News from the IAF Europe team, April 2009

Martin facilitating our team discussions in Manchester, November 2008This piece ‘from the archive’ was first published in the IAF Europe newsletter, April 2009. An archive of 43 monthly issues from 2010-2013 may now be found online at IAFThe photo by editor Rosemary Cairns shows me facilitating the first meeting of the new IAF Europe team in Manchester in November 2008. For details of the IAF Europe MENA region and its 18 chapters today, see IAF EMENA.


At the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) Europe 2008 conference in Groningen in October, Rosemary Cairns, Gary Purser and I were appointed to form a new leadership team for the IAF Europe region. Soon after the conference the three of us met in Manchester, in November, to plan our work for 2009.

We published profiles of the three of us in the IAF newsletter in November, and a brief report of that planning meeting in the December issue. We felt that now would be a good time to report to you in some more depth on the plans we made then and how they are progressing, and to share an overview of the financial position of the region.

The following is drawn from a more comprehensive 5‐page report drafted for the IAF global Board meeting to be held prior to the IAF North America conference in Vancouver this month. The full report can be found with this article on our online Forum at www. iaf‐europe. eu, under ‘News from the European team’.

Do please share any queries or feedback, either on the Forum or directly with any of us – and do please let us know if you are interested to get involved in this work, whether at the regional level or locally in your area. There is much to do, and we rely largely on volunteers from among the membership to do it. We are grateful to all those of you who have contributed, and are contributing, to the life of the Association.

Communications & publicity

This is Rosemary’s area of responsibility. In this area, we planned to establish a monthly IAF newsletter and an active IAF Europe website, make use of social networking sites and other collaborative e‐technologies to promote IAF and enable networking among members and other facilitators, and encourage and enable the use of more languages within the IAF region.

This is the 6th issue of the new newsletter. The new regional website is live at www. iaf‐europe. eu, and includes a Forum with a ‘language café’ and events notice board, back issues of the newsletter to download, and links to & from other IAF sites. Rosemary has posted messages and links on various Facebook and YouTube pages, and uses Google Docs to distribute the newsletter.

Professional development

This is Gary’s area of responsibility, and includes the annual conference and Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) programme. In this area, we planned to ensure an annual IAF European conference to deliver satisfaction to members and income to the region, to make 12 conference scholarships available in 2009, and to support and promote two CPF assessment events in the region.

Oxford was selected as the location for the 2009 conference from among three contenders, a local conference team has been established, and contracts have been signed with Keble College Oxford as the conference venue and Entendu as the conference management company. The conference was launched in February, and open for early‐bird registrations at www. iaf‐europeconference. org.

Early promotion has led to five conference sponsors being secured already, and delegate bookings are ahead of the last two years’ conferences by around 12 weeks. A good number of applications have been received for conference & pre‐conference sessions, and the draft programme is almost ready to publish. We have committed to provide a minimum of 5 scholarships from our reserves, and more depending on conference income.

One CPF event was held in Switzerland in December, two events in Dutch are scheduled for the Netherlands and a pre‐conference event is scheduled for September.

Organisational growth

This is also Gary’s area of responsibility, but Rosemary has agreed to cover for Gary temporarily to allow him to focus on getting the conference underway. In this area, we planned to ensure effective management of memberships (new, renewing & expiring members and promotion of membership), to achieve a total of 500 members and 12 chapters or affiliates in Europe in 2009, including expanded membership in Eastern Europe.

We have established regular and systematic communications to welcome new and returning members, and to follow up with expiring members to encourage them to renew or learn why they will not. New chapters in Germany & Serbia have been approved by the Board, and we are following up interest in possible new chapters in Ireland, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Turkey and the UK.

Total membership in Europe has varied since November between a high of around 360 and a low of around 320, with an underlying trend of decline if anything. Growing the membership remains a key strategic priority for the region, and for IAF globally, for the year. We are hopeful that the conference will better attract new and returning members once the programme is published shortly, and that new partnerships with facilitation training providers offering 1‐year student‐rate memberships will also attract new members.

Governance & support systems

This is Martin’s area of responsibility. Within this area, we planned to participate fully in the global IAF Board, publish a brief 2008 annual report and finance report, establish formal and transparent governance links between IAF Europe and IAF globally, hold monthly team conference calls and another face‐to‐face team meeting, achieve a closing reserve balance of €40k, and each spend on average a day per month on IAF business.

I have participated in two global Board conference calls and almost daily in ongoing electronic discussions, and shall be attending the 1‐ day face‐to‐face Board meeting in Vancouver in April and the 2‐day meeting in Cape Town in October.

In the detailed report on the IAF Europe Forum, you will find our financial report for 2008 and the first quarter of 2009. The paperwork is underway to have the three of us appointed as Board members of the region’s Netherlands‐ registered foundation ‘IAF Europe Stichting’, along with existing Board member Maureen Jenkins and in place of Jim Campbell. Maureen and Gary Austin, authorised signatories on IAF’s Netherlands and UK (Euro & Sterling) bank accounts respectively, have agreed to continue for the time being in those roles and provide us with regular consolidated financial reports.

We have established a team Yahoo group and a routine of monthly internal team reports and conference calls, and plan a second face‐toface team meeting in Oxford, with the conference team, in June.

We are finding our plan to each spend on average one day per month on IAF work somewhat naive – one day per week (or more) would be closer to reality!

Finances

In terms of the financial report, there is as established policy that a share of members’ dues are paid by the globe to the regions and that in return a share of regional conference surpluses are paid by the regions to the globe, however this has not yet been implemented.

For the time being, IAF Europe’s primary source of income is the annual conference, and the main expenses (beyond the conference itself) are member services and communications. Our present reserve balance is largely the product of the lucrative 2006 conference in Stockholm. The 2007 conference in Edinburgh earned a small surplus with 182 delegates (just received, after a delay caused by the hiatus in the regional team), and the 2008 conference in Groningen made a small loss with just 109 delegates.

