CC Social Learning Sandbox

What is it? How does it work?


Where did the Sandbox come from?

As the background information section below indicates, after the May 2012 'foundational' workshop for CCSL work, we decided to set up a 'CC Social Learning Sandbox' as a mechanism to continue and sustain work by interested individuals and organizations on the ideas and activities surfaced during the workshop. It should be a mechanism for CCAFS but should also enthuse and catalyze interaction, innovation and concrete collaboration among the people involved and interested in this area. In the future, this sandbox could evolve in a self-organizing and self-governing manner into a 'community of practice' of sorts.

What is the Sandbox?

IMG_5315.JPGThe Sandbox is a space and a mechanism set up to discuss social learning in climate change and develop creative projects that contribute to demonstrate the value of such approaches or to implement them as a way to inform local decision-making. The sandbox itself should be a genuine reflection of how social learning works in practice.

The Sandbox currently consists of:
  • This wiki - where Sandbox (and related projects') information is documented;
  • A Yammer network (requiring log in) to discuss ideas, activities, give feedback to each other, co-assess potential projects, share resources and... learn socially about climate change.

How can you use the Sandbox?

The Sandbox is a safe space to discuss and work on social learning in climate change. It performs various functions:
  • A space for discussion among parties interested in social learning in climate change;
  • A repository to find information related to social learning in climate change;
  • A peer-learning and peer-support network where practical challenges and issues encountered can be discussed and supported by the collective wisdom of other Sandbox members;
  • An informal testing ground for concepts, ideas, approaches and initiatives - both theoretically and practically;
  • A funding mechanism to encourage interesting ideas round social learning in climate change to be developed and rolled out;
  • A reflexive space to tease out lessons from the discussions and the initiatives funded by the Sandbox;

If you have an idea, a question, a document to share, a project idea to submit, an advice to give - all on the topic of social learning in climate change - then the Sandbox is the place for you. And who knows, you might even get some seed funding for it... Some years the sandbox is allotted with some resources to help kick-start (or strengthen) activities.

How to submit an idea to the sandbox?

Anyone that has an idea for some interesting idea around social learning in climate change, particularly aiming at supporting local decision-making and CCAFS research questions, may share that idea to the sandbox to enrich it.
If the conversation around the idea (on the Yammer network part of the sandbox) seems promising and is welcome by sandbox members, the idea can be turned into a short proposal that can be sent to Ewen Le Borgne (e.leborgne[at]cgiar.org) who will discuss it further with members from an independent panel (composed of one more ILRI representative and two other members from the Sandbox who have no personal interest in the proposal). All proposals that are accepted will go through a structured peer-assist exercise (see this video explaining how a peer assist works) to improve and enrich the terms of reference.

What kind of proposals can be shared?

The proposals can be developed by any Sandbox member, be either a research, an action-research or an implementation project, taking place in any region. They should not exceed the maximum amount (USD 15.000 - this amount is reviewed every year) and will be assessed (in the informal discussion prior to submitting the proposal) against the following principles:
  • Partial self-funding (not necessarily applicable below 10.000 USD but still encouraged);
  • Collaborative, i.e. involving other actors than just one proponent;
  • Innovative, i.e. entirely new or re-using existing ideas in new ways or environments or revisiting mistakes from the past;
  • Solution-oriented, i.e. it has a defined problem, a defined (set of) customer/user(s) for this and a vision of change (how change will happen as a consequence of this);
  • Openly documented, i.e. it is reflexive about both the results and process and it is clear how this will happen in the implementation;
  • Risk-aware, i.e. responding creatively to recognized risks e.g. learning from/through failure;
  • Demonstrates building on practical experience, documented evidence or existing theory, i.e. not based simply on a whim;

Who is behind the Sandbox?

The Sandbox was formulated as a promising approach in May 2012 by organizers of the workshop. A small group of CCAFS and ILRI staff members have further developed it.

Right now the Sandbox is facilitated by Carl Jackson, Pete Cranston, Ewen Le Borgne and Peter Ballantyne. This facilitation job entails the animation of conversations on the mailing list, curation of content on this wiki and on relevant other platforms, organization of the funding calls for proposals, decision-making about funded proposals and transparent documentation of activities and proposal funding.

The CCAFS social learning team (Wiebke Foerch, Phil Thornton and Patti Kristjanson) is keeping a distant oversight on the Sandbox, as well as the Advisory Group.

Sandbox participants are welcome from all avenues, provided that they are interested in social learning in climate change and have been introduced by existing Sandbox members in a 'friend of a friend' word-of-mouth manner.

