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Because of the context of our work, I have come to think about Local Response being about communities finding solutions for themselves rather than having solutions placed upon them by NGOs, multinational organisations etc.

I think that when I move my perspective so that Local Response comes to be about ownerership, then my perspective becomes somewhat broader and some interesting possiblities arise. Adam Smith (the founder of the science of Economics) not only saw the benefits of the Industrial Revolution but also lamented the loss of the pride that the skilled craftsman brings to his task. Karl Marx tied the idea down very precisely when he talked about the alienation of those who suffered to provide the benefits of the division of labour. And Frederick Taylor at the start of the 20th century completed the transition from skilled craftsman to a human being who is integrated into the production process so well that he/she is little different from a machine. The industrial revolution over a period of 150 years took man from skilled craftsman to machine. Ownership was lost. (Still with me?)

This all sounds a long way from Local Response as we talk about it. But attached is a story about Toyota taking over a General Motors plant in California more than 20 years ago. What Toyota did was to return ownership to the people who worked at the plant.

Here is a paragraph from the story:

We went from "just do your job" with GM to "no one knows the job better than you" with Toyota. They teach us how to soive problems. They turn us loose in here! They say, stop the line anytime if something's wrong. I was floored. They think I can make their systems better? They're giving me the power to stop production? That right there changed my life. All of a sudden,I'm looking for ways to fix problems, make improvements,basicaliy get rid of anything that was stupid.

Perhaps a last point. GM saw this all happening before their very eyes. They saw their loss making plant become a very profitable plant. But GM couldn't do what Toyota did and does. They could replicate the processes, but they simply couldn't deal with the Ways of Working and the Ways of Thinking that Toyota espouses.

I guess I'm saying that we are not really a very special problem. The same fundamental issue is all around us. I, for one, just hadn't really spotted it.

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Great start! Let me think about it...
Hi Phil,

Interesting. There are definitely other areas where this approach and mindset are being used.

Three examples I think of:

- Universities in the Netherlands (and probably in the US too), more specifically the University in Maastricht changed their approach from having the teacher explain the theory to students who passively receive to small groups of students who work on study cases, searching for solutions by themselves and learning the theory taking initiatives. There is a huge difference with Universities in Belgium, for example, where 300 students still passively listen to the teacher and learn everything by heart once they pass their exams...

- In my own family, I experienced this since I was a child. My parents would openly explain things to me (trusting that I would understand and not considering me too young) and they would ask my opinion about family decisions and all kind of things. They would let me take initiatives and bike around in the village by myself (since I'm 4 or 5 years old), letting me buying groceries, etc.
There is no doubt that this boosts a child self-confidence and sense of responsibility.

- The third example is Buddhism. The Buddha said: "You don't have to believe me because I'm the Buddha. Go and try it out for yourself." You have to find your own way and you can only understand the Buddhist approach if you experience it by yourself. You take ownership of your own practice. No one else can understand and experience the practice FOR you, you cannot pay an institution for your place in heaven... You need to take care of yourself first before you can take care of others...

This is only my experience...

This is a nice reply. I've been musing about it for a while. I think there is a distinction between the GM example and your examples. I've just been struggling to get clear about the distinction. How does this fit.

You've been asked to speak to the Senior Management in UNAIDS or the World Bank or the Red Cross about the power of Local Response. So you give them examples of successful Local Response. Now my fear would be that examples from a University in Holland, the undoubted success of your parents efforts and the words of the Buddha would not challenge their preconceptions. But if you were to say that a car factory in California had been transformed through Local Response, that the success had been maintained over a period of 20 years and that the success can be clearly demonstrated by a clear change in business performance, then I think that you might have a chance to challenge those preconceptions.

So here is the distinction. There are stories that we can use to reinforce our Way of Thinking, they can be used to extend our Way of Thinking. And then there are stories that are able to challenge our Way of Thinking. They say, "Is it possible that your Way of Thinking is a lot too narrow...or perhaps a lot too broad?"

I read an article recently by a man called John Kay called, "Darwin's marriage and the war in Iraq: the missing link.". In the article he talks about our instinct to gather evidence to support our point of view, rather than to gather evidence to develop a point of view. Here is a small quotation from the article that is well worth reading...
"Evidence-based policy is sought by government, but mostly the result is policy-based evidence. Only facts and arguments that support the desired policy are admitted, so the analytic basis of decision-making is eroded not enhanced. In the run-up to the Iraq war, the results were disastrous."

I think this is making the same point from a different perspective. Tony Blair was using information to reinforce a Way of Thinking "Iraq has weapons of Mass Destruction". His responsiblity and the reponsiblity of his officials was to use information to challenge that Way of Thinking.

So perhaps 2 categories of stories? Or 2 ways of telling the same story?

One contribution, on how it all started. And two questions, on how we might take the discussion forward.

1. When I came back from Thailand to join the UNAIDS office in Geneva in mid 98, I proposed to continue work on the implications of AIDS for health care reform. After all, this had been the entry point for the Phayao study... Management did not accept my proposal, as we would have been treading on WHO territory. We then adopted "local responses" as the focus of our agenda. The following year, Ian Campbell gave at the Lusaka AIDS in Africa Conference the following definition of local response:"the response by people where they live and work"...

2. Ian then opposed "response" to "intervention". Does that work for you? Isn't facilitation also an intervention? We are even planning an "intervention study"! So here is question number one: to what should we contrast response? Intervention? Something else?

3. This leads to my second point. In the Phayao study, we contrasted two views of people: as targets or objects of external intervention and as subjects of their own response. In this sense Toyota management considers its workers as the subjects (or actors) of the production process. Does that work for you?

Phayao study EN
I like the idea of actors and the roles they play.

I think the message for me is that Toyota is requiring its workers to play several roles, rather than categorising them as having this role or that role. The question to consider is what role is appropriate for a particular task. What Toyota recognised is that people who work on a production line develop experience that can be used to improve a process. But they still operate within the context of a production line.

It reminds me of the story of the SAS. In the British Army (and any army I guess) there is a strict hierarchy. The SAS in the field operate without hierarchy. So the question is who has the skills needed to run this particular part of the operation? And for that part of the operation, the individual who has those skills leads the operation regardless of military rank.

So the role evolves with the changing situation.

Perhaps we shouldn't be seeking to contrast, but rather to integrate 'the contrasts' into a single model?


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