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Management Training in CMP

Training for Strength; A Community Management Training Methodology

by Phil Bartle, PhD

4. Management Training In CMP:

While the first three chapters of this methodology dealt with the principles of applying management training to the empowerment of low income communities, this chapter describes in more detail the application of the methodology to the Community Management Programme.

When we meet community leaders and members, many say, "Oh yes, we know all about community participation. Just bring us the roofing sheets (or pipes) and we will build the clinic (or water supply)." Some respond with disbelief when we say "No."

We explain that when we expect them to participate, it means they must participate in:

  1. mobilizing all their community members;
  2. deciding, as a community, what priority project to choose;
  3. planning their project;
  4. choosing an executive committee from among themselves;
  5. opening a project bank account;
  6. buying their own construction materials;
  7. organizing to undertake self help projects;
  8. maintaining and sustaining facilities; and
  9. monitoring and reporting to themselves and to us.

We tell them that we can give them some management training, and that our financial input is conditional to them learning good management, eg how to write effective proposals, opening a community bank account and setting up a transparent accounts system.

We make it very clear (usually repeating ourselves) that we make no promises. We will not contribute to the community projects unless their proposal is approved and a contract is signed. The project design (and proposal) and contract together constitute the focal point of our community management training, which will become more apparent below.

Illustration 10: Training Workshop;
Learning Management Skills:

Illustration Ten; Training Workshop; Learning Management Skills

4.1. The Community Choice of Project:

When we agree to give the community some management training, we begin with ensuring that all members of the community are present when the decision about what project to choose is made. We emphasize that the project should not be the favourite wish of powerful or educated members of the community, and it can not be decided by the males only, or by one ethnic group only (in multi-ethnic communities).

We point out that women, youth, the disabled, and poor people must be recognized as part of the whole community, and should participate in deciding on what project to undertake. The community organizing, is conducted through our (CMP) District Coordinators who sit on District Development Committees, through local leaders in the official Local Council structure, through the Central and District Governmental officials, and through unpaid "mobilizers" (community members who are given occasional training allowances and other token incentives).

4.2. Assessing Community Needs and Priorities:

There is a logical sequence: from raising awareness, community mobilizing, identifying priority problems, assessing potential resources and constraints, generating strategies and choosing one, implementing the action, monitoring and evaluation, and round again. Before a community decides to choose its priority project (or problem to solve) it is useful to examine the community dispassionately to determine the current situation.

What are the assets and liabilities of the community?

CMP advocates the use of participatory learning in a process of the community workers and the community members working together to observe, record and analyse the current situation in the community.

4.3. Need for Design of a Community Project:

When a choice of project (clinic construction, water supply extension, school rooms construction, foot bridge, whatever) is made, we explain that the community must prepare and submit a project proposal based on a good design of the project. They must decide what has to be done, how much each part must cost, where they are going to obtain the resources, and many other design elements.

We point out to them that the choice of project can only remain wishful thinking until they are precise and specific and say exactly how much, where, when, and how it is to be done. This, too, we call management training, and we offer them advice and suggestions, but always pointing out that the decisions must be made by the community members (as a whole), not by us.

4.4. Brainstorming and Selecting Priorities:

An important management technique included in management training is "The Brainstorm."

The key element of the session is for participants, under the direction of a facilitator, to suspend all judgement and criticism in order to bring to light all possible strategies (even the foolish ones) and then to choose the most appropriate.

While the brainstorm was developed to develop teamwork among senior corporate management groups, it has been found to be well applied to community groups in order to identify community problems, choose the priority one to solve at first, identify resources, generate possible strategies and choose the most appropriate one. Brainstorming sessions should be used at several stages of the process, and facilitators should be well trained in running them, and the community members well briefed about how such sessions are conducted.

In the selecting of priorities among several alternatives, brainstorming can assist in helping the community members develop a sense of "ownership" of their selected activity. It is important that the community, not the facilitator, makes decisions about what actions should be chosen over others. The facilitator sets up the structure of the brainstorming session, and ensures that the ground rules are followed (especially the "no criticism" rule) but draws the ideas and decisions out of the participants, and reminds the participants that it is their communal choices that are being revealed.

4.5. Designing A Community Project or Activity:

While a brainstorm session can result in a choice of community project and a design sketch, more detailed design is needed in order to obtain funding from most donor agencies.

The project design should be very simple to understand. It can be included in a written proposal (see below). The essential elements of the proposal, first the choice of project and then how it is to be carried out, by whom and when, must each be approved by the community as a whole. Those elected to prepare the design should not only write it up, but ensure in a community meeting that all members of the community understand its details.

Illustration 11: Training: Report Writing Workshop:

Illustration Eleven; Training Session; Report Writing Workshop

4.6. Writing a Community Project Proposal:

Remember that the job of a facilitator is as a promoter of community self reliance. The facilitator should not write the proposal. The facilitator can guide the community representatives (eg executive of the CBO) to write the proposal. Techniques of proposal writing are included in the document, Proposals for Funding; Guidelines (How to get money out of donor organizations)

A proposal is a request for financial assistance to implement a project. A proposal is not just a "shopping list" of wanted things.

