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close this bookCommunity Participation in Problem-solving: Leadership (HABITAT, 1989, 35 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentGuidelines for the trainer
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentA statement of principles
View the documentI. Styles of leadership
View the documentII. The power of leaders
View the documentIII. The maturity of groups
View the documentIV. Leading a problem-solving group
View the documentV. Using participatory problem-solving techniques
View the documentBibliography

A statement of principles

The recommendations on problem-solving and decision-making procedures to be found In this manual are based on a number of basic assumptions:

1. The most productive act in problem-solving is to become aware of the problem.

This is the central paradox of all development work: starting off by trying to change conditions often complicates and increases the problem, whereas seeking first to understand the problem begins the actual process of solving it.

2. Every problem-situation can be seen as a field of forces psychological, social, political, economic and cultural forces - in a state of tension.

To solve a problem - to effect productive change - we must first identify what forces are at work and how they operate. Then, rather than seek for the one "cause" of the problem we must explore to find those places where we can effectively intervene in the field of forces in order to change the state of tension.

3. Effective decisions depend on valid information.

"Valid" means both accurate and complete. To make a comparison, the process of problem-solving is like a recipe for cooking a meal; the recipe depends on having the right ingredients. In problem-solving, the ingredients are the facts and knowledge that make up the information.

4. Working with others - especially those who are most affected by the problem - can improve the problem-solving process.

Therefore, it is important that project staff members and community leaders be sensitive to factors that influence the performance of a group and are able to use the recommended procedures in group settings.

5. Achieving good results from the implementation of a valid decision requires that those who are implementing the decision both understand it and are committed to it.

A decision might be technically sound but politically unacceptable. Those carrying out the decision might be uncommitted to or ill- prepared for action.

6. The community worker as "change agent" or "facilitator" must develop a supportive environment.

The people who are experiencing the problem should share in the making of decisions for change. Those who are involved in the problem-solving process should be able to communicate openly about the problems they are experiencing. However, change often generates conflict - about methods, objectives and resources. Therefore, it is vital that project staff members and community leaders be sensitive to the causes of conflict in human settlements projects - and possess skills of conflict management which harmonize with the principles of community participation.

Thus, effective problem-solving in human settlements projects must, itself, be a process of community participation.