Development is effective when the broadest-possible group of stakeholders develop a shared vision about the future they want to create. So development workers depend on their skills in building collaboration and alignment to people who may not share points-of-view, languages, status, and understanding. Bridging these gaps is development.
In 2010, The Value Web began working with Oxfam America to help a diverse group of stakeholders design a water rights program in Ethiopia (above). Together with Oxfam and its partner NGOs, we designed and facilitated a three-day workshop in Addis Ababa for 65 village leaders, technical experts, government officials, and farmers.
Participant feedback was extremely positive and so the sponsors asked us to return to Ethiopia to share some of our tool-kit with them. So at the end of May 2011, we held a two-day training session in Addis Ababa for 35 development workers from Oxfam and its partner NGOs to develop skills around iterative workshop design and facilitation. The participants were, for the most part, highly-experienced facilitators working with diverse groups across Ethiopia to design long-term programs to alleviate hunger, assure equal access to water and other inputs, and help communities assemble the building blocks of social justice.
Although our purpose was to share our tools with Oxfam and its partners, we found that we had at least as much to learn from them as they did from us. In particular, their experience with creating a safe space for genuine dialogue in a context of power imbalance, gender exclusion, and illiteracy calls for facilitation approaches that are certainly valuable even in less-demanding circumstances.
We have been asked to follow-up with distance coaching and, later this year, an on-site refresher course.