ICAI Board report to the December General Assembly

strategic directionsThis short report to the upcoming  online  meetings of the ICAI General Assembly (GA) on 10 December was prepared to summarise the ICAI Board‘s activity since the last GA in July, relative to the 3 strategic directions of our 2015-16 strategy:

Fostering Global Connections & Collaboration to Support ICAs to Thrive

Support Peer-to-Peer Collaboration & Capacity Building

Facilitate Inclusive Global Communications

  • We have supported the Global Communications team to produce regular issues of Winds & Waves (W&W) magazine and the monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, and amplified distribution on social media
  • We have developed and launched a new website in WordPress and enabled member ICAs to post and update their own ICA Worldwide profiles and news updates – 11 ICA profiles updated to date, and W&W and Buzz updates cross-posted to the website
  • We have grown the ICAI presence on Facebook & Twitter and integrated them with the website
  • We have used the ICA Global channel on Youtube to host weekly online dialogues on development and disability, and  other topics

Gather, Synthesize & Share Info/Data of Value to our Membership

  • We have surveyed the global membership on their ToP facilitation capacity, use and aspirations for the Global ToP working group – 28 responses received to date

Develop & Strengthen Global Partnerships

  • We have agreed in principle to enter into a global partnership with IAF, and invited the Global ToP working group to respond to IAF’s draft Memorandum of Understanding

Boosting ICAI Resilience and Safeguarding the Integrity of our Global Community

Strengthen Organizational Resilience & Sustainability

  • We are developing more robust financial management and reporting systems – for this reason invoicing (and therefore payment) of member’s dues has been delayed, however all are now invoiced
  • We have received the investments that were left to ICAI as a legacy last year

Safeguard the Integrity of the Global Membership

  • We have welcomed 3 new members approved at July GA – SNF Uganda, ORP Korea & EPDI Nigeria
  • We have supported members & applicants for memberships to complete nomination papers for 2 new Associate members, NCOC Kenya & SCR Kenya
  • We have continued to work with prospective applicants in Russia (Moscow & Siberia), Poland, France & the Philippines
  • We have supported colleagues of NIRADO Nigeria and Itereleng Itereleng ICA South Africa working on renewing ICAs on those countries

Recognizing & Leveraging ICA Wisdom & Nurturing New Leadership

Recognize & Appreciate Contributions/ Achievements

  • We have regularly published available ICA news updates to new website

Strengthen and Share our Collective Wisdom & Approaches

Share & Nurture Global Leadership within the Membership

  • We have begun to prepare for ICAI Board nominations & elections process leading to election in June prior to face-to-face Board meeting at August Global Conference – may delay to election in December of Global Conference is postponed

ICA International Board update, August 2015

ICAI Global Buzz, June 2015
This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, August 2015.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs is a global community of non-profit organisations advancing human development worldwide. The ICAI network comprises member organisations and related groups in over 40 countries.  The role of ICA International is to facilitate peer-to-peer interchange, learning and mutual support across the network, for greater and deeper impact. ICA International maintains consultative status with UN ECOSOC, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO & FAO.


The main event for the ICAI Board last month was the July General Assembly. Final preparations were concluded at the online Board meeting of July 8. An online GA meeting in Adobe Connect was repeated twice for two time zones on July 21, and attended by 20 representatives of 13 member ICAs. Finally, an asynchronous online poll was held by surveymonkey over 10 days to July 31, to confirm and symbolise the consensus of the General Assembly.  Nineteen representatives of 25 statutory members cast their ICAs’ votes in the poll.

GA screenshotFour resolutions were passed by the General Assembly:

  • the 2015-16 ICAI Strategic Directions developed by the May Board meeting in Tanzania were approved
  • three new nominations for non-voting Associate membership were approved – welcome to ICAI to ORP of Korea, EPDI of Nigeria and SNCF of Uganda!
  • a recommendation of the ICAI Global Conference working group was accepted, to seek to work in partnership with Initiaitives of Change to convene a global conference next year at IofC’s centre at Caux, Switzerland
  • a new global policy on ICA’s Technology of Participation was adopted, following 18 months of collaborative development and consultation among ICAs worldwide, led by the global ToP policy working group.

The online meetings provided a final opportunity to discuss these resolutions before the online poll. They also provided an opportunity for the Board and our volunteer web developer Robert Liverpool to share the new draft ICAI website that is under development in WordPress.  We are now testing and populating the website with content with a view to launching it publicly later in the year.

wordpress screenshot

Raising our ambition – a face-to-face meeting of the virtual ICAI Board

#ICAIBoard, May 2015 on Storify

Last week provided a rare and invaluable opportunity for the largely virtual Board of ICA International to meet face-to-face, in conjunction with the East & Southern Africa ICA regional gathering held near Arusha in Tanzania.  Click on the image above for the story of our meeting on Storify, featuring the real-time updates, photos and tweets that we shared during the week.

We travelled for up to 39 hours to be hosted in Tanzania, from Tokyo, Guatemala, Toronto, Chicago, London, Kiev and Lome. I am grateful to Charles Luoga of ICA Tanzania for hosting us and to Seva Gandhi of ICA USA for her logistical support, and to all involved for giving so generously of their time and energy, in spite of the long journeys.

We had last met face-to-face as a Board when three of us were about to begin our terms, in conjunction with the 8th ICAI Global Conference on Human Development in Kathmandu in late 2012. With the other five having just joined the Board from this year, and with some of us having never yet met each other in person, we felt it essential to make the effort to meet – notwithstanding the significant cost of time and money that would be required for what is a largely volunteer-driven network. I think that that investment will prove to be richly rewarded, and I hope our members will agree – I trust that they will be delighted that the meeting kept well within our tight budget as well!

Manyara National Park, TanzaniaWe met for four days, at a safari lodge near the Manyara National Park. On the fifth day we visited the park, and on the sixth we joined the first day of the regional gathering. That gathering continues to the end of this week, with four of us still present there.  We also were able to see something of the town of Mto Wa Mbu, and the nearby children’s home initiated and supported by ICA Tanzania.

Our aims for the meeting were to get to know each other, and to build team spirit and commitment; to broaden and deepen our shared understanding of ICA and ICAI; to agree strategy and plans for how we will work together as the ICAI Board for 2015-16; and to meet and learn about ICA Tanzania and the ICAs of the region. We also aimed to engage with the global ICA network remotely as we worked during the week, including by meeting virtually with our global communications teams and volunteer web developer to plan for implementation of the new ICAI website that we are developing.

Lisseth Lorenzo of ICA Guatemala in ContradictionsWe applied ICA’s ToP Participatory Strategic Planning process and the four levels of ORID to structure the week, and we shared the facilitation of the sessions. Day 1 was all about sharing Objective level data. We used the Historical Scan method to plot a shared history of ICA and ICAI, and then we reviewed the ‘State of the World’ of our membership by continent, our global governance and finances, and then the global ICA mission & values and the ICAI vision and ‘peer-to-peer’ approach articulated by the ICAI General Assembly in 2010.

Seva Gandhi of ICA USA leads Strategic DirectionsThe following three days were focused on articulating the Contradictions to that Vision (Reflective level) and developing Strategic Directions (Interpretive level) and Implementation plans (Decisional level) by which to address them. We confirmed our Board roles and reviewed our Board role descriptions as a prelude to implementation planning.

A highlight for me was the storytelling icebreaker that we invented at the start of the meeting, and returned to again and again – one of us would pose any question about ourselves or our involvement with ICA, and we would each answer it in turn. That turned out to be a simple but rich and insightful way to get to know each other.

It helped our process enormously that we used our own ICA methods, with which we were all quite familiar. Notwithstanding all that we found that we have in common, I was struck again and again by how differently we all think – that ‘human factor’ of culture at play!  That brought home to me just how valuable is face-to-face time together, especially for a largely virtual team.  I find it hard to imagine that we might otherwise ever have understood each other sufficiently to become effective as a Board or as a team in our 2 years together, let alone to raise our ambition for our service to the membership as we did.

ICAI global communications virtual meetingAs a largely virtual Board, and the leadership of a largely virtual global community, it was instructive also for us to experience the frustrations of slow internet access with which our African colleages have to contend so often when they join us in an online meeting.  We did eventually manage to connect virtually with our web developer and global communications team, and were very excited to see our draft new website taking form. We also managed to share some social media updates with the wider network during the week – but we quickly learned that if we all went online at once, when we returned to within wifi range at mealtimes, then we would all end up frustrated.

