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PROPOSALS FOR FUNDING
How to get money out of donor organizations
A proposal is a request for financial assistance to implement a project. For a community project, it may be used to seek approval from the community members (the community itself being the most important donor). You may use these guidelines to seek project funding from any donor. We recommend that you aim for multiple sources of funding. If you have only one source of funding, you may become dependent upon that one source.
A proposal is not just a "shopping list" of things you want. A proposal must justify each item in the list of things you want, so that a donor agency can decide if it wants to provide some or all of those things. You must know (and be able to communicate) exactly what you want to do with these things, and that is why you should design a project to carry out what you want to achieve.
It is important to carefully formulate and design your project. It is equally important to write a proposal which will attract the necessary funding. Proposal writing is a skill which requires some knowledge and practice.
Your 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 you are convinced it is a good idea and should be supported, your 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 extraneous or unnecessary information.
How elaborate your proposal is should depend upon the amount of resources being requested and how big the total project is. Modify these guidelines to fit the project and proposed donor.
The project proposal must reflect the background work you have already done and should be logically set out. It is not enough to write a letter stating your request. You have to demonstrate the need and prove that the project is worthy of funding. Remember that there will be many other organizations and individuals competing for the funds.
Use clear concise and simple language which says exactly what is meant. If necessary use diagrams or charts to illustrate key points. Use appendices to avoid crowding the body of the proposal and the flow of the narrative. Tailor your presentation to the agency approached. Express a willingness to be interviewed personally by the funding agency once they receive and read your proposal request.
And, especially . . .
Do not be discouraged if your proposal is not accepted. Find out why, and try another agency.
2. Plan Your Project (Practical Vision):
Perhaps you and your associates have many ideas of things you want to do; you see a need to reduce illiteracy, to reduce poverty, to provide safe drinking water, to improve the level of health, to provide training for disabled persons, and many other things. You must, however, choose a project that is very specific, limit your goal to a single desired solution to the highest priority problem.
Involve the whole community. In choosing your project, call a meeting and do not neglect to include the people who have been often neglected in the past, women, disabled, the very poor, those who have no voice in the way things are decided in the community. Make sure that the people who are supposed to benefiting your project feel that this is their project, for their benefit, and that they may contribute to it because it is theirs.
It is not enough, however, to choose your goal. Good planning is needed, identifying your available or potential resources, generating several strategies and choosing the most viable one, deciding how you are going to monitor (watch) the project to ensure that it stays on track (ie it continues to be consistent with your original desires) , ensuring that the accounting is both transparent and accurate, and deciding what is to be done when (a schedule) . A bit of research about the location, the population characteristics, the situation, the existing facilities, is needed in order to objectively describe the background to the project. Involving the community and the beneficiaries in this research is the best way to ensure that it is valid.
With the community or target group, use Brainstorming Principles and Procedures to outline a Plan or Project Design. Without allowing criticism, ask group members to contribute to each step of a brainstorming group process: what is the priority problem (list all, even the foolish statements; then rank them in order of priority) , facilitate the group to understand, therefore, that the goal is the solution to that identified problem. Help them to generate objectives (finite, verifiable, specific) from that general goal. Identify resources and constraints, then generate several alternative solutions, choosing the most viable. Other documents are available to explain the brainstorming process in more detail but this was a brief sketch.
With your background work behind you, you will want to start drafting your proposal. We highly recommend that you obtain resources (funds) from several sources. Do not let your organization or group become dependent upon a single donor.
Before you begin to write your proposal, keep in mind the following points:
These (structure) guidelines are not intended to tell you what to write, but rather how to write the proposal. If you are responsible for writing the proposal, then it is because you are the "expert" (in the best sense of the word). If you are responsible, then you know what you want to achieve and the best way to achieve it. In any event, don't panic at the prospect and don't be put off by the technical jargon that unfortunately is frequently used.
Do not try to write the proposal by yourself. 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.
The chapters of your proposal do not necessarily have to be written in the order presented here, but what is written in each chapter must relate in specific ways to what is written in the other chapters. Make sure that you put the right content in the right chapter. Make sure that each topic relates to the others and to the proposal as a whole.
4. Title Page (Cover):
This is a single page; the front cover of the proposal. It should include:
5. Background (Causes of the Problem):
This section is expected to answer why your project is needed. Here you will want to give a description of the situation and focus on factors which prompted the formulation of your proposed project. Tell how the need for this project was identified and who was involved in developing the project. Explain your project's origin or context.
It is most advisable to involve the whole community in identifying priority problems; that is called "participatory research."
