Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Too busy to plan: Is PME capacity building at a human rights organization possible?

Life at an Indonesian human rights NGO is hectic. Every day there are new cases or new political developments to respond to. I'm calling it 'life at an Indonesian NGO' instead of 'work', because working here actually means living here. Practically, this means that most of my colleagues spend lots of time at work and little time at home. It means that they don't take the holidays they're entitled to or that if they do, people sometimes regard them as being not that committed.

And there I came: THE advisor on Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (in short, PME). I was going to change this workaholic mentality (or diminish the workload) and help KontraS plan better. They would learn to work even more effectively and report about the outcomes in more detail. Starting in November 2009, I had the assumption that it would take me a few months to understand the way of working and that I would be able to implement a large body of PME changes fairly easily. Within two months, I analyzed the situation, wrote recommendations and a work plan to go with it. This was going to be an easy ride! Not only I myself had high expectations of my stay here, the staff also seemed to think my presence would miraculously bring beneficial change.

Amis Boersma, explaining a PME game.....

Work one on one with the ones who want to learn more
It was around my fourth month that reality began to kick in: change doesn't happen overnight and it certainly doesn't happen miraculously. Of course, I had read the articles on the topic, even took a course in change management. But it hadn't hit me yet that the theories actually made sense. People are reluctant to change. They are too busy with doing the important work they do to try new things. It's like the parable about the man chopping trees down in the wood with a saw. He doesn't want to stop to sharpen his saw, because he's too busy chopping...

Doing workshops together

So, there was a challenge. Even though I am a very open and outgoing person, I have a fervent dislike for anything that has a potential for conflict. So my initital tendency was not to push or insist. Instead I focused on other areas where I could be helpful – which luckily are many. However, this technique didn't help improve PME very much.

When people feel there are big changes ahead, which they cannot oversee, they tend to hold back. What to do when dealing with resistance? Mostly due to many discussions with my coach and my fellow capacity builders around the world, we came up with a set of recommendations which I am implementing now. One is to not come with a big set of changes, but with small changes, one at a time. Give many short workshops on a wide array of topics. Teach people how to write a proposal or analyze the organization together from different perspectives.

Work one on one with people that are interested to learn more. Help them writing proposals or reports. Not only this, but work on anything else that people need help with as long as it's not too far from the scope of your task. Setting an example or showing different ways of working is also a form of capacity building, I believe.

Make it fun!
As I teach English every Wednesday, I have created 'free' time with some of my colleagues (the class is open to all staff). I use the classes sometimes to discuss issues related to PME, such as cultural differences when it comes to experiencing time and planning. We've talked about leadership, learning and working towards a goal. The class gives a platform to talk about PME without having to call it that.

Gaming is fun.......

Make it fun! Over the past months, I have done a quiz on PME, where the winners got a prize (Dutch cookies). We wrote a 'recipe' for cooking the KontraS way - trying to find out what are the ingredients for successful work and what preparations make them so typical for KontraS. Also, I am working with a creative artist to make a PME manual that explains in a more accessible way what it is about. The price winners!

Very important is not to expect too much from your own intervention. Create small goals and take small steps. And most of all, cherish the small successes you achieve.

Amis Boersma
Young Professional ICCO - Togetthere

Friday, August 27, 2010



Contexte et justification

L’évaluation du programme 2005-2008 du RPL a révélé la nécessité de mettre l’accent sur la documentation et la capitalisation des expériences des membres du réseau en vue de donner plus de visibilité et de lisibilité aux actions de plaidoyer et lobbying réalisées. C’est dans ce contexte que le programme 2008-2010 a prévue une série d’activités devant permettre d’arriver à la documentation d’au moins quatre (4) expériences de plaidoyer et lobbying des membres dans les secteurs de l’éducation, de la sécurité alimentaire et de la décentralisation.

Les stratégies opérationnelles préconisées à cet effet mettent l’accent sur
• La documentation et la diffusion des cas de succès dans les supports de communication existants au sein du réseau (RPL-Info, Araignée Info, Info CR-ONG, etc..)
• L’organisation d’ateliers/ rencontres d’échanges et de dissémination,
• L’animation de conférences électroniques avec un point focal pour solliciter le feedback des membres du réseau.

Objectifs de la capitalisation :
- Accroître la visibilité et la lisibilité des interventions du RPL et de ses membres en matière d’influence des politiques et programmes de développement au Mali
- Amener les acteurs de la société civile à s’approprier les outils de plaidoyer / lobbying développés par le RPL et ses membres dans la planification et la mise en œuvre de leurs trajectoires de plaidoyer/lobbying
- Vulgariser les cas de succès en matière d’éducation, de sécurité alimentaire et de décentralisation
Méthodologie :
Le processus qui sera réalisé en trois étapes prévoit les phases essentielles suivantes :
• l'identification des expériences en atelier
• l'appui et l'accompagnement des porteurs d'initiatives dans la rédaction des études de cas
• la publication et la diffusion des études de cas à l'occasion des évènements d'envergure nationale ou internationales (journée internationale de l'alphabétisation et semaine mondiale du droit à l'alimentation) et à travers les supports de communication du RPL (site web, bulletin, agenda, etc.)

Démarche de capitalisation

1. Mise à disposition des participants et clarification du contenu de la fiche de renseignement des expériences
2. Remplissage de la fiche de renseignement par les responsables des structures membres du RPL et envoie à la coordination nationale
3. Atelier de partage des expériences de plaidoyer lobbying (avis et observations sur les expériences présentées)
4. Elaboration et envoi du canevas de rédaction des études de cas à capitaliser
5. Recherche d’information complémentaire, et rédaction de la première version du document de capitalisation
6. Lecture critique, avis et commentaires sur les rapports de capitalisation d’expérience par un comité de lecture
7. Enrichissement des documents d’études de cas

La diffusion / dissémination :
La diffusion / dissémination des études de cas sera faite à travers les activités suivantes :
a. Atelier de restitution des études de cas plaidoyer lobbying
b. Mise en ligne sur le Site web du RPL
c. Partage des produits sur le Wiki du Réseau Plaidoyer et Lobbying
d. Insertion dans le Bulletin Araignée Info

Oudou Bengaly 28 août 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How to deal with an absence of time management among your local colleagues?

You have been preparing your class or workshop thoroughly and even yesterday your colleagues said they were looking forward to come. But at the agreed time and place, no one turns up. The director and his secretary are in another meeting, one of your colleagues went to his wife and kids who live in his home village, two others stayed at home without further notice and the only colleague you can find is very surprised to hear that you actually planned a session: “Oh, I thought you would give it tomorrow…”

This situation, largely drawn from my own experience of working as a Young Professional in Indonesia, will likely be similar to many Young Professionals’ experiences. Probably, differences in time management will be one of the most apparent and irritating parts of working in a different cultural context. And it seems almost impossible to overcome, as the difference of time management and time awareness emerges from a equally different worldview, that may be understood by the Young Professional, but can not be changed. In other words, getting mad or frustrated about it, will bring you nowhere.

Cultural differences about time
The biggest difference between time awareness in the Netherlands and Indonesia, is the ‘worth’ of time. Dutch often see time as something precious, because we often have many activities (job, hobbies, family and friends) that have to be fit into a limited time frame, so that it is essential to plan our daily lives as much as possible. Basic time management, whether learned at school and work or by having a busy social life, is a necessary precondition to be able to function in the Netherlands and people who can ‘make the most out of their time’ are envied and respected.
This basic sense of time management is completely absent in Indonesia. Time is viewed as something fluid, something abundantly at one’s disposal. Wasting time is not a crime. There is often no clear distinction between office time and private time, resulting in all kinds of flexible working arrangements. So, colleagues don’t show up for work, leave at any given moment without prior notice, meetings are filled with informal chit-chat and much time in the office is spent by just resting, smoking and drinking coffee. Is adjustment to this time frame the only possible solution not to become insane? How to deal with a different time management perspective?
Adjustment to the fact that your colleagues will pursue a very flexible time management, will be necessary. However, by trying to be very communicative yourself about where you are and what you are doing (for instance by text message or email), you might be able to convince some of your colleagues to do the same. But make sure you don’t expect too much from your colleagues, especially when you don’t know them well enough what to expect from them. To avoid frustration by the absence or lack of productivity by your colleagues, you can make sure that at least your own (work) plans are clear and adjusted to sudden changes and flexibility by others.
  • As an example, you can stick to certain office hours yourself, thereby structuring your own activities.
  • You could bring a book to an appointment, so that you can at least entertain yourself just in case you’ll have to wait longer than expected.
  • Bring your laptop to a meeting, so you can try to work a bit while the meeting drags on for hours without making sense to you.
  • Try to think of small tasks you could perform every time you’ll have to wait for someone else.
  • Try to invest in yourself and your personal skills, even while others around you lazy around.
  • Make sure you can at least feel good about yourself and your own achievements, it will help you to feel useful and accept someone else’s flaws.

The best thing to do is to accept and adapt. Be aware that your local colleagues will have another view towards time and therefore don’t expect them to behave as you would expect from a Dutch colleague. Also, don’t blame yourself or feel guilty for not being able to reach your own goals as a result of local conditions. When you are in the right state of mind and aware of your own tasks and your local possibilities to perform them realistically, you can avoid frustration, maybe even enjoy the flexibility of more relaxed working arrangements and make the most of ‘your time’ in the field.

Anton Quist

Sunday, January 10, 2010

How to involve colleagues more in my work and my capacity development intervention?"

Young Professionals discuss experiences and challenges in an online Discussion Group.

Young Professionals are sent all over the world to work with ICCO partners. Although our job descriptions may be different, we all have in common that we are supposed to work on ‘capacity building’. We are supposed to bring knowledge and skills to the organisations we work with, and make sure that the people in the organisation take over your knowledge and are able to use it on their own as soon as we leave. The golden rule is: “When you leave they should be able to do it themselves”. But how to involve your colleagues in what you are doing, and to make sure that you are not working alone, is a challenge for many. Therefore, this theme was chosen in the latest D-group discussion round for Young Professionals. Seven Young Professionals, who are working and living in different parts of the world, exchanged their experiences and discussed the challenges they are facing. Many Young Professionals find it a challenge to directly involve their colleagues in their work. Some feel they are working on their own little ‘island’, others have the feeling that their capacity is just seen as a “cheap pair of extra hands” by the organisation they are working for. Often this goes hand in hand with an unclear demand for capacity building from the partner organisation. As a Young Professional you have to dig and dig further to find out what the actual need for capacity development is. As a result, young professionals experience that they have to define their own roles and tasks, instead of being able to answer directly to a task formulated by the partner organisation. Often, a partner organisation is not clearly communicating to a young professional what they expect from him/her. Therefore, young professional have to take the initiative to get things done, with little involvement from colleagues.

Different expectations from a capacity development intervention
From my own experience as a starter in Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in Zimbabwe, I can truly relate to these challenges. Before I left, I found my job description very clear, and I thought it was obvious what the partner organisation was expecting from my capacity building intervention. But short after my arrival I found out that my job description might be very clear on paper, but that in practise the demand from the partner organisation, and from the colleagues is am working with in particular, was not very well defined. On the question “what do you want me to do in the coming six months and what are your expectations?” I did not get a clear answer. In the day to day work, I often felt that I was creating my own job, based on what I think was important, instead of working with involved colleagues on fulfilling their needs for capacity building.
During the D-Group discussion wit fellow Young Professionals, we found that prior to this situation/challenge is often the process in which the initial proposal for capacity building by a young professional is written. You find that often a proposal is written by a director or manager, without direct participation of all staff within the organisation. This may lead to little support base for the posting. A conclusion of the D-Group discussion is that most of the time, the parties involved (partner organisation, Togetthere, staff inside the PO, other stakeholders) have different expectations of the capacity development intervention. It takes a lot of effort and time for a young professional to find out what the exact expectations are and to find a balance between all these different expectations. It takes an average of 4 to 6 months to get to know the partner organisation, and your role and tasks in the organisation. It takes time to build trust with your colleagues. In the beginning they might be very much focussed on their own work, and it takes time for them to make time for you as a young professional.
Ways to involve your colleagues
During the discussion round, many ideas where shared on how to involve your colleagues. Most importantly, it is to build a good trust relationship with them. Approach your colleagues in an informal way (during tea breaks, in an informal setting), get to know them, find out about their needs and expectation and start building from there. Moreover, you have to build a good relationship with your supervisor, and get clear about his/her expectations and your expectations from the start. Plan moments of reflections and evaluation with him/her, so that you will keep on the right track and prevent losing sight of what is expected of you. In some cases you have to be very assertive to ensure that your supervisor, as well as other staff, make time for you and take you seriously. From my own experience I think it is very important to be this assertive, and take initiative from the beginning. If you don’t, you get lost, and it is too late to get back on track with the people you are working with.

Adjust ambitions to the situation
Personally, I think the most important conclusion and advice coming out the four week discussion round, is a very obvious and common shared one. Most of the time young professionals have very high ambitions and goals they would like to accomplish with the partner organisation. In all cases it is relevant to lower you ambitions and work with the situation that is there. Even when you think you have already lowered your ambitions and expectations, take it one step further. Especially is you are working for a short period of time (6 months), you can only succeed if your ambitions are in line with the situation on the ground. And usually, you can accomplish a lot less than what you intended in the first place, before you get on a plane to a tropic destination. But nevertheless, your work is always appreciated, and you have to keep in mind that a significant part of your intervention is your own learning experience, which brings a further in future jobs and/or capacity building interventions.

Lara van Kouterik
Young Professional Capacity development - Zimbabwe