- Participants will have a deeper understanding of the multiple realities involved in
international development and the ways in which these can affect project outcome.
- Participants will have the basic skills and knowledge to engage with stakeholders
identifying their (often competing) needs and to design and implement their
projects in a collaborative manner.
Let’s put this into context.
We started off the session with a reality check. We all have preconceived notions
of what reality is, however, these are based on something called structuration. This is
where acting within our structures of society forms our perception of what is normal.
However, we must remember that this is all conceptual. Was the map normal? - Why
not? - Because of its orientation? - But if you came down from another planet what
then? In fact, look at the majority of your own maps you drew later on, except of
course the Google reconfiguration, north was not an issue. This was the foundations of
the rest of the exercises and you all seemed to grasp this extraordinarily well,
We then explored this notion with what we know vs what they know, and the
reality check questions. Again, I was very impressed with an almost blind honesty that
was coming across about your lack of knowledge. In most of my sessions the “what we
know what they don’t know” box gets very full. The point of this exercise was the
emphasised in ‘Pop Quiz’. It is very difficult to work out exactly what peoples
‘needs’ are. It was nice to see that you were thinking outside the box, however, this
was the problem, the box of notions you were trying to think out of is based on your
own ‘Eurocentric’ notions of the world.
In the contested chairs exercise, I was trying to demonstration conflict,
communication and cooperation. While there was a compromising solution to the
situation, in the beginning everyone seemed intent on wining. This is important to
appreciate when working with stakeholders, as this very thing could happen. Where
stakeholders’ realities shape their aims needs and goals, these can be in stark contrast
to one another. These cause conflicts where power can be a major dynamic. Again,
think back through the process. I was very impressed to see the transition from conflict
to cooperation through communication. Nice work.
The Paper aeroplane exercise was based on exploring the communication of ideas
in relation to the previous exercise. It was very interesting that while some of you
were quite genius at getting round the instructions, or outright cheating, only one or
two of you made anything like what the instructions were getting at. Again, this is
important because you are equipped with preconceived notions, and while these can
be destructive if not appreciated, they can be very powerful when used constructively.
Which of you started the exercise with… “Ok, we are building a paper aeroplane, have
you made one before? How do you make it? OK, I know that one, however this one is a
little more complicated. Ok lets go through this systematically and I will explain how
each fold relates to the plane that you know how to make….”? Hmmm…. Comparing
what you know to that they might know can help you to know what they don’t know,
and in turn, help them to know what they don’t know…
So, all of these first exercises were building up to the Host and Visitor exercise.
This was designed for you to experience and explore norms, customs and culture in
development, and to bring into context the previous exercises - Reality, conflict and
communication. Think back and reflect on how each group coped with their role. How
did it feel? When you go out to do your project you will be going out to interact and
work with stakeholders whose aims, needs and objectives will be different to your
preconceived ideas. You need to communicate with them. [Why are you going there?
What are your aims and objectives? What do you think their needs are? If a 14 year old
semi-literate built a windmill because he ‘needed’ electricity, why isn’t everyone? ->
How does this relate to your project?]. As I mentioned, when I went to Marovo in the
Solomon Islands, I was grilled by the chief then left to starve in their guest house…
(researching the people’s customs and socio-economic behaviour can really help).
The participatory mapping and ranking exercise was there to demonstrate
the different tools that you can used to do a needs assessment. During your
discussions with each other, I am sure that you will agree that it was a powerful tool for
getting a real understanding of your partner. When I go out and do my Rapid Rural
Assessments I always have ‘magic blackboards’ and different coloured chalk for
Pictionary. Through letting communities draw maps, diagrams, charts and whatever
else they feel is important, you can get a real sense of who these people are and what
they need. People do tend to express the things that are important to them, e.g. if you
ask a community to draw food and rank it, you will find that they will do so based on
cultural grounds not nutritional - that is, they will rank something higher because of its
cultural status opposed to its nutritional, although, these may not be mutually
exclusive. I would have liked to let this run for a little longer, however, I am sure that
you all appreciate the power of this tool.
Finally, the problem tree analysis (cause, effect and engagement). Here I was
trying to pull everything together using one of the most important tools in
international development. It represented the basis for all situation analysis where we
map out the anatomy of causes and effects of an issue. The problem tree is similar to a
mind map although it presents thought processes in a more structured way. This brings
out several advantages:
The problem can be broken down into manageable and definable chunks. This enables
a clearer prioritisation of factors and helps focus objectives;
There is more understanding of the problem and its often interconnected and even
contradictory causes. This is often the first step in finding holistic solutions;
It identifies the constituent issues and arguments, and can help establish the socio -
cultural actors and processes are at each stage;
It can help establish whether further information, evidence or resources are needed to
make a strong case, or build a convincing solution;
Present issues - rather than apparent, future or past issues - are dealt with and
The process of analysis often helps build a shared sense of understanding, purpose and
action to the team as a whole.
I placed this all in the context of the picture of the women drawing water from the
well. Here I was hoping to illustrate that ‘development’ is not as simple as we might
think. You can’t just go in and give them a hand pump or a water tower without
working out what the possible effects might be, good and bad. During your
construction of the problem tree you could have placed the water tower and taps as
one of the causes of diminished water levels…. This relates to the monitoring and
evaluation session that some of you were at on the Sunday. There are many
assumptions that we take for granted when we design interventions. These need to be
documented and explored, as they could have devastating effects.
Again, I hope that you enjoyed the session, and that you will make use of the things
that we went through. I appreciate that you had to all rush off at the end of the
session, so if there is any questions relating to what we went through, future training
or anything else you want to throw at me, please feel free to Email me:
Also, please like our facebook page.
Good luck and best wishes.