CHAPTER 8: The Organisation: The backbone of the programme
The capability of the organisation to put concepts into practice is the key to the success of the programme. Principles like gender balance and participatory decision-making at community level are only trustworthy if also practised within the organisation. SRWSP has made efforts to have decision-making authority delegated to various levels. Conceptual decisions are made by the Programme Management Team where colleagues from different disciplines are represented (technical, social, training, monitoring), while day-to-day decisions are made within the various sections.
In order to make the programme truly participatory, it is vital to have a mechanism that ensures continuous two-way dialogue between the community and the programme. This is enhanced by the community facilitators who are stationed near the project area. They provide regular feedback to the Programme Management Team through their own section. Sharing of field experiences and discussion of new ideas is encouraged and appreciated. A shared vision among the programme staff and its collaborating partners encourages a strong sense of ownership. This invites people to be critical, alert and open for improvements and changes. To develop and maintain a shared vision, SRWSP is using various activities. “Designing the Future” for example, is a training programme which develops a joint vision for the future through special breakthrough projects.
A particularly valuable experience has been the Participatory Self Assessment (PSA). Over a period of 6 months many different activities were organised in which the staff, together with partner organisations and the community participated. The outcome was very helpful to the External Evaluation team. The resulting evaluation thus applied to the whole of SRWSP. Annual plans of operation are prepared based on such questions as 'What do we strive for?', 'What do we expect to achieve?', 'What changes do we anticipate?', 'Which weaknesses should we work on?', 'Which strengths should we build on?', 'Which ideas should we try out?' etc. Annual budgets are prepared based on the number of communities expected to enter the construction phase.
• A competent second line management is crucial in a flattened organisation.
SRWSP strives to develop an organisational culture which encourages decision making at the appropriate level. The second line management plays an important role in this by assuring a two-way flow of information and encouraging decentralised decision making. In such an organisation staff members must feel confident and competent, while being allowed to make mistakes. This management style is new in Nepal and thus requires a change in mentality. Special training programmes and intensive supervision are, therefore, essential. Over a period of years, major organisational changes have been encouraged and introduced thanks to this management style.
• Making gender balance a reality is a huge task.
Gender balance is easy to talk about; more difficult to put into practice. First, it is important to find a common understanding of gender, one which is not merely an intellectual concept, but is genuinely felt, lived and practiced by all colleagues. On the basis of this common understanding a realistic analysis of the gender imbalance can be made, the starting point for planning improvements and changes.
In a male-dominated culture such as Nepal's, where women have only recently gained the chance to study and work, it is hard to find female candidates for higher-level posts who are as competent as men. This means that some positive discrimination in favour of women is necessary to ensure that they are able to join and progress in the organisation. It is also important to take into account that women work differently from men. SRWSP's female staff members mostly work in the fields of training and social development. Women have been trained and put to work in the technical field but unfortunately not yet at engineer level.
SRWSP has only been partially successful in making the team gender-balanced. For instance, no female candidate could be found for a senior post which had been specially earmarked for a woman. After a year of unsuccessful attempts, a male candidate was appointed.
• The Social Development Section faces most of the problems.
The Social Development Section (SDS), with a high number of female staff, is responsible for the proper implementation of the social mobilisation activities, either conducted directly by the SRWSP community facilitators or by the NGO partners. From the very beginning, when the first contacts are established with a community, to the follow-up activities during the operation and maintenance phase, SDS staff have a key role to play. As a result, they find themselves confronted with most of the problems. Despite the hardship they face, their constant efforts are crucial to the success of the programme.
Unlike technical staff, social staff cannot rely on long-standing experience and proven methodologies. The social field is continuously changing and demands new concepts, strategies, approaches, methods and tools. Moreover, while technical staff achieve tangible results and as such receive immediate appreciation, the Social Development Staff build the foundation for these results but their work's importance is not always fully recognised.
Being there to listen to the problems and frustrations which the SDS staff experience during their motivational work in rural Nepal, and giving appropriate moral support is important in helping them maintain their sense of value.
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