The first thing the background does is to identify the problem. That means it must name the problem and locate the problem. It indicates the target group (beneficiaries), the sector, the magnitude, and other actors who are working to solve that problem. It also indicates the extent to which the problem has been solved by the other actors, and what has been so far accomplished by your group.
While examining the problem(s) to be addressed, several questions should arise here. What is the condition of the target group to justify the donor donating money and perhaps seconded staff? A history of the community, your group, or the project is not essential, but a brief outline can be useful. More importantly, what conditions, or what changes in conditions, are envisaged that would lead to any donor agreeing to fund your project?
You may wish to include:
Remember that the background chapter describes the factors leading to the problem that your project intends to solve. Everything in this section should be justification to approve the project and the requested funding assistance. Long histories and analyses would be detrimental here.
6. Goals & Objectives (Solution = Output):
The goal of your project should be to solve the problem or problems described in the background. Goals and objectives must relate to the previous chapter, by stating what is the solution to those above problems. You need a set of (general) goals, and sets of (specific) objectives.
Start with "goals" which are general, long term, broad desires. From those goals generate specific "objectives" which are verifiable, measurable, finite, and have specific dates of achievement. For example: "To reduce illiteracy," is a goal; while "To teach basic literacy skills to 20 clients by March 2," is an objective.
You will want to be as specific as possible in stating the objectives of your project. They should be written in terms of the end results you expect in the project, not how you will achieve these results. Those results must be verifiable (ie. you can clearly show that they have been achieved, and they can be confirmed by outside observers) .
When selecting the goals and objectives for the project, remember the nature of the donor you ask; what kinds of solutions are sought? The donor does not want to contribute to dependency, so is not interested in funding charitable services which may take the pressure of obligation off those authorities who should look after the rights of the local people. Most donors are not simply a source of funds for carrying out routine "operations." They are interested in supporting activities which highlight the needs of the most vulnerable and distressed, and promote self reliance, ethnic harmony and development.
7. Beneficiaries (Target Group):
In this chapter you describe the beneficiaries or target groups in some detail. You may also add indirect or secondary beneficiaries (eg people trained to help the primary beneficiaries). This can be an expansion of the topic mentioned in your background section; indicate their number, characteristics, reasons for vulnerability, locations, and so on.
Most donor agencies will be more predisposed towards your project if you can demonstrate that the beneficiaries have participated in the choice and design of the project. (An appendix can list meetings of beneficiaries, listing details such as dates, locations, times, topics discussed, speakers, and lists of beneficiary group members who attended. Refer to the appendix in this chapter; do not include it here; put it at the end of your proposal).
8. Targets and Activities (Inputs):
This chapter identifies the inputs in your project, ie what resources (cash, personnel and actions) will be put into your project.
First, start with examining possible strategies to reach the objectives mentioned above. In each case you have to link with the previous chapter. The best project proposal lists two, three or four different strategies and discards or rejects all but one of these, and says why. Then it goes on to say, "Given the objectives and strategies, what activities must be implemented or started to use that strategy and reach the objectives?"
Target means, "How much, to whom, where and by whom?" – In other words, "Who does what?" For example, what kind of training will you provide, for how long, and how many people will be involved? What specific skills will be taught and what kind of follow up activities are planned?
Indicate what kinds of jobs are being done in the project. Refer to your appendix for key job descriptions. Always refer those activities to how they will achieve the objectives mentioned above. Even the activities of the support staff must be justified in that they must be employed so as to allow the operational staff to reach their targets.
9. The Schedule (Each Action When):
In this section you describe in sequence the activities you plan in order to achieve your objectives.
If you can be so specific as to give dates, even if approximate, all the better. You may wish to use a diagram or bar chart to mark out the calendar events.
Include in the work plan the phasing of the project; how one stage of the project leads to the next.
How long will support be needed?
(When will the project end, or when will the project be locally self supporting? )
10. The Organization (Profile):
This section describes the (perhaps changing) organization and management structure needed to carry out the activities described above. The "O" in "CBO." Diagrams are very useful in this.
Describe briefly your organization's goals and activities. Be specific about its experience in working with problems of a similar nature, what its capabilities and resources are in undertaking a project of this nature.
The abilities and experience of your organization's members, your human resources, may well be your greatest asset. Indicate the kind of assistance your organization expects to receive from possible collaborating agencies. Attach additional organizational information, such as an annual report, if available.
Do not overlook the activities (labour) of volunteers who contribute to the project. Although they might not be paid staff, they are resources, and contribute resources to the project.
11. Costs & Benefits (Analysis):
In a proposal, the chapter called costs and benefits is not the same thing as a line by line budget with numbers indicating amounts of money. (The line by line budget should be put as an appendix at the end of the document, not in the text).
Here in the text of your project proposal, the chapter on costs and benefits should be analytical and narrative, and relate to the previous chapters. It should discuss those budget lines that may need explanation (eg purchases, expenses or needs which are not immediately apparent or self explanatory).
You should try to make a cost benefit analysis, ie relate the quantity of the objectives reached, to the total costs, and calculate a per unit cost (eg the total cost divided by the number of children taught literacy will be the per unit cost of teaching literacy) .
Summaries or totals of the following information may help some donors to decide:
The budget totals should be indicated in this section, then refer to appendix for the detailed budget. Other sources (donors and the amounts) must be mentioned. The total amount requested should appear here in narrative text.
12. Monitoring (Observing):
Monitoring should be done by:
How will they be verified?
Monitoring and follow-up should be built into the project activities. Part should be continuous self evaluation by you (the implementing agency).
The monitoring and receiving of reports from the project to the donor must be worked out and put into your project proposal. The monthly reports should be designed and reviewed as to usefulness to the donor for its ongoing planning and programming for the whole country.
One thing is for sure; there should be emphasis in reporting the results, or outputs, ie the effects of the project on the target group or beneficiaries. There is no harm in also reporting activities if the reports are brief. The reporting of achieved results, as compared to planned objectives as defined in your project proposal, is essential.
13. Reporting (Communicating the Observations):
In any agency-funded project, accounting and accountability are very important. This applies to most donor agencies, UN, governmental or NGO.
In your proposal, your reporting procedures should describe: "how often, to whom, including what?" You may want to discuss this with the prospective funding agency since reporting and evaluation requirements vary among agencies, and are dependent upon type of project.
Evaluating your own project while it is under way will help you and your donors see your progress and accomplishments and the choices available for future action. Careful reporting of your project in progress is an invaluable resource for others who attempt projects of a similar nature.
Your proposal should indicate what reports will be submitted. These include regular ongoing reports, and a final report. Short, frequent reports (eg weekly sitreps) may include only events and activities. Longer reports should indicate the results of the project activities (not just activities) , an evaluation or assessment of how far the objectives were reached, reasons why they were not, and the impact or effect on the beneficiaries (target group) .
Reports should be prepared and submitted optimally every month. The proposal should indicate what reports are to be submitted and with what frequency and content. Each project (if your group is proposing more than one project) requires a separate report (two or three pages of text plus needed appendices).
A detailed monthly narrative report should include how far each of the intended objectives has 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.
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.
The final report should include the same topics as the monthly reports, plus a section called "Lessons Learned," and a section indicating the impact of the project on the target community and surrounding areas. The report should be concise (brief but complete).
The reports should be honestly self critical and analytical. See the module on Report Writing.
The same principles and guidelines for narrative reports should apply to the financial reports. The monthly budget outcomes of the project are as important to programming as the statements are to the accounting. Explanations of deviations from planned expenditures should accompany the budget outcomes.
14. Appendices (Attachments):
The text of your proposal should be a single, brief yet complete argument from beginning to end –– easy to read. Because many important details will make the text too convoluted and difficult to read, they should be put into appendixes at the end.
Typical of documents to put in appendices are:
Now read the document again. With those details tucked away in an appendix, does the flow of argument become smoother, yet not weakened by their absence in the text? Yes? Good! You've just found another way to make use of the appendices.
Appendices can include any other material that will allow officers of donor agencies to decide whether or not to approve funds. The purpose of the appendices is to be able to include all the necessary and important details (which the meticulous reader will examine) , but not in the text of your document where you want a smooth flowing, brief argument. It tucks those details away for use when wanted.
15. Detailed Budget:
The line-by-line budget should be put in an appendix. Each line on your detailed budget should have the total costs for one budget category. The lines should be grouped into similar kinds of costs (eg salaries, vehicles, communications, fuels, transport).
If you can, distinguish between non expendable items (ie equipment that can be used again later) and expendable (ie supplies that get used up).
The budget should be a realistic estimate of all costs involved in implementing and operating the project. If possible demonstrate the potential for eventual self support, or support from other resources other than the one to which you are applying. Costs estimates should be broken down in to logical categories (line items) such as: salaries; supplies and materials; equipment; travel and per diem; rent; telephone.
Voluntary contributions made to the project by you and members of your organization should be listed and estimated as closely as possible in cash terms, or shown as "no charge." Specify physical facilities that are available or, are to be made available for the project. Specify your organization's existing equipment and supplies that will be used for this project. Include any other inputs to be used for this project from government or from other organizations.