Given that we have only a minimal reserve after two poor years for conference income, and given the current economic climate as well, we have taken a prudent approach to budgeting for 2009. The projection shown allows just a skeleton expense budget, and assumes the conference just breaks even, in order to indicate what conference loss we could afford to sustain within our existing reserves.

The 2009 conference budget breaks even on 160 delegates with no sponsors, and would take around 250 delegates and €10k of sponsorship income to enable us to achieve our ambition of a closing reserve balance of €40k – so please help us to rebuild a reserve that will allow a more ambitious plan for member services in the region next year, by booking to attend the Oxford conference yourself and by helping to promoting it to potential delegates and sponsors!

Happy New Year – IAF facilitators & friends meetups in 2016

IAF England & Wales facilitators & friends 1000x565IAF_Logo_Europe_NS_RGBHappy New Year to IAF England & Wales facilitators & friends in our three regional meetup groups – London & South East England, South West England and the North of England. Welcome in particular to new members to the latter two groups, new since November.

Please do take another look at our growing regular schedules of free facilitation meetups in all three regions for 2016, and RVSP now for those that you plan to attend – just follow the links:

Please add comments to any of these events to indicate what you could offer or what you would like to gain from the event.

Please contact me if you are interested to help to organise and publicise events in your area, by joining the leadership team of one of the three existing regional groups or of a new group for the English Midlands or for Wales – one or two more for each region would be very welcome!

Please also let me know if you can offer or suggest any organisation to support the groups as sponsors, by promoting them or by hosting events or otherwise. We are grateful to ICA:UK for already agreeing to sponsor the three groups by promoting them to trainers and trainees of its national programme of regular public facilitation training courses.

Please do let me know if you have any questions or other suggestions. I look forward to seeing you at a meetup soon!


For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can connect with me also by joining my free facilitation webinars online, and IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.

Book now for Group Facilitation Methods training in London!

photo by Adam SwannI am pleased to be leading ICA:UK’s Group Facilitation Methods course in London on February 24-25. Book now to reserve your place!

Places for this course are also available on earlier dates with other experienced ICA:UK trainers – January 19-20 in London and February 3-4 in Manchester.


Group Facilitation Methods

Introducing the foundations of the ToP approach, two powerful techniques for structuring effective conversations and building group consensus – 2 days.

ToP logo (289x120)I am a licensed provider and experienced lead trainer of this and other ICA:UK Technology of Participation (ToP) facilitation training courses – see how I work, and please contact me with any questions or for further details.

“I found Group Facilitation Methods both practical and participatory.  As tools the methods allow for different ways of seeing and thinking to be incorporated, and they also enable groups to reach informed consensus and decisions with relative ease. I have used them in a variety of contexts, and would recommend them to all group leaders and facilitators”. – Ruth Moore, Upper North Belfast Community Empowerment Programme

Who this course is for

The course is for all those who want to be able to engage people more effectively to build shared understanding and consensus, including team leaders and managers within organisations, those working with Boards, management teams, partnerships and external stakeholders, youth and community workers and independent facilitators. This course has no pre-requisite, but is the pre-requisite for Participatory Strategic Planning. It is recommended both to newcomers to facilitation, and to experienced facilitators who are new to our approach.

Questions this course answers

“How can I have more purposeful & productive conversations, bring out the wisdom of a group, encourage feedback between people, and reach shared awareness in meetings? How can I generate and weave together a diverse range of ideas, develop creative solutions and build a group consensus?”

This course provides a structured introduction to the ToP Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods, which form the foundations of the ToP Action Planning method, Participatory Strategic Planning and other applications.

What you will gain

By the end of the course, you will

  • be able to identify when and how to use the Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods
  • have gained confidence in the use of these methods
  • have recognised and explored elements of participation, creativity, teamwork and action
  • have built links with others to promote future collaboration and support in the use of the methods

ToP Focused Conversation methodThe Focused Conversation method provides a structured, four-level process for effective communication which ensures that everyone in a group has the opportunity to participate.

ToP Consensus Workshop method overviewThe Consensus Workshop method is a five stage process thatenables a facilitator to draw out and weave together everybody’s wisdom into a clear and practical consensus.

These methods have been featured in publications including:

Learning style

The course presents the two methods in a practical and participatory way. Each method is first demonstrated, then analysed and discussed, and then practiced in supportive small groups with guided reflection & feedback. Finally, participants plan how they will apply each method in their own situations.

What do participants say about this course?

93% of GFM participants rated the course 8/10 or higher. Comments from participants’ end-of-course evaluations included:

  • brilliant – a must-do if you want better, more effective meetings
  • provides two practical, easy-to-use methods to discover deep insights from diverse groups – useful tools for any group, organisation or community
  • benefits for experienced facilitator and novice alike
  • worth every penny – excellent content & great presentation

For further details

Please contact me with any questions or for further details – including how to commission a tailored course for your group and availability of scheduled public courses, in the UK and worldwide. See also ToP facilitation training at your place – and free places for you!

A Quaker Congo partnership, for peace and development in Eastern DRC

This piece ‘from the archive’ was first published in the June 2008 newsletter of the Manchester & Warrington Area Quaker Meeting. I had just returned from a partnership project visit to Eastern DRC on behalf of Cambridge and Manchester Quakers – see also Building Links with Congo YM in The Friend.

I subsequently joined the committee of Quaker Congo Partnership, which is now an independent UK charity (see QCP March 2015 newsletter), and still working in partnership with local Quakers and others for peace and development in Eastern DRC.


Students of the Friends Peace Centre literacy class, UviraI was born and brought up a Quaker, in Edinburgh and Cambridge, and transferred my membership to Mount Street meeting when I moved to Manchester in 1995. Although I have seldom attended meeting since my teenage years in the early 1980s, I didn’t want to let my membership lapse, so I am grateful to have been accepted by the meeting as a non-attender all these years.

