|Inter-regional project for participatory upland conservation and development - NEPAL - Strengthening the participatory process through community-based evaluation and re-planning workshops (1996)|
|2. Workshop design and preparation|
Following this situation analysis, a number of preliminary working sessions were carried out with the aim of: focusing the workshop according to staff and user groups wishes and expectations; identifying and designing the evaluation and re-planning exercises to be carried out during the event; and training the workshop team in their facilitation2.
2 In addition to the above mentioned occasional and regular consultants. Workshop Team included Mr. Dungana (DSC Assistant Soil Conservation officer), Mr. Thapa, Mr. Joshi, Mr. Sheikh (Area Facilitators), Mr. Shresta (Ranger), Mr. Pharindhra (Field assistant) and Ms. Dunga (Group Promoter). Further support was provided by Mr. Tcharithra and the Group Promoters in-charge of other areas. Though not necessary for the implementation of the workshop, such a numerous team (actually, the whole project field staff) was joined in order to allow everybody to learn by doing how to design and implement these events.
The first of these preliminary meetings was carried out with the workshop team at Base Camp on Monday 7 October.
This meeting started with a group review of the strengths and weaknesses of the Majgaon 19% CAP. Workshop team members agreed to consider as major strengths of the plan:
* the consistent link existing between planned activities and felt needs, as identified and prioritised, in previous PRA sessions;
* the activity mix, covering improvements of household living conditions (water sources protection), income generating initiatives (vegetable production), and natural resource management initiatives (forest management and fruit trees planting); and
* the share of responsibilities in implementation among project and user groups.
On the other hand, the formulation of the plan was criticised because of:
* the limited concern for the actual feasibility (cost/effectiveness) of some proposed activities (namely, protection of water sources affecting a very low number of actual beneficiaries);
* the insufficient definition of specific responsibilities in implementation and the very broad timing of activities;
* the ubiquitous presence of the project (and DSC) as the main source of support, leading to underestimating the potential contribution of government line agencies institutionally in-charge of assisting villagers in agricultural production and forestry initiatives (i.e., the District Agriculture Office and the District Forest Office).
The latter issue was the main subject of the subsequent discussion. It was observed that during the year the mediation and facilitation role expected from the project may have prevented User Groups to establish more direct collaboration links with other agencies. On the other hand, it was also acknowledged that the very structure of the participatory planning matrix so far used (including a special column for "project support") was conducive to this attitude. Based on these considerations, a risk of turning the CAP from a community-based development planning tool into a community/project collaboration contract was eventually identified.
This discussion was very instrumental in helping the team to answer the basic workshop design question: "Who will evaluate and re-plan what?". Following the above considerations, two different options were indeed considered.
The former option was to focus the evaluation and re-planning exercise on the collaboration between the project and the already established user groups. In this case, project staff and user groups members would had been asked to evaluate CAP activities so far implemented with project support, and to plan their continuation according to progress made and lessons learned through mutual interaction.
The latter option was to re-focus the process on community actors and their initiatives. Community members (participants and, as far as possible non participants) would had been asked to look at the progress made through 1996 CAP implementation as achievements of the overall community development process. It was assumed that this approach would had facilitated:
* the incorporation in the new action plan of both continued and new activities;
* the involvement new user groups in CAP formulation and implementation; and
* the establishment of a direct collaboration relationship between the community and the relevant line-agencies and NGOs.
Based on these considerations, at the end of the meeting, an unanimous consensus was reached about the opportunity of developing the workshop according with this second hypothesis.
The focus and design of the workshop was further discussed with Majgaon user groups representatives, in a meeting carried out during a visit to the hamlet, hold on Tuesday 8 October.
The objectives of this meeting were: (i) to get some ideas about what user group members would had been are interested in dealing with during the workshop; and (ii) to define the "who", "where", "when" and "how" of the workshop.
During this meeting, user group representatives fully agreed on the idea that this should had been " a community, not a project workshop". Therefore, it was decided that the event should cover all completed and on-going project sponsored activities, but not be limited to them: autonomous initiatives taken by UGs3 and new activities (even though not covered by project mandate) would had also been considered.
