An Effective Path Towards Strengthening Communities, Families and Organizations
by Phil Bartle, PhD
Dedicated to Gert Lüdeking
Core Document in the Module
Training for organizing or re-organizing; not only skill transfer
Management training as an element of community mobilizing is aimed at poverty reduction, the strengthening of low income communities in the planning and management of human settlements communal facilities and services, their construction, operation and maintenance.
This is training for action, not just for skill transfer or for giving information to individuals.
It can not be emphasized too much that training, as a method for strengthening low income communities, for poverty reduction, for promoting community participation, for practical support to democratization and decentralization, ie for mobilizing, is far from being only the transfer of information and skills to the trainees.
This is non orthodox training. Formalization and institutionalization of this kind of training brings with it the danger of emasculating the training, of emphasising the skill transfer over the encouragement, mobilization and organizing aspects.
Management training in this sense was developed for strengthening the effectiveness of top and middle management in profit making corporations.
It has been modified here, and integrated with techniques of trade union organizing, for the purposes of mobilizing and strengthening the capacity of low income communities to come together and help themselves, and engage in developmental social change.
The Four Essential Questions:
If we look at all decision making which varies from context to context, we can distil all to four essential questions. Answering these questions is the basic management planning process.
These four questions are: "1. What do we want? 2. What do we have? 3. How can we use what we have to get what we want? 4. What will happen when we get it?" If you look carefully, they are the four questions included, and perhaps disguised by elaboration, in any project planning document and in brainstorming.
The "What do we want?" question covers the description of the problem, it's reversal to define the general goal, and its refinement to make it into specific objectives, outputs and other finer definitions of that goal. In community management training the "What do we want?" question must be answered by the community as a whole, not just the men, not just the educated, not just the civil servants, not just the friends of the agency, but by all of the community, by consensus.
The "What do we have?" question is the identification of resources or potential inputs that can be used to reach the chosen goal. In community management training, this identification is best done in meetings where the quiet people are encouraged to participate, because there are many resources in every community, including the poorest, that are hidden or perhaps not so obvious. A skilled mobilizer draws out of a community meeting, by facilitation, the identification of many otherwise hidden or disguised resources. The resources can include available labour and expertise (the human energy ready to be employed in the activity), land or space on which to carry out the activity, cash (through charges, sales, donations and other sources). capital (reusable equipment or tools) needed to carry out the activity, and human mental resources (wisdom, information, skills, experience, analytic capacity, creativity) that are often the hidden contributions of old or retired people, and often found in those who may be physically disabled or socially ostracized. Many are so obvious that they are otherwise overlooked.
The "How do we get what we want with what we have?" question is the strategy part of the craft of management. There are always several different ways to combine the available resources, and the collective mental resources of the community (as mentioned above) should be used to identify several strategies, and select the most appropriate one.
The "What will happen when we get it?" question covers the prediction of the impact of the activity. It can be expanded to ask how the activity is expected to affect the community and its (social and physical) environs, and leads to plans for monitoring and evaluation.
These four questions should be used by the field worker as a framework for organizing, or reorganizing, a group. Similarly they are used by a management trainer for organizing or reorganizing a management team. A coordinator can use them for organizing a team of field workers. Together, they are the framework for building management capacity and strength of any group of participants.
In community management training, these essential four questions need to be raised when the whole community is meeting to decide priorities. They should be used again when the executive committee of the CBO meets on behalf of the whole community to work out details. If you look carefully, you will see these four questions, in the order presented, hidden in two of this document's appendices, the brainstorming process and guidelines for project design.
Whether they are asked when organizing a trade union, or in a management meeting of senior executives of a wealthy corporation (or, in this context, during the empowerment and capacity building of a low income community). they constitute the essential or core decisions in management.
Other Principles in Management Training:
Once the four essential or core questions are recognized as at the centre of community management training, several other management principles can be identified. The extent to which these are included in community management training may vary according to what is needed: how much and what kind of training is appropriate at each session. The following is an open-ended list, and does not have to be presented in the following order.
© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle