Oxfam Intersections Session Feedback

Friday, 22 January, 2010 - 15:11

Facilitator: J. Francis, Centre for Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation, University of Venda
Sessions Facilitated:
a) Participation: the main ingredient for good development?
b) Integrating HIV and food security

Participants and the Facilitation Approach(es)

Twenty-six people representing about 10 organizations participated in the first session, i.e. Participation: the main ingredient for good development? There were 19 participants in the second session, i.e. Integrating HIV and food security.

The facilitation road maps that were used are presented as Appendix 1. A similar approach, anchored on reflection circles was used. Questions were raised that made participants to think critically about their experiences and own learning before sharing. Reflection involved getting participants talking about their practical experiences. Facilitation focused on ensuring that the reflection occurred in a democratic way that allowed the diverse views and experiences to be distilled and interrogated.


a) It was evident that the ice breakers helped bring participants closer to each other before deliberations on the topical issues;
b) Disciplined focus by the participants on the work at hand made it easy to facilitate the sessions;
c) Debates/deliberations were so robust and revealing that identified issues could not be exhausted within the times allocated;
d) Participants shared various practical experiences from both personal and organizational perspectives. This enhanced learning from each other. As a facilitator from an academic institution, the shared cases and lessons enriched my own knowledge and understanding, which will prove very handy for my students when our academic year starts;
e) A considerable number of issues emerged from the deliberations, some of which were:
i. The need for building on what communities were already doing as a critical pillar of ensuring sustainable involvement of people affected by an issue that an organization focused on;
ii. Change should start at the individual level and then spread to the family, community, etc.;
iii. There was no integrated development programming and implementation of social change initiatives;
iv. Stigma associated with HIV remained a major hindrance to integrating HIV and food security programming;
v. Welfare and development issues must be handled in a holistic manner;
vi. Donors dictated development agenda, which made it difficult to adhere to participatory principles. Participation should not be confined to what happens at programme or project implementation only. Rather, it should pervade the whole axis from donor all the way to community;
vii. Lack of belief in the fact that community members can champion their own development made it difficult to adhere to participatory development principles on the ground. In addition, it was noted that the mere fact that those in leadership positions did not adhere to participatory practice in their own dealings with junior staff made it impossible to expect the organizations to be participatory when working with communities.

Appendix 1:
The Facilitation Guide for the Two Themes
Theme 1: Participation: The Main Ingredient for Good Development?

A: Breaking the Ice

1. Ask the participants to form a circle. Request them to do anything they agree on as a group, maintaining the circle (5 min).
2. Stop the group’s activity. Ask each participant to identify a person across the circle who he/she thinks shares the same views on development practice. Allow the individuals to share their views for about 2 min before requesting them to form a circle again.

B: Reflection Circles

Randomly assign the participants to 3-5 reflection circles, depending on the number of people participating in the session. Each group must have 5-10 people. Proceed to the next step.
Step 1: What are the fundamental characteristics of ‘good development’ practice?
Step 2: Group presentations in plenary and adoption of characteristics of ‘good development’ practice
Form new reflection circles
Step 3: Answer the questions – (a) Is the participatory approach properly applied? If not, why? (b) Is it true that the participatory approach is used to simply validate already designed processes and programs? Explain your answers. (c) What are the pitfalls and blockages that practitioners must overcome? Suggest solutions to each pitfall or blockage.
Step 4: Group presentations in plenary and consolidation of views per reflection question

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