Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Setting up online learning communities is just like learning to skate inline

This year 2011 the digital energy within the ICCO Alliance has been mostly dedicated to the setup and give life to the Learning Communities (LC’s). Several LC now have been formed around the themes the Alliance is working on together with its partners in a large number of programmes. And yes, it was confirmed again: people sometimes believe online facilitation simply happens, that it is something like breathing that everyone can do automatically. But fast skating inline down a frozen canal is a better metaphor. To skate inline you need first to learn to walk, then to skate and then skate well and finally to skate with other people. And like skating, online facilitation is best learnt with and from other people by doing it. However you always need the right weather and ice conditions to skate. Anyhow many colleagues within the Alliance have really put lots of energy and creativity in the setup and animation of their community. Need assessments have taken place, as well as discussions during face to face meetings about how to continue to deepen ideas and share experiences while working around the world. The LC’s Private Sector Cooperation, Basic Health and HIV and Food and Nutrition Security definitely have ‘taken off’.

Lately we have been talking with a quite a number of the facilitators, which was a really motivating and inspiring round of conversations. The feedback they gave us showed that most are struggling with ‘what’ and ‘how’ they need to do to energise the communities, help them become vivid and interesting for the members. The idea now is to develop, together with all facilitators, ways of working with their communities that really aim at usefulness for all members. As it is in our DNA, we’ll be practice what we preach and have started already to discuss these issues online in the ‘facilitators’ learning community’ and we’ll deepen this conversations in a couple of online sessions which will be held beginning of 2012.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

First day at ICCO Introduction Training

What is ICCO? Who do we really work for? These are the type of questions that we had in mind when we were coming to the Introduction Training. And then, we are finally here, at the Global Office and finally putting faces to some names that we have been hearing for some time now.

This first day that we thought would be very long and maybe annoying did not go the way we
were expecting it. We met some very nice people from around the world. We all had to present our region which gave us a chance to show some of our creativity. It also highlighted the breadth and depth of ICCO. We had a good discussion of the current funding situation and future strategies based upon unique selling points. We also discussed the future structural arrangements of the ICCO alliance and the identities of KIA and ICCO.

The methodology of the world café made what could have been a boring set of presentations, an interactive exchange. A lot of information for the very first day, but a reflection of the passion and dedication of the ICCO global family.

Niania Traore, Jean Vernet and Lindora Howard-Diawara

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Making the Connections Day 6: Dutch Treat

Sunday was a different Dutch treat from the Ecumenical Community of “Het Brandpunt.” At 9am, a group of volunteers drove us (in different cars to fit the 21 individuals from various regional offices) to the said community from the PKN Guesthouse, Utrecht to Amersfoort (about 1 hour drive). We got English translations (printed and verbal from our seatmates) of the Dutch church service with a wedding to boot. We were officially welcomed through morning greetings in our national languages. A woman “elder” from the community presided over the service, and a woman pastor gave the sermon and blessed the wedding couple (not a gay pair). The children even had an active part in the “mass”. The choir had an energetic conductor and the English songs were upbeat, with an electric guitar accompaniment which made me feel like dancing. We almost missed the song called “Better Together” due to a technical glitch. It’s not only a romantic song for the wedding, I thought it’s also a good reminder for advocates (watch here).

After the ceremony, we had warm drinks (coffee and tea) while having chitchat with the community members and our individual host families for the day. I never removed my 2-layer jacket throughout the morning since the chairs felt cold on my behind (my phone apps said it was 6°C). It helped that my host family liked sweets (e.g. waffles with cherries and cream) which gave me energy until midnight. In the afternoon, I joined the 2-hour walk, laugh, reflecting in the rain with other colleagues and host families. The walk was part of the pilgrim hosted by one of the parents of the Dutch youth volunteering to Rome (during their school break) to assist the homeless and learn something invaluable in return. It was a good excuse as well as a good exercise for us beyond the conference rooms for the past week. I saw a lake full of ducks and birds I haven’t seen before. We walked through some kind of mini-forest littered with oaks, big trees and colorful plants. After which we had warm drinks and cookies to end the pilgrim in the host’s welcoming home. In between traditional Dutch food (e.g. cheese, potatoes, pudding called “bitter cookies”), our hosts also asked us about the geographic location of and weather in Manila and Bangkok. Uncannily, their daughter was like me when I was a child years ago. She has a rabbit as a pet (hers was black, I had white), and she’s allergic to milk (she was taking soya, and I grew up with soya). Her brother is part too of the volunteering youth to Rome. We had group photos to mark the different highlights of the day. Unfortunately, my host family is not into FB (facebook) but we can at least keep in touch through email and the worldwide web of volunteers.

Romina “Beng” Sta.Clara, 9 Oct 2011

Friday, 7 October 2011

Day 5 Introduction Training - Friday, October 6th, 2011

Interesting day, sessions were designed by using the World Cafè methodology.

20 minutes in different rooms with different specialists in issues such as micro finance, liaison officers, KIA International, fundraising, communication and marketing.

In the afternoon, it was time to learn about wikis, yammers, and blogs. The difference between the three, and the purpose of each one. The system is not perfect, but it is useful. It can be used for note taking, for agenda setting, informing about changes, and sharing institucional issues, without having to send an email.

A relevant question is how can wikis improve my time management without being an extra burden to our heavy, office workload?

What sort of stimulation do I get from ICCO from using these wikis?

Wikis can be useful by the communications department in keeping us informed about changes, news, prizes, deadlines, fundraising opportunities, tools, information that the RO needs to know. The wikis could also be used so that partners can have a direct communication channel with us, and letting us know about results, sending pictures, etc.

The idea of creating a focal point in the regions for PME is also applicable for lobbying and advocacy, private sector collaboration.

Finally, it was clear that ICCO will start making large efforts to not only communicate more efficiently, but also it is also struggling to find new ways of doing things, and maximize funding, time and resources with the regions. It is also time to get out of any confort zone that we might be in, propose good ideas in a co-responsible way, and row hard, because the storms might come hard, and we´re all in the same boat!

Caroline, Desta, and Gorge (Kuki).

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Making the connections

The third day of the introduction training differed completely from what we had done in the first two days. If on Monday and Tuesday we talked about program directions and framework, within which we are working (values, mission, the future of ICCO Alliance etc.), today the training was more about practical knowledge.

In the first part of the day POs/RFOs were dealing with Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (PMEL) issues. I was glad to notice that despite the weather getting substantially worse, the participants were active and interested. The session represented a great example of interactive learning.

There were many ideas and issues brought up at the session. But I would like to mention only one, which is crucial for the success of what ICCO has been doing. And the idea is that everything we do, we do for the beneficiaries. So, it is important not to get trapped in bureaucracy and donor requirements, but always keep in mind that a project should benefit the target groups, therefore they should be active at all project cycle stages. All projects should be planned, monitored and evaluated together with the beneficiaries. I hope we all will not forget about this idea while doing our work!

Elena Zakirova, Regional Funding Officer

ICCO Introduction Training: Making the Connections (Day 3)

ROSEA also tagged as the “Bali Gang” volunteered to help in the morning recap, contribute to the blog and the animation/icebreakers for the Wednesday session. Other colleagues from other ROs also volunteered to take part in the said tasks. We agreed to share the recap tasks with Ivanova, Desta, and Emmanuel. The day started with participatory and innovative recaps from the geographic regions corresponding to new lessons, ambiguities and questions, as well as content or process suggestions.

For the animation, we planned and agreed with Elena and Jean to have our energizer on the second half of the afternoon. As the sunny weather changed to darker and colder Utrecht today, realities changed our plans. FOs had separate sessions from the POs, in the morning and afternoon.

So what else is remarkable for the day according to the Bali Gang?

“Dynamics is good for projects. New Dynamics is even better! “

”It is clear for me now that there is no summing up of target indicators across ROs, instead contextualized indicators are used.”

“Dynamics is not dynamic in a way. However, it is important to support our projects. And there is still space in which we can contextualize it. But there is a need for special treatment of Emergency projects.”

”It is good to know that we can give inputs to Dynamics to help us in dealing with our practical work as well as longer term mission and vision. I am impressed with the chance to meet our colleagues in the GO, those who help us process payments and budgets.”

“The principles are clear; the tools for monitoring progress and using them for learning and results-orientation need to be strengthened. More time for PMEL please.”

“We did not have time to do the energizers. We can still do it tomorrow, if needed.”

It’s been a long day but enthusiasm remains high!

From Beng, Heny, Hien, Melva, Yuni
5 October 2011

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Monday Introduction Course Session: Making the Connections

As someone relatively new in ICCO (3 months and counting), I would describe the first day of our Introduction Course with two words, change and challenges. ICCO and its alliance have its own theory of change as well as its programmatic approach to structural causes of poverty and injustice. One weird moment for me was the afternoon session where all the presenters except for one, are men. I noticed though that women are the ones leading the course (facilitation, logistics), and there are more women participants.

Anyways, change happens at so many levels and with so many stakeholders. It is good that despite jet lags and lack of individual familiarity, we had the opportunity to immediately look into the key challenges (dwindling money for fair and sustainable development and changing roles brought by these challenges) for the institution and meet the people working within or around these issues. In terms of process, our session combined short inputs, time for reflections, and co-responsibility (e.g. volunteers for the week to make the learning process lively, creative and useful for everyone). The use of the elevator pitch (7 minute inputs on different topics) and the world café method is both useful (as introduction) and limiting at the same time.

With a mixed audience from the regions performing different duties, everyone’s interests (mostly questions) have to be given space. And that would mean more follow up discussions and deeper reflections to make the real connections in the next six days. Hopefully, with such iterative process, we can collectively make a bigger dent against poverty and injustice.

Romina "Beng" D. Sta.Clara

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Insights in Learning Communities - Share Fair

This week the Share Fair is taking place in Rome. Many interesting presentations and discussions are taking place about a great number of issues of interest for ICCO’s work: Public-Private partnerships, access to markets, use of social media in development and many others.

On the first day Etienne Wenger gave a very interesting key-note speech about Communities of Practice (CoP’s). This was a really interesting presentation/discussion and I suppose that all those within the ICCO Alliance who are somehow involved in the Communities of Learning (which in fact also are CoP’s) would like to know what Etienne said. His main messages were that it is just impossible to start CoP’s from top-down because partnership (partners in learning from practice) among the members of the community is essential and. Furthermore CoP’s need ‘social artists’ who are able to establish and nourish these partnerships and also ‘transversal people’ who manage to relate well with all (management) layers within an organisation. 

But as good summaries about Etienne Wengers’ talk are available on other blogs I will not repeat it all here, please have a look at the blogpost from Simone Staiger and the video interview of Pier Andrea Pirani. 

And by the way on the Share Fair blog there are many other interesting posts to read!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Networks here & there…. networks everywhere!

A few more years and NGO’s working on individual development projects might have become obsolete.

Just take a quick look in any NGO’s strategic plan and you will notice that ‘Networks’ and ‘Strategic Alliances’ and ‘Linking and Learning’ are presented as today’s development answers. Although it would be interesting to scrutinize this assumption, also I have come to accept that networks are an appropriate way to tackle societal issues in a rapidly changing world.

Currently I am supporting the NGO where I work in setting up a network on land rights and in our most recent round of discussion I asked my Junior Expert colleagues around the globe for some tips and tricks. Considering that most of us in the discussion deals in one way or another with networks, confirmed it is in fact a current development fashion. But as one of us rightly pointed out:

"In general I think the word 'network' in the context of development projects is a container concept that is easily used and often not understood…. there is a limitless amount of varieties in the range of formal - informal, size, type of members, goals’

Even in our small group the diversity in the forms and objectives of the networks we deal with was large, varying from group of 'community journalists' to a global network of actors dedicated to the Christian mission of ‘doing good’. But despite differences from our discussion it is possible to pinpoint several factors that any kind of network requires for effective and sustainable functioning.

Now please let me present, in the name of ‘sharing and learning’, my impressions of the virtual discussions I had with my colleague 'development advisors'.

Core elements and conditions to start a network
First remarkable thing in the discussion was that the main question itself created counter questions. As some of us suggested it is better ‘not to talk about setting up a network’ as networks should ideally evolve naturally when several people feel the urge to link up and cooperate around an issue. It is therefore preferable to take existing relations as a starting point and to expand slowly to other stakeholders and different levels.

But what if these relations do not yet exists while you see the added value of exchange and cooperation? In such situation people could be brought together through events and joint actions to examine the potential to evolve as a network. When doing so the facilitator plays a key role to link and ’to create opportunities for a joint discovery path’ before getting people on board. This implies that she or he must study the people, their institutions, their interests and power relations, to plan and prepare the joint events carefully and to give follow up to the outcomes of these events.

Once people are on board it is time to define focused objectives, to discuss different contributions and to align expectations. At this initial stage it is crucial that the facilitator ensures there is time and space to answer questions such as: what kind of network do we want to become; formal or informal? To what extent do we want to cooperate? Do we consider for instance exchange of knowledge as sufficient or should we take a step further by joining forces in research, lobby and advocacy? If so, which topics and through which activities? What institutional rules and regulations are needed for proper functioning? How do we fund network activities and what financial mechanisms?

While coordinating the dialogue on these questions, the facilitator should ensure progress and prevent that members end up in endless discussions. Especially the importance of starting to undertake actions, both at the initial phase as afterwards, can not be overstated because ‘for every network’s sustainability it is crucial to combine learning with action to have continuous results and the added value….People are only willing to invest time and resources if they see visible results.

It has been concluded many times before, hence it is not surprising that also in our experience proper coordination and leadership proves to be indispensable. Everyone will be interested, but nothing happens if no one takes the lead. Leadership could be either in the form of an institutionalized secretary, a project unit, steering committee, working group or simply an assigned person….. to take initiative, coordinate and to connect to existing larger initiatives and potential funds.

Above all, we all clearly agreed that at the core of any successful network lie passion, chemistry and openness . In general what I notice here is that a network (and any kind of cooperation) really functions around personal relationships, instead of institutional common interest. Beyond the curtain of organizations and institutional interests lie the people, who can make it or break it. In a way you could say that the passion people share to fight for a common cause is the heart, and cordial relations the heartbeat of a network.

Without a heart and heartbeat your network will not sustain life.

Leyla Ozay -

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Networked Learning for Private Sector Cooperation

Cooperation with the private sector is an explicit strategy of the ICCO Alliance. In the past years considerable experience is gained. For the ICCO Alliance intensifying cooperation with the private sector (in economic programmes, but also in other thematic areas) is the challenge for the coming years. This requires capacity building of staff, as NGO staff is not naturally used to work with the business sector. For this reason ICCO has initiated a Learning Community (LC) on Private Sector Cooperation (PSC) for ICCO, SharePeople and Yente.

The Learning community will address issues as e.g. strategy (how to get started), tools to use (e.g. the ICCO company scan), linkages with resource mobilisation.

