On Saturday, July 5th, I conducted the Organizational Strategic Planning workshop for 23 participants in Birtamod, Jhapa, in a room on top of some shops, beside a pool hall. The participants were CLRC staff and the leaders from the 15 Village Paralegal Committees (VPCs). It was the perfect workshop for them since all of their VPCs were relatively new organizations, they were fresh to the field of NGOs, and they had not done any strategic planning before. Furthermore, they all had the same mission and did similar projects, so we could write one strategic plan for everyone. Gajendra and the NCDC staff repeatedly requested that I shrink the workshop to a shorter day – 10:00AM to 5:00PM was the maximum. It was very difficult for the women to get away from their household duties; it was planting season and many would have to pay other hands to work their fields; it was monsoon season and transportation was unreliable and wouldn’t arrive early enough, and if we ended too late, CLRC would have to pay for hotel accommodations for the women to stay in town. I explained that strategic planning should really be an ongoing activity, and any workshop should really be several days long. Finally, I emphasized the need to start promptly at 10 and not take long tea breaks in order for us to get through all the material.
At my insistence, we finally started at 11am without all the participants. Most groups struggled through the mission statement, unable to focus their missions into one or two things. There was a great tendency to want to do everything and be very scattered. One group stated that they wanted to include anti-gambling and anti-drinking in their goals, since they sometimes go around town and rip up people’s playing cards when they are gambling and make posters about the dangers of drinking. I tried to say as tactfully as possible that although these activities were interesting, they did not fit the mission of their organization, and that no other organizations shared in these activities, so we would not include them in our general strategic plan. Some groups had difficulties with the goals and objectives. Keshab would translate everything out of my mouth, then translate all responses and presentations back to me so that I could respond. I took notes in English, and then I would try to prompt the whole group to come up with the “right answer” through discussion. When this did not happen, I had to do it myself for lack of time. I would look at my notes and quickly eliminate, distill, combine, and summarize, and then write what the group’s “final” mission, goals, objectives, etc. should look like.
The group understood SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) very well and did an in-depth analysis with it. Through SWOT, we discussed a number of problems facing women in Nepal. Their organizational strengths included unity among members, strong conviction about their cause, and a good reputation in their communities. Their weakness was an inability to conduct trainings for many women, given the demands facing women at home and transportation problems, financial problems, and the discontinuation of the program due to the national State of Emergency. Opportunities included support from the community and legal sectors, the rights guaranteed to women by the Constitution, and a slow but positive change in social structure. Threats included traditional customs and beliefs, lack of education, lack of support from the local administration, and women themselves not being active. Participants developed a good grasp of the difference between goals and objectives.
I asked for something specific for the action plan, and we used the example of throwing a street play. Even though it was not exactly appropriate given that we were talking about an organizational action plan, they really understood action plans from this example. I drew little pictures of each activity and everyone had a lot of fun. Many women were right on the dot about everything; others frowned and struggled through every bit. There were many nods and what looked like moments of illumination. Everyone took avid notes. Sweat dripped down my face the entire day. Keshab worked twice as hard as I did, having to answer questions during group work as well. As a teacher, I could tell he explained things very well and really tried to make the group understand. The problems I faced as a trainer included not starting on time, not having anywhere near enough time for the workshop, and sometimes trying to get the concepts through. However, workshop evaluations came back overwhelmingly positive. Most participants said they found it very important, useful, and knowledge-intensive, wanted more trainings of the sort, wanted everything to be translated into Nepali, and lamented the lack of time. One respondent even said that she “realized the importance of time” from this training.
The next day, we conducted the Community-Based Projects workshop in a large training room at NCDC. This time, we started at 9:30AM, only half an hour late, but since it was a 6-day workshop condensed into 1 day, we ended at 7PM, and still had to rush through many sections. There were 17 participants from around 8 NGOs, and some women from the previous day attended. This workshop, designed by CEDPA, was very fun and had a lot of activities. I stated at the beginning that I hoped everyone could keep their concentration levels up for a long day, and that the workshop was for them, so they should get the most out of it by participating and critiquing each other’s work. The group was very lively, and got more into it once they started writing their goals and objectives. All groups did very well.
At the end of the workshop, different people stood up to make short speeches about the training, and Gajendra asked me to speak as well. One man said that he felt the training was the “spinal cord” of any project and felt it was the most useful training he had ever been to. When the evaluations came back even more positive than the day before, I really felt like all my hard work paid off 10 times over.
We celebrated how much work could get done if we all worked together and very hard. Several NGOs expressed that budgeting and sustainability were the topics most useful to them, but unfortunately, these were the last two of the day and we had to rush through them. The truth is, all topics are crucial, and the training really needed to be at least 3 days long. All in all, Bhadrapur was a smashing success, thanks to very sincere, sweet, and dedicated people. Gajendra, who had organized the training locations, materials, and participants, Keshab, who was an excellent, tireless, reliable translator, and some very interested workshop participants.
In Gaigat, I visited the National Skill Development and Poverty Elimination Center (NSPEC). Founded in 1996, NSPEC has been involved in a very wide range of programs in 5 VDCs in Udaypur District, including health and sanitation, technical skills, craft production, education, family planning, savings and credit groups, agriculture, environment, small businesses and farming projects, legal issues, human rights, conflict, and mediation. This year, they received a grant from UNDP to conduct seminars about conflict issues and family planning, and train people in craft-making skills and small business projects. I held the Community-Based Projects workshop for them with Keshab again as my translator. This time, however, we started an hour and a half late. It was a much smaller group, so it was easier for me to rush through the materials due to the lack of time. We had to end as soon as darkness hit, since there was no electricity at the NGO. The participants were experienced in running projects and had very valuable input, as well as interesting questions.
One participant wanted to know what they should do when they have already received funding for a certain project and are implementing it, when the community approaches them with a new and “more” urgent need. Should they take on the new project as well? If so, how, given funding issues? How can they keep the community’s interest in the old project? They found the Action Plan particularly useful, as it is different from the way they usually do it. In general, the participants were quiet and sometimes had difficulty focusing their projects. Like their own organization, they tended to want to solve every problem. However, the training proceeded very well, and the evaluations returned positive.
Posted By Kate Kuo (Nepal)
Posted Jul 30th, 2003