Often, funding agencies prefer to match grants, or assist with part of the total budget rather than give the entire sum. Therefore it is suggested that you show the total budget when applying, and indicate when you expect or hope to get other funding assistance.
16. Abstract (Executive Summary):
Write this part last. This is the section on which a potential donor will read and make that vital preliminary decision: whether or not to seriously consider assisting.
This should not be written, or even contemplated, until all above sections are written. Avoid writing it as an introduction. Think of it as a concise summary and conclusion.
The optimum size is half a page; the absolute maximum size is one page. Any longer and it is in danger of not being read or considered. It should summarize only the key recommendations and be written for busy board members or executives who may read up to fifty of them and may not initially read anything more than the executive summary for each proposed project.
Ironically, while you write the abstract last, you then put it directly after the front or title page of your proposal.
and when you finish writing it: . . .
Now that you have written your draft proposal, hand it around for comments and suggestions. View the proposal critically and be prepared to do some rewriting and rethinking if necessary.
17. Some Final Guidelines Comments:
The most likely projects to be funded will be rapid, sustainable, small scale, low budget interventions for the most pressing needs identified by the communities.
Often proposals will be evaluated as to how they will contribute to wider, integrated sustainable development of the geographical area.
Active participation of women in identification, implementation and monitoring of a proposed project should be encouraged. The proposal should clearly describe the number of women involved in project design and implementation, and as beneficiaries.
Any projects that are part of larger or longer term plans must indicate other (preferably secured) funding sources to ensure continuity and sustainability.
Projects which are developmental, promote self reliance, and are ultimately locally sustainable have a higher chance of being funded. Your estimate of when the project could be self sustaining should be indicated in your proposal.
The success of projects requires the co-operation of all segments of the target community. There must be a sense of community "ownership" of the projects (including both local residents and displaced persons affected) . That means there should be some initial activity of "community development mobilization," "social animation" or similar community facilitation to ensure all members of the affected community participate in decisions concerning the proposed project. Active participation of the community as a whole (all members) in identification, assessment and implementation of the project is usually a prerequisite for approval.
A good project should be replicable. That means it should be possible to implement the same project in other communities.
Accounting and accountability are very important.
Many of the resources of those beneficiaries can be hidden by the concern we may have for their plight, but this can be deceptive. The hidden resources of your target group usually include skills and wisdom, and surprisingly many material resources, both capital and supplies. Your objective as a mobilizer and trainer should be to stimulate a process of uncovering hidden resources among the beneficiaries and encourage a social process of reducing dependencies and increasing self reliance.
Good Luck! Do not get discouraged!
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COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BY ORGANIZED TRAINING
Using a training process for organizing communities
This is a "how to" module for community workers in the field. It explains the meaning and purpose of community organizing as part of the training process (going beyond the traditional training purposes such as skill transfer), and it provides some methods and techniques for carrying it out.
It distinguishes between organizing for decision making and organizing for effective action (both being necessary elements of empowerment) and presents some mobilizer's methods for each of them.
Management training for communities, as asserted elsewhere in this series, goes beyond the purposes of traditional or orthodox training, such as skill transfer, giving information, awareness raising and encouragement.
An important aspect of capacity building by training is organizing. For the community mobilizer, this means creating new organizations where none existed earlier, and reorganizing existing ones, making them more effective.
This module shows how to organize as part of the management training process, to empower low income communities. It describes the purposes of organizing, and aids the field mobilizer how to organize CBOs (community based organizations) for decision making and action.
Part A: Purpose, Principles & Concepts:
Before we get to the specific techniques and methods of organizing, as part of management training, let us first review the purpose of organizing, what our goals are, and the meanings of some of the words we use. It would be valuable at this time to review some of the words we use in this methodology. Look at the module, "Glossary of Key Words," keywords. A few words special to this module are listed here.
Remember the principles that are the parameters of your organizing: they include democracy, participation, empowerment, gender balance, involvement of the marginalized, transparency, honesty, preventing disease, sustainability, self reliance, partnerships, fairness, poverty elimination, the greater good for all, development. These are not necessarily the same as the values held by those with whom you work.
The Meaning of "Organized:"
In sociology, we learn that society and social institutions are more than just a collection of individuals. They include how those individuals are linked to each other. They are sets of systems such as economy, political organization, values, ideas, technology, and patterns of expected behaviours (social interaction). Individuals come in and go out (birth, death, migration), yet those institutions (such as communities) continue; they transcend their members. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So too, just because you may have a collection of individuals in a room (eg trainees), that does not mean they are necessarily organized. Your job is to organize them. That means instilling in them a set of ideas and expectations which gives them a social structure and some social processes that make the organization something (social) that transcends the very individuals that compose it.
The Meaning of "Mobilize:"
A few persons assume that if they go to a community and organize a group so that it has some structure or form (eg has a chair person, treasurer, secretary and vice chair), and that the group says it is ready for action, that they have "mobilized" a group. Not necessarily. The word "mobilize," has the word "mobile" in it. That means movement, or action. A mobilizer has not mobilized a group just by organizing it into some sort of structure. It has to engage in some action before it can be said to be mobilized.
The training that you do, to increase capacity of a low income community, should result not just in the creation of some groups, but should result in community based organizations that engage in effective communal action.
The Two Main Types of Organizing:
When you organize a CBO, you first must have it clear in your mind what purpose that CBO will have; what it is expected to do.
There are two main purposes for organizing:
If you need a major and general community decision, such as should the community first put its resources towards building a clinic or repairing a water supply, then you need some decision making organizing. Since the decision is so important to the community as a whole, the optimum organization is one that has genuine input from all members of the community. A whole community public meeting may be appropriate here (this guideline cannot dictate or predetermine that; you the mobilizer most familiar with the community must use your first hand knowledge).
If you organize a community meeting, the people selected for the head table, and yourself as facilitator, must be pro-active in ensuring that not only men make the decisions, and ensuring that people who often marginalized are involved, mentally and physically disabled, ethnic and religious minorities, the poor, the illiterates, the youth, the fragile seniors, language minorities, disenfranchised, and any others that might be unconsciously ignored or overlooked.
Your purpose is to set up an organization that ensures important community decisions are participatory and democratic.
In contrast, if you need to get a clinic constructed or pass a new law protecting tenants' rights, then you need to organize for action. The organization that you create or strengthen must be sensitive to the wishes of the whole community, and answerable to the whole community, but it also must be organized to be effective.
The traditional organizational structure (ie chair, vice, secretary and treasurer) may be more effective for decision making, but might not be the most appropriate for effective action.
Correct Definitions are Important:
Remind yourself here that many of the words we use professionally and carefully have been taken up superficially by those who are not familiar with strengthening communities, that they are popular (ie are "buzzwords") with many international donor agencies that wish to focus on community participation as an essential element of sustainable development, and that they have been mis-defined, and incorrectly applied in many development assistance projects.
Take time to review the words we use in empowering communities. Remember, for example that "community participation" does not mean just contribution of communal labour (or consultation with some community members by outside agencies), but means the participation of the whole community in the central decisions that affect the community. Remember that "community-based" does not mean located in a community, but means that the community itself owns (takes responsibility for) the organization and its focus of activity is the community.
Knowing the correct meanings of the words we use is important in reaching the goal of sustainable development. Memorizing dictionary definitions is not the most effective approach; thinking about the concepts, recording your experiences, and sharing experiences and ideas with other professionals, are more useful to knowing those words and concepts, and therefore to improving your skills as a mobilizer and community management trainer.
This only sketches the nature of community organizing and organizations. You are encouraged to think more about these as you mobilize and train. Also share your ideas and experiences with other mobilizers when you meet them. Now let us turn to some possible methods you can employ to do your organizing.
Part B: Methods for Organizing:
Left on their own, low income communities will not usually organize themselves. Some people mistakenly think that community participation is automatic so long as you say there shall be community participation. No. There must be an intervention, a push on the community, and you, the trainer / mobilizer, are responsible for that intervention. That intervention is sometimes called social animation or stimulation; both imply the encouragement and initiating of action by the community.
Do not think, as other people mistakenly assume, that all you need to do is to show up in a community and make orders dictating how an organization should be set up. Permission to participate does not ensure community participation. Even if dictating how an organization should be organized may result in some structure being set up, it will not be sustainable; it will not be "owned" by the community; it will soon fall apart if left on its own.
How, then, do you go about doing that organizing and mobilizing? Many of the skills you need have already been covered in other modules in this series (especially the brainstorm and other appendices to the mobilizers' handbooks). How you go about it differs between the organizing for decision making and the organizing for action, as differentiated above.
The underlining principle of organizing, like the rest of your training, is that it should be participatory. As a management trainer, you are a facilitator, not a lecturer. The participant trainees should be an active part of the process of organizing. Your job is as a facilitator and enabler, not dictator, preacher or lecturer.
Let that great classical educator, Socrates, be your primary role model. He did not tell people how it is or how it was. He challenged them to think for themselves by asking them questions. They were not random and unrelated questions. They prodded and guided. They led his listeners to think, so much, in fact, that the leaders of the day felt threatened by him and his questions.