How does it interact with other CCAFS social learning initiatives?

The CCAFS social learning team, who organized the workshop in May 2012, has developed or is developing several other initiatives in parallel. Many of them have some relations with the Sandbox. Here is an overview of how they relate to one another:
  • The advisory group (not yet in place): As mentioned above, the advisory group will not intervene in the daily functioning of the sandbox. However, its members are welcome to join and engage with the sandbox (except at moments of reviewing proposals). For proposals that exceed USD 10.000, the advisory group will be consulted to inform the final decision as to whether or not the proposal should be funded. Members from the advisory group could also join the group that organizes the peer-review or peer assist for the grantees (to get additional feedback before getting started).
  • Specific initiatives: Several initiatives started independently from the other CCAFS social learning mechanisms. There may be more later. The sandbox simply offers a sounding board for these initiatives, either to review the ToR or to discuss relevant initiatives, documents, networks and individuals that could play a role in them. Furthermore, and in addition to any documentation coming out of these initiatives, the sandbox is a great space to share activities and insights coming out of these initiatives with a wider group. See a list of these.


What does success with the Sandbox look like?
This is one of the key questions to answer. Proxy indicators are: amount of people having joined the sandbox Yammer and posting/discussing regularly on it, volume and quality of work undertaken through the sandbox, results of the sandbox initiatives, positive appreciation by sandbox users and by sandbox-funded project owners etc.

A survey was conducted in 2013 to assess the sandbox and its results. The survey report is available here:




Background information

After the May 2012 workshop, we decided to set up a 'CC Social Learning Sandbox' as a mechanism to continue and sustain work by interested individuals and organizations on the ideas and activities surfaced during the workshop. It should be lean, open, creative, and produce tangible results that CCAFS and others involved can draw on and put to work. It should be a mechanism for CCAFS; it should also enthuse and catalyze interaction, innovation and concrete collaboration among the people involved – and others with an interest in this area. In future, it could serve as a vehicle for CCAFS and others to ‘post’ issues and questions and assignments for the community to take on, in a self-organizing and self-governing manner - thus, evolving into a 'community of practice'.

This ‘working out loud’ mechanism (The Sandbox) should allow individuals and organizations to collaborate in developing, piloting, testing, modifying and adapting a series of actions and activities directly related to the to be developed CCAFS strategy on 'communication and social learning for enhanced climate change decision-making.' This facilitated engagement process – or series of learning cycles - will take place in a 'climate change social learning sandbox.' A 'sandbox approach' is used in learning, brainstorming, and organizational learning where people are encouraged to experiment, innovate and be creative - together - to 'tinker, test, and try' out what works. In our case, the sandbox would be a way to 'do' social learning and communication as an approach to identifying opportunities and ways forward, piloting, and incubating follow up actions to the ideas emerging in our workshop. It has risks, but this is also inherent in social learning approaches. It would be a resource and support mechanism for the activities listed above.

How the ‘CC Social Learning Sandbox’ might work
  • establish a (virtual) environment for sandbox players to get together [convert the existing wiki; set up communication space, …]
  • identify a few facilitators/catalysts for the sandbox [people to foster collaboration, communication, creativity]
  • devise ground rules for the sandbox - inclusive, creative, solution-oriented, open, transparent decision making on money ...
  • use the sandbox to try out and test and develop ideas (in the form of learning cycles) from the workshop and elsewhere; approaches, concepts, opportunities
  • use the sandbox to quickly tap into expert and social knowledge and capital and networks
  • post ideas needing inputs to the sandbox and have a process by which interested people take these on (and get paid)
  • encourage players to propose issues and ideas and, if required, mobilize resources to test and try them out as learning cycles
  • provide funds to the sandbox to finance 'agreed' activities [most likely via ILRI]
  • make sure there is some sandbox 'self-governance' to ensure ideas emerge and risks are managed

The sandbox needs to work on opportunities through ‘triple loop’ social learning in climate change (Single loop asks: Are we doing things right (improving existing measures)?; Double loop asks: Are we doing the right things (reframing - looking for alternative approaches)?; Triple loop asks: How do we decide what is right (transforming – changes in underlying values and beliefs)? It may also need to be an exemplar of this triple loop learning.

We envisage a start up phase where the sandbox forms; where we post some ideas for activities; where players post their ideas; where a few selected targeted pilots are worked on; and resources are provided. We would ‘kickstart’ the Sandbox with early activities to build momentum, sustain collaboration, and generate concrete outputs. After an initial period of perhaps 9 months, its operation would be reviewed.