A KAIROS INITIATIVE BRIEFING NOTE:
"SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT" (SD) --
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.")]
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:
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:
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.
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:
|Experienced at the job, and comfortable with their own ability to do it well. May even be more skilled than the leader.
|Experienced and capable, but may lack the confidence to go it alone, or the motivation to do it well / quickly
|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.
|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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.)