Do not go so far as Socrates, whose questions led to ideas that the leaders of the day feared he was preaching sedition, and they condemned him to death. Take from Socrates, however, the notion that you can go much farther in opening people's minds by asking them questions than by dictating to them.
When you ask a question, you invite and encourage a trainee to respond. That response means more participation and more involvement by the participant. Learning by doing is much more effective than learning by listening. The more your trainees participate, the more easier it becomes for them to participate.
Do not impose solutions on your trainees, pull solutions out of your participants.
Organizing for Decision Making:
The part of community management training that is organizing for decision making is similar to orthodox social animation or community development organizing. Your task is to create a CBO (community based organization) that will most accurately reflect and identify the wishes and major decisions of the community as a whole. If a CBO already exists, your task is to improve its effectiveness (especially in reflecting the decisions of the community as a whole). Your goal is to make it as participatory, inclusive and democratic as possible.
Your starting point should be an open public meeting of all members of the community. There may be some tendency for the educated, the males, the existing leaders, to show up and dominate the meeting. Their priorities may differ from those of the other groups and categories in the community, so it is essential that those others attend the meetings, and that they see you pay attention to what those others say. You must make it clear to all that you expect those others to be present at an all-community meeting.
For guidelines on how you obtain a community decision about its priority problem to be solved. Make sure you explain carefully the ground rules of the brainstorm to all present, and the rule about not criticizing other persons' suggestions. Do not just end at (1) the choice of the priority problem; go on to finish the brainstorm session, looking at (2) solutions to the priority problem as the community goal, (3) generating more specific objectives out of the priority goal, (4) identifying resources and constraints, and (5) creating several possible strategies and choosing one of them.
These major decisions will be the framework for the other kind of organizing you do later, organizing for action, where the details and plans of the community based project will be determined.
You avoid telling the participants what to choose, what to do, or what to think.
Strengthen them by challenging them.
To ask a question can be a very innocent, non threatening action, especially if it is asked in a non threatening, friendly and gentle tone of voice. Hidden under its velvet exterior, however, is a very powerful iron-strong tool of social change for organizing communities for empowerment and sustainable development. It promotes thinking, analysing and involvement, especially if it is part of a set of questions that guide a group towards being organized, and doing so within the principles discussed in the first part of this module.
"What do we need?" "Why would we do that?" "What is our goal?" "How will that help us reach our goal?" "What alternatives are available?" These are some of the kinds of questions you can ask that will draw solutions out of your participants. Each one alone is non threatening, and encourages your participants to participate in the decision making process. You must be fully aware of what you are aiming at, and aware of the weaknesses of many traditional answers, so you can develop your skills at asking questions in a logical order to lead your participants to face reality, and generate solutions for community problems. Taken together, your questions can be more powerful than the sum of those questions if asked individually.
Do not passively accept first answers. With respect, challenge each answer: "Is it the best way?" "Are there other ways?" Never accept that, "This is the way we have always done things," or "This is the correct way of doing things," satisfies the question, "Is this the right way, for this community, at this time, for this purpose?" Without overtly criticizing traditions, your questions should challenge your participants to analyse the situation, and find the most appropriate solution, even if is not the orthodox one. That strengthens, that empowers, that increases the capacity of the organization, and of the community.
Meanwhile, you must always keep in mind that the principles you are guiding them towards include tolerance for minorities and the vulnerable, respect for the weak as members of the community, democracy (power to the people), honesty, transparency, participation and inclusion, in the decision making process. How you order your questions should lead the group to face those principles, and at each turn you can remind your participants that they are aiming towards their goal and objectives within the framework of those principles.
While lip service may first be paid towards "democracy" for example, many people will automatically (unthinkingly) assume that "democracy" necessarily implies the western concept of democracy, and its institutions such as representational democracy, elections, voting, parties, and parliament.
Do not accept these assumptions as you organize the community for decision making, and do not permit your trainees to make those assumptions. Encourage innovative thinking by your trainees, and a willingness to create new and unorthodox structures and procedures.
Another important decision to be made by the whole community, as well as choice of priority communal problem to be solved, is the choice of members to sit on the executive committee of the CBO.
Organizing an Executive Committee:
At some point it will become necessary for the community as a whole to form its executive committee to carry out its wishes. The important and broad questions should be answered in large public meetings. The detailed and time consuming questions take up too much time of the whole community, and can more effectively be covered by an executive, so long as the community as a whole has control over that executive, that the executive remains in communication with, and sensitive to the wishes of, the whole community, and that its decisions remain transparent.