Angelica Senders of FSAS was requested by Nelleke van der Vleuten, ICCO specialist on this theme, to assist the start-up of this LC based on the following guiding principle:
  • Learning has to lead to an improved practice and a better understanding of this practice in its context. For this it is important that learning takes practice as a starting point; learning should have an action perspective and should preferably start with asking the right questions, not with knowledge. 
  • A Learning Community fosters horizontal interaction between practitioners; not all questions are to be answered by ‘experts’; in an effective learning network practitioners assist each other. Networked learning can take place within one organisation, but learning is most effective if synergy is created with learning in other organisations and in other networks. 
Steps taken:
  • Start a Dgroup as communication channel, invite potential members and ask them to present themselves and their experiences; 27 people registered. 
  • Based on the outcome of an e-survey and 3 Skype conversations (with selected members) agreement was reached on first steps to take in the Learning Community. 
  • Subsequently 4 subgroups were formed around cases selected from the experiences of the members. Each group analyzed a case; communication took place by means of Skype and e-mail. Establishment of a wiki (an internet-based platform) named ‘Private Sector Cooperation and Corporate Social Responsibility’ for the ICCO Alliance. 
  • The 4 case descriptions are uploaded on the wiki. In September a ‘plenary discussion’ will take place on the cases with the objective to identify shared lessons and common issues. 
This will be the basis for further work in the PSC Learning Community. This Learning Community will be closely linked to the LC on Fair Economic Development (FED) and external networks, e.g resulting from the PSO CSO-Biz event.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Usage of digital tools in ICCO - Stats 2011 Q2

An important element of the project we are supporting in ICCO consists of monitoring the usage and traffic of the different digital tools.

The statistics from the first two quarters of 2011 show a mixed trend.

While the pageviews on the different workspaces have slightly decreased compared to the same period of the previous years, the visits have instead increased quite significantly - from 8300 to over 21000. We do not know what this really means, we are looking into possible reasons and inform you as soon as we found out more.

As also experienced last year, the traffic on blogs and video is also diminishing, and this is clearly due to the fact that less content has been posted on this spaces.

What keep on being very popular instead is SlideShare: in the first 6 months on 2011, the presentations uploaded on the ICCO Alliance account recorded well over 7000 views. For this period, two presentations stands out in terms of views: "Human Rights Framework" and "ICCO, Connect4Change and ICT for Economic Development".

In the coming weeks, we'll look more closely at these results and see how we need to change and adapt our work and the support given to the usage of the different tools.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Filling our tools box; 3 tools to support gender sensitive value chain development

On May 25, 2011, APF Kenya organized a half day workshop on looking at agricultural value chains from a gender perspective.

The 30 participants represented NGOs, the business sector and higher educational institutes. Mike Muchilwa from SNV was the facilitator and I the resource person on gender and value chains.

Six groups practiced with three tools:
  1. Selection of value chains. This tool allowed for scoring several value chains on 2 sets of criteria related to (1) market growth potential and (2) potential to contribute to empowerment of women and gender equality. An excel sheet assisted the users to make a final choice.
  2.  Gender Mapping of a value chain: This tool assisted in drawing a value chain map using colored cards and markers including numbers of men and women in different nodes (also the invisible ones) and remarks on special constraints faced by women.
  3. The last tools aimed at revealing the distribution of costs and benefits of the process of upgrading a value chain. E.g: more work for women in weeding (costs) and more income (benefit) for men

Afterwards participants talked about the inherent subjective nature of the analysis and the need to do this type of analysis with a variety of actors. It also became clear that this type of participatory analysis is to be supported with desk studies and research. Several groups mentioned that the tools had revealed problems, but not their causes let alone what to do about it.

APF is currently developing a toolbox, to answer a variety of questions which arise in the different stages of a programme aiming at support to value chain development. The toolbox aims at making already existing tools better accessible. The tools will be made available in adjustable formats (Word, Excel etc.).

We stressed it several times, but I can not be stressed enough, ‘tools’ do not intent to provide the ultimate answer, or the one and only approach. Remember a tool is as good as the professional using it. It was a pleasure to facilitate this workshop, especially the fact that using the tools raised again questions to be answered. Great! Because learning does not start with the knowledge, but with asking the right questions!