What finally prompted me to show my face among Friends again was my recent trip to visit Quakers in Eastern Congo (DRC) in February, on behalf of Cambridgeshire Area Meeting.  My mother Janet Gilbraith is active in their “Congo Group”, through which the meeting has been supporting the work of Congo Yearly Meeting (CEEACO, the Community of Evangelical Churches of Friends in the Congo) for several years.

On the strength of my many years of experience working in international development, including some experience of Africa, and in spite of my rather limited recent involvement with Friends, I was regarded as a suitable companion to Hazel Shellens of Huntingdon Local Meeting for a one week visit.  Our aims were to demonstrate to Congo Friends that Friends here are alongside them, and to assess how best we might be able to help them in the future, both financially and otherwise.

Manchester Friends may remember Mkoko Boseka of CEEACO from his several weeks in Manchester last summer, after attending the Friends World Triennial in Dublin.  He had spent time with Cambridge Friends on the same visit.  After learning that Manchester Friends also had a connection with Mkoko and CEEACO, and a wider interest in the Congo as well, I made myself known and invited Manchester Friends to also take advantage of the trip to develop their links with CEEACO as well.

CEEACO’s Trauma Clinic and Peace Garden is to be built on the lake shore at Abeka - there is already a sign at the main roadI shall not describe our trip here in any detail, or what we saw and learned of CEEACO.  Some of you may have attended the slide show I presented at Mount Street in March, and whether you did or not, you can view it yourself online – 89 photos with captions, plus links to video clips and other sites. To do so, point your browser at http://www.flickr.com/photos/24338406@N05 or go to www.flickr.com and search for “CEEACO2008” (in “People”).  A few of the photos are reprinted here, and I would be happy to deliver the slideshow in person again for other groups – please get in touch to let me know.

Also, I shall not explain here in any detail what I have learned about the country and the region – except that it has suffered as many as 5.4 million deaths in the recent wars since 1996, although these barely registered in the media or public consciousness in the West; and an unparalleled history of brutal exploitation of its people and its wealth of natural resources by outside forces, both during and since Colonial times.  Since I first began to read, feeling quite ignorant of the country and the region, to help me decide whether to take up the opportunity of visiting the Congo, I became quite obsessed and read over a dozen books in a few months – not to mention a number of reports and other publications on the invaluable online resource Relief Web.  For those who are interested in finding out more, I have listed the books that I found helpful.

I shall say here, however, that we were very well looked after, the trip went smoothly, and it served our aims well – and I returned inspired by the people I had met and by what I had seen and learned, and enthused to encourage Manchester and other Friends to join with Cambridge Area Meeting in expanding and extending their support to CEEACO.  I was happy to be able to deliver greetings, as well as a laptop computer for use at the Friends Peace Centre in Uvira, from Manchester Area Meeting – and also to deliver greetings and thanks from CEEACO to Manchester AM in return.

Hazel with members of the Women's Yearly meeting, in front of the Abeka field cultivated by widows as an income generating activityBased on what we saw and learned, and on the clear requests and priorities of Congo Friends, Hazel and I have recommended to Cambridge AM the outline of a 3-year partnership agreement with CEEACO for ongoing support for their work in Abeka  – in particular the community hospital, the Trauma Clinic Peace Garden project, and a women’s revolving loan fund.  This would entail a commitment to substantially increased financial support to CEEACO, while still sufficiently modest to be within their and our capacity to manage it effectively.  We have included in our recommendation that we take advantage of the opportunity for experienced local support and monitoring by CAPI, a Kenya-based international NGO with long experience of working with CEEACO on behalf of Quaker Service Norway.

We hope that Cambridge AM will decide to commit to financing at least part of the budget from existing funds, but additional contributions from Manchester and/or other meetings, and additional fundraising, will certainly be needed.

The intent is to provide a framework within which British Friends may commit their support collectively, in such a way that CEEACO can plan ahead and develop an effective and focused single working partnership, rather than dealing with a variety of disparate small-scale contributions.  However we have already heard from Friends as far afield as New Zealand that they may wish to contribute their support as well, so we hope we may make room for all!

CEEACO are also keen to host volunteers with appropriate skills and experience, to support them there in practical ways, so we will also be looking at ways that we can support that.

Martin with the Abeka tree planting teamManchester AM has since nominated Margaret Gregory, Elizabeth Coleman, Chris Green, Jaques Kanda and myself to form a Manchester “Congo Group”.  We will be meeting in June for the first time, to consider how we might best support Manchester Friends in acting on their concern for the Congo – and, in particular, to respond to the invitation from Cambridge Friends to join them in their proposed partnership with CEEACO.

If you are interested in finding out more, or getting involved, please do get in touch with me, or with any of us.  Please also make a regular donation toward Manchester AM’s new Congo fund, by means of the annual schedule, or by contacting the Treasurer. Please also come along to the annual garden party at Sale Local Meeting on Saturday June 21st, where I and others of the new Congo group will be there to bring a Congo theme to the event, and to provide opportunities for Friends to find out more and lend their support!

Team-building and planning with EMERGE Manchester

This piece ‘from the archive’ was first published in ICA:UK Network News #5, January 1998. It was one of my first client contracts as a freelancer and ICA:UK Associate (the first time, before I was an ICA:UK employee).

It was early days also for Emerge,then just newly registered as a company and with an all-volunteer team. EMERGE now provides a full range of waste, recycling and confidential shredding services to businesses and schools, and promotes sustainable resource management by offering advice, information and educational services within the wider community.


