Adaptive Blueprinting: Adaptive Blueprinting
The purpose of this workspace is to provide a brief overview of AB for those interested in participating in the first ever online AB Discussion Group right here on Ned.
Need: Research has shown that one of the most difficult phases for citizen sector organizations (CSOs) comes when they seek to scale the impact of their work from beyond just the local level. Many CSOs-- especially the smart ones-- are more concerned with scaling impact than simply growing the size of their organizations. This is a good thing. However, figuring out how to do this often presents an enormous challenge that too few CSOs are fully-equipped to handle. Room for error can be significant.
Purpose: AB was designed to make these challenges much more manageable by providing the tools and know-how CSOs need to effectively scale in a step-by-step, easy to understand process. AB is a 5-stage process that provides practical tools and ideas CSOs can use to guide them through the scaling-out process. By using AB tools and following the 5-stage framework, scaling impact becomes much more systematized with less room for mistakes.
One of our main goals in designing the AB framework was to take something complex and make it much simpler. Years of intensive research covering best practices in citizen sector scaling, collaboration, and knowledge transmission have been neatly packaged in a way we hope CSOs will not only find intuitive, but also extremely practical. We've provided "building blocks" of knowledge as well as a step-by-step framework which serve to demystify the complex terminology thrown around by others. Absent the jargon found in scholarly literature, the learning curve for AB should be a short one. So if you work for a CSO which is ready to scale your impact, there's no need to re-invent the wheel-- we've already done the hard part for you. Your task is simply to adapt the AB framework we've created to meet your specific needs.
The term Adaptive Blueprinting was coined in January of 2006 by Nathan Cryder, the co-founder and Executive Director of a US-based CSO called Global Gain. Global Gain's three founders shared a belief in the power of existing ideas-- not just new ones-- to make the world a better place. As Bill Clinton once said, "Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The frustration is that we can’t seem to replicate those solutions anywhere else." In an effort to resolve some of those frustrations, Global Gain worked tirelessly in 2006 and 2007 to bring the AB concept to practical fruition.
Even though AB is not a software program or webware platform, Global Gain uses the same naming conventions one finds with these (BETA, Version 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 2.1, etc.) Our reasoning is simple-- if the seemingly inexorable problems plaguing the world today are to have any chance at being solved within the next few generations, the citizen sector desperately needs to be able to effectively tap into the vast wellspring of collective knowledge. As it stands today, knowledge remains far too localized, adopt more of an open-source philosophy and approach. In other words, best practices and models addressing social problems must not remain geographically isolated, but need to be shared as widely as possible. However, unless this is done systematically, the potential for increased social impact won't be realized. AB not only enables CSOs to spread their best models throughout the sector, but it also harnesses the power of collective wisdom just as open-source software programs do.
On Sep. 17-18, 2007, the first ever workshop on AB was held in New Delhi, India for a group of Ashoka Fellows and staff (about 20 in all). This event represented the official launch of the BETA version of AB, as well as the first time anyone outside of Global Gain saw our 158 page Blueprint Guide detailing the 5-stage AB framework. True to our open-source philosophy and belief in collective wisdom, we are eagerly awaiting the feedback of Ashoka Fellows and staff and many others before we release the first official AB framework (Version 1.0) at some point in 2008.
AB uses several architecture metaphors in order to make abstract ideas more concrete. One such metaphor is Building Blocks. Building Blocks are essentially the core principles of any given program-model. The core Building Blocks of AB are:
Adapt the Wheel Principle: One purpose of AB is to help recognize the value in what’s already been created. AB is for those who believe that adopting and adapting proven ideas can be an even more powerful force for creating positive social change than searching for new ideas. As a result, true believers of AB always seek existing solutions to any given problem before trying to “reinvent the wheel”. In addition, they are never afraid to admit this fact and always give credit where credit is due.
Balance Principle: People learn best when there is a proper balance of structure and flexibility. One naturally associates the term “blueprint” with precision or rigidity, while the term “adaptive” brings forth notions of flexibility or freedom. However, AB is not an oxymoron. Rather it is the state in which structure and flexibility are in perfect balance. The balance AB shoots for is with respect to collaboration and how it is structured. AB’s goal, therefore, is a yin-yang state of collaboration, if you will.
Collective Wisdom Principle: By allowing more and more people to adopt and adapt existing models, they become much stronger due to the inherent power of collective wisdom. This principle is very much related to the Balance Principle, because harnessing the inherent power of collective wisdom requires achieving and maintaining the delicate balance between structure and flexibility.
To understand AB, one first needs to familiarize him/herself with some basic AB-specific terminology. Our goal is not to confuse or intimidate with new jargon. To the contrary, it is to simplify things by providing a common simple language for anyone and everyone utilizing AB down the road.
Adaptive Blueprint (“Blueprint”): A concise overview of a program-model's most essential components. All Blueprints contain a Need, Purpose, Building Blocks, and a Framework
- Master Blueprint: The Blueprint that contains the broadest overview of a program-models essential components
- Specialized Blueprint: Blueprints that fall within a Master Blueprint and provide more detail of specific steps or stages outlined in the Master.
Building Blocks: These are the core principles upon which all Blueprints are built. They are the most essential aspects of a program-model that need to be communicated to partners within an ABC.
Frameworks: Frameworks give Blueprints the structure they need to be effective. They are usually a series of stages or steps that partners in an ABC can use to implement an aspect of a program model.
AB Collaborative (ABC): A group of organizations that abide by basic AB principles as a basis for their collaboration. Please note that the term “collaborative” is used here as a noun as in “a collaborative group” and not as an adjective (exactly the way “cooperative” is sometimes used).
Blueprint Guide: A document to enable other organizations to adopt and adapt Blueprints. It is comprised of Blueprints and IMPACT Elements.
IMPACT Elements: All supporting and explanatory content that supplements and adaptive blueprint. IMPACT stands for: Implementation Manual, Practical Advice, and Concrete Tools.