The executive committee lies between something organized for making decisions and something organized for effective action, and there is much overlap in its functions. It is a bridge between the community (organized for making decisions) and the community project (organized for action). The word "executive" here means management. It derives from the meaning of "execute" as, "to get something done," not, "to put to death." The executive committee is the management committee that executes on behalf of the community as a whole.
Your task is to encourage the community to form the executive committee in such a way that the executive committee sees itself as working for and answerable to the community, not the community working for and answerable to the committee. To do so, you should ask questions in the training sessions as to how that should be done.
You have two concerns here: (1) what should the selection process be, and (2) who shall be selected to sit on the executive committee.
In small, rural and impoverished communities it is obvious that formal selection processes such as an election, with ballot papers, is too expensive and not necessary. In urban communities, in contrast, where there is more heterogeneity, less community solidarity, and more urban alienation, it becomes more likely that such an approach becomes more necessary. Here your knowledge of the community, your skills as an applied sociologist, become important.
You seek to encourage selection processes that all the people can understand, that will be transparent, that will be acceptable to all participants. Procedures that resemble or are derived from traditional procedures, such as the selection of head of lineage or head of clan (where these were somewhat interpretative and did not follow rigid rules of inheritance) are likely to be more successful.
If, some time after the executive committee is formed, there are complaints about the committee (usually about misappropriation of funds, or taking actions not sanctioned by the whole community) disgruntled community members will come to you to complain about the committee. You must be able to say to them, "You and the whole community chose your own executive, so the responsibility is yours, not mine, the facilitator."
The choice of executive members may not have been your mistake as facilitator, but you should carefully re-examine the selection procedures and processes, to see if these were transparent, inclusive, wise and fair. That is not wasted research even after the complaints appear, because it may become necessary for you to call another meeting of the whole community, and form a new executive committee.
The second concern is the choice of members of the committee. Here, again, you do not dictate who should be chosen but, using your method of asking questions and getting your trainees to participate. Your questions should, in a gentle manner, challenge assumptions about who should be chosen.
At first, perhaps, community members may wish to choose educated members of the community, simply because they are educated. Let them know that such a criteria is an assumption, unfounded. What kind of people do they want to choose? They want people they can trust, that are motivated and loyal to the community, and who will communicate accurate and full information about the actions of the executive.
Many educated members of the community are teachers from other areas who may not have very high loyalty to the community, and may be more likely to disappear, absconding with the community's funds. They should consider that. An old, respected grandmother of the community, known to all, who never went to school, might be more appropriate. "But she does not know how to read and write," participants might exclaim. "So What?" you reply. Her grandchildren can read and translate the necessary documents to her, and doing so in the evening while everyone is gathered around for dinner, will increase communication of the issues to community members (including that which is told by gossip through the school children). This is especially valid for the choice of treasurer.
Some people will be attracted to the executive committee, and seek office because they have a desire to get personal gain, prestige and popularity that comes with the title. They may make campaigning efforts to get chosen. You should try to identify those motivations and guide the community members more towards people who are motivated by altruism and loyalty to the community. Without publicly accusing any individual, you should point out this issue to the community in the process of choosing its executive members.
Conversely, some community members may wish to choose executive committee members on the basis of their status, thinking they will bring prestige and fame to the committee, when those individuals may not be well motivated to contribute to the functioning of the committee. Or they may be simply too busy. Alert the community members to these issues as they choose committee members.
While you do not dictate to the community members who should be chosen, let them become aware of these issues, and ask them to make explicit what criteria they should use in choosing each member of the executive committee.
Note that the executive committee does not have to be called the "Executive Committee." In some places it is called the CIC (Community Implementing Committee), in other places it is called the "Development Committee." It does not have to be called a committee. It can have any name that it and the community choose. Its name can include the name of the community, and other words relevant to the community. Encourage and challenge the community to choose a name that it wants; do not dictate what it should be.
Organizing for Effective Action:
When you are working with the community in planning and executing a community project, you will be working more frequently with the executive committee. You set up your training sessions then as management training for the executive committee. These will be smaller and more directed than the large community meetings for making the major decisions about priorities and choice of executive members.
Explain to your trainees (participants) that there is a difference between organizing for making decisions and organizing for effective action. Explain to them that they should not make assumptions, and not construct their CBO on the basis of tradition or how they are constructed elsewhere. They have the freedom to be creative and innovative; but they should aim for the most effective organization (not the most orthodox).
You also explain that the executive committee's job is to make decisions that reflect the desires of the whole community, to contribute to transparency, and to call whole community meetings when new major decisions must be made. A project committee must be formed whose task is to carry out the necessary actions. This is not the same as the executive committee, although there may be some overlap of individuals. The project committee must be organized for effectiveness in getting the project completed according to the expressed desires of the community.
