Friday, May 1, 2015

Capacity building of capacity builders

The heading of the article doesn't seems to confuse reader who are working in development sector. Its a fancy word on the training of field staff. The major component of any development project is institutional and human capacity development in the community. Training the larger development community to more effectively support community-driven efforts requires a field staff with local networking, trust and suitable skills. There are six factors to be considered while managing field staff in the development project.

1. Recruitment of LRPs - In this phase, mostly NGOs go either for references or prefer an experienced candidate. The most preferable candidate is not the most smart one from the community. Honesty, non political nature, perception in public and hard work are the traits to be seen in the recruitment phase. With some expectations the leadership is concentrated in the hands of elderly people. The style of functioning of these elderly people exhibits authoritarianism and frustrates younger generation. 25-45 is the most suitable age for the field worker as the community have a certain level of trust and sees maturity in these candidates. Conflict of Interest must be considered before hiring of any worker. The experience of person who has worked recently in fraudulent chit fund will make NGO dubious for the community. Job profile, terms of the payment, and attendance must be clarified in the interview.

2. Knowledge Transfer - Knowledge is a powerful tool. Knowledge transfer requires a detail knowledge on the name of the Project, the Implementing agency, the Funding agency, Area of operation, deliverable of the project, total projected outreach, role of field staff, organization hierarchy and a brief project note. The major hurdles in information dissemination is the language of the medium. This is a huge problem at all India level as the necessary level of English is not known to the field staff. All the training modules and IEC material must be in local language.

Trainers used custom charts, posters, pamphlets and a video for the training session. Short movie clips is the best medium for the transfer of the knowledge. Digital Green has done significant works in this area. Training session in leadership, team-building and core objectives of project require a detail article in itself. There are ways like role play, puzzle solving, group discussion & storytelling depending on the skills of the trainer for knowledge transfer in the training session. Through exposure visits also, field staff gains a lot of insights on hurdles in implementing project.

3. Data Gathering - Honest data collection is one of the rigorous task performed by field staff. Its easy to  criticize but difficult to gather data in rural India.  Hence, the continuous monitoring of processes of change, and scientific evaluation to track the progress of the project depends on the shoulders of the field staff . While going in for a survey it is always a good idea to get to take input  of the local staff as they are the one needing most clarity. Perhaps one of the most common mistakes is not to understand that the rate of collection of data in the rural area differ from an urban setting. The whole process is a lot slower as the villages are really really spread out, migration issue and the low connectivity. The scope of data which has been actually and more importantly properly collected in our villages very low.

4. Gender Issues - ‘Feminisation of development’ is a fancy phrase referring to the recent trend of seeing women as both beneficiaries and agents of change in development. There must be combination of male and female staff to provide capacity building support to the community. Effective two-way communication engage in dialogue and debate on issues ensures proper outreach.

5. Transparency & Ethics - Transparency International's website and their definition of corruption is "Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain" and it "depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority". A disgruntled field staff can go back and sow seeds of distrust in the community. Hence, transparency in decision making with community involvement is a better option rather than handling a post crisis situation. One of the instruments for achieving trust of the community is more transparency. Right to know rules & tell rules are pillars of ethical high ground for any person and institution. 

6. Incentive & Rewards - Employee motivation is a continual challenge in traditional ‘command and control' structure of NGOs. ; Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs applies for small NGOs. All field workers aspire for recognition of work. They look for responsibility when they can either see advancement in salary or non monetary reward for good work.

7. Monitoring -  The reporting officer must  visit their operational sites, observed their activities, witness their implemented project, participate in their committee meetings and interact with numerous ordinary villagers – both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries as well as village leaders. This community-level information will immensely effective in analyzing the implications of these organizations at the grassroots level. Not only this will give the hold of grassroots by these interactions, but also minimize chances of bogus reporting by the field staff.

Working in non profit sector doesn't give us excuse of inefficient manner. Nonprofits often have limited resources to invest in staff training on effective project management. They are also in fear of personnel who may shift to another big NGO after taking training from it. The flip side of inadequate trained staffl due to lack of funds will take toll on the community as well institution. Last of all, never pretend to know great fundas of development in front of field staff. You will have a bad time.

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This Blog is meant purely as a personal diary of a rural manager in making. It exists to record information, experiences and opinions about various issues encountered in the line of duty. Any person, institution and organization mentioned here doesn't assume any liability for its contents. This is not a deliberate attempt to defame anyone. And if you have actually read all that is written in the blog and aren't mad at me, then thanks for your time and patience !

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