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close this bookGATE - 2/88 - 10 years GATE (GTZ GATE; 1988; 44 pages)
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GATE's old and new role

by Hansjörg Elshorst

The actual job of reorganization is claiming so much attention that other key features of GTZ's corporate development are being forced into the background. This also applies to the tenth birthday of GATE, despite the fact that the new GTZ especially has every reason to give due consideration to GATE's past and future role.

On 1 July 1978 the Technology Transfer Coordinating Office of the Fraunhofer Society was incorporated in the GTZ and merged with the technology-oriented sections of GTZ that already existed. The aim went beyond merely rounding off the range of services offered by GTZ

Point of convergence in the AT network

We were decidedly against the idea of leaving the German "point of convergence" in the worldwide network of AT institutions removed from the major development organizations. This distance had historical origins, since Appropriate Technology (AT) was conceived of as an alternative concept to the uncritical transfer of technology from north to south. However, one result of this self-imposed distance was that the main flow of development funding continued to be minimally influenced by AT ideas.

It was intended that GATE should influence the work of GTZ as a whole. To this end, it was necessary to strengthen GATE's conception of itself, its identity- a dialectic task which certainly entailed the risk of failure.

GATE has certainly succeeded in developing its own identity. For an institution /hat-among other things - ascribes to the philosophy "small is beautiful" and "small is possible" it has become quite large. Not only has it made major contributions to the development of appropriate technologies (AT). It has also developed the concept of AT further and has made it accessible. Otherwise it would no doubt be hard to explain why, in addition to the BMZ (Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation), which is its main client, the BMFT (Federal Ministry for Research and Technology) is increasingly commissioning GATE to implement projects.

If one can understand that committed people in the Federal Republic of Germany associate the growing impoverishment of many developing countries among other things with the political and economic priorities of local and international power centres; and if one sees the risk of development work also being influenced by these priorities, then it is thanks to GATE that GTZ has remained capable of maintaining a dialogue with these critical groups both in Germany and the Third World.

GATE - a pioneer

If GATE has succeeded in developing an identity of its own, how successful has it been in influencing the main flow of German development funding?

In analyzing this question one can learn something about the potential effectiveness of all development policy - it is powerless unless the general conditions point at least partially in the same direction.

In other words, it was impossible for the concept of appropriate technology to have a broad impact until general economic conditions made it imperative. Where this process was obscured by development funding, it tended to take longer for the change to have an effect. Where those in power have become aware of the alarming deterioration of the environment, there has been greater acceptance of technologies which are affordable and can be "handled" by the majority of the population. Until these overall economic and ecological conditions come into existence, development work has an opportunity to concentrate on the necessary technological development and on pilot and test phases, so that tried and trusted solutions can be offered when the overall conditions permit.

GATE also did pioneering work in establishing another truth that will not only be fundamental for GTZ as a whole, but is gaining importance on an international scale, namely, when we concern ourselves intensively with technology and engineering, we encounter the human being. We find ourselves confronted by cultural issues, questions of social organization, as well as problems relating to the economic capabilities of the target group and the assistance structures.

Adopting many fresh approaches, which initially were largely misunderstood, GATE described and interpreted these circumstances as a need for a "holistic view" of technology. This realisation prompted GATE to cooperate closely with selfhelp initiatives from a very early stage. Nor was it merely a coincidence that the fundamental work on "Women as a Target Group of Technical Cooperation" was entrusted to GATE many years ago.

Now we have ten years' solid work behind us. They have been a success which the General Managers gratefully attribute to the highly motivated staff. But is GATE's future now on shaky ground as a result of the reorganization of GTZ?

This question, and the underlying anxiety are not without justification. After all, the reorganization is an attempt to achieve for the whole GTZ what GATE has achieved in practice: priority to finding solutions which are related to target groups and executing agencies, resources for socio-cultural, socio-economic and socio-organizational know-how on the one hand, and more time for appropriate technical solutions on the other.

GATE's new tasks

On the basis of the Organization Report GATE has been allocated a component of the overall corporate planning activities within GTZ, namely the coordination of research and development (R & D). In addition, it is to initiate new programmes which cannot yet be allocated to any operative unit. GATE will continue to be responsible for liaison with technological institutions, developing criteria for the selection of appropriate technologies, expanding information and documentation systems, and for basic policy as regards environmental protection and conservation of resources.

On the basis of these catchwords - which at first glance appear somewhat unconnected - a GATE working group, in consultation with management personnel, has made a first, tentative approach towards a new profile for GATE. Although this has not yet been finalized, GATE's tenth birthday is as good a reason as any to present a rough outline of it here.

Up to the present, one of the focal areas of GATE's work has been to implement R & D projects itself, even in sectors for which there are special project divisions within GTZ. This has been justified by the argument that these project divisions are too busy with the actual business in hand, while GATE puts more emphasis on the social component and the holistic approach. The opposing argument has been that GATE developments never pass the blueprint stage or - at least - that they are never effective on a broad scale.

There is no need to assess these old arguments. If, in the new GTZ, the project divisions as a whole are to be involved more intensively in conceptual and innovative work, if divisions responsible for specific countries are to introduce social aspects of development directly associated with target groups, and if the trans-sectoral components (e. 9. the advancement of women, promotion of self-help, fight against poverty) are to be expanded, then there will no longer be any justification for independent implementation of projects by GATE.

The working group mentioned above responded to this with a new draft concept - GATE as the GTZ's "innovation coordinating office". The following remarks concerning GATE's future role are based on these considerations, as well as on the proposals put forward by the management consulting firm responsible for recommendations on the GTZ's reorganization.