As a decision making committee, the executive may very well be organized in the traditional manner (ie: chair, vice, secretary, treasurer, members at large). It does not have to be if another structure is deemed more appropriate by the community. That structure might be inappropriate for the project committee.
When you organize a project committee, you organize for action . Based upon the results of the brainstorm session of the community as a whole, the project committee will generate objectives, review potential and actual resources, identify constraints, generate strategies, choose the best strategy, and work out the details of organization, scheduling, phasing, and budget for transforming inputs (resources) into outputs (objectives). The organizational set-up is the project committee, which reports to the executive committee, which reports to the community.
The way the project committee should be organized differs from project to project, from objective to objective. It is not organized or structured the same way for setting up a communal water supply as for changing the laws protecting tenants' rights.
Let the third question of the four key questions in management training be the central guide here. "How do we use what we have to get what we want? That "how" is a big question; its answer includes strategy, organizational set-up, budget, phasing, monitoring, implementation and many project details.
The organizational set-up, the composition and structure of the project committee, with job descriptions and identified tasks for every member, is the responsibility of the executive committee. Your job as facilitator and trainer is to encourage and assist the executive committee in setting up the project committee.
Do not think that your job as trainer / organizer is over once the executive committee is set up and the project is underway. As part of your mobilizer's monitoring task, you must monitor the working of the executive committee, ensuring that inputs from the whole community are frequent and whenever necessary, and monitor the working of the action or project committee, ensuring that it is getting the job done, and getting it done in the most effective manner.
Remedial training is most likely to be needed after that. You must learn to know when to step in and call for more training sessions for (1) the community as a whole, (2) the executive committee of the CBO, and/or (3) the action or project organization.
Your job is to use management training as a means of organizing and reorganizing communities to make decisions and to engage in effective action. You do so by using facilitative and participatory training methods, not by dictating how it should be.
By questioning and challenging group decisions that are based upon tradition and unthinking assumptions, you increase the capacity and effectiveness of the organizations that you set up. You empower the community by strengthening it, by increasing its capacity to make decisions and to get things done that it wants done.
What is Community?
Community begins with good communications, where we speak and listen to each other openly and honestly. It requires both courage and patience as we learn to confront, understand, and accept differences in cultures and experiences. Community calls again and again for objectivity because it constantly challenges our traditions, attitudes, lifestyles, behaviors, preconceived notions, and expectations. It is exciting and rewarding as the barriers of misunderstanding are dropped, and acceptance changes to respect, and ultimately to a celebration of cultures and differences.
As campus community builders, we believe that building community has five critical elements:
It is much easier to want to be inclusive than it is to be inclusive. Inclusiveness is more than just inviting someone different to join the group. It is a commitment to confront the differences within yourself and the other person so that we might transcend those differences.
Transformation versus conversion
People have a natural tendency to want to convert others. Conversion implies that the converter’s position, culture, or experience is better than that of others. In a true community, you respect differences and the right of a person to keep an individual opinion. People may change their opinions, but it will occur because of transformation, not conversion. Through transformation, a person is allowed to be an equal and to freely adapt or adopt another’s opinion. Transformation respects the rights of others to have their own opinions as well as the right of others to change or not to change.
Chaos and conflict are a natural part of the community-building process
It takes time for people to work through the evolution of understanding, accepting, respecting, and then celebrating differences. Not all people come to the table with the same level of skills, maturity, or objectivity. As a result, we can expect confrontation, anger, frustration, and alienation to occur. Suffice it to say that community building may sometimes be a lengthy and painful process, and we must learn to accept conflict and chaos as part of the natural community-building process.
An important key to community building is the individual community builder
A successful community builder must have the disposition, capacity, and commitment to create community. Someone with these characteristics will have the inner stamina and strength to stick with the process when community building takes wrong turns or fails. More often than not, community building requires a person who can manage the hurt and disappointments that come with risk taking, and who understands that the process is not always easy. If one believes in the value of community as the only way people will live together in a meaningful way, then the community builder will continue with the process, even in the face of anger, rage, or imminent failure.
A community builder must have a strong sense of self-awareness and self-understanding. Before one can be open and accepting of another’s differences, one needs to understand one’s own limitations.
Community building is a continual process
Community is not a product or a destination; it is a process that creates, evolves, and changes as it seeks to be inclusive. As a result, the commitment to being inclusive may cause a group to reach a newer level in community building, to repeat stages, or even to destroy itself to rebuild a new and truer community.