3 Such as, for instance, the commercialisation of compost made by Pragati Women User Group, and the selling of fruit and foder saplings by Nabajgaran User Group.
Participants in the meeting also expressed their interest in taking advantage of the workshop to promote an exchange among different user groups members and with non-participants. Two main topics were considered specially relevant for such a discussion: the changes on-going in the community situation because of user groups action and the strengths and weaknesses of the implementation process.
Decision was therefore made to invite to the workshop also community members who did not participated to 1996 CAP formulation and implementation. In particular, a direct invitation was addressed by user groups representatives (and the workshop team) to the households belonging to the Adwabary low caste minority ethnic group, who, for a number of reasons, were so far only marginally involved in the community development process.
Finally, organisational and logistics aspects of the event were agreed upon. It was decided that the workshop would had took place on the following Thursday and Friday (with the first day essentially devoted to evaluation and the second one to re-planning exercises), from 11.00 am. to 5 p.m. Due to favourable weather conditions, it was suggested to carry-out the event in open air, on a natural terrace located on the top of Majgaon hill (a beautiful place, to which the community seemed to attach a special symbolic value). Participants in the event were estimated in about thirty persons representing as many households. Tea and refreshment would had been offered by the project.
Following these preliminary meetings, the International Consultant in M&E and Participatory Methods, and the National Consultants in Participatory Methods and Capacity Building joined in Base Camp to prepare the exercises to be carried out during the workshop, and the overall time table of the event.
Following a preliminary review of PRA techniques so far used by PUCD staff, New Era participatory evaluation background and similar experiences carried out by PUCD sister project in other countries, three exercises were eventually selected for implementation:
* a participatory impact mapping exercise aimed at facilitating (i) the identification of actual or expected changes in living conditions (and/or natural resource management) related to the implementation of CAP activities; and (ii) a visual assessment of their distribution throughout the community territory and population (made possible by plotting identified "impacts" on the community map -prepared during 1995 PRA; see Box 1, for further operational details);
* a series of on-the-spot visits to completed or on-going physical works, aimed at facilitating an analysis of strengths and weaknesses in implementation and opportunities for future improvement4, based on direct observation of positive and negative aspects of the work done and/or on recall of factors which affected the implementation process (see Box 2);
* a participatory planning exercise, based on an improved participatory planning matrix. Main improvements felt as necessary in the organisation of the matrix included: i) a column for definition of the "what for?" of each activity (i.e., of its potential impacts and effects); and (ii) the merging in one single field of the "support from the project" and "support from other institutions" columns, aimed at decreasing the project mandate bias, observed in 1996 CAP (see Box 3).
4 Even though usually foreseen by the SWOT/SWOL technique, the identification of negative factors unlikely to be overcome in the future (threats or limitations) was not included during initial PRA. In order to limit as much as possible potentially confusing changes in the application of this technique, decision was made to stick on previous and already consolidated practice. Therefore this exercise will be hereinater referred as SWO (strengths, weaknesses and opportunities analysis).
Moreover, the following of general organisational and methodological orientations for workshop implementation were agreed upon by consultants:
* Due to the relatively high number of participants, the workshop should include both small group-work activities (aimed at facilitating active participation also of less talkative persons) and plenary sessions (allowing for exchange among groups and further discussion). A member of the workshop team, trained in the technicalities of the different exercises should support each working group as facilitator; the National Consultants in Participatory Methods and Capacity Building should act as coordinators and moderators of the plenary sessions.
* Evaluation exercises should be carried out by members of the user groups who took direct responsibility for the implementation of the activity under consideration, with eventual non participants basically acting as external (though, not silent) observers. In order to ensure process homogeneity among working groups, these exercises will be methodologically facilitated by workshop team members. However, maximum care should be taken by the facilitator to not orient, nor influence the content of participants judgements with his own (or project) opinions.
* Similarly, re-planning exercise should be carried out by user groups which will take care of implementation. As a consequence the overall final CAP would be the sum of user-groups plan, eventually adjusted on the basis of suggestions and amendments forwarded during the subsequent plenary session. Participatory planning exercise should be kept completely open-ended, i.e. based on felt needs of the concerned user group members and not limited, nor biased, by project mandate. Nevertheless, it was agreed that during this exercise the facilitators should play a more active role than in evaluation. This should include probing the potential feasibility of participants proposals, and support in identifying the more appropriate source of external assistance (i.e., the relevant line-agency or NGO).