Angelica Senders (Fair and Sustainable Advisory Services/ ICCO)

Friday, 15 April 2011

5 challenges for cooperation between CSOs and Businesses

On April 5 and 6, 80 and 35 people respectively, representing Dutch NGOs, learning facilitators and CSOs from the South, discussed success factors and challenges in partnerships between Southern Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Businesses. The event, in short called: ‘CSO-BiZ’, was organized by PSO together with ICCO, the Partnership Resource Centre (PrC) and CDI/WUR. PrC in Rotterdam at RSM, hosted the event. Nelleke van der Vleuten (ICCO) and Angelica Senders (FSAS) were members the organizing committee.

Central issues in the discussions were the needs and capacities of Southern CSOs to effectively engage with business and how Northern development NGOs can assist them in that. The programme on the first day was organized around 4 learning experiences -from Kenya, India, Peru and South Africa- that reflect different ways of private sector cooperation.

Three cases were presented by ICCO partners. Inputs (click on the links for the Powerpoints) from Rob van Tulder and Shankar Venkateswaran presented a critical mirror to NGOs, the need to develop a clear stance on the issue and act upon if they wish to remain relevant. During the second day participants identified specific interests to develop joint learning.

In sum, the following key issues emerged:
  1. CSOs will have to integrate a vision on cooperation with businesses in their policy, in their Theory of Change;
  2. If they wish to engage, CSOs will actively have to learn to understand a business perspective, both parties will have to develop a common language and establish communication;
  3. CSOs and business will have to find common ground: what are businesses looking for in CSOs and how can CSOs add value to business processes?
  4. Management of power dynamics is particularly important for CSOs, how can they create an effective good bargaining position?
  5. After having formulated a common goal, the management of the partnership remains a challenge: both parties will have to come out of their comfort zone, requiring new ways of doing ánd monitoring things.
The overall feeling was that there is still a lot to be learned and the need for ‘exchanging of experiences’ and ‘sharing lessons learned’ was generally expressed. Please click on this link for an impression by PSO of the day. You can find all workshop material, including a video impression on the PSO webiste.

This 2 day workshop provided a lot of input to Nelleke and Angelica to further shape the ICCO Alliance Learning Community on Private Sector Cooperation, a Learning community which will actively be linked up with learning initiatives resulting from this CSO-BiZ event.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Capacity Development of IA partners on Financial Management

On Friday March 25 Anna Lentink presented her master product for the post doc education (AMID) at the CIDIN in Nijmegen. Under supervision of Willemijn Lammers and supported by Angelica Senders (of FSAS) and Guido Hulshoff, Anna produced a policy paper for ICCO about the institutionalization of capacity development of partner organizations in financial management. The objective of this meeting was to allow for a presentation of Anna's findings and discussing follow up of this study. For this occasion around 15 people representing different layers of ICCO were gathered, including Jan van Doggenaar, programme director and Machteld Ooijens, head of P&D. 

In general the study received much appreciation and Anna’s observations were recognized. Her study again confirms the importance of Capacity Development, on financial management as sound financial management and policy are essential for effective realization of partners’ (and ICCOs) goals. Also her recommendations are supported, mainly:
  1. Reinforcing ICC O's policy on financial management, which stresses the importance of developing the capacities of partner organizations on financial management.
  2. Establishment of a Special Unit/ Knowledge Center to support Financial Officers (FOs) as well as other staff in Global and regional offices in their tasks and to exchange experiences amongst FOs.
  3. Clarify roles and tasks of FOs and benchmarking their workload at a realistic level, which allows for stronger advice and capacity building role for the FO, beside their administrative and monitoring role. These roles should be endorsed by a clear job description and clear targets on capacity building in the partner contract conditions.
There are some challenges to realize the above recommendations. Taking into account the