We were grateful for the virtual support and encouragement that we recieved from remote friends and colleagues, and appreciated every ‘like’ and comment.  I also enjoyed connecting on twitter with colleagues meeting at the same time at the IAF North America 2015 conference in Canada, sponsored by ICA USA, the ToP Network and ICA Asssociates. (I like to think that our photos of elephants and giraffes trumped theirs of elk and grizzly bears)

The subsequent regional gathering was attended by 17 Directors and staff of ICAs and partner organisations from across the region.  It began with a World Cafe conversation to get to know each other and our interests and asprations for the gathering, and then brief presentations from each of the organisations represented. The rest of the week was to be largely Open Space, ‘Sharing Approaches that Work’, followed by one day of strategic planning for the region.  I very much appreciated the opportunity to get to know some that I did not and to renew my acquaintance with others.  It seemed to me that the interchange within the region, and between it and the other regions represented by ICAI Board members, was very valuable.

ICA IAF collaboration with John CornwellI was also delighted that IAF Africa Director John Cornwell (also an ICA:UK Associate and for many years an ICA colleague in Africa) was there to lead a conversation on the potential for greater collaboration between IAF and ICA, at the local and the global levels, and to learn that the IAF Board is very supportive of that as I am myself.

I returned home energised and enthused myself, and excited by the prospects of a newly energised and enthused ICAI Board. Since January the Board is also enlarged from 7 to 8 members, with the very large Europe & Africa region now reallocated among three Vice Presidents (Europe MENA, East & Southern Africa and West & Central Africa respectively), and I think that too will be enormously helpful. I am encouraged by the increasing numbers of ICA partners and related organisations expressing an interest in joining ICAI as Associate members – including last week in East Africa, and also in Russia where I will be delivering ToP facilitation training next week.  I am looking forward to a growing and  strengthening global network, sharing ICA’s values, and supporting each other through peer-to-peer collaboration in our shared mission of ‘advancing human development worldwide’.

Full documentation of the meeting will be included in a new business plan to be finalised at our online Board meeting June, for approval at our online General Assembly on July 21.  In the meantime, join me in celebrating our new Strategic Directions!  In 2015-16 we will be…

ICAI Board 2015-16 strategic directions

To connect and to get involved, please like ICAI on facebook or follow ICAI on twitter!

Now we are global: ICAI facilitates interchange in Brussels

This piece ‘from the archive’ was first written for Network Exchange, newsletter of ICA International, in September 1998 when I had first joined the ICAI Board.  ICAI is now registered in Canada and it’s newsletter is Winds and Waves, but ICA Belgium is still going strong and I continue to visit Brussels – this week for client meetings, and next month to deliver ToP Group Facilitation Methods and Action Plannning training.  Click on the photos to enlarge them, and see who you can recognise!

ICAI 1998 General AssemblyPatrick Mbullu and I represented ICA:UK at the General Assembly of ICA International in August. As Vice Presidents elect, Mangla Gavai of ICA India, Edward Mutiso of ICA Kenya and I also worked in advance with Dick Alton of ICAI to design and facilitate the event.

The 45 delegates represented 23 member ICAs and ICAI. Day 1 was devoted to continental and global reporting and interchange. Days 2 & 3 looked at the global work of ICA including global conferences and networking, and ICAI finances, secretariat, Executive Committee elections and new membership applications. Days 4 & 5 looked at local work of member ICAs, particularly in terms of developing standards for institutional structure and strengthening, for new and existing ICAs. As a whole group we took a Brussels ‘pub crawl’ one night, and we celebrated the acceptance of five new member ICAs in a closing ceremony.

ICAI General Assembly 1998The occasion also provided opportunity for much bilateral interchange among participants between sessions – in my case, related to discussing potential volunteer placements and funding partnerships, but also social.

Minutes of the General Assembly

The Institute of Cultural Affairs International held its General Assembly at its headquarters at rue Amédée Lynen 8, 1210 Bruxelles, from 24 through 28 August 1998.

Members present were: ICA Australia, ICA Belgium, ICA Benin, ICA Bosnia i Herzegovina, ICA Canada, ICA Côte d’Ivoire, ICA Egypt, ICA Germany, ICA Ghana, ICA Guatemala, ICA Hong Kong, ICA India, ICA Japan, ICA Kenya, ICA Nepal, ICA Netherlands, ICA Spain, ICA Tanzania, ICA Uganda, ICA United Kingdom, ICA United States and ICA Zambia.

ICAI General Assembly 1998The Board of Directors elected Donald Elliott, USA, as President; Ruth Lukona, Zambia, as Secretary; Myriam Balbela, Venezuela, as Treasurer; Mangla Gavai, India, Edward Mutiso, Kenya, and Martin Gilbraith, United Kingdom, as Vice Presidents.

ICAI General Assembly 1998The General Assembly voted unanimously to change Article 12 of the statutes to read: “The Institute is administered by a Board of Directors comprised of two to fifty members. One member at least of the Board of Directors must be of Belgian nationality.”

The Assembly unanimously accepted ICA Ghana, ICA Nepal, ICA Tanzania and ICA Uganda as statutory members; and ICA Benin as an Associate Member.

The Assembly unanimously approved the financial accounts for the year 1997 and the budgets for the year 1999.

ICAI General Assembly 1998The General Assembly approved plans for ICAI to sponsor a Global Conference in the USA during the year 2000.

The General Assembly set the date for its next meeting in the year 2002.

Participants’ highlights

“Exchange! Honestly, I felt that’s the value ICA should keep! It’s good to be a part of Global Society, community… We thought we were forgotten, it’s nice to be back…” – Nejira Nalic, ICA:BiH

“We really have so much in common re mission & concerns & care even in the midst of our enriching differences. Face to face connection is invaluable. ICA is ready to really release & enlarge its global impact.” – Kathleen Joyce, ICA:USA

“A new knowledge. It was like an “intensive” training which I had expected since I came in contact with ICAI.” – Tatwa Timsina, ICA Nepal

“At this moment in history, this is readiness for reconciliation, rebuilding, and community within and beyond ICA.” – Wayne Ellsworth, ICA Japan

“Desire to reorganise and build our international image.” – Lambert Okrah, ICA Ghana

“Re-emerging global strategies especially in the Americas” – Ray Caruso, ICA:USA

“With all the wonderful diversity it encompasses, we are closer to a common understanding that will facilitate learning.” – Hala El Kholy, ICA MENA

“The people are open to new ideas and to support and welcome newcomers. There’s a lot of willingness and motivation and also possibilities to make things happen and a lot of experience in different fields.” – Adinda de Vries, ICA Netherlands

“Such kind of conference, meeting are important for us, because we learn at anytime – we share ideas, strategies. So a report in French might be appreciated.” – Koffi Nestor Amoin, ICA Côte d’Ivoire

“This is the first Global assembly of the ICA I have been privileged to attend. We used to say we were global when we saw westerners all over the world. Now we are global!” – Julie Miesen, ICA Australia

“I felt power in the room and lots of commitment. In a way I felt that all this globally/widely spread force can make a difference in world development & become more transparent in world development & recognised by other people. Global advocacy campaign?” – Slavica Bradvic, ICA:BiH

Facilitation case study: Building a future together – broadening ownership in corporate planning

This piece ‘from the archive‘ is the story of a 12 month programme of facilitation training and capacity building support with a cadre of 80 managers, engaging over 1,000 stakeholders in developing a new 5-year corporate plan for Bron Afon Community Housing in South Wales. I led the contracting and co-design process and managed the project for ICA:UK as Chief Executive, and I supported ICA:UK colleagues Jonathan Dudding and Ann Lukens in delivering the programme.

The article was authored by Jonathan and Ann, and is posted here with their permission. It was first published by AMED in a special edition of its journal e-O&P, in a partnership I brokered for IAF to mark the 2011 IAF Europe conference in Istanbul. Extracts are reprinted below, and to read the full article please click on the image or go to Building a future together – broadening ownership in corporate planning.

A Visioning workshop, with over 80 people working individually, together and at tables, supported by Bron Afon facilitators

How do you develop a new plan for organisational growth and success and, at the same time, design a process which provides the opportunity for full involvement of the organisation’s members, staff, and partners? This article describes how we worked with a housing organisation on their year-long journey as they sought to develop a new corporate plan, build up an internal team of facilitators, and strengthen the members’ ownership of their future direction.

Involving all staff and client members in full corporate planning processes may seem to stretch the ‘need for consultation’ to its limits. However, in 2010, a community based housing organisation in Wales that is widely recognised for its community engagement strategy did exactly that. Bron Afon Community Housing wanted a corporate plan that was developed with maximum community, member and staff involvement; that enhanced the organisation’s capacity continually to design and facilitate participatory events; and that broke down the barriers between departments to provide more cohesive and integrated services to tenants. This is the story of how we co-designed and facilitated that project.

Penny Jeffreys, Bron Afon Learning and Development Manager, wrote:

“One of our aims in undertaking the project was to build capacity which we could use in the future and this has already been a proven positive outcome: the facilitation skills and techniques learnt and developed during the project have already been used in a number of other areas in the organisation. For example a workshop was held to identify and prioritise the support needs of our tenants to inform the future direction of this service using the trained facilitators and the process learnt which yielded really useful and comprehensive results.”

Shelley Hier, one of the Community support team facilitators,
said:

“The process came at just the right time – we had a year’s worth of data and using what we had learned, we were able to make sense of it all with our members group – coming up with an outcome that was clear, concise and (in the end) easy. The members really felt they owned it and in fact they said  it was the best thing we‘ve ever done at Bron Afon. They could see actions and ways forward – the result of us having better processes and understanding how to apply them in different situations.”

Jonathan Dudding is Director of International Programmes at ICA:UK. Jonathan has an MSc in Social Development Planning and Management from the University of Wales (Swansea) and a background in international development work in India, Zambia and Kenya. Jonathan specialises in the Technology of Participation, facilitating and training both in the UK and internationally; working with local partners to bring about change in Africa; and researching and developing new approaches to participation and partnership.

Ann Lukens, GroupWorks, is a facilitator, mediator, conflict practitioner and trainer. She has an MSc in Conflict Resolution and Mediation from Birkbeck (London), and has worked with and facilitated groups of all shapes and sizes to find ways to meet their needs and move forward in both exciting and difficult times. She has experience in Solutions Focus coaching and training, trains Mediators, Conflict Practitioners, and Facilitators and uses ICA ToP methods as a cornerstone of that work.

‘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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Evidencing facilitation competencies – reflecting on lessons learned

Building a future together: Broadening ownership in corporate planningThis ‘from the archive’ post is the essay I wrote for my IAF Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) re-certification in 2012. I was reminded of it as I am now preparing a portfolio for my ICA Certified ToP Facilitator (CTF) assessment. This requires up-to-date evidence of all the IAF core competencies (broadly speaking), as well as of mastery in applying the core facilitation methods of ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP). The requirement of the essay was to “link lessons learned since your original certification date to the IAF Core Competences, demonstrating changes in your facilitation style / behaviour, and indicating what growth you have experienced as a facilitator during the period since your last certification”.


I shall use the IAF competencies as a framework by which to reflect on and illustrate some of my professional experience and development since my CPF assessment in 2008.

A. Create Collaborative Client Relationships
Since my 2008 CPF assessment I have had the opportunity to lead the contracting and design of my largest client project to date, a 12 month process of facilitation capacity building and facilitated strategic planning delivered by myself and two colleagues [Jonathan Dudding and Ann Lukens] over 60 person days.  The project involved 90 manager trainees and around 400 staff and 1,000 members and other stakeholders of a community-based housing association in South Wales. It was later written up in an article Building a future together: Broadening ownership in corporate planning for the joint AMED & IAF Europe issue of the AMED Journal last year, and presented at the joint AMED & IAF Europe workshop in London in March 2012.

The contracting & design process itself comprised multiple meetings and project drafts over several months, but the investment in developing clarity and trust in advance proved invaluable to later success.  This whole process served to stretch and develop greatly my capacity for creating collaborative relationships with clients, and also with co-facilitators and partners. One key insight was the importance of frequent, regular face-to-face meetings between ICA:UK’s local Associate and the client’s internal project team as well as between myself and the client’s leadership.  Another related insight was to recognize that our intervention was but a small component of a much larger transformation process for the client, to which we could and did make a significant contribution but which we could not and need not fully understand or influence.

