Opportunities to find politically feasible solutions are everywhere; the challenge is searching for them.
There is a growing acknowledgement within the development sector that achieving sustainable development outcomes is highly complex and cannot be isolated from a wide range of differing socioeconomic and political interests. As professionals try to sift through the opaque rules of the game, the big global challenges such as conflict, climate change, women’s empowerment and improving public services continue to dominate many of our discussions. However, as we create ever more sophisticated narratives to define these challenges, the common theme to searching for politically sustainable solutions remains the same – to reshape the power and influence of one stakeholder over another, and to build their relationships with others.
This article argues that in order to address each development issue requires having a better understanding of relationships between stakeholders and how to build upon them. At the heart of this approach is a shift from focusing on building inclusive and participative programmes with principal stakeholders, to building relationships between a much wider-range of stakeholders and supporting them as they navigate the political context.
Building on conflict mediation literature, this article also presents an innovative framework for evaluating these various relationships that underpin this transformational process. The framework is presented using a visualisation platform and supports professionals in their efforts to develop continual detailed contextual knowledge of the complex dynamics and to facilitate a shared learning journey across relevant stakeholders. This provides professionals with a methodological approach in cultivating a common understanding of the problems, improving their capacity to adapt to the changing context and finding politically feasible, sustainable solutions.