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A KAIROS INITIATIVE BRIEFING NOTE:

CLARIFYING "SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT" (SD) --
AND PUTTING THE CONCEPT TO WORK IN REFORMATION

TKI/GEM 03:05:29a.2, this rev 05:03:31 to 10:02:18a


CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

1. Clarifying "SD"

--> The key SD Concept

2. Capacity & Capacity-building

--> Training & Curriculum Strategies

3. Organising an SD Initiative

--> Leadership and Facilitation vs. Control

CONCLUDING REMARKS

APPENDIX: Outline for Project Concept Papers


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INTRODUCTION: Ever since the Norwegian Prime Minister (and Socialist International leader) Gro Harlem Bruntland and the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) she led stated the classic definition of "Sustainable Development" (SD) in 1987, sustainability has been a sometimes controversial but increasingly important buzz-word.

Among the many swirling controversies and concerns, perhaps the most pressing has been what we could call the "watermelon" thesis: the view that many environmental initiatives are "green outside, but red inside." That is, is it fair to think that legitimate local and global environmental/SD concerns have too often been used to deceptively repackage controversial socialist/statist/"liberal" political agendas, to make them seem more plausible in a post-cold war world?

Thus, debates over SD sometimes deteriorate into yet another version of the long-standing, heated left/right, market-based/centrally planned, statist/conservative/libertarian, developmentalism/dependency political, theological, philosophical and economic debates that so marked the twentieth century.

However, this needs not be so. For, fundamentally, the SD concept is an application of the so-called "Categorical Imperative" [CI] of Ethical theory, to the context of development.

So, we may begin afresh by viewing the SD question in terms of Kant's point in formulating the CI: we should not make self-serving "exceptions" in our decision-making and actions, whether at personal, family, institutional or community levels.

To apply the CI to SD, we first rephrase the WCED's definition in a more operational form:

Development initiatives are "sustainable" when/if they help to "more adequately" and "more fairly" meet the needs of the current generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

In other words, we should make decisions about development initiatives in light of their likely impacts on all of the relevant stakeholders in a given situation (including the poor/powerless, future generations and the natural world). In doing so, we should specifically consider the impacts of environmental factors, constraints and trends.

The link to the CI is plain.

But, in turn, the CI is directly related to Jesus' Golden Rule [GR] in (1) Matt. 7:12, his comments on the Greatest Commandment in (2) Matt 22:37 - 40, and to the main background texts for his remarks: (a) Deuteronomy 6:1 - 18 and (b) Leviticus 19:15 - 18:

(1) . . . in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

(2) "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbour as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

(a) These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe . . . Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey . . . . Hear, O Israel, the LORD your God is one [Heb., echad: complex, rather than simple, unity. (This verse is the Shema, the great prayer/creed of Judaism.)]. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them . . . . When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers . . . then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery . . . Do what is right and good in the LORD's sight, so that it may go well with you . . .

(b) Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly. Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.

I find it particularly interesting that in the Mosaic Law the long-term well being of both the people and the land -- the proper aim of development -- is closely tied to creating and sustaining a culture of loving and serving God. (Such a culture will be marked by thankfulness, respect, justice, truth, humility and equity in personal, institutional and community relationships, decisions and activities.)

In short, we can see that the SD concept ultimately derives from the application of the Golden Rule to the context of life in the community as stewards of the lands God has put in our care; thus to justice, economics, governance, moral education, development and environmental challenges. Clearly, SD must therefore be a matter of interest to Christian disciples, especially those concerned to initiate reformation, transformation and God-blessed development in our region.

For, as we read in Psalm 127:1:

Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labour in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.

Accordingly, let us set further clarify the SD concept, bearing in mind these biblical insights; then let us explore how we may put it to work on the ground in the Caribbean.



1. Clarifying "SD"

As was mentioned previously, Sustainable Development is a term coined/popularised in the late 1980's by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), which is also often called the Bruntland Commission.

Second, the key SD concept, is that we should seek to:

Meet current human needs ever more adequately (and more fairly), without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, in the context of environmental factors, trends and constraints.

Here, "environmental" includes our natural/biophysical [BP] surroundings and the human/cultural [PEST] context. (The latter is usually thought of as including Political; Economic; Socio-cultural; as well as the Technological/scientific, factors and trends -- i.e. "PEST.")

Thirdly, the key operational SD insight is that a given family, business, community or institution is already implementing a "Business as Usual" (BAU) development strategy that leads to an "expected" future. But too often, that expected future is liable to be less than desirable.

So, an alternative strategy (ALT) may be proposed, in light of the well-known SWOT factors: "our" Strengths and Weaknesses, in the face of environmental Opportunities and Threats. For, a truly sustainable development path/strategy will:

      • Identify and build on "our" Strengths
      • Use these strengths to exploit "our" Opportunities and counter Threats
      • Apply the strengths to compensate for (or, if possible, correct) "our" Weaknesses

If such a strategy can be developed and implemented, it will be well-aligned with environmental factors and trends across time. That would be why it would be likely to lead to sustained success.

Fourth, we may use the diagram below as a graphical tool to help us identify and assess our BAU and ALT strategies, and their likely outcomes. [One way to use it is to draw up a large wall chart that can be marked up as we -- the stakeholders and decision-makers -- discuss issues, contexts and constraints, opportunities and threats, strengths and weaknesses, scenarios/projections and alternatives.]

Once such an assessment of BAU and ALT scenarios has been done, the gaps between the BAU and ALT outcomes provide a basis for consensus-building, deciding about and -- if it is feasible and desirable to do so -- changing from BAU to ALT:

 


SD: SWOT-Scenario Analysis of BAU and ALT Strategies

 

Clearly then, in seeking a sound SD path we are trying to make strategic decisions in the face of opportunities and threats.

Thus, the biblical kairos concept is at work. [cf. Acts 17:24 - 27, 27:1 - 44.] For, biblically, kairos marks times and places where opportunity and risk intersect; forcing decisions and action. As we therefore set about making and implementing wise/"sustainable" decisions in the face of the Caribbean's ongoing regional kairos, several specific issues will be quite important:

(1) Ethical priorities: As we noted, "Sustainable Development" (1) seeks to more adequately meet the needs of the current generation, while (2) putting a high priority on equity ["fairness"] in the community, and (3) without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (i.e. due to biophysical- or sociocultural- environment degradation and/or resource depletion). So, "SD" initiatives in a community should seek to create an ever-growing capacity to meet human needs across time, while not destroying the integrity of the biophysical and sociocultural environment. However, given the vital importance of "liberty and justice for all," such efforts must also preserve or even enhance the rule of law, human rights, fair play and truthfulness in the community. [Cf. Lev. 19:15 - 18.] For, as history has shown repeatedly, these principles are key antidotes to autocratic or oligarchic tyranny on the one hand and destructive mob-rule on the other.

(2) Tradeoffs: Real-world SD initiatives, then, must make compromises; given the inevitable tradeoffs between beneficial and harmful impacts on the current and future generations, and on the biophysical environment. But, how to strike such tradeoffs is a major challenge. For instance, there is a tradeoff between increased rates of current economic development on the one hand (that may cause increased environmental damage); and, on the other, the reduced capacity to meet human needs and/or to mitigate or remedy environmental damage that a slower growth path implies. Such a hard-to-achieve balance is best achieved through bringing to the policy decision-making table a truly representative cross-section of the stakeholders/citizens in the community. Further, these decision-makers and stakeholders must understand and respect the critical importance of markets and associated property rights for economic development.

(3) Transparency & Fairness in Participation: Unfortunately, that is also hard to do. For, given the persuasiveness of misleading arguments, the lack of ready access to the full facts [which may be unknown] and possibilities for bias and hidden agendas, it is easy to exploit the concept of SD to manipulate communities, stakeholders and institutions based on deceptive stratagems. To avoid this requires the creation of a transparent (i.e. open, fair, truthful, accountable and trustworthy), highly democratic and truly representative participative process for identifying, developing, implementing, monitoring, managing and evaluating such projects and programmes.

[NB: To look at many of these issues in greater detail, browse the sites Introduction to Sustainable Development; and SD Gateway. (A list of more detailed definitions of SD appears here, courtesy Susan Murcott, of sustainableliving.org. A "typical" critique, on the need to integrate liberty issues, is here. A similar critique, of some SD-related fact claims, is here. A challenge regarding the hidden agenda question is here. Lastly, here is a personal challenge to SD activists: "Physician, heal thyself.")]

 

2. Capacity & Capacity-building

Capacity and capacity building. "Capacity" in the first instance refers to the ability of individuals and institutions (thus, communities and nations) to make and implement decisions and perform associated operational functions in an effective, efficient, accountable and sustainable manner. Thus, it is central to the implementation of sustainable development initiatives: for, if capacity is inadequate, decisions cannot be properly made or effectively implemented, nor will they be adequately accounted for before the public.

SD advocates therefore often talk of the vital need to build up systemic, institutional and individual capacity:

  • Systemic capacity refers to the overall capacity that emerges at the level where individuals and institutions intersect, namely the national, sub-regional and/or regional levels.

  • Institutional capacity refers to the existing and future capacity of organizations, entities, and structures dealing with environmental and sustainability challenges.

  • Individual capacity refers to the required quantity and quality of existing and/or future staff/ volunteer/ stakeholder/ community human resources needed to make and carry out the required decisions and operations.

Clearly, such capacity does not come about overnight or without effort!

Rather, capacity development requires an iterative learning process that starts with thinking through initial strategic issues and carrying out associated projects successfully. Capacity then gradually grows as individuals, families, busineses, institutions and communities build up experience, expertise and the community's framework of institutions, laws, regulations, and general culture that fosters sustainable development. Thus, we need to consider how to initiate and/or foster this process.

That is, we are faced with the task of curriculum development and implementation in the context of helping community stakeholders, and their delegated decision-makers, executive officers, implementation staff and technical advisors to develop competence and practical experience at individual, institutional and systemic levels.

This is a challenging task, especially since we may be dealing with a broad range of education levels, perspectives, and concerns, coupled to possible polarisation in the community. However, if a sufficiently large critical mass [i.e adequate numbers, multiplied by requisite skills and further amplified by access to key resources and boosted by ability and willingness to work together] of stakeholders can be brought together in the face of a particularly important SD challenge in their community -- a "Nehemiah Project" [cf. Neh. 2:11 - 18] -- then we open the door to the identification, development and implementation of a cluster of initial SD projects that can serve as a basis for "on the job" learning/capacity development. Thus, initial SD projects in a community should particularly target the development of capacity at individual, institutional and community levels, including provision of information, advice and training support.

A useful model for developing the required training systems is the Spiral Learning Webs model, which was developed over the past ten years by the author of this note, as a result of his working with curriculum development and implementation in secondary, tertiary and SD contexts:


The Spiral Learning Webs Curriculum/Training Model


In this curriculum/training model, the main idea is that learning is iterative and progressive, so that learning activities naturally follow a spiral path as participants undertake activities that equip them with concepts, facts, skills, perspectives and habits that gradually develop proficiency -- preferably through participating in a community of learning and expert practice.

Ideally, such a curriculum should therefore:

      • Adapt itself to where the learners are, individual by individual: start with the learner where s/he is. (This requires some diagnostic testing/initial assessment, and built-in flexibility and learner choice about what to learn and how to go about it. A discussion forum is particularly useful for this, and can be in part carried out online using readily available electronic group technology. Projects also provide a key individualisation/flexibility mechanism, and the sharing of project experiences through presentations and peer review is a powerfully enriching component of such a course.)

      • Identify a cluster of key themes: projects, ideas, issues and debates, activities, problems/challenges, tasks, etc that anchor the learning to the world of expert practice. (This requires consultation with experienced, expert practitioners, and with those who hire or use their services. Brace for the often sharply polarised views on what makes for expert praxis and who are "really good" practitioners. Here, a bit of straight thinking analysis will be very useful.)

      • Cluster the key themes and associated knowledge, facts, models/theories, issues, and skills etc. into a structured sequence of study topics that define and justify the targetted learning objectives, then lays them out in a logical scope and sequence of learning UNITS.

