|The Community Builders: A Practical Guide where People Matter (GTZ, 1989)|
We must now
Set up a Building Committee, delegate authority, decide responsibilities and duties and agree how to run our committee.
will plan? decide? direct? instruct? control the budget? to whom
will the Community Builder refer?
This is a great test for managers. Are they prepared to allow the people to be involved? Or do they feel they must retain a tight control themselves?
The people will know in their hearts if they are really in charge of their affairs, to learn by mistakes and success. We must be clear, therefore, whether we are building communities -or not?
Our Story -Their first meeting
One day Dr John comes looking for Ralihaha. "I've just heard from
Fr Pierre. He says the funding for Mission Clinic has been approved. We can
start work!" "That's great," replies Ralihaha, "Let us proceed to set up the
Building Committee. "Do we really need a committe when there are so few of us?"
asks Dr John. "Yes, I believe we do," says Ralihaha. "We have to be sure that
everyone continues to be involved and no one person starts to make all the
decisions. Shall we ask Mapalesa to join us in making a list of the people who
should be on the committee?" Dr John agrees, for he knows this is the way
Ralihaha works. The list starts with the three of them and Fr Pierre; they add
Nurse Lerato. "What about a representative of the village health workers"
committee at this stage?" asks Mapalesa. And she agrees to arrange a date for
the meeting on her next visit.
As they arrive at Mission Clinic on the appointed day, they meet Fr Pierre preparing to go out. "Oh," he says, "just go ahead without me. I have a visit to make." Ralihaha senses difficulties, for he feels sure that Fr Pierre will not understand why they need a committee. So he responds, "It is essential you're here, for it is, after all, your mission." Mapalesa suggests to Dr John that it would in any case be better to deal with the patients who are waiting first. Fr Pierre agrees he will not keep them waiting.
So later that morning, Dr John, Fr Pierre, Mapalesa, Nurse Lerato and Ralihaha hold their first meeting. Fr Pierre invites Dr John to chair the meeting, for he can see he likes things done properly. Ralihaha agrees to write the minutes. The Father is thinking this will be the first and last meeting, for he is used to pushing ahead on his own. After all he built the whole of this mission station with his men, making decisions as he went along. Dr John is also in a hurry. He wants to approve the layout right away so that Ralihaha can get on with preparing the builder's information immediately. Ralihaha can see some problems. He has, for one thing, been talking to Mapalesa, and knows there has to be further discussions before the layout is agreed. So he draws himself up and says, "Let us first agree how we are going to work as a committee, our purpose, and who should be represented here." Dr John asks if everyone is happy with this. And they proceed.
This is a great work.
By sharing it round,
we not only build communities,
but also lighten our load.
By keeping control ourselves,
we exclude people
and they cannot develop.
Take care. We can find ourselves in great difficulty at this stage
in the project if we are not careful. The person in charge may feel a strong
urge to take sole command and start making decisions on his own. This will
effectively prevent us from building communities. If people are to be committed,
contributing their skills and experience, they must be involved in the decision
making. To be excluded will stifle their initiative.
Community building demands that we work as a team. This is unlike the traditional hierarchical role of the headmaster to teacher and pupil, or doctor to nurses and patient, where the person in charge is giving instructions. Here everyone must contribute; management providing direction; administration providing accountancy; and the people who work in the building, their specialist knowledge. Your architect is not there to decide what you should have, but rather to advise how the job can best be done. Take care it does not happen by default on your part. How you react on this advice is a group decision that is too important to be left to management. Anyone trying to do this alone will inevitably make mistakes.
The building committee. When funding is allocated it is time to establish the Building Committee. This has two main functions: to ensure that everyone is represented in the work, and that a concise decision is taken
on each matter. Membership should be by a process of natural selection on an informal basis, so that people come and go as the work advances. Anyone who fails to communicate should be discretely swapped. Maintenance, for example, should be represented when the builder's information is being prepared and at all times the committee must be accountable to the "key people' (section A3); management and the administration; and, of course, the architect. As well as setting up a project committee there is need to establish a committee representing local people. In some situations one may already exist, such as with a village health clinic, in others this may have to be started from scratch. The building work presents an opportunity to encourage people to feel involved and that they have some influence over what is done. When the building is finished and the work of the project has to continue, this can be of fasting benefit, having established a firm line of contact between project and local community.
Note. If you, the architect, fail at this critical stage to put into practice some kind of acceptable structure for community participation, then there are sure to be great troubles and difficulties building up for you. It may, therefore, be time to question your own future in the project.
Our Story -They organize their committee
Dr John asks if everyone is happy with the membership of the committee, or do they have any suggestions? Ralihaha can see that an agenda is required or people will be raising matters whenever they get a chance to speak. So he nudges Dr John and suggests he uses the blackboard to make a list. He has thought about this beforehand and here is what he writes happy with that," says Ralihaha. "OK," says Dr John, "I accept what you suggest. We have, I think, agreed on the chairman and secretary. I suggest the minutes are kept in a book here where we meet. There is no need to distribute copies."
"Now we must agree what are our responsibilities," says Dr John.
"I think Ralihaha has some suggestions on this?" "Yes," he says. "There is quite
a lot that the committee should assume respondsibility for. First we have to
consider the layout and plan it in greater detail. Then we prepare a layout for
each room, showing the fittings and furnishings. I will work with each of you on
"That" says Dr John, "is enough to keep us busy for today!" Item 1. Ralihaha looks at Mapalesa; he wants to support her in suggesting a member of the village health worker's committee. Unexpectedly, Nurse Lerato says "We need to have the patients' point of view represented. They are the ones who we are doing this for." "Do-you think they will contribute?" asks Dr John. "Oh yes," says Mapalesa, "it might prove a very valuable exercise in drawing them into the management of the clinic." "I would be chiefly I need Lerato's time. Next we have to make a programme and update the budget from the project proposal. When this committee has approved all of this, then it should be formally apt proved by tile Mission Board. There should be no more changes after this, as it will delay the job." The Father interrupts, for he is a bit surprised that the committee should be involved with the money. He can look after that, he says. Dr John does not want this, for funding organizations, he knows, like regular reports of expenditure, and, in any case, he wishes to be involved.
A plan of responsibility and duties
The first duty of the committee is to define its work. The architect will advise you and you can refer to this Guide. These 'terms of reference' must then be approved by the Executive, Board, or whatever authority is delegating responsibility. On some matters the committee will assume the power to decide, on others it will advise, but in no case should anyone decide on its behalf. There must be good means of communication, written and spoken, between the committee and the Executive if this is to succeed.
Some suggestions for the committee's work
1. Check that the proposal, on reflection, is acceptable, amend if
necessary and approve as the basis for detail examination. This is the
opportunity people have been promised for them to decide.
2. Develop the proposal in greater detail, including fittings and furnishings.
3. Consider building options, running costs, programme and detail the budget. Submit for Executive approval.
No expenditure should be made without the committee's approval in order that it retains control over the project. (This must be with" in the budget, otherwise it needs further Executive approval). This is very important to community building.
4. Study local and own contributions.
5. Oversee the preparation of the construction information and the obtaining of prices. Refer to Executive for approval. Inform funding organization of any changes.
6. Decide on temporary accommodation and organize removals.
7. Instruct the architect during the works, submit progress and budget reports to Executive and funding organizations. Both should respond.
8. Prepare a signposting scheme.
9. On completion check that everything is in place, commission equipment, obtain construction records for maintenance (section D 4) and inform Executive that all is complete.
10. Organize furnishings, allocate rooms and attend to cleaning arrangements, etc.
Our Story -They continue their responsibilities
Ralihaha explains that large funding organizations have too much
experience of projects that run short of money or are unfinished. Therefore, he
would like to suggest that Fr Pierre keep the cashbook and make the payments,
but that there be monthly financial reports to the committee who will control
the budget. The committee might decide to save a bit in one place and spend it
in another, but they could not exceed the budget without the approval of the
Ralihaha continues; the committee must then oversee the preparation of the builders information. They have to decide how the work will be carried out, whether by local builder, outside contractor, or with the Mission's own men. They also have to discuss what contribution the local people could make, and that was where the village representative would play an important role in building commitment. Nurse Lerato interrupts to say how she values this. She has spent a long time working hard to achieve local support from the village people, and if they have no part in the building work this could so easily be destroyed. They all agree that Lerato's point is very important. Fr Pierre says his men would do this well as they are all local men from the village. "Yes," says Dr John, "but the job may be too big for them. This, together with their other work around the mission, means that it may take far too long." They will, says Ralihaha, have to look at this in due course as the committee must oversee the pricing of the work.
The committee, he says, must organize and supervise the removal of
the clinic to temporary accomodation. This is quite a complex
There are quotations to obtain for equipment and fittings, and later a signposting scheme to prepare. Lastly, on completion, they must be satisfied that everything is finished and operating correctly. There must be record drawings for maintenance, and finally the occupation of the new building had to be organized and the final account prepared for the Board and funding organization.
"That's quite a lot," says the Father. "Perhaps," comments Dr John, "Ralihaha would draft it out as a series of headings for everyone to see." "I'll present a copy to the next Board meeting," says the Father.
Ralihaha then explains that he would draw the layout to a larger scale. At first this might prove a bit difficult, but as they adjusted to this they would find they took in a lot more detail. And so they fixed the date of the next meeting for two weeks time, hoping to have the detail plan before them.
How will we run our committee?
Some situations demand a rather more formal structure, with the
minutes circulated, others can be more informal, what you agree being recorded
in a book as you proceed.
Start by reviewing who is represented, and make good any gaps. Decide who will be your chairperson and secretary. There are various ways you can draft the agenda, but it should encourage people to put forward matters that need discussion. Agendas made up in advance tend to deter this. Try asking people, as they arrive, to write on a large sheet of paper anything they feel should be discussed. Prom this the chairperson can propose the agenda.
If the secretary drafts each minute as you proceed, and this is then approved, everyone knows what action they are expected to take on leaving the meeting. When these are written in a book and signed by everyone at the end of the meeting, you are always up-to date. Give each item a number and use this every time the matter is discussed. It is then easy to refer back.
Avoid long gaps between meetings. This breaks the involvement of people, leaves the architect too much on his own, and piles up too many items for the next meeting.
Look back and see if the spirit of the Community Builder's Charter
is being adhered to?
In your heart, does the real decision lie with the committee?
What activities or people are not adequately represented on your committee?
Has every responsibility and duty connected with the job been allocated?
Has the architect a voice in the decision making and financial control?
Quote -Reflection and action
"Often the first plan of action will solve some aspects of the
problem, but not deal deeply enough with the root causes of the problem. By
setting a regular cycle of reflection and action in which a group is constantly
celebrating their successes, and analyzing the causes of mistakes and failures,
they can become more and more capable of effectively transforming their daily
Training for Transformation,, vol. 1, p. 11.
Anne Hope and Sally Tummel (Further Reading 25)
Our Story - A fresh start is thought provoking
To prepare for the discussion Ralihaha sat down to draw out the
survey to a larger scale, showing more detail. He always found this a tedious
task and was happy when it was done. He made it in pencil on squared paper with
the intention of making a number of copies over which they could work. The
existing plan would then show through, assisting people to relate the new to the
old. As he drew he could see some improvements, which he sketched out for
himself, so that in the discussion he would be able to make some
A day or two later Dr John was passing Mission Clinic, so he dropped off Ralihaha to work there for the day. By chance Nurse Lerato was not busy and could devote much of her time to working with him on the layout. He laid out the large plan of the clinic and, taking a black felt pen, he boldy traced in the existing walls so that Lerato could follow the new drawing. It was obvious that she quickly grasped the new scale, for she was able to point out where the furniture was in each room.
Taking another copy of the plan and a coloured felt pen, he began to draw the new layout over the outline of the existing one. It looked quite different on this scale. "Here is the kitchen," he said,
"and these are the worktops and cupboards." Lerato wanted to refer to the small layout in the project proposal, but Ralihaha said it would be better not to, as this would be confusing. When they started to talk about what would be kept in each cupboard, Lerato said she must call Mpho, her assistant, as much of this was her work. It was apparent that Mpho was having difficulties following the larger drawing and so Ralihaha suggested he give them a conducted tour around the building, as if they were in the new clinic. "Let us start with the new entrance for the patients," he said. "There will be a door in place of this window; it leads straight into the registration and dispensary which will be here. We knock out this wall at the end of your room, and . . ." so they proceed. By the time they have finished the two nurses are very pleased.
"I have been thinking about the toilet on the plan'" says Lerato. "We don't mind going outside to the latrine, we are used to that, but we would like a place to wash at the end of the day. We are, in any case, teaching the village people to build pit latrines, yet we propose water closets for ourselves. We must be consistent. Could we use this space for a shower?" Here is a good indication to Ralihaha that Lerato has been thinking about the proposal. This gives him encouragement.