To visually summarise some of these ideas, the "workshop trail" - a schematic representation of the workshop process to be presented during the introductory plenary session - was prepared (see Box 4). Furthermore, facilitator guidelines and training examples (in Nepali) were prepared for each one of the above mentioned exercises.
Based on these elements, a one-day training session, aimed at presenting (to) and discussing with the team-in charge the workshop methodology was carried out. Training was facilitated in Nepali by the National Consultants in Participatory Methods and Capacity Building.
During this session, conceptual and practical aspects of workshop implementation by means of interactive presentations and role-playing (which proved to be specially effective in making workshop teams members confident in managing the technicalities of the different exercises).
It should also be observed that field staff comments and suggestions contributed very much to fine tuning of the techniques and tools. Furthermore, role playing experience was essential in defining the time to be allocated to each exercise, and in shaping the workshop timetable in its final form (see Box 5).
At the end of the training session, workshop materials (including flip-charts and maps) were prepared by the workshop team members.
PARTICIPATORY IMPACT MAPPING
Purpose of the exercise
Facilitating the identification of actual or expected changes in living conditions (and/or natural resource management) related to the implementation of CAP activities
Allowing for a visual assessment of the distribution of these changes throughout the community territory and population.
A list of actual and potential perceived "impacts" (i.e. changes in households and community living conditions) is developed by participants through a brainstorming focused around the following key-question:
Which changes in participants lives have been (will be) brought by this activity?".
Impact cards are prepared by writing items of this list on a transparency sheet (which afterwards will be cut). Participants are asked to plot these impacts cards on the village and/or natural resources map prepared during initial PRA. They are also asked to state how many households are (or will be) affected by these changes.
Impacts cards are pasted on the map and a discussion of the overall changes occurring in the community because of participants work is carried out. This is facilitated by the following key-questions:
What is changing in the community because of UG work?
Which localities (areas, households) are affected by UG work and which not? Why?"
What can he done next year to consolidate and improve these changes?
Finally, participants are asked to prepare a short report of the main findings of the exercise to be presented and discussed in plenary.
ON-THE-SPOT VISIT AND SWO ANALYSIS EXERCISE.
Facilitating direct observation of positive and negative aspects of the work done and/or recall assets and constraints in the implementation process.
Systematising the analysis of these ideas through an analysis of strengths and weaknesses in previous implementation and opportunities for future improvement.
The group of participants go with the facilitator to visit the activity site(s).
The facilitator asks the group to observe and describe the work done and to recall assets and constraints which affected implementation. This discussion is kept as informal as possible in order to promote an open-ended sharing of participants personal views about the work done and its actual results.
Based on this preliminary exchange of views and ideas, the SWO exercise is carried out. To facilitate it, the following questions are addressed to the participants:
Strengths: What was well done in our
After checking (or reaching) consensus, SWOs statements are jotted down by a literate group member (or the facilitator).
Final SWOs list is copied on a flip-chart matrix, to be used for plenary presentation and future reference.
KEY-QUESTIONS TO FOCUS AND FACILITATE
Activity: What are we going to do?
Expected changes: What for?
Coverage: How many households will be affected?
Community inputs: What can villagers provide for doing it?
External inputs: What support do we need from outsiders?
Supporting organisation/agency: Who can provide us with this support?
Tentative implementation starting and ending month: When it can be done?
Person(s) in-charge of start-up: Who will take care of getting the work started?
Thursday, 10 October
12.00 Introduction to the workshop.
12.30 Participatory impact mapping exercise (in small groups).
13.30 Plenary presentation of results of participatory impact mapping exercises.
14.30 Tea break
15.00 On-the-spot visits and SWO analysis exercises (in small groups).
16.30 End of session.
Friday, 11 October
11.30 Plenary presentation of results of SWO exercises.
12.30 Preparation of User Groups plans for 1997 (in small groups).
14.00 Tea break
15.00 Plenary presentation and discussion of User Groups plans for 1997. Development and ratification of the overall CAP for 1997.
16.30 End of session.