Connecting local responses around the world
Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR), a government institute, Delhi, India invited me to facilitate a session on strength-based approach and evaluation. IAMR is conducting a three month course on Monitoring and Evaluation for international students.
Strength-based approaches believe that in every environment there are individuals, associations, groups and institutions that have potential, strength, knowledge, skills and connections. These approaches highlight a collaborative stance where people are experts in their own lives and the facilitator’s role is to encourage people to take action to achieve their dreams. Facilitators use explicit methods for identifying individual/group and environmental strengths for goal attainment. The relationship is hope-inducing: a strengths-based approach aim to increase the hopefulness and hope can be realised through strengthened relationships with people, communities and culture. There are many strength-based approaches like Appreciative Inquiry, Community life competence, Positive Deviance, Asset-based community development, Solution Focused Therapy (SFT) etc.
I travelled 50 kms to reach IAMR but was awarded by huge campus, green lawns dotted with trees and flowers. The IAMR team had made all arrangements with stationery and projector. I was completely at ease as I saw the students trickling in dot on time. There were 24 students from 17 countries representing Africa, Asia and Europe. These students are professionals working with government, NGOs and other organisations.
As facilitator of a strength-based approach called community life competence, I shared my experiences with the approach (www.communitylifecompetence.org/en). Constellation an international non-profit organisation is a proponent of this approach. The Constellation draws from a belief that every community can become Life Competent: the 'state' where it is able to deal effectively with the threats and challenges that it faces. It illustrates the need for a shift away from the problem-oriented methods toward processes that build on community achievements, existing strengths and local skills. The acronym SALT summarizes this mindset. Facilitators work with each other to Stimulate further action through their appreciative questions, Support each other in the Appreciation of individual and community strengths, exchange their perspectives about what they have Learned from each visit, and prepare to Transfer lessons learned to other contexts. In essence, there is a shift in from 'expert' to 'facilitator'.
I had questions on SALT like what do support and transfer mean. I will do a story on this later.
We did two exercises to practise an appreciative way of thinking. Soon the discussion was focused on strengths and aha moments. I wasn’t sure if I should focus on community life competence or more in its application in M&E but I let the discussions steer the agenda.
We learned that strengths vary from person to person and drew up an exhaustive list of strengths. We had sharing from the students as well as the faculty members. We had stories how someone had worked hard to achieve her dream to visit US, how a faculty member struggled to support his family when he lost his father at an early age. Then how another faculty member always tried to help others and yet another member had worked with street children and received so much love from them. There were fun moments when a young man said he wanted to become the President of Cameroon and another one said how much he loved his wife and basketball but could not decide which he loved more!!! Personally as a facilitator a very inspiring session.
This was agenda of the session: