Wednesday, 17 December 2008

SNV Kenya Writeshop

From 7-9 December I conducted a write shop for SNV Kenya in Nanyuki, Kenya. A write shop is a workshop in which participants take time to document something they have been working on.

For this write shop SNV Kenya advisors from different sectors (water/sanitation, livestock, education, tourism) and portfolio teams in Kenya (Northern, Mid-rift) had prepared case studies of projects. The write shop was used to sharpen the case studies, discuss it with SNV partners/clients, sometimes merge cases into a new one and to develop summaries of the cases for the upcoming SNV annual report.

It was the first time for me to do a write shop of this kind. I was happy to work together with a professional editor, Clare McGregor, and I definitely learned a lot about writing myself.

The write shop was very well received and the participants will finalize their cases over the next month for editing by Clare. We hope to do more of these write shops for SNV in the future.

See video below about the writeshop.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Climate Change Adaptation programme East Africa

Since 2008, Wageningen International has been involved in a new initiative on Climate Change adaptation in East and Southern Africa. The initiative focuses on linking research to policy makers by making available the WUR resources on climate change to regional partners in East Africa. The initiative is funded by the dutch ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

In June we organised a scoping workshop with partners in Nairobi to identify the focus of the initiative and linkages with other ongoing programmes. In November we facilitated a follow-up meeting. Key partners in the initiative are IUCN, ASARECA and RUFORUM. The meeting was well attended and had several positive outcomes that will drive the continuation of this initiative.

The participants of the meeting concluded that the following activities will be pursued:

  1. Organising a 2-week climate change adaptation course, to be organised in the second half of 2009;
  2. Developing the 'Hotspot idea', by offering a framework for assessing climate change adaptation Hotspots and starting action research in the region;
  3. Exploring policy engagement, by organising a high level meeting for policy makers.
Work on the climate change course and the hotspot idea will start immediately, while the policy engagement event needs more thinking and discussion, which will evolve when we engage in the other ideas.

More information about the initiative can be found on this website

Monday, 17 November 2008

Training Programmatic Approach ICCO facilitators Asia

In 2008, Wageningen International implemented a learning trajectory for ICCO on their new 'Programmatic Approach'. In this new approach ICCO will move away from projects in developing countries to larger programmes that will be developed by coalitions of partners working towards the same goal. In the course of the year we conducted 7 modules for about 70 ICCO staff in Utrecht about the underlying concepts and practical tools that you can use in the programmatic approach.

On 12-13 November we conducted a tailor-made training on the programmatic approach for 4 facilitators from ICCO in Asia. These facilitators will develop new ICCO programmes with partners in the field of HIV/AIDS in three countries (see link at the ICCO website. The training was well appreciated and we will do continue to support the facilitators in their work.

In 2009 Wageningen International will continue with another learning trajectory for ICCO in Utrecht, both for dutch staff and for newly recruited staff in different regional offices.

Monday, 10 November 2008

SNV Montenegro - MSP training

From 3-7 November I conducted an introduction course on Multi-stakeholder processes for SNV Montenegro in Podgorica. It was my first time to work in the Balkans, a great experience.

The 14 participants are working in different sectors (tourism, forestry, rural development), but multi-stakeholder processes are at the heart of SNVs work in Montenegro.

In 2009 one participant from Montenegro will join me as co-facilitator in a two-week MSP course for SNV in Albania.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Three-week MSP training in Wageningen

From 8-27 September we conducted the public Multi-stakeholder process course in Wageningen. 29 participants from 17 countries attended the training.

The course covered state-of-the-art thinking about participation from local to global level and introduced the most up-to-date methodologies and approaches for facilitation and participation. How MSPs and social learning relate to concepts such as dialogue, interactive policy making and adaptive management was fully explored.
Typically MSPs involve business people, policy makers, community representatives, NGOs, politicians, researchers and educators from different scales, sectors and disciplines. The degree and nature of their participation and interaction will vary and needs to be carefully negotiated, planned and facilitated. This leads to questions about governance and democratic participation, which have become important topics on the global agenda as we work towards making sustainable development a reality. The course explored these topics and examined the practical implications.
Multiple stakeholder and social learning processes are, for example, applicable, to: integrated rural development initiatives; river basin management; market chain management; development of poverty reduction strategies; interdisciplinary research programmes; food security initiatives; livelihood development; sector wide approaches; interactive policy making; decentralisation programmes; and community-based natural resource management (forestry, fisheries, wetlands).
The training also included field work on Ameland (an island at the northern coast of the Netherlands), in which participants explored a real life multi-stakeholder process: the implementation of European nature legislation (Natura 2000) on the island and the effect on the local communities. The field work was probably the highllight of the training, not only because of the content, but also since it was the very first time for some participants to ride a bike, do mudwalking and visit a real gas extraction site! See video below.
It was a very rewarding training and participants became a close ‘community’ that will stay in touch after the training to implement the new insights.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

SNV East and Southern Africa - Multi Stakeholder training

From 25-29 August I conducted a training for 27 education advisors from SNV in East and Southern Africa. The training in Dar es Salaam was an introduction to Multi-stakeholder processes.

SNV advisors work a lot with MSPs in their assignments, for instance by supporting local education officers at district level in facilitating platforms that deal with the quality of education in a district. This training enabled the SNV advisors to deal more consciously with concepts and processes of stakeholder participation.

The training builds on the experiences of Wageningen International with SNVs around the world. We will definitely return to this group in 2009 to continue supporting capacity development in this area.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Fostering Pro-Poor Local Economic Development

With three colleagues, I started small research about pro-poor local economic this year. We are drafting a position paper that centers on the issue how rural poor people can engage in market economic activities in a sustainable way. The principal question that we try to answer is: which development efforts have a positive impact on economic outcomes at the household level?

Since Wageningen International focuses much on capacity development, we also specifically look at the capacities required among local policy makers and (semi-public) service deliverers to foster local economic development. The conceptual framework we use for the research is the sustainable livelihood framework.

In this research we did a literature review and will conduct interviews with key informants in the Netherlands (ICCO, Oxfam Novib, SNV, DGIS, LNV, Solidaridad, Agriterra, WUR and the embassy of Tanzania and South Africa). In 2009 we will continue produce the position paper, followed by a seminar to disseminate the findings. Our intention is to explore a future course on local economic development for local policy makers and service deliverers in developing countries.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Planning the Global Action Learning Initiative

This week most of my time was dedicated to the planning of the Global Action Learning Initiative (GALI) that Wageningen International has started in collaboration with the Generative Change Community (GCC). The core team of the GCC and their main funder visited us at Wageningen International and we had meetings about the main way forward for the initiative.

The idea of GALI is to support a critical mass of multi-stakeholder change processes in various fields, sectors and continents and to guide action learning around them. The purpose is to make these MSPs more effective, to strengthen the understanding (& innovation) of and capacity for MSP facilitation and to create more commitment to MSPs globally. The initiative responds to the urgent fact that many current development issues require participatory processes that bring together actors from different sectors and at different scales. These involve dialogue processes to foster trust and learning among partners, with joint analysis, decision-making and planning. The alternative to a participatory multi-stakeholder approach to development issues is an autocratic and top-down approach, an unfavourable direction.

The GALI concept and process builds on a number of events and contacts of Wageningen International and the GCC. Partners that have shown commitment or serious interest to further the initiative include UNDP, Asian Institute of Management, DGIS, SNV and ICCO.

For me the initiative is relatively new, since I only joined Wageningen International in March. It was very good to get to know the team of GCC much better and to deepen my understanding of the initiative. This work is closely linked to some of my other current activities such as my contributions to a new publication on Multi-stakeholder processes, the collection of a number of MSP examples and the capacity development on MSPs of SNV Uganda. The publication on MSPs will provide more theoretical foundations for MSPs; the collection of MSP examples may include new MSP Action learning sites and; the work with SNV Uganda already includes elements of action learning on MSPs that could grow into a solid action learning site in the future.

When working on the GALI idea together with the GCC we realised that much of the complexity of MSPs also applies to our own collaboration. We needed to build trust and understanding between Wageningen International and GCC about the concepts we pursue in GALI, the expectations, roles and responsibilities and joint planning.

It has been a very intensive three days with a steep learning curve for me. I have become close to our friends of the GCC and we all feel GALI is definitely worth putting the needed time and energy in to take the initiative to another level. We will strengthen the ties between the GALI partners to consolidate the core group of interesting organisations, pursue the funding opportunities for the initiative and begin work with the learning sites as they start to unfold.

Below are some videos that I shot about GALI, its importance, the essence of capacity development in it and what an action learning site can look at.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Home days Wageningen International

This week we had our 'home days' at Wageningen International. Twice a year all staff at WI is gathering to share experiences of the last period, discuss strategies of the organisation and to give input to operational issues. This is also a time to have fun together and do some team building.

On Monday we had a morning sharing management issues and highlights and challenges of the first months of 2008. We also looked at knowledge management in Wageningen International.
In the afternoon some colleagues gave presentations on two concepts that have gained more importance in our organisation: 'complexity' and 'managing for impact'. Complexity builds on the idea of systems thinking and chaos. Development issues and processes are very difficult to analyse and solutions hard to predict. However, often very complex systems can still be explained by a few simple, organising rules. This also relates to the 'managing for impact' approach which is a way to put monitoring and evaluation at the heart of participation and learning of development processes.

Tuesday was completely dedicated to the 'branding' of our organisation: to sharpen our profile and create consistent messages about who we are and how we can prove this image to our clients. Some interesting things emerged from this and we will definitely see some concrete outputs from this in the near future (keep checking this blog and our website).