      • One key approach is to use an introductory unit that sets the context for the overall learning task, introduces the cluster of key themes and incorporates a major case study/ project/ problem/ challenge/ issue as a way to link learning to the real world of life and practice. Further units will then elaborate aspects of the learning until an appropriate -- practically functional -- degree of proficiency has been achieved.

      • Within the units, trainers should implement activities that include: introduction, details, exercises, assignments, and a summary -- the Assiniboine Community College IDEAS model.

      • Finally, an overall assessment of achieved learning and skills should be made and credibly certified (where this is appropriate).

      • In the Internet age, "face-to-interface" web and multimedia elements can easily be integrated, along with more traditional "face-to-face" instruction, supervision/apprenticeship and dialogue, and "face-to-text" readings. (One way is to have initial forum-type meetings, followed by electronic group interaction supported by an online training web site, in preparation for initial presentations of projects and perspectives, then a period for further development of projects, leading to final presentations and assessments.)

      • [NB: The Spiral Learning Web architecture is also well-suited to the creation of training (and other information-focussed) web sites: The Home page would start with the surfer where s/he is, then the links would proceed to carry her/him through a sequence of main pages, with further special links to key themes, a forum for dialogue and -- where appropriate -- a place for commercial activity. (Cf. the structure of this present web site.)]

Of course, many other models are possible. However, it is probably helpful to note that for instance, Dr Carter McNamara of Authenticity Consulting has developed a Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA (SM), which provides an excellent short course for those who need to build up community-based organisations with capacity to effectively initiate and implement SD-oriented projects.

Logically, then, our third topic is how we may initiate such a SD capacity development and project implementation process. To that, we now turn.

 

3. Organising an SD Initiative (adapted & updated from content for a PCM course)

To actually implement an SD initiative, we should begin with the point that SD projects are often best handled within wider programmes that are based on participative, stakeholder partnerships that undertake a long-term approach to sustainability. (Here, a project is a discrete, time-limited set of activities that pursue a defined goal, and a programme clusters related projects that are best implemented in concert, and provides an organisational home for them.)

This programme-based approach naturally raises the question of how to design and implement appropriate project team structures and participatory governance frameworks that can foster collaboration among diverse stakeholders, building their capacity and supporting transparency through periodic review of project implementation in light of agreed timelines and environmental developments.

Now, since stakeholder participation and stakeholder-based governance are critical to success in SD, the logical first step is to create a forum, in which concerned stakeholders representing the full range of community interests may meet, deliberate and moderate their views, towards developing sufficient consensus, capability and commitment as will make further sustained initiatives possible, through the collaboration of such a critical mass of stakeholders. Airing of key views, facts-claims, trends/scenarios and issues in such a forum, coupled to initial briefings and some basic training, followed by "structured common sense" scenario analysis will usually suggest potentially feasible alternative strategies and projects that seem likely to lead to a better outcome than continuing with business as usual.

(NB: Such a forum may already exist, or it may have to be initiated or sponsored through local SD-oriented institutions, donor/aid agencies, Government Agencies, businesses, or community groups -- perhaps in response to a specific SD issue that has raised significant concern. The goal of the forum is well worth explicit statement: using stakeholder consultation to identify, develop, mobilise and network a sufficient consensus and capacity for effective action to be initiated and sustained -- i.e. creating a critical mass.)

The Hersey-Blanchard Situation Leadership Model as illustrated below, lets us discuss how such an approach can work out on the ground:

Simplified Hersey-Blanchard Situation Leadership Model [SLM]

In the classic SLM, as the degree of perceived follower capacity increases -- and as the relartionship of  trust and respect between the leader and those s/he leads rises -- leaders tend to move from [R/S1] simply telling subordinates what to do, to [R/S2] "selling" (or in some cases, coaching or training) them on a predetermined decision, strategy or approach (with limited inputs from the follower), to [R/S3] participation with them to identify the appropriate way forward, and finally, to [R/S4] delegating the job in hand to faithful, able, ready and willing followers. 

Excerpting and adapting the just linked:

  • [R1] Directing Leaders define the roles and tasks of the 'follower', and supervise them closely.  Decisions are made by the leader and announced, so communication is largely one-way.

