Monday, October 11, 2010

Rwanda, Malawi ADRA staff hone skills in capacity building

What is an organisation? This is the question that set the tone for the one-week training workshop on capacity building and strategy development organised for Adventist Development and Development Agency (ADRA) staff at Sport View Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda.
The training, which ran from 20 to 25th September, 2010, drew participants from ADRA Rwanda and Malawi offices and was organised with an aim of equipping the staff with skills and knowledge on how they can help communities attain their development needs and aspirations. The workshop was possible due to the DANIDA support received through ADRA Denmark.
Facilitated by a consultant from Uganda, Kwiri Topher, participants, who were mainly programme staff, were taken through the process of understanding organisations, needs and gaps identifications, development of capacity building plans.
According to Topher, capacity programmes could be effective and achieve better results, if implementers understood the behaviour and mechanics of organisational development. Like human beings, he said, organisations have stages in their development cycle.
“organisations like human beings are born, do grow, become old and die, get born again or resurrect. In some cases they even become child parents. If you know the stage the organisation is at a time, it will be easy to identify the capacity gaps you need to fill,” he said.
According to the facilitator, some rush into implementing capacity programmes basing on what they perceive could be the capacity gaps of the community-based groups but there is need to follow a process that is participatory and systematic in identifying the needs.
If an organisation is in its infancy stage capacity needs will be more as it needs extra support to grow. If matured it can help others and when its ageing it will need to be supported also. If you understand these stages then you can easily identify the needed capacity needs, he said.
Apart from understanding of organisations, the training covered developing of capacity building plans, capacity building strategy development, framework for strategy development and formulating action plans.
The meeting also provided an opportunity where the two countries could share experiences and knowledge, challenges and successes on capacity building activities they have had with community-based groups.
Emma Jakobo, manager for Lets Fight Aids in Malawi (LEFAM) project presented on what has been done to build capacity of community-based groups which ADRA Malawi has been working with under the project and also activities done in preparation for implementation of the Action for Social Change programme.
She said some of the activities ADRA Malawi had already accomplished included training of groups in advocacy and communication for social change. This will prepare them to be part of a vibrant civil society that will be able to engage with stakeholders and duty bearers in order to achieve their development aspirations.
Patrick Mphaka, programme manager for Action for Social Change programme in Rwanda presented on the country’s experience on capacity building initiatives with local communities. He also highlighted some of the capacity gaps identified during a baseline survey done in September 2010.
On the third day, participants split into two groups and visited two districts where in rural setting of Rwanda to put into practice what they learnt in the workshop. It was quite an exciting moment meandering through the hills in Rwanda, beautifully carpeted by tea plantains.
The scenery was no different to the tea plantations of Malawi and it was no surprise that the experiences from the meetings gave the Malawi participants a nostalgic experience of the interactions with communities back home.
There was evident enthusiasm and commitment of the communities to develop their area and attain better living standards. Warm welcome for visitors and, were it not for the rains, one women group of women comprising wives of soldiers, police officers and prisoners, had organised traditional dances in Karongi, a district west of Rwanda.
Gender equality was in practice, women participated equally and eloquently in the discussions and decisions makings. The groups visited included school management committees, parents and teachers associations and women income generating groups.
The field visits affirmed the assertion that capacity building is more than just providing training and material resources. Sometimes one just needs to provide information, linkages. The women group in Karongi was weaving baskets but did not know where to sell them.
Back to the workshop in Kigali participants developed draft capacity-building plans and strategies on how they could address the problems identified from the field trips.
Commenting about the workshop, Agness Ingabire, a communication facilitator with ADRA Rwanda, said it was an eye-opener to her because of the systematic approach used to identify the capacity gaps and come up with interventions to address the.
“The mix of classroom and field visits has given me a new experience to deal with the problems in the community. Sometimes we jump steps and come up with interventions that do not address the real issues and the challenges persist. The communities we visited have the same problem as in my duty station, this has been my practical experience and I will directly apply to this knowledge to my work,” she said.
In his closing remarks, country director for ADRA Rwanda thanked the participants for availing themselves and urged them to put into practice what they had learnt because that was the ultimate goal of the workshop.
It is important to understand that God has a purpose with your work. Your work in fulfilling God’s purpose in your life will be complete with the information given here, he said.

Author: Sangwani MWAFULIRWA, Advocacy Officer - ADRA Malawi

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