Wednesday was spent on sharing current projects and future opportunities in the different theme groups within our organisation. This was an excellent opportunity for newcomers like myself to get to know the work of colleagues and to establish the linkages between projects and ideas.

There were plenty of of opportunities for informal sharing during joint lunches and having drinks together at the end of the home days. Some colleagues had cooked a delicious Indonesian meal for all of us on Wednesday, showing some hidden talents that were just fantastic.

The idea of home days is building on the Home Week concept from CDRA (see article), a capacity building NGO from South Africa. Staff in CDRA take a week every month for horizontal learning. For us one week a month is a bit too much, but having regular joint events for reflection, strategizing, learning, team building and fun, is definitely something crucial for a healthy organisation. The home days were a great opportunity for learning and sharing, and I was happy to be part of the organising team.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Training Integrated Pest Management, Wageningen

Ever bought spinache from a Dutch vegetable auction? Well - I did! For the last two weeks I was facilitating a course on Integrated Pest Management, focusing on policies and institutional innovations. The course was held in Wageningen and attended by 24 participants from 12 different developing countries. I conducted the course together with my colleague Huub Stoetzer, who is a specialist in Food Safety and integrated pest management. This was crucial, since I hardly know anything from this topic. My input was therefore much more on the general issues of Multi-stakeholder processes, participation and policy development. This is an equally important part of integrated pest management, since we are dealing with a complex issue: trying to reduce the use of damaging pesticides. A whole range of stakeholders come to play: government, farmers/growers, input suppliers, chemical industry, consumers, supermarkets, researchers, extensionists etc.

The part of the course I co-facilitated followed two weeks of more technical focus on food safety and pesticides. Now we focused more on the policy processes and the social change needed to implement integrated pest management policies in multi-stakeholder situations. The course included 4-day field work to a horticulture area in Limburg province in the south of the Netherlands. Here the participants were commissioned to assess the implementation of Dutch integrated pest management policies and the participation of different stakeholders. We visited one of the largers cooperative greeneries auction in the Netherlands, an applied research station, input suppliers, the local bank, an agricultural college, private extensionists and many farmers and growers in the area. It was a great trip, both for the participants and myself.

With one group I visited one of the largest vegetable growers in the Netherlands, who grows and sells over 36 million heads of iceberg lettuce per year. Apart from the sheer size of it, it was interesting to see how growers have found a way to meet the policy recuirements and consumer (supermarkets) needs to reduce the use of pesticides through intensive farming methods. Nonetheless, the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers is enormous. On the other hand we also had visits to organic farmers who take the lower yield for granted, knowing that the prices for organic vegetables is higher, thus cushioning the lower produce. However, the market for organic products is generally seen as a 'niche', rather than mainstream. Bearing in mind that though consumers care more and more about safe an healthy food and a cleaner environment, they are not prepared to pay a higher price for it. Therefore growers need to be innovative to both meet the increasingly more difficult requirements on the use of pesticides and be competitive in the globalising market. The situation in the Netherlands is significantly different from many developing countries in terms of level of technology a resources. Nevertheless there were many things to learn from for the participants, especially on how influence on policy development takes place and how stakeholders are involved in implementation of policies.

The group had an engaging course which they appreciated very much. For me it was both educational and satisfying to work in a new content area with a colleague, seeing the processes I am so familiar with easily being applied.
The participants have now left again for their respective countries with their head full of new knowledge and impressions, their bags full of tools and tricks. Let's hope they will implement their ambitious action plans they made at the end of the course...

Friday, 23 May 2008

Multi-Stakeholder Process workshop SNV Uganda

This week I was in Kampala facilitating a workshop on Multi-stakeholder processes for senior advisors of SNV in Uganda.

It was the first time for me to be back in Africa since we left the continent some 4 months ago. Very nice to get my senses to experience Africa again, the smell, the colours, the typical noises. Kampala has grown a lot since I last was there in 1997, it is now very metropolitan but is still very chaotic.

It was an exciting week with lots of learning on all sides. The participants gained understanding of the concepts and models in multi-stakeholder processes and tools on how to facilitate these. They also shared cases of MSPs in Uganda. Some of them work with value-chain parters (oil-seed, pineapple) where they try to support pro-poor development through the production-processing-consumption chain in these products. Others work in education and water and sanitation where they support platforms of different stakeholders in these sectors at district levels. The week was very practical in that it helped the participants bring out the real challenges in their work and look for solutions both from the theory and practice of MSPs.

Wageningen International will support SNV Uganda to build the capacity of their advisors in MSPs over the next 9 months by three more face-to-face workshops in Uganda, coaching of the advisors and the creation of a community of practice within SNV Uganda around the work of MSPs. This week has been a great kick-off of the process and I look forward to meeting the participants again, later this year.