  • [R2] Coaching Leaders still define roles and tasks, but seeks ideas and suggestions from the follower.  Decisions remain the leader's prerogative, but communication is much more two-way.

  • [R3] Supporting Leaders pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the follower.  The leader facilitates and takes part in decisions, but control is with the follower.

  • [R4] Delegating Leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving, but control is with the follower.  The follower decides when and how the leader will be involved.

Ideally, according to the model, good leaders will be able to adapt their style to the situation they face. However this is challenged by the problem of deep-rooted attitudes, views, habits and approaches that for strong-willed personalities may require major personal crises to significantly change. But, a good leadership team -- note the shift to plurality in leadership -- will have sufficient breadth and flexibility to adapt to the developmental situation. Again excerpting (and adapting):

 . . . the right leadership style will depend very much on the person being led - the follower - and Blanchard and Hersey extended their model to include the Development Level [or situation] of the follower.  They said that the leader's style should be driven by the Competence and Commitment of the follower, and came up with four levels:

S4 High Competence
High Commitment
Experienced at the job, and comfortable with their own ability to do it well.  May even be more skilled than the leader.
S3 High Competence
Variable Commitment
Experienced and capable, but may lack the confidence to go it alone, or the motivation to do it well / quickly
S2 Some Competence
Low Commitment
May have some relevant skills, but won't be able to do the job without help.  The task or the situation may be new to them.
S1 Low Competence
Low Commitment
Generally lacking the specific skills required for the job in hand, and lacks any confidence and / or motivation to tackle it.

Development Levels are also situational.  I might be generally skilled, confident and motivated in my job, but would still drop into Level R/S1 when faced, say, with a task requiring skills I don't possess.  For example, lots of managers are R/S4 when dealing with the day-to-day running of their department, but move to R/S1 or R/S2 when dealing with a sensitive employee issue.

The basic premise in the H-B model (as the diagram shows by the "matching" of R1 to S1, R2 to S2, R3 to S 3 and R4 to S4)  is that leaders should be versatile enough to smoothly adapt their pattern of leadership to their analysis of the situation. This seems more likely to happen with a leadership team than an individual, especially if the individual is high-power and strong-willed. Which immediately surfaces the challenge for a sustainable development stakeholder constultation and project development process.

For, in a stakeholder consultation setting, there is often a need for intervention through consultants, who act as facilitators for the sustainable development planning and implementing process. Thus their work falls within the helpful modified Waddell definition (and discussion!) that "leadership is the art of influencing [and/or] directing people [through initiative] . . . to accomplish [their] mission . . . in a particular situation or environment." (Here, the adjustments, "and/or," "through initiative" and "their" show the broader vision and spirit of leadership: at heart a change-oriented interpersonal role and relationship, rather than an official capacity. For instance, in the famous incident described in I Sam 17, David, the 16 y.o. shepherd -- not the King -- provided the breakthrough leadership that transformed Israel's prospects in the teeth of Philistine technological, expertise and psychological advantages.)

In sum, since they function as goal-oriented facilitators, consultants inevitably exert a certain measure of leadership, as they seek to help at least a critical mass of stakeholders: (1) to identify a SD challenge and associated opportunities (2) to build the requisite capacity to implement a solution; and, (3) to initiate and successfully carry through an effective solution strategy.

Thus, the SLM is very relevant to SD PCM contexts, and we can therefore easily see that facilitating -- as opposed to controlling -- approaches to leadership can play a vital role in such a situation, though of course coaching approaches are helpful where training and capactiy development are significant factors. In sum, the need to build a critical mass will at first require high participation by a representative cross-section of stakeholders, as they work out a vision of the BAU and ALT strategies and resulting possible/likely futures, and as capacity is identified and/or further developed through sensitive coaching towards delegating responsibilities and tasks so that an agreed strategic programme of action and associated waves of projects may be successfully implemented.

However, a subtlety lurks: it is very tempting for "expert" SD consultants to fall into the trap of trying to sell their own agenda in the name of promoting "participation" and/or while "coaching," on the implicit assumption that they know best, and in any case control key resources and permissions, so what is simply needed is to bring the stakeholders "on board" and/or "up to speed." But, in the end, such a hidden agenda, manipulatively controlling -- as opposed to facilitating -- leadership strategy sadly only pretends to be participative, so it often demotivates and alienates (as well as obviously subverting the capacity-building process that is a major justification for such a consultancy). As a rule, such manipulation becomes unsustainable as the stakeholders view the initiative as "Theirs, not ours; we are only going along because we can't get money otherwise."

In short, ownership fails.

Consequently, it is vital to avoid the subtle arrogance of technical expertise, as well as the more blatant abuses: hidden agenda manipulation, one-sidedness, scapegoating and other deceptive or destructive behaviours. (Particularly to be deplored is the outright deceptive approach that either stacks the selection of "stakeholders," or -- even worse -- pretends to be consultative and participative, while actually using half-truths, demonisation of those on one side of an issue or suppression of material facts, views and factors to "sell" an ill-informed (and usually unsustainable) pseudo-"consensus.")

Far better, is a transparently fair-minded, straight-thinking based, fully participative, honestly democratic approach, perhaps:

    1. After welcoming and facilitating introductions of the various parties to a stakeholder consultation, structured introductory presentation can be made to the stakeholders by perhaps one to three or four qualified and fair-minded experts. These should focus on the material issues, concerns, challenges, perspectives, agendas, facts, trends, and forces that are at work.

    2. This can then be followed by well-informed responses from a balanced panel of selected responders (and, perhaps final brief clarifying comments by the group of experts).

    3. These responses naturally lead into a time of free interaction, comments, questions and discussion with the full body of assembled stakeholders.

    4. Stakeholder-based breakout groups can then study particular topics and issues that have been flagged for deeper study and possible follow-up action. (A list of proposed issues can be made up from the floor, perhaps by using markers and ZOPP-style small strips of coloured cartridge paper to submit ideas, and voting on which of the issues should be flagged for study in the groups.)

    5. In turn, these groups report their findings to the meeting as a whole, and inputs can be taken again from the experts and the meeting as a whole.

    6. Resolutions can be drafted and voted on for collective action, and people may be organised in work teams for implementation.

    7. It is then often appropriate to issue a declaration of concerns, findings and principles, and a resulting call to action. (This Declaration [cf. e.g. here] will then serve as the initial charter for further organised action [cf. resulting local action manual here], and also for explaining, advocating and rationalising the initiative to stakeholders impacted by the initiative [for good or ill] and the general public.)

Such an honest, balanced, fair-minded approach [cf. 2 Cor 4:2 on the ethics of persuasion!] helps to air the material facts, models, views and approaches, and thus helps create a critical mass of people who are well-informed and willing to support a consensus outline strategy on a sustainable basis.

At this point, it may be appropriate to propose more detailed/technical studies, towards the formulation of strategies and the organisation of projects and programmes to carry them out. It may therefore be appropriate to, at least pro-tem, form an executive body/committee attached to the Forum, perhaps with office/secretariat facilities and associated work teams. (If all goes well, such an executive body could evolve into an oversight board for the implementation of programmes, and the office/secretariat into the programme office.)

The newly created executive group would then supervise more detailed analysis, issuing feasibility reports that would be presented to representative stakeholders and then, taking into account inputs and comments, to the wider forum. If there is adequate support from key stakeholders, and the required inputs are available, initial demonstration and capacity-building projects may be undertaken as a first phase of the SD programme. (Unanimity is seldom possible, and so we need to beware of issuing empty or manipulated "consensus" statements that are unrealistic, and/or deceptive and/or lacking in serious commitment by key stakeholders.)

At this point, a more elaborate organisational structure may be appropriate: an oversight body/board, with a programme secretariat and a forum, and with an organised network of project teams:


One Possible SD Project and Programme Framework

 

As the above diagram shows:

  • The Forum provides a framework for stakeholder participation, especially (1) for the initiation of a SD programme, (2) for basic strategising and consensus-building, and (3) for providing transparency/accountability and governance for SD programme initiatives and activities. Formal Membership in the Forum, with associated subscriptions for organisations and individuals, can also provide a key financing source, and a basis for regular information through newsletters, magazines, journals and annual reports. The Forum further serves as a link to the wider community, and it is often helpful to have a regular series of public outreach activities, especially educational events, as an integral part of the SD initiative. These serve to promote sustainability in the community, help with mutual feedback, and generally help to build up good will and a sense of ownership of the SD programme in the wider community.

  • The Board of Directors serves as the legally accountable body for the programme, and provides more detailed oversight of projects, as some of its members are the stakeholders' designated, elected representatives in the programme. Such a Board would usually be responsible for appointing the Programme Director/Coordinator, who sits on and reports to it. In the case of sufficiently catastrophic change in the programme's environment, the Board may need to take major strategic decisions in a hurry, to respond to emerging opportunities and threats. These responsibilities require that it be regularly briefed on developments with the programme and in the wider environment, especially if they suggest that dramatic shifts are likely. In this work, the Board is assisted by a panel of Advisors, who supply expertise and counsel.

  • The Programme Director/Coordinator is the Chief Executive Officer [CEO] for the programme, and serves as the hub for programme activities. He or she manages the programme office, hires consultants and other staff, directs project managers/coordinators and resource units attached to the Secretariat/Programme Office, and is the chief link to partner agencies and to the Board, of which s/he is a key member. The CEO and the Board are also ambassadors to the wider community, and therefore serve as principal fund-raisers; especially if the SD programme is a not-for-profit initiative -- the usual case. The decision to appoint the CEO, therefore, may well be the Board's most important single contribution to the SD programme's success. (The Authenticity Consulting Micro-eMBA may be helpful in developing capacity to carry out such initiatives and activities.)

  • Project Managers report to the Coordinator, and are responsible to carry out projects towards goals, using resources allocated from resource units and partner agencies to their specific projects. These resources may include skilled people (perhaps, on a part-time basis), equipment, funds and many other key inputs. Generaly such a manager works by forming a project team, which then carries out detailed planning and collaborative work using allocated resources to achieve the set goals. Since projects typically exist in changing, uncertain environments, the process will require continuous monitoring and adjustment in light of changing circumstances. Successful project managers will need considerable grace under pressure, good team skills, better than average negotiation skills, and first class communication and analytical skills. (NB: some of these projects could include initiatives to establish business enterprises that support the work of the programme or community-based organisation through profit-making activities.)

  • Resource Units and Partner Agencies supply resources to the programme as needed and available, and in the case of personnel, may supervise the professional aspects of their work. They are thus heavily engaged in the resource allocation decisions, budgeting process and in the accounting for results achieved through the application of those resources. Often key officers of partner agencies will also sit on the Programme's Board.

Clearly, the above matrix-based, project-team organisational structure is well suited to the needs of many SD programmes. However, such a structure is also notoriously prone to conflicts of interest. (Or, perhaps, it only makes them explicit -- "task forces" and "special committees" in standard pyramid-style organisations are simply an informal, weaker form of project team organisation. The same holds for the hybrid situation, where at operational levels, project teams are implemented in a formal matrix structure, but at higher levels a more conventional pyramid structure is retained.)

Such conflicts may be minimised through carefully developed agreements (e.g. memoranda of understanding, terms of reference, formal contracts) among the key players, but -- especially with diverse stakeholders, who may have divergent or even partly conflicting interests -- it cannot be eliminated. Thus, SD programme managers and professionals will need to develop communication, conflict management and teamwork skills in the context of a common vision backed up by adequate resources.

Other, more traditional structures are possible, especially when the SD projects are being implemented by a single organisation. In this case, the internal structure becomes less important, but the need for liaison with stakeholders becomes even more important. In particular, stakeholders need to be confident that their inputs are heard and have some impact on what is done, otherwise the project will degenerate into an imposition on the stakeholders that may even be resented, and certainly will not be viewed as "our" project. This factor alone can be sufficient to guarantee failure for many SD projects.

Progress of projects across a programme  may be monitored by using a high-level Gantt-type timeline chart with "LED's" to indicate status of particular projects at given milestones:

pgm management timelines


 

CONCLUDING REMARKS: The SD concept, as has been discussed, integrates well with the biblical principles of ethics, and so opens a way for Christians to contribute significantly to reformation towards truly sustainable development in the Caribbean. In the days ahead, let us make good use of these synergies tocontribute to the building of a brighter future for our region, under God.


APPENDIX:

An Outline for Project Concept Papers

GEM 05:02:12 [Rev. from PCM Course, 2001 - 2002]

Project concept papers are used to comprehensively but concisely set out the key ideas for a project in a format that can be used for discussion and further development. (In the case of small projects, the concept paper may be enough to serve as a proposal; more complex projects will use such a paper as the start-point for further development in a standard formatas required by the relevant funding agency.) Thus, being able to write such a paper, to capture an idea for a project in a format that can be used for discussion and development is a critical project management skill. The concept paper should be of about 3- 5 pages in length [exclusive of the Log Frame and any other appendices you wish to add], and should be accompanied by a covering letter.

The framework for such a paper should include:

OUTLINE OF A PROJECT CONCEPT PAPER

1. Title: Be brief and descriptive.

2. Introduction: A brief statement of the need for the project, why it is important/urgent to meet the need, and how it may be successfully and sustainably met through carrying out this project.

3. Background and Rationale: An exploration of the context for the project, in light of a SWOT analysis (and perhaps a comparison of "business as usual" and an alternative, more sustainable strategy), giving a bit more detail than the introduction on:

  • How the need for intervention through a sustainable development project came to be;

  • A thumbnail sketch on the state of the art in knowledge on the matter: environmental factors, trends and dynamics, issues/controversies and perspectives, how interventions could give rise to the desired outcomes.

  • The existing/expected resources and stakeholder commitments that permit an effective response to be developed; and,

  • What factors could motivate a switch from business as usual to a more sustainable path through doing the project.

4. Goal and Objectives: Concisely state the overall goal to be achieved through doing the project. Then, break it down into a small list of more specific, brief, observable (and preferably quantitiatively measurable) objectives that can be achieved by given times (to the day, week, or month, typically). When attained, these objectives should collectively indicate the achievement of the goal.

5. Proposed Implementation: Briefly outline how the project would be organised, managed and carried out using a critical mass of people, organisational, financial and material resources, across time. (It may be helpful to draw a chart that states the goal, then branches out to the objectives, then lists the required activities for each objective. This is called a work break-down structure.)

6. Milestones and Deliverables: Identify and list, stage by stage, what the project is to achieve and produce as outputs. (These will be used for monitoring, management, control and evaluation of the implementation process, so inception, interim ["progress/gap"] and final narrative and financial reports will be important deliverables.)

7. Inputs: Identify and list the inputs required for the project: people and skills, teams/work-groups, reporting linkages, equipment, space, materials, funds, permits required, etc.

8. Estimated Budget: A summary budget based on reasonable estimates of the costs for major activities, and on contributions from the different funding (and in-kind) sources. Sometimes, it is wise to attach the actual budget as an appendix, which may then be easily detached as appropriate. (The log frame and work breakdown structure charts are very helpful in budget construction. It is often useful to include a contingency sum, to be released under appropriate authorisation if/as contingencies are warranted or unforeseen opportunities arise.)

9. Key Assumptions: Identify and list critical environmental conditions that may affect the achievability of the project's goals. Some assessment of their risk and impacts on the project may prove helpful.

10. Outcomes, Benefits & Impacts: What will the project cumulatively achieve across time if it is successfully implemented? Who will this benefit, in what ways? Also, if the project is likely to significantly affect the wider biophysical, socio-cultural (e.g. gender issues, cultural heritage sites, stakeholder groups) or economic environments, favourably or adversely, these impacts should be briefly noted and requirements for preparing an Environmental Impact Assessment (if one is needed) should be listed.

11. Recommendation: State your verdict, and invite participation. A respectful, professionally dignified tone is best.

12. Appendices: Logical Framework (which will provide the basis for many of the above sections of the paper), and contact information. Any other reference material that seems appropriate, such as a SWOT analysis chart, or a Gantt Chart or a Work Break-down Structure chart.)

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