1. If all technical divisions engage in R & D work in order to develop further the range of professional and planning services offered by GTZ, coordination of R & D planning, consultation on methods, an estimate of risks and prospects as assessed from a cost standpoint, and preparatory work for decisions to be taken by management as to priorities are essential. For completely new tasks more detailed management may be required for an initial phase, i.e., in the form of an "innovation coordinating office" for coordination of planning and work within GTZ.

2. GTZ does not evolve innovations alone. GATE has experience in cooperating with other technology organizations worldwide. This cooperation is to be continued by the new GATE, and in particular by coordination of its working relationships with the BMFT. This may also provide a basis for fundamental responsibility for, and advising on, methods of cooperation between other technical divisions and their respective counterpart organizations. If that is so, being the "innovation coordinating office" will mean that GATE will mobilize the potential for innovation, in both governmental and non-governmental organizations, to help resolve problems in developing countries more systematically and efficiently than hitherto.

3. GTZ does not develop innovations exclusively for its own purposes. Not only the counterparts in the project, but also other development agencies and all other institutions and firms interested in the problems concerned ought to benefit from the solutions offered. GATE set up the "Question and Answer Service" (which is to be retained) as an instrument for achieving this aim. For years now, GATE has worked with non-governmental organizations (NGOs); this cooperation is to be expanded and intensified, since, as a result of population growth and the ecological crisis, the NGOs also have an ever more urgent need for technological innovations in their projects. It goes without saying that here, too, the involvement of all GTZ technical divisions is called for. But cooperation at this level is also subject to its own difficulties and rules. Here too, an "innovation coordinating office" would be helpful' not only as a "one-way" channel to pass on and coordinate innovations, but also for feedback from cooperation partners, who often have a different kind of access to underprivileged target groups from that of GTZ projects.

4. Improving GTZ's capabilities in the area of "Information and Documentation" (I+D) will require a very special additional effort, which has also been assigned to GATE. Of course, this service is not intended solely for internal use by GTZ, either. The management consulting firm responsible for recommendations on the GTZ's reorganization has submitted a supplementary report on l + D, and a decision is still to be taken.

5. It is one of GATE's core experiences that research and development cannot merely be organized. In certain areas it is essential to play an active part in order not to lose touch with reality. This is, admittedly, disputable because any kind of classical staff work has to cope with this risk. However, since the new GATE will be in the "Planning and Development" directorate, its corporate planning functions will be comparatively close to the actual practical situation. The organization concept has taken GATE's experience into due account and thus accorded GATE a key area fundamental and trans-sectoral responsibility for environmental protection and the conservation of resources.

This is no coincidence. No other area will demand a research and development effort on a comparable scale during the next few years- in almost all GTZ technical divisions. Thus, fundamental capability in the subject matter and a corporate policy coordination responsibility are combined. The further development of instruments such as "ecolometry" as a type of statistical basis for environmental policy will also be a high priority and make direct demands on GATE. Last but not least, environmental protection and conservation of resources will be a central theme of GTZ's relations with other organizations, and will therefore fit in well with the concept of the "innovation coordinating office".

"GATE" to keep its name

In view of the new tasks assigned to GATE the question arises as to whether, the name "GATE" is justified and suitable for the new Division 402. In the final analysis it will also be a test of the success of the GTZ's reorganization, to see whether, with the help of the steering functions that GATE will retain, it will be possible to maintain much of what has been characteristic of GATE's work up to now, and has found it many friends and great recognition outside GTZ.

Be that as it may, we at least should not disregard the historical background. "Appropriate Technology" is part of GATE's name. Its founding fathers led by E. F. Schumacher were the initiators of a long process which has revolutionized our understanding of development and extended it far beyond a narrowly-defined concept of technology. We should honour these origins, even if this means that the term "technology" in the abbreviation "GATE" will in future require interpretation.


After the reorganization, the principles and methods practiced by GATE for ten years will be adopted throughout GTZ. This will entail priority to resolving problems related to target groups and executing agencies, resources for socio-cultural, socio-economic and socio-organizational know-how on the one hand, and more time for appropriate technical solutions on the other. As of 1989 GATE will no longer carry out any projects of its own. Instead, as the "innovation coordinating office" of the company, it is to be entrusted with new tasks.


Ce que GATE a pratiqué pendant 10 ens, va être réalisé- après la réorganisation de l'entreprise, c. a. d. debut 1989 - dans le travail de I'ensemble de GTZ. Prionté est accordée d'une part a la recherche de solutions adaptées aux groupes cibles, aux ressources pour le savoir faire socioculturel, economique ainsi qu'au niveau de l'organisation et, d'autre part, a un plus grand temps consacre aux solutions techniques specifiques. A partir de l'année prochaine, GATE ne procedèra plus a la réalisation de ses propres projets. En revanche, GATE va se voir confier de nouvelles tâches en tent que «centrale pour I'innovation» de l'entreprise.


Las actividades realizadas por GATE durante diez años serán incorporadas en las de toda la GTZ a partir de la reorganización de la empresa, es decir, a partir del año 1989. Se trata concretamente de la primacia de les soluciones de problemas especificos de los grupos destinatarios y entidades responsables de los proyectos, asi como de los recursos pare el know-how sociocultural, socioeconomico y de organ/zacidn de la sociedad, por une parse, y de la dedicacion de un mayor tiempo en la busqueda de soluciones tecnicas adecuadas, por otra parse. A partir de/ proximo ano GATE no realizará más proyectos propios y se le confiarán, a cambio, nuevas actividades, en funciones de »Central de Innovaciones« de la empresa.

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