Mapping Value Add to Education in East Africa

Case Study

Understanding roles within the ecosystem, aligning around shared vision and ways of working

In order to maximise AKDN’s support to education systems across East Africa, AKDN asked SIX to help its education agencies to critically reflect on their roles, realign around their shared vision, and align on ways of working.


In order to maximise impact and influence in education systems in East Africa, AKDN asked SIX to help us to critically reflect, align and streamline, and ultimately increase value-add and collaboration across five agencies (Aga Khan Foundation and its affiliate, the Madrasa Early Childhood Programme (MECP), Aga Khan Academy (AKA), Aga Khan Education Services (AKES), and the Aga Khan University (AKU).

The role of mapping becomes an important ‘unlocking’ tool. Comparing different perspectives can lead to the surfacing of blindspots, alignment and streamlining, and a more comprehensive understanding, empowerment and willingness to work together.

However, whilst mapping is a valuable process, we believe we need to take it one step further to create ongoing impact. A visual map is a conversation starter, and should be used to lead to further actions.

Our approach

Over the course of a year, we interviewed and surveyed 18+ AKDN staff to explore past and current collaboration with other agencies, to uncover how they perceived their own and other agencies’ value-add, what some of the barriers and ideas to foster better collaboration were, and how they felt working with others would help them to increase their impact.

From this, we produced a visual representation to identify where there are saturation and gaps, where work is unique, and where there are opportunities for collaboration and growth.

Finally, we gathered 24 AKDN staff during a 2-day workshop in Dar es Salaam to stimulate “whole picture thinking”, encouraging teams to compare and make sense of perceptions, experiences and tensions within their complex systems.

Through this work, we focussed on how to enable new kinds of conversations towards practical, realistic and sustainable changes in the way organisations communicated and worked together. By providing plenty of time to connect, exchange and reflect, we revealed previously invisible opportunities for increased value-add.


Our learning and insights led us to inform a gender responsive strategy for AKDN collaboration across three functions: business development, implementation, and influence.

There was also little understanding between agencies on what they were capable of achieving if they came together. So we helped the staff from across the agencies to list their individual agency assets, which enabled them to then see which assets they shared.

This is a first step to working more effectively as an agency – once it is clear that multiple agencies share the same assets and resources, they can explore new connections and crossovers and develop strategies of the best ways to utilise these assets.

Finally, we found that the impact of our 2-day workshop was near immediate – interviewees shared their increased understanding, rapport, communication and willingness to work with others (often for the first time). Some people had already started collaborating across agencies.

This process, and resulting report, demonstrates a continued need to actively work on answering three core questions, and embedding these  ideas into practice, whilst exercising a degree of openness, trust and flexibility as the work unfolds.

These questions included:

  • How might we, as AKDN, increase inter-agency communication to engender better understanding of each other?
  • How might we identify opportunities to build on our value as a network, by better understanding our unique value add as individual agencies?
  • How might we adopt these ideas to build better collaboration internally and with partners?

“Collaboration is not always necessary or a good idea. It should only be done when it is mutually beneficial to both agencies or partners, and it helps you achieve your goals more effectively.”