B. Plan Appropriate Group Processes
Since 2008 I have facilitated a second ‘Big Meeting’ for a user-led organisation of people with learning difficulties, the first of which served as the focus of my essay for my CPF assessment then (Evidencing facilitation competencies: planning with people with learning difficulties). This second event was conceived by the client as a ‘planning party’, in order to better engage participants than would a straightforward facilitated planning session, so atmosphere and drama were key to success.  This was achieved with the aid of plenty of games, balloons, cakes and craft materials, through a process designed collaboratively with the client.

In working with 60 academic researchers more recently in May of this year, the key was to allow plenty of time and space for participants to engage in lengthy, free-ranging and in-depth discussion in small groups. I was able to achieve this by giving them free reign of the beautiful and sunny botanical gardens adjacent to the venue for their small group sessions.  In spite of some resistance to what some perceived as over-simplification and dumbing down of complex issues, I was also able finally to bring the group to a collective conclusion in order to meet the needs of the client.

C. Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment
I made a point of developing experience and skills in virtual facilitation since my CPF in 2008, by selecting relevant sessions at each IAF conference attended and also by attending an 8-week virtual training course in ToP facilitation (Virtual Facilitation Online).  I have also had plenty of opportunity to practice virtual collaboration through my roles with the global IAF Board, and through participating in increasingly regular and sophisticated online global gatherings of members of ICA International (eg: ICAI online regional gatherings facilitate peer to peer support and collaboration). As a result I am increasingly proficient in the use of a variety of virtual tools myself, and my raised awareness of what is now possible encouraged me to lead the Board in scheduling IAF’s first online Annual Members Meeting later this year and procuring technical support through an open and competitive tendering process.

I have also made a point since 2008 of further exploring approaches to conflict, including by selecting conference sessions accordingly, by reading on conflict resolution and by some involvement in ICA:UK’s partnership work developing the Kumi method for social transformation in conflict situations on which I presented at the IAF Istanbul conference.  I am not aware that my facilitation practice has changed significantly as a result, but I certainly feel more confident in relation to conflict.

D. Guide Group to Appropriate and Useful Outcomes
I have experimented with a number of new tools and techniques since 2008.  In addition to virtual approaches mentioned above, these have included the suite tools of ICA’s Organisational Transformation course, which was new to me when I supported Bill Staples of ICA Associates to deliver it as a pre-conference course at the IAF Oxford conference in 2009. I have subsequently been able to apply some of these with success within ICA:UK and with ICA:UK clients as well.

I have adapted and applied multiple approaches in combination, including for example ToP, Open Space and Solutions Focus with the South Wales Housing Association mentioned above; and ToP and world café with a number or clients. I adapted a well-known ice-breaker to create on the hoof “Just one lie” for use at the IAF Board meeting in London in 2011, and subsequently wrote it up and contributed it to the IAF Methods Database and Global Flipchart Method of the Month [see Creativity in facilitation, and Just One Lie].

E. Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge
Since applying to join the IAF Board and take my CPF assessment in 2008 I have read through all the back issues of the IAF Journal and the IAF Handbooks and a number of other facilitation titles as well.  I have attended two IAF conferences each year.

My IAF Board roles have helped me to expand my professional network and relationships greatly, which has been enormously valuable for my learning and professional development.  This has also been aided by my increased use of social media in the last few years, particularly LinkedIn and twitter, which I find invaluable sources of new material of interest as well as new personal and professional connections.

In drafting this essay I have learned that I need to become more methodical in maintaining a record of my professional development in order to more easily and effectively renew my CPF in four years from now!  I have plans to start blogging regularly so I hope that will help greatly [Welcome to my new website and blog!].

In my forthcoming freelance career I am looking forward to focusing my professional practice more on the international development and humanitarian sector, and to the opportunities for learning and development that that will afford me.

F. Model Positive Professional Attitude
Since I have begun inviting professional recommendations via LinkedIn, I am proud that values professionalism and integrity have been referred to repeatedly.

I am excited as well as somewhat apprehensive to have given notice to step down from my role as Chief Executive from the end of September, after 16 years with ICA:UK [A new transition for ICA:UK – and for me], with a view to working freelance as a professional facilitator and facilitation trainer for at least some time.  With my IAF Chair role ending soon as well, in December [Reflections on a term as IAF Chair], I am relishing the prospect that my reduced responsibilities might allow more time for reflection and learning, and exploration of new opportunities and new avenues for professional development and service.