Emerge

Emerge (East Manchester Environment and Resources Group) is a local community-based initiative operating in Manchester since early 1996 and involving a pilot door-to-door recycling scheme and a complementary arts and education programme.  Through a referral from Manchester LETS, I was invited to help facilitate a team-building and planning weekend for around 20 Emerge volunteers and associates, November 21-23.  The fee was negotiated in sterling and Bobbins (local currency).

In a couple of preparatory meetings in Manchester we agreed a schedule for the weekend that included a number of sessions to be facilitated by me using ToP methods, and sessions led by other guest speakers and facilitators, with me co-ordinating the overall event.  When the weekend came, we all descended by minibus on the venue, Stanford Hall Co-operative College near Loughborough – a beautiful stately home with woods and a lake, kindly donated by the Co-operative Bank and well worth returning to for future ICA events!

The weekend opened with introductions, a review of the group’s anticipations and the schedule for the weekend, and then a Wall of Wonder looking at key events of the period 1982-2007 at the levels of the world, the community recycling movement and the individual.  The “Evolution of Consciousness’, as the group titled this journey, progressed through periods of Consumerism, Realisation and Action to culminate in Sustainability by 2007 – an optimistic start to the weekend!

Saturday morning’s presentations from Urban Mines and the Community Recycling Network were followed in the afternoon by an outdoor team-building exercise.  Modifying the indoor Tower Game I learned in ICA Egypt’s annual International Development Practitioner’s  Exchange Programme, I had three teams gather organic matter from the nearby woods and each build a tower to be judged on the basis of height, strength and beauty.  The teams took their tasks quite seriously and produced some fantastic structures, and seemed to have lots of fun in the process.

Although participants were all involved in some way or another in the daily work of Emerge, many had not met or worked much together, so this was an important part of the weekend.  This was followed by a presentation from Emerge’s Arts & Education team and, after dinner, by a pub quiz.

Sunday was given over entirely to a six-month planning session using the ToP Action Planning method, the project being defined as – “a demonstration community recycling project, including education and awareness raising, to impact Greater Manchester’s waste disposal policy toward ‘Reduce Reuse Recycle’”.  Although the session took half as long again as I had anticipated, finally finishing around 4pm, the group’s energy was sustained throughout and they came away committed to a six month calendar of tasks assigned to new work teams and including regular follow-up sessions – and a long-term Participatory Strategic Planning to look at the next 3-5 years.

Matthew Adams of Emerge writes:

“Our first excursion as a group was a resounding success.  All in all we came away feeling more positive, more organised, with a better idea of where we are heading, and with realistic targets that can be achieved. Oh, and it was a good laugh as well!  Thanks to all those who helped out, including Martin from ICA – lets hope we can keep the momentum up, and see a cleaner brighter future around the corner”

Four members of Emerge subsequently attended the January Group Facilitation Methods course in Manchester.

‘Blueprint’ and ‘process’ approaches to planning rural development initiatives

This essay ‘from the archive’ was written for my 1997 MA (Econ) Development Administration and Management at the Institute of Development Policy and Management (IDPM) of the University of Manchester.

Introduction

This essay will explore a number of approaches to rural development and its planning, with reference to the widely contrasted notions of ‘blueprint’ and ‘process’.  It will argue that, while process approaches share an appreciation of the uncertainty surrounding the development process that distinguishes them from blueprint approaches, process approaches themselves differ fundamentally in the extent to which they also embrace uncertainty with regard to the goals of development.  Those that at least implicitly share the blueprint approach’s economistic assumption of development goals as fixed and certain will be termed ‘instrumental process’ approaches.  Those that adopt an empowerment perspective, and so accept the goals of development to be intrinsically variable and uncertain, will be termed ‘teleological process’ approaches.

It will be argued that, while process approaches may and indeed have been synthesized with blueprint approaches, the extent to which a synthesis, or indeed any approach, may be considered effective can only be assessed in the context of its underlying assumptions regarding the goals of development.  Where the goal is empowerment for the increased well-being of the rural poor as defined by themselves, and so intrinsically variable and uncertain, no economic measure of effectiveness can substitute for a wholly participative teleological process approach in which ends as well as means are defined and redefined through experimentation and learning with the poor themselves.  Furthermore, given the political will, the accountability constraints of governments and donors that have been used to explain their widespread reliance on economistic approaches to date need not preclude such an empowerment-oriented approach.

The blueprint and process approaches will be introduced with reference to some of the writers who have contrasted them, and their assumptions relating to uncertainty surrounding the development process will be identified as a key factor by which they may be distinguished. The process approaches of Korten (1980) and Rondinelli (1993) will be contrasted in relation to their assumptions regarding the goals of development, and identified as teleological and instrumental respectively.  An explicit attempt to synthesize blueprint and process, Brinkerhoff & Ingle’s (1989) ‘structured flexibility’ approach, will be introduced. It will be argued that, in common with blueprint and instrumental process approaches, its effectiveness in empowerment terms cannot compare with that of a teleological process approach.  A case study of integrated rural development in Ethiopia will be presented to illustrate the feasibility of a truly participatory teleological process approach, even in the context of official development assistance.

Blueprint and process contrasted

The dominant approach to rural development planning of the early growth-oriented national development strategies became known as the ‘blueprint’ approach to reflect its emphasis on the project preparation process as they key to successful intervention.  According to Gittinger’s 1982 text on agricultural project planning:

“Perhaps the most difficult single problem confronting agricultural administrators in developing countries is implementing development programmes.  Much of this can be traced to poor project preparation” (Gittinger 1982, 3).

Moris has likened this preparation to an architect preparing his blueprint, to “generate specifications for components and to map their points of linkage into a common structure” (Moris 1990, 28).  Once the blueprint is accepted, producers of the various components are expected make their respective contributions accordingly, the plan serving effectively as a substitute for management.  As the focus of national development strategies shifted in the 1970s to redistribution and rural poverty alleviation, this blueprint approach was identified as an impediment to effective rural development, and contrasted with an alternative ‘process’ approach that was found to be characteristic of more effective interventions.  Sweet and Weisel first drew this distinction in their 1979 study of a 1973 review of 36 field programmes (Moris 1990, 27).

Korten has characterized the blueprint approach by inter alia its emphasis on careful and detailed pre-planning, and its conceptual and actual separation of planning from implementation.  He underlines the inappropriateness of such an approach to the task of rural development:

“Where knowledge is nearly non-existent, the blueprint approach calls for behaving as if knowledge were nearly perfect…  Where the need is for a close integration of knowledge building, decision-making and action-taking roles, it sharply differentiates the functions and even the institutional locations of the researcher, the planner and the administrator” (Korten 1980, 497).

Rondinelli has also underlined the inappropriateness of the assumptions of the blueprint approach that exhaustive analysis will aid the understanding of complex problems, and that there will be a direct relationship between government policy, action and outcomes (Rondinelli 1993, 3).  In fact, according to Long and Van der Ploeg, a major source of the uncertainty inherent in the development process is the human agency of the various social actors involved.  They have described the mechanistic assumptions of causality inherent in the blueprint model as:

“a gross over-simplification of a much more complicated set of processes which involves the reinterpretation or transformation of policy during the implementation process” (Long & Van der Ploeg 1989, 227).

Thus, the assumption of the blueprint approach that uncertainty can be reduced by gathering more data and expanding the project design phase fails to recognize, as Rondinelli observes, that many constraints remain hidden until implementation (Rondinelli 1993, 17).

In order to deduce elements of approaches that work in rural development, Korten studied the cases of five Asian ‘success stories’ of rural development intervention.  From the wide variation in programme and organizational variables evident among the cases, he concluded that the determinants of the programmes’ success were to be found not in their programme or organizational content, but in the process by which these had developed:

“Each project was successful because it had worked out a programme model responsive to the beneficiary needs at a particular time and place and each had built a strong organization capable of making the programme work” (Korten 1980, 496).

He describes this as a process of achieving ‘fit’ between task, context and organizational variables, such that the organization’s distinctive competence fits the programme’s task requirements, the programme outputs fit the beneficiary needs, and the organizational decision-making process fits the beneficiaries’ means of expressing their needs.  He refers to this bottom-up process of programme and organizational development as a ‘learning process approach’ observing that, rather than blueprints, leadership and teamwork were the key elements of these successes – they were not planned and implemented but rather evolved through a process of learning in which programme personnel and villagers worked together to create both the programmes and organizations that effectively responded to beneficiary needs.

Korten describes an idealized representation of this learning process as comprising three successive stages: ‘learning to be effective’, achieving a good fit between beneficiaries, programme and organization; ‘learning to be efficient’, reducing the ratio of input requirements to output; and ‘learning to expand’.  Rondinelli advocates an incremental process of four stages of project development: experimental projects of a moderate scale, and flexibly implemented, for when problems and conditions are unknown; pilot projects, for when objectives have been well-defined, to test the results of the experiments under various conditions and to determine their relevance, transferability and acceptability; demonstration projects to exhibit the effectiveness and increase the acceptability of the project; and replication projects to test full scale production technology (Rondinelli 1993, 24-26).  Both emphasize the integration of planning and management in an iterative process of learning and capacity building to achieve developmental goals in conditions of change and uncertainty.

Empowerment and the uncertainty of goals

The broad consensus among advocates of process approaches that their flexibility and learning orientation are keys to greater effectiveness in achieving development goals in conditions of change and uncertainty conceals fundamental differences in their conceptions of the nature of those goals against which effectiveness is to be measured.  Rondinelli is explicit in his expression of an orthodox economistic conception of development goals:

“the essence of development is expansion of participation in economic activities through the creation of social and economic systems that draw large numbers of people into processes of production, exchange, and consumption” (Rondinelli 1978, cited Rondinelli 1993, viii).

As indicated by the title of his book ‘Development Projects as Policy Experiments’, the principal intended agents of his process approach, and concomitant learning and capacity building, are the official development administrations of governments and international assistance agencies.  The goals of development are understood as essentially economic and unproblematic, and the means of their accomplishment essentially a problem of technique.  In this his process approach concurs with the blueprint approach, or what Hulme has called the orthodox approach, where rural development interventions are viewed as “activities… in pursuit of the achievement of a known and stated objective or set of objectives” (Hulme 1994, 213).  Although he criticizes the quantitative methods of the orthodox blueprint approach as “ineffective precisely because they tried to clarify and make technical those issues that were inherently complex and political” (ibid., 19), his process approach, regarding projects as social experiments to reduce uncertainties and unknowns, is essentially a technical solution to the problem of achieving a known goal.  Thus, Rondinelli’s may be identified as an ‘instrumental process’ approach.

Korten’s approach, in contrast, centres on community organizations as the principal agent of a learning process approach with empowerment as its goal.  His 1980 article, aptly entitled ‘Community Organization and Rural Development: A Learning Process Approach’, addresses the question of how to foster

“effective community controlled social organizations as important if not essential instruments… [for] the rural poor… to give meaningful expression to their views, mobilize their own resources in self-help action, and enforce their demands on the broader national political and economic systems’ (Korten 1980, 480).

Chambers more explicitly addresses the problematic nature of such a development goal in his 1993 call for a ‘new professionalism’ with Korten’s learning process approach at its core.  He writes that “development is not movement towards a fixed goal but continuous adaptation to maximize well-being in changing conditions”, and its goal “is not growth as defined by normal professionals, but well-being as defined by the poor for themselves” (Chambers 1993, 10).  Similarly, Uphoff  writes of Korten’s learning process approach that “it presumes that neither the ends nor the means of… interventions can be fully known in advance, and that understanding and consensus on them must be built up through practical experience” (Uphoff 1993, 12).  Thus, Korten’s may be identified as a teleological process approach.

