By Saskia van Drunen
Throughout 2011 Fair & Sustainable Advisory Services (FSAS) has supported the ICCO regional office in Bamako in the design and implementation of a learning and reflection trajectory for its Liberian partners working on democratisation and conflict transformation. This trajectory should lead to the formulation of a joint strategic plan of the partners for the period of 2012-2015.
ICCO has been working with civil society organisations in Liberia for many years. In 2006, it created, in consultation with 19 partner organisations, the Liberian Peace Building and Democracy Programme (LPBDP). This programme was composed of four interrelated clusters working on community empowerment and development, community governance and advocacy, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence, and youth in governance and peace building. It started with a pilot phase in 2007, and an implementation phase from 2008 until 2010. As the LPDBP came to an end in 2010, ICCO decided to support its partners in the formulation of a new strategic plan. ICCO chose to do so through a learning and reflection trajectory after observing that, in the context of the LPBDP:
- There was little interaction and exchange between the clusters leading to missed opportunities in terms of exchanging experiences and increasing impact;
- Partners had difficulties to adjust to the changing Liberian context. Created during or just after the conflict, most of them were used to address immediate needs rather than to make plans for achieving long-term structural change. Interventions at community level lacked a clear exit-strategy, undermining the sustainability of their work.
The learning and reflection trajectory developed by FSAS was designed to deal with these issues, stimulating partners to move beyond their comfort zone, and to help them develop a long-term strategy in which the structural causes of poverty and injustice rather than the symptoms would be addressed. Three principles guided the trajectory:
- The trajectory should not lead to a continuation of the LPBDP, but to the formulation of a new programme. Therefore, other ICCO partners who had not been involved in the programme but whose interventions could be interesting for the LBPDP partners were also invited to participate;
- The context of Liberia should form the point of departure for new programming, and not the capacities of the partners;
- Ownership of the process should at all times lie with the partners and not with ICCO.
The trajectory started in September 2010 with a workshop during which partners made a shared analysis of the most urgent issues in terms of rights violations, disempowerment and injustice in the Liberian context, and their structural causes. The workshop methodology was based on the ‘Guide for facilitating a shared political context analysis’ recently developed by ICCO with the support of FSAS and the Royal tropical institute (KIT). The second step in the trajectory was the formulation, in June 2011 of a joint long-term vision for Liberia: what kind of Liberia are we aiming for within 10 to 15 years from now? And what are the preconditions to realise that vision? The last step was a workshop in September 2011 to operationalise this vision into a realistic plan for the period from 2012 to 2015: what can we realise in four years time, what is achievable? How can we measure our advances? How can we learn from it and improve our practice? Who else do we need to achieve these objectives? The outcomes and choices made during each of these three workshops were validated in follow-up workshops and form the basis for the new strategic plan.