A proposal must justify each item in the list, so that a donor agency can decide if it wants to provide some or all of those things. The presenters must know exactly what they want to do with these things, and that is why they should design a project to carry out what they want to achieve.

A project proposal should be an honest "sales" document. It's job is to inform and to convince. It is not a place to preach, boast or to deceive. If the community is convinced it is a good idea and should be supported, its project proposal should honestly report it to decision makers who weigh its merits against other donation commitments.

It should clearly indicate how and when the project will end, or become self supporting. Proposals should be neat and tidy, preferably typewritten, and without any unnecessary information. Most donors look for the degree of local initiative in the project proposal, the utilization of the available resources within the country itself and the plans for the project to be self-supporting once the initial funding has been spent.

Increasingly, funding agencies are looking for integrated approaches to development projects. This means that the community must identify what extent its project supports and supplements existing activities, and is designed to overcome identified problems. We recommend that a CBO obtain resources (funds) from several (especially local) sources. Do not let the organization or group become dependent upon a single donor.

The proposal should include what reports will be written. A detailed monthly narrative progress report should include how far each of the intended objectives have been reached, what were the reasons they were not fully reached, and suggestions and reasons about changing the objectives if they were found to need changing. The narrative report can include information about events and inputs (What actions were undertaken, see below), but should emphasize outputs (the results of those actions in so much as they lead to achieving the stated objectives). Attention should be paid to the number and location of beneficiaries. The monthly report would best be organized into sections corresponding to the sections of your proposal.

As well as narrative reporting, there is financial reporting. A detailed monthly financial report should include what moneys were received and from where, what moneys were expended, listed line by line according to the budget categories in the proposal, reasons for over- or under- spending, and an assessment of how well the expenditures contributed to reaching the stated objectives of the project.

No individual should try to write the proposal alone. The facilitator should make it a group activity by the community representatives, on behalf of the whole community, for approval first by the community. Ask for help from your friends and colleagues, programmer, manager, staff and those who can assist in either concepts or in style. Think of preparing a proposal as a written form of "dialogue" in which each successive draft is a continuation of the process.

A brief list of proposal chapters is given as Community Project Design Chapters. It can be used as a short handout during workshops or informal training.

4.7. The Executive Committee:

While we expect that the community as a whole must make the overall decision about what project to choose, and some of the general decisions about how to undertake it (identifying resources, choosing a strategy from among alternatives), a smaller, responsible, working group is needed for detailed design. This is the executive committee.

We do not dictate how such a committee should be formed; we do not impose any preconceived notions of organizing methods. We do caution against choosing a secretary or treasurer just on the basis of being educated (many such have absconded with community funds in the past), and we point out that an elderly, illiterate, woman of honest reputation in the community, would be a good choice to be treasurer (you do not have to know how to read and write in order to count money).

Illustration 12: More Community Action; Making Bricks:

Illustration Twelve: More Community Action; Making Bricks

4.8. The Community Contribution:

When we point out that community participation is not the same thing as community contribution (though many mistakenly assume it is), we also note that both are necessary. While community participation means the decision making that makes any activity community based, or community centred, community contribution is necessary to ensure that the community members feel that they own the project, ie that they have invested in it, not just received it.

We point out that at least fifty percent of the project inputs must come from the community itself. At first this is often viewed with anxiety and despair from many community members.

Then we point out that the donated communal labour alone has to be fairly calculated, and that if they did so, they would be pleasantly surprised at how much value that would add to the community input. We point out that the time spent by community members, especially those that sit on the executive committee, deciding and planning the project, are donations of executive, planning and management skills, time and labour.

Furthermore, we point out that donations of sand and dirt, too, are often underestimated, and should be recognized, with fair cost estimates, as community inputs.

4.9. Proposal Preparation:

When a community group decides to undertake a project, they know that there are several approaches to obtain resources. These include public fund raising events, private solicitations, and donor agencies. The latter requires a proposal.

They first see the preparation of a proposal only as a method of obtaining funds from a donor agency. That is not a bad motivation in itself, but it is the job of community management training to use this motivation to assist the community in preparing a proposal that reflects good planning, design and management of their project (thus making the community more effective and thus more sustainable empowered). Proposal writing (if done correctly, and includes good project design) thus becomes an important management training tool.

In many cases the community leaders or members will say something like, "Just bring us the roofing and we will build the clinic." It may come as a shock to them when they are told that they will not be provided with the roofing, but with a cheque, and then only if they prepare an acceptable project proposal. While the proposal is made a requirement, training in how to prepare effective proposals (ie effective in bringing in money) is offered as part of the community management training.

Unlike traditional community development, where the immediate intention is to mobilize the community to help itself, community management training has a long term sustainable development objective, to train a community in project design, planning and management, and to stimulate & organize it to act accordingly.

4.10. From Proposal to Contract:

When a proposal is submitted by the community, it is not rejected or accepted outright. It is usually (well, in fact, always) sent back with some suggestions for changing. Sometimes the community requests a training session on proposal writing. The training, which is part of the planned management training, always emphasizes proposals that are simple, practical, and within the capabilities of the community.

We do not train how to write "pretty" proposals; we want them to learn to prepare "effective" proposals. (The desired "effect" being the obtaining of funds). As the proposal takes shape, we customize a standard format contract to reflect the proposal and the dialogue. More about the contract itself later.

4.11. Community Contracts:

The animation efforts of community management results in the formation of new CBOs (community based organizations) and/or the strengthening of existing ones. As part of the formalization of such groups, they are required to sign a community contract to provide partial funding for their construction projects.

The contracts are designed to require that the CBO creates or generates specific actions and documents which contribute to that formalization and strengthening. The contracts are modified for each CBO project according to their approved proposals. The contracts are signed by community management programme officers, local or district leaders, local Governmental officers and two executive members of each CBO that is being strengthened.

4.12. The Emphasis on Phasing:

When we ask the community to design the project well, we expect them to plan their project in phases. They can not do it all at once.

We tell them that the money should not sit long in the bank, or the building materials sit long in storage. They must decide upon logical steps [eg (a) build the foundation, (b) build the walls, (c) build the roof, (d) add the trimmings].

The inputs (donor, community, Government, other) for each of these phases must be calculated. These phases must be included in the proposal and the community contract, and the donor will only pay each successive phase if all the required documents are produced, and if the donor has seen the physical construction.

In this way, the donor has some protection or control against misuse of funds, and can refuse payments if earlier phases are not completed. (So far this has not been needed in CMP, but we see it as part of our methodology).

4.13. More About the Contract:

The contract that we use is patterned after standard donor/partner contracts for funding NGOs, and modified for our dialogues with CBOs (community based organizations). It is a legal document, although there are no stated penalties for non compliance.

Since it is designed to contribute to strengthening the community to be able to plan its own development, it includes several clauses that go beyond the specific objectives of the community project itself. It includes, for example, requirements that the CBO organize itself into an executive committee, open a bank account, provide a written constitution (or equivalent), provide a list of its executive committee members, make appropriate financial and narrative records, monitor its activities, prepare financial and narrative reports on its progress, and the like.

There are many signatories to the contract, and each is included for a purpose:

Two members of the executive committee of the CBO are included as community representatives.

The CAO (Chief Administrative Officer, formerly the District Executive Secretary, and District Commissioner before that) or some other Governmental representative in the district is included, to ensure that the District is informed about community projects in the area, and can include the information in its planning process.

A local leader, usually Chair Person of Local Council III, IV or V, is included, to ensure that the project is seen as part of the democratically elected governance system.

The CTA signs as representative of the UN portion of the funding, while the NPC signs as the Central Governmental representative.

The District Coordinator signs on behalf of CMP.

We require that the CBO (with assistance from the coordinator) ensures that all signatories are reached and sign the contract, so that the process is transparent and understood.

The CBO executive committee alone is responsible to open a bank account, and we recommend that three of its members must together sign cheques in order to validate them. CMP and Governmental officials must not be signatories to the CBO's bank account. (That protects us as well as encourages less dependency). Signatories of the contract is not equivalent to signatories of the project bank account.

4.14. The Cheque-Handing-Over Ceremony:

CMP, through its District Coordinators, advised that handing over of any cheque to any community based organization should be a public function. A ceremony provides increased transparency to community members that such and such amount of money was given to the executive committee they entrusted with the planning and executing of their own community project.

The ceremony attracts many community members, the press, radio and TV, and raises the profile of the agency and the target community. (We do not directly invite the press; we encourage the community executive to invite the press). This provides a further information channel for us to explain more to local officials and others about the system and the rationale behind it.

The Director for Community Development has officiated at such ceremonies. The community is encouraged to invite highly placed and high profile officials and celebrities. This, in turn, solidifies the commitment of the community to completing the project (and making use of the management training we provide).

Dancing, drumming, drama, and other entertainment activities, by local youth groups, cultural clubs or schools, are encouraged as part of the function. This not only provides amusement for those who attend, but instils a healthy pride in culture and tradition and a forum for talented artistes.

4.15. Celebrating Project Completion:

The end of the project, if it is successfully completed, should not be quietly forgotten.

The trainer/mobilizer should know the reasons why completion should be publicly celebrated, know why traditional dancing and singing should be part of the celebration, and how to encourage the CBO to plan and implement such a celebration.


Illustration 13: More Community Action; Construction:

Illustration Thirteen: More Community Action; Construction

Note: To copy or download each image from its URL, right-click on it and choose the "Save_Picture_As" option in the pull-down menu. Also see Community Strengthening Cycle Illustrations , Disaster Illustratons, Income Generation Illustrations and Extra Illustrations for complete sets with no text.  You can down load the illustrations from there for producing your own training material.

© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
Web Design by Lourdes Sada
Last update: 2012.06.17

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