From such an empowerment perspective, the critical determinant of the effectiveness of a rural development initiative will not be the extent to which the route of the journey is pre-planned, or even the extent to which its destination is decided in advance.  Indeed, some goal setting and pre-planning may be a pre-requisite of any purposeful action.  More important will be who participates in the planning and deciding, and how responsive they are to the changing aspirations of beneficiaries as well as unforeseen obstacles and opportunities along the way.  While Korten’s process approach puts the self-expressed needs of the rural poor firmly at the centre, shaping both programme and organizational variables, participation of beneficiaries in Rondinelli’s approach is essentially instrumental and extractive, and any empowerment incidental.

Rondinelli calls for the reorientation of official development administrations “to cope more effectively with the inevitable uncertainty and complexity of the development process” (Rondinelli 1993, 5), and regards the only certainty as “that the course of development is uncertain” (ibid., 156).  Korten in contrast regards effectiveness as a product of “building a supporting organization around the requirements of the programme, or… adapting the capabilities of an existing organization to fit those requirements” (Korten 1980, 497), while the programme evolves to fit beneficiaries’ needs.  While Rondinelli advocates the capacity building, and integration of the planning and management functions, of official development administrations, Korten advocates the capacity building of local community-based organizations, and their full participation in an integrated learning approach to planning and management.

Synthesized approaches and structured flexibility

A number of authors have written of the possibility of synthesizing blueprint and process approaches.  Scoones, for example, writes that “these two options are obviously not mutually exclusive” (Scoones 1994, 6), and Chambers notes that, “although they are presented… as dichotomies, the blueprint and learning process approaches can be and have been combined in many ways” (Chambers 1993, 84).  He cites the ODA’s ‘planning by successive approximation’, as one example, and the ‘structured flexibility approach’ as another (ibid.).

As articulated by Brinkerhoff and Ingle (1989), the structured flexibility approach is an explicit effort to integrate the blueprint and process approaches in order to overcome “the lack of fit between the precepts of the process model and the current modalities by which the vast bulk of international development assistance is provided”, which have “restricted its use and potential for expansion” (Brinkerhoff & Ingle 1989, 489).  They argue that, despite its weaknesses in terms of performance, a blueprint approach is widely favoured over the process approach for its control and specificity, because donor accountability requirements serve as a disincentive for experimentation, and because political concerns over the balance of power lead decision-makers to fear the empowerment potential of the process model.

The structured flexibility model retains the blueprint orientation to analysis, planning and specificity, but applies its analytical tools, in a participatory, process mode, to “facilitate people’s accurate assessment of opportunities and choices, and the potential actions based upon them, within a structured framework that encourages feedback and learning” (Brinkerhoff & Ingle 1989, 490). The capacity-building goal of the process model is complemented by short term product or service delivery targets, satisfying accountability requirements for measurable delivery while building long-term capacity by developing problem-solving skills in addressing concrete immediate needs:

“Management by structured flexibility… means repeating the action-research cycle of reconnaissance, design, implementation, and learning with the aim of generating initial performance gains while building the indigenous capacity required for sustainability and replicability” (Brinkerhoff & Ingle 1989, 493).

Brinkerhoff and Ingle offer three case studies of the structured flexibility approach in action to illustrate its effectiveness .  A brief review of these reveals their assumptions of certainty regarding their goals.  In all three cases, programmes and organizations had been created by governments and aid agencies, and their effectiveness has been assessed in relation to goals that had been defined top-down, in advance and assumed unproblematic.  In the case of the Farming Systems Research and Development project of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), for example, CARDI had been established by member states of the Commonwealth Caribbean Community, and the project was designed by ‘key actors’ from USAID and CARDI.  “Participation was expanded to include farmer representatives” only after the goals of “building CARDI’s institutional capacity plus production of specific technical outputs over the 5-year life of the project” had been defined (Brinkerhoff and Ingle 1989, 498).  An evaluation report is cited as concluding that “the project is making good progress toward its objectives”, including “realization of the End of Project Status” (ibid.).

In terms of Korten’s concept of fit, CARDI’s effectiveness relates to the fit achieved between the organization’s competence and the programme’s requirements.  However, the fit between its decision-making process and the beneficiaries’ means of expressing their needs, and between those needs and the programme’s outputs, have been assumed a priori as unproblematic.  While beneficiaries may participate in the learning process of programme management, they have been excluded from the fundamental stage of project identification.  Due to its responsiveness to uncertainty and change, the structured flexibility approach may indeed have been more effective in achieving the programme’s goals than a blueprint approach would have been.  To the extent that USAID’s accountability requirements were better satisfied, it may have been a more effective means of attracting finance than Rondinelli’s process approach.  It cannot, however, be expected to have been as effective from an empowerment perspective as had a programme and organization “emerged out of a learning process in which villagers and programme personnel shared their knowledge and resources to create a programme which achieved a fit between needs and capacities of the beneficiaries and those of the outsiders who were providing assistance” (Korten 1980, 497).

It has been argued that full empowerment requires not only the ‘power to’ prevail in decisions affecting one’s interests, but also ‘power over’ defining the agenda of decisionable issues, and ‘power within’ to transcend conventional ways by which one’s interests are perceived and known (Kabeer 1994, 224-7).  This latter element, the ‘power over’, is irreducibly subjective and therefore cannot be achieved except through experiential recognition of strategic as well as practical needs and interests.  From such a perspective, while empowerment may be facilitated through intervention, it must ultimately be self-generated.  Any approach to planning rural development interventions, be it blueprint, process or a synthesis, in which participation is not central even to project identification, will be relatively ineffective from such a perspective.

The South Wollo Community Empowerment Programme

Chambers has written that: “the essence of a good learning project is good staff put in the field and sustained for periods of months or, more likely, years, exploring and learning from and with the local people and trying to see how better they can gain what they want and need”  (Chambers 1993, 86).

Brinkerhoff and Ingle’s rationale for seeking a middle-ground between blueprint and learning process approaches is that the former is ill-suited to the complexity and uncertainty of development, while the latter is ill-suited to the accountability requirements of international assistance bureaucracies.  Their response, adapting the process approach to bureaucracy, fails to address the root of the problem – that ‘development’ agencies remain primarily accountable to their financiers and not their beneficiaries.  This accountability structure represents a greater impediment to effective empowerment than any rural development planning or management procedure.

One example of bureaucracies transcending this accountability constraint, the case of a teleological process approach being adopted by a national government bureaucracy in partnership with an official donor agency, is offered by Bergdall (1995).  He writes that in 1993 the Swedish and Ethiopian governments agreed to collaborate on a long term integrated rural development programme in South Wollo Zone of Ethiopia, and selected four districts as pilot areas.  Convinced that the programme should be built from the bottom-up, based on beneficiaries’ own perceptions of their development needs, rather than designed as a blueprint by professional planners, the project Steering Committee of Zonal officials opted for a process approach.  The intention was that a first phase, involving Community Participation Workshops (CPWs) in 24 sample areas of the four districts, would generate the community needs data to be input to a more conventional programme in Phase II, involving various ministries in typical sectoral activities.
Expatriate specialists in community participation were contracted to help design the CPWs and train the facilitators, in recognition of the steering committee’s lack of practical experience in such an approach.  Traditional community self-help associations called kires were chosen as the organizational unit for the CPWs, in preference to the governmental Peasant Associations that tended to be larger, more political, and still strongly associated with earlier centrally planned development efforts involving coerced mobilization of labour.  Twenty-two staff from the Departments of Health, Education, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Planning were assigned as facilitators for a six-month period of intensive field work.  They were hosted by villagers in their homes, and traveled by foot, mule and public transportation.

Representative groups of men, women and youth were included in each CPW.  The workshops had three main objectives:

  • “to provide information about local perceptions of development needs and priorities as a basis for defining sectoral projects that could be implemented by the line ministries…
  • to provide experience for the development of future community participation strategies… [and]
  • to provide an opportunity for people in a kire to think about ways of solving their own problems and to regain the initiative for their own development, thereby building a foundation for sustainable development in the long term future” (Bergdall 1995, 16).

During the workshops, each kire identified and prioritized what they considered to be their most important development needs, and drew up an action plan for addressing the top priority need through their own efforts, and using local resources.

The facilitators returned to each kire after two to three months to review progress and assist in planning new initiatives.  The results of the local initiatives found during these visits led to a reconsideration of the earlier plan for Phase II.  Bergdall cites examples of kires whose accomplishments exceeded their action plans, had  involved broad participation of the community residents and support from previously ‘negligent’ Peasant Associations, and had instilled renewed pride and self-confidence in the communities and their capacities to accomplish projects for their own benefit.  Instead of going ahead with the centralized planning of conventional sectoral programmes for line ministry implementation, the Steering Committee decided to launch a process-oriented Community Empowerment Programme with the objective “to build the capacity of rural communities to initiate and sustain their own development activities” (Bergdall 1995, 15).

In order to expand the impact of the programme, the Committee will seek to build on the experience of bottom-up development activity based on local initiative by integrating additional support components.  These may include: provision of technical assistance to the local communities; facilitating community access to additional external resources; ensuring effective collaboration of government, NGO and private sector; adaptation of existing extension services to support the bottom-up approach; and fostering wider institutional linkages (Bergdall 1995, 24).  Bergdall writes that diverse solutions to these issues will be allowed to evolve over time, with experimentation, reflection and learning as key operative guidelines.

Conclusion

Any discussion of effectiveness is meaningless except in relation to a goal or set of goals.  What Hulme (1994) has called orthodox models of planning and managing rural development interventions are based on economistic assumptions of utility and welfare, from which are derived the certain and known economic goals of development action. This assumed certainty of goals is a feature that Rondinelli’s process approach and Brinkerhoff and Ingle’s Structured Flexibility Approach share with the conventional blueprint model.  What Hulme has called political models recognize the role of power imbalances and conflicts of interest in the reality of development planning and management.  Neither the choice of planning approach nor its outcome can be fully explained except in its political context.

As Hulme has observed, in the search for improved project methodologies,

“it is not simply a question of blueprint versus process… but a question of which form of blueprint or process, in which circumstances, and even of what means may be used to integrate blueprint and process approaches”  (Hulme 1994, 230)

Perhaps most importantly, the question must be raised, ‘for what purpose?’  Certainly there may be projects and circumstances for which a blueprint or synthesized approach may be well suited – for example, “the construction of a large scale, physical infrastructure where the task is well defined, the outcomes terminal, the environment stable and the costs predictable” (Korten 1980, 497), or solving developing countries’ problems of “economic stagnation and poor productivity, resource gaps and debt burdens… etc.” (Brinkerhoff & Ingle 1989, 487).  As Hulme & Limaoco have observed, however,

“to empower beneficiaries to be their own agents of development is more significant than any number of roads built, and subsequently not maintained” (Hulme and Limcaoco 1991, 232).

Given the remarkable record of economic development in generating and exacerbating rural poverty on a global scale, such empowerment is likely to also be more significant to the poor than any improvement in economic indices.  Empowerment is an inescapably political process, however, and those who enjoy power and embrace a narrow economistic conception of their own welfare, including governments, official aid agencies and the institutions and people to whom they are accountable, may be expected to resist it.  That the Community Empowerment Programme of South Wollo has emerged from within official aid bureaucracy may be regarded as a breakthrough.  Only time will tell to what extent the programme may overcome potential political constraints to empowering the rural poor of South Wollo, but those who truly seek to serve the interests of the rural poor would do well to start similarly by adapting their organizations and programmes to their beneficiaries’ self-expressed needs.


References

Bergdall, T (1995) “…and miles to go before we sleep: closing the rhetorical gap in South Wollo, Ethiopia” in Forests Trees and People no. 26/27, 17-24

Brinkerhoff, DW & Ingle, MD (1989) “Integrating blueprint and process: a structured flexibility approach to development management” in Public Administration and Development 9, 487-503

Chambers, R (1993) Challenging the Professions IT Publications, London

Gittinger, J (1982) Economic Appraisal of Agricultural Projects

Hulme, D (1994) “Projects, Politics and Professionals: Alternative approaches for project identification and project planning” in Agricultural Systems 47, 211-233

Hulme, D & Limcaoco, J (1991) “Planning integrated rural development projects in the Philippines: from blueprint to process?” in Project Appraisal 6/4, 223-233

Long, N & Van der Ploeg, JD (1989) “Demythologizing planned intervention: an actor perspective” in Sociologia Ruralis XXIX – 3/4, 226-249

Kabeer, N (1994) Revered Realities: Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought Verso, London

Korten, DC (1980) “Community Organization and Rural Development: A Learning Process Approach” in Public Administration Review September/October 1980, 480-511
Moris, J (1990) What organization theory has to offer third world agricultural managers, mimeo, IDPM library

Rondinelli, D (1993) Development Projects As Policy Experiments Routledge, London

Scoones, I (1995) “New Directions in Pastoral Development in Africa” in Scoones, I (Ed.) Living With Uncertainty IT Publications, London

Uphoff, N (1993) Learning From Gal Oya Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY


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Facilitation case study: Compact Awareness Workshops with Manchester City Council

This ToP facilitation case study from the archive was first written for and published in 2008 by ICA:UK.

Context

Manchester CompactThe Compact is an agreement between public bodies and the voluntary and community sector (VCS) setting out how they relate to each other. It is the framework for working together in a spirit of trust and respect and provides the basis to address many important issues. The government is encouraging all councils and voluntary and community sectors to form a Compact together.” – Manchester City Council.

The Manchester Compact was launched in September 2003, but it was felt that more could be done to raise awareness and understanding of it and promote its use.  A summary booklet was being prepared, intended to help to raise awareness and refer readers to the Compact itself.  However, experience of discussing the Compact with local voluntary groups and Council officers directly had suggested that a more effective means might be to work with VCS infrastructure workers and other intermediaries to support and encourage them to raise awareness and promote the use of the Compact through their work.

The Compact Task Group, including representatives of Manchester City Council and the voluntary and community sector in the city, proposed the development of a tailored half-day facilitated workshop for council officers and VCS staff, based around the use of scenarios, to be repeated around the city.

As a result, ICA:UK was approached by Manchester City Council in August 2006 to design and facilitate a series of such workshops.  We had previously worked with the council on a number of facilitated processes, including Participatory Strategic Planning events with the Voluntary Sector Policy & Grants Team and with the Area Co-ordination team.

The aims of the workshops were agreed to be as follows:

  1. for participants from support services of both the VCS and the council to increase their awareness and understanding of how the Compact can valuably be used, and their confidence and commitment to help to raise the awareness and understanding of others
  2. to begin to develop a documentary resource on how the Compact can be used
  3. for participants from the VCS and the council to better appreciate each others’ perspectives on the issues raised, and to promote a sense of collaboration among all towards the shared objective of improving services for Manchester residents.

Process

A half-day session was designed to meet the aims above, building on a number of scenarios drafted by the Compact Task Group to prompt discussion and learning on possible uses of the Compact. The process was highly participatory, and involved a combination of working in small groups and with the whole group together.

The key elements of the sessions were:

  • Opening, introductions and overview
  • Discussion – our experience of the Compact, its relevance and its use
  • Scenario exercise – creative small group work  and brief plenary reports
  • Reflection, next steps, evaluation and close
  • Lunch and informal networking

Following an initial series of three workshops from October-December 2006, a further series of three workshops were delivered in May and June 2007. Each workshop was attended by mixed groups of up to 20 participants from across the council and the VCS, usually no more than 2 or 3 from each team or organisation.

Outputs & feedback

Each workshop was documented thoroughly, including participants’ responses to the scenarios, to begin to develop a resource for others on how to use the Compact.

Also documented were participants’ names and roles, their initial questions or concerns about the Compact, common themes drawn from their reflection on the exercise, and their detailed feedback on the workshop from their closing evaluation forms.

The workshops were well received, with average participant satisfaction ratings of up to 7.8 out of 10. Participants’ feedback included:

  • [a highlight was] the mix of people from both council and voluntary sector, and… hearing all the represented groups agreeing and showing similar concerns
  • going through scenarios was really useful for putting the Compact into practice
  • my better understanding of the document and its application has increased my confidence
  • I now feel I can promote Compact as a positive tool to be used

Outcomes

Madeleine Rose, Programme Officer with the Voluntary Sector Policy and Grants Team of Manchester City Council, and the client for the workshops, wrote in February 2008:

“Manchester received a Compact Commendation for ‘Excellence in Communications’ from the Compact Commission at their annual meeting in December .  This was very much down to the success of the workshops.”

Following an enquiry to Manchester from the Rochdale Borough Compact Steering Group, the process was adapted and delivered for a series of four workshops in Rochdale in March and April 2008. Karen Salisbury of the group, which includes the Borough’s CVS, the PCT, the Centre of Diversity and the GM Fire and Rescue Service, as well as the council, wrote in May 2008:

“The Steering Group found the workshops a useful way of introducing and raising awareness of the Compact, and a good opportunity for people from different agencies and sectors to discuss the needs and views of each. We would certainly recommend the workshops to other local Compacts”.