conditions they provide most benefit. As a result, 4Sing is often asked to share its knowledge of best practices, and to help clients develop templates for decision making workflows, so as to spread best practice across organisations. 4Sing can help identify the processes, methods and tools that your organisation needs, as well as training the colleagues who will provide these services in-house or who will train others in this (“train the trainer”). In addition, 4Sing can back-stop/coach the needs of these colleague and help create best practice manuals if desired.

Why create in-house capacity in tools and methods?

Whilst consultants such as 4Sing can come in and help on major projects, there may be a multiplicity of decisions that would benefit from use of tools and methods, and where it makes little sense to have regular recourse to outsiders – and that from a financial, knowledge retention and possibly security/political sensitivity point of view. Moreover, spreading awareness of methods and tools with colleagues is important to making the DNA of the organisation more efficient in its use of meeting time and collaborative in its decision making methods.