As part of a project to design an 11-year water rights program in Ethiopia, Oxfam assembled a group of partner NGOs, donors, government officials at all levels, technical experts, and effected populations, including village leaders and farmers.


As part of our preparation for a 3-day DesignShop, we worked with the NGO to develop a visual strategic model of the potential impact of the 11-year program.


The model was at the same time complex – representing flows of value and a variety of stakeholders – and simple – subsuming important detail into simple drawings and headlines. The model itself became the focus of an entire day’s work as it helped provoke discussion on weaknesses in the strategy, on under-represented stakeholders, and on unarticulated assumptions. It was discussed by the group as a whole and then dissected into small parts to be challenged and improved. While the visual model was indeed revised as a consequence of this intense work, its principal benefit was the structured discussion that it helped shape.