What if you could hear the whispers of change? What if the stories from the streets, tales
from the heart; the weak currents of social stirring could reach the policy-makers, decision-
makers and social leaders in time to understand, engage with and empower people to make a
difference? What if a network can make relations between policy makers and citizens?

Imagine you are a community activist with accurate facts and figures at your fingertips -
empowered with the knowledge and authority to make a difference - to not only put you in
touch with real-time patterns in the street stories from your community, but also ideas and
solutions from other communities around the world...

Imagine you are a teacher who could ‘do-away with the paperwork’. With information in one
place and class progress visible, you have more time and knowledge to empower the minds
of tomorrow. Imagine you can teach children research methodologies and this offers them a
way to achieve multiple things at once - they can activate their entire class to gather stories
that matter from their community and at the same time they learn research techniques....

Imagine you are a local politician losing touch with your constituents. Imagine hearing the
chorus of the people in real-time, empowering you to solve community issues quickly and

Imagine if communities around the world are engaged with learning from their own stories
and the similar stories of others. Imagine empowering communities to seek solutions for their
own problems. Imagine communities’ entrepreneurial initiative developing and actioning the
solution in their own context.

Imagine citizens of the world discovering, through sharing their stories, that there is more
power in commonality and unity than in difference.

The right funding could make this a reality soon.

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Self-ethnography allows members of a community to discover
what is happening, what is amiss and what is working in their
own communities in a peer-to-peer knowledge flow. “Sending
experts in from the outside” often results in misinterpretations
like the recent polls before the Brexit vote and the US Presidential
election. Statistically relevant samples creates objectivity in a
world filled with echo chambers.

Communities develop their own solutions or share solutions and
ideas across communities. The statistical validity of being able
to “present their own story” produces a spontaneous interaction
between government and a community. This authentic
voice (removed from the noise of social media or layers of
interpretation) of a community supported by the quantitative
power of numbers, also empowers goverment to develop
evidence-based policy as opposed to policy-based evidence.

Acting on the stories makes the narrative meaningful - the
power to interpret the story is given back to the storyteller. This
network employs a quantitative (objective) technique in what
is a traditionally qualitative area. Budgets can dynamically be
allocated based on evidence - funds can feed into a communicty
based on a flag or a prompt - which significantly reduces the cost
of grants by ensuring money is spent wisely. Highly contextual
local transition allows entrepreneurial initiative to stay in a
community - local solutions for local issues.

Individual stories field gathering

Informing policy


Local change design

Real-time feedback loop

EngageEmpowerEnact_8pager (07).indd 2 2016/12/08 12:11:08 PM
REAL STORIES FROM THE HEARTS OF REAL PEOPLE. It is also multi-faceted with the unprecedented ability to use
a data collection platform to create peer-to-peer knowledge-
REAL INSIGHT FOR REAL DECISION SUPPORT. sharing and problem-solving mechanisms; whether across
IN REAL-TIME. communities or continents. The richness and deeply textured
nature of narratives allows the same data sets to be applied to
different social issues. It is a dynamic platform that has the ability
Often the people who most need to know ‘the word not just to deliver results but to yield profound social change.
on the street’ are those who find it most difficult
to tap into it. By definition, political, academic
and market structures use a series of natural and
Using SenseMaker®, a software ecology that integrates
embedded filters to judge the social pulse. The decision support, research, monitoring and knowledge
filters unintentionally obscure the deepest essence management, it allows us to hear the stories of ordinary
of the message and are made worse by the echo
chambers of digital media and online engagement people, to understand their dinner-table conversations
strategies. and in hearing their hopes, dreams, unstructured
opinions and views – to decode the social patterns that
So in a globalised world, how do we gain nuanced,
localised understanding? How do we respond to the are really driving behaviours and attitudes.
unheard (and often unarticulated) needs of those
who feel excluded from power?
We hear the voices of the people telling the story, as
How do we hear what the university student in South interpreted by them. It is a powerful tool that allows
Africa really thinks or what an entire country really
for an unprecedented level of shared knowledge and
feels? How do we ensure we are not surprised by
Brexit or US Presidential election votes, Colombian decision-making with the ability to create systemic
peace deal rejections or the silent ripples that shifts on fundamental social issues.
become the sea change of social upheaval?

The methodology underpinning the EngageEmpowerEnact SenseMaker® has allowed us to gain valuable experience. For
project is based on 20 years of research and situated learning. EngageEmpowerEnact we need funding to create something
It is designed to allow people to articulate their own needs to bigger, more responsive and even more inclusive - observing
gain attention and influence outcomes, and in turn, help experts the day-to-day realities, micro-narratives and observations in
listen differently, help analysts conduct deeper more inclusive communities. We enable co-creation on a local scale to rewrite
research and help localities create more incisive responses. the global story. YOU CAN HELP.

Nike Foundation’s GirlHub is a study of the impact about the situation of girls in their care. The open-ended nature
the impact of their 12+ Youth Empowerment of the prompt allows storytellers to share stories of their own
Programme in Rwanda. The SenseMaker® iOS choosing and enables researchers to collect
app greatly enhanced field capture capabilities narratives on the same topic from a variety of
in the limited infrastructural environment of a perspectives. The results included in a revision
developing country. Capture is on-going, along of Nike Foundation’s advocacy and programme
with monitoring and evaluation. It starts with a strategies to prioritise addressing violence against
story prompt. In Rwanda and Ethiopia, respondents girls in Rwanda, as opposed to the many other
had to share a true story about an experience in a girl’s life. In simultaneously pressing social issues. In Ethiopia,
Rwanda, caregivers were also asked to share stories describing the SenseMaker® pilot also highlighted girls’
a moment or event when they felt encouraged or concerned migration as an emerging trend.

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• We have examples of how it
works on four continents.
We’re seeking funding to scale STUDY OF ATTITUDES OF YOUTH
this - we already know how!


• People gather and interpret
their own observations and







• Understanding the lived experience of -TO


people who appear different from me but

are like me.

• Data, with respondent’s own interpretive

narrative (story), is collected electronically
by Citizen Journalist. PEE

• Uploaded directly to central database R

without any intermediative interpretation.
• Combines with exaptive database.
• Knowledge base “grows in the telling” in
• People can engage with their own stories,
• Accessible immediately in community - and
come up with actions and use the databases
anywhere else (with permission) for own
to create an evidence base to secure
government commitment.

EngageEmpowerEnact_8pager (07).indd 4 2016/12/08 12:11:10 PM




• Exaptive databases, linking
and connecting ideas in novel




• Self-interpreting narrative gives
power back to the storyteller
• Self-ethnography: a quantitative
••• technique in a what is normally

AFRICA a qualitative field allows rapid
CO scaling at minimal cost.

••• • Governments can discern weak

signals and respond quickly to
social need.
• Real-time citizen consultatation.
• Unearths the objective, intrinsic

wisdom of the crowds to hear
more than the tyranny of the
herds (the echo chamber effect).
••• • “Monitoring as evaluation”

outcome reduces spend on

government monitoring and


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At the core of the future, people (the base component of a social
EngageEmpowerEnact is designed to:

• Regularly engage with the idiosyncratic narratives within a
group) should have the ability to ENGAGE in describing their social group AND give the power of interpretation to the people
own situation. People should be EMPOWERED to ENACT their who write their stories. Trends and patterns are intrinsically
own solutions. Socio-political analysis requires the ability to extracted and not determined by analysts or computer
track the attitudes and behaviours of people, yet it is also this algorithms.
qualitative factor that is the most variable and difficult ‘truth’ to
• Disintermediate the social research process. We use an
uncover. But what if we could consistently hear those voices
unobtrusive methodology to allow individuals, as the base unit
and not just occasionally ‘poll’ them or randomly survey them?
of society, to speak their truth at will and in a safe environment.
Individuals are empowered to control and use their material.
EngageEmpowerEnact was conceptualised as a real-time
platform to interpret the shifting sands of complex social systems • Allow decision-makers to engage with the social dynamic
across the globe. It is the fruit of a new, powerful approach to through compelling and evocative unedited narrative and raw
social research, monitoring & knowledge management. data collected anonymously.

• Extend the period of engagement beyond a traditional research
It shifts the top-down approach of traditional research to a
project, deepening insight and response strategies.
more engaged, more accurate, more far-reaching social sensory
system that allows decision-makers to take the pulse of a social • Gather evidence-based data from ground level observations
network at any given time and empower this network to devise for applications like testing and trials of social projects and
and implement their own solutions. policy formulation and implementation.

The power of the originator as a subject, not an object Who are the Citizen Journalists?

We place a mobile application in the hands of individuals and Anyone in a social community can be a Citizen Journalist. For
communities (Citizen Journalists) and allow them to tell their one specific project we have identified school-going youth as
stories or journal their observations with images, voice and the ideal candidates. This youth group possesses the cognitive
written word. Then we give them a basic set of tools to interpret ability to process the social context, understand their immediate
that story themselves, deepening insight and involvement of the environment and the direct impact of social patterns on
storyteller, as opposed to generalised algorithmic interpretation. their lives and on those around them. They are, however, less
The individuals choose who they will share their information conditioned to social norms and they provide a more diverse
with.The stories are directly and continuously uploaded to range of observations than their adult counterparts. They have
a secure, encrypted central database to reveal narrative the ability to learn and use electronic devices easily. For other
landscapes that show shifts in behaviour patterns, weak signals projects, different people or groups in communities are utilised.
of changes and nuances in social trends that can be identified,
monitored and learnt from. Citizen Journalists gather and share stories – not just about
themselves but about their communities. As the voice of the
Since the information is completely devoid of outside future, their contributions to decision-making and peer-to-peer
interference and organic, tapping into the on-the-ground knowledge-sharing is mutually valuable and empowering. Once
experience of communities continuously – it will quickly yield set up, these social networks of Citizen Journalists can be
breakthrough insights to everyone on a local and national level. activated at any point because Citizen Journalists can invite
In its optimal application, it offers a fully responsive, real-time other participants participate in the activated conversation.
cultural map of the world. The system will operate as an ‘always on’, streetwise and highly
relevant citizen sensor network that can offer up advice, red
alerts and entry points to nudge the system towards a better
result at any given time.

EngageEmpowerEnact_8pager (07).indd 6 2016/12/08 12:11:12 PM
...so that we
What can we ...to learn from ...and less of
have more of
do tomorrow... these stories... those?


• EmpowerEngageEnact delivers objectivity through sound • EmpowerEngageEnact scales to any level at little cost. It can
research methodology and clearly defined data parameters; be used on a global level as easily as it can be used locally. It
whilst exploiting the deep insights and explanatory potential of can engage local communities or NGOs, who want to place
rich narrative. The quantitative patterns offer objectivity while community members at the centre of their own problem
the stories provide context. It is literally ‘the story behind the solving or give the most vulnerable in the community a voice.
numbers.’ The data can be accessed by other communities or groups
around the world for shared learning.
• The design framework allows engagement with significant
samples of citizens, not merely polling the ones who shout the • EmpowerEngageEnact circumvents issues of geography,
loudest. It unearths the intrinsic wisdom of the crowds and not logistical barriers and social boundaries of literacy, language
simply hear the tyranny of the herds. and dialect.

• It captures ongoing continual THE CONCEPT HAS BEEN • Sensemaker® enables landscapes made up
observations made by citizens, of rich descriptions of multiple observations
much like a virtual journal. This
PROVEN AT PROJECT LEVEL. and experiences, not only evaluative statistics
continually updates the database WE NOW NEED TO SCALE IT TO and opinion. It creates an intelligent platform
and provides new layers to the for citizen interaction that does not tell people
patterns of meaning that emerge what they should do, but facilitates shifts based
from the data. FOR THE WORLD. on understanding the ‘street stories.’ It reveals
natural points of intervention for decision
• EmpowerEngageEnact platform can be used for specific makers to make changes in direction. This as opposed to
special projects like a state entity wanting to engage a evaluative, prescriptive models that create resistance simply
particular group of citizens during a time of high activism, by forcing interventions on an unreceptive, unengaged
such as resistance to policy change. community. See the graphic below of the ‘adjacent possible’.

• The graph shown represents the quantitative results of a
••• research project.
• The red dots and contours represent the patterns of real
reponses (how the system is currently disposed). The blue dot
represents the desired direction. It is clear that the results show
two distinct groupings / peaks in the top left and bottom right of
the landscape.
• The grey arrows indicate the direction towards “adjacent
possibles” - small groupings of stories or observations that are
already present in the system and therefore can be amplified in
order to evolve the system in a beneficial direction, much like
“crossing a river with stepping stones” rather than attempting to
cross in one big jump.
• EngageEmpowerEnact allows the user to access the stories that
form these adjacent possibles and thereby enables the deployment
of small contextual nudges to create the required shifts.

EngageEmpowerEnact_8pager (07).indd 7 2016/12/08 12:11:12 PM


The Cynefin Centre at Bangor University was founded in 2016 belief that smaller jurisdictions can experiment with new forms
to focus on radical new methods for social engagement and of governance far easier than large ones, and create new ways
understanding, basing its work in the natural sciences and the of working faster and with higher engagement. Bangor is in
humanities, in particular complex adaptive systems theory. North Wales which possesess both rural, post-industrial and
A membership based organisation, it is responsible for the leisure environments, a many ways a microcosm of the world.
Engage and Empower programme as well as a series of related
programmes on areas as diverse as patient journey, social work
and sport. Starting with the original SenseMaker® concepts it MEANING OF CYNEFIN
is building a range of applications for use by communities world
wide in the field of complexity science. The Centre is based ‘Cynefin’ is defined as the state of being influenced by multiple
in Pontio, built to connect the University to the community pasts of which we can only be partly aware: cultural, religious,
through the medium of arts and also hosts the Welsh Centre for geographic, tribal, etc. “It describes that relationship: the place of
Behaviour Change and the University Centre on Design Thinking. your birth and of your upbringing, the environment in which you
live and to which you are naturally acclimatised - or knowledge
Wales is a small nation of some three million people with a and sense of place that is passed down the generations.”
rich cultural heritage which includes one of the oldest living Cynefin has been linked to the Maori Tūrangawaewae which
languages in Europe. The Centre was formed in part with the means a place to stand.

The EngageEmpower programme will be implemented through
the Cynefin Centre at Bangor University in Wales, United
Kingdom, where the Sensemaker® platform that underpins
the programme was created. The EngageEmpowerEnact team
will be also based in Bangor, Wales. Nodal development teams
will be established around the world, starting with South Africa
and Colombia, where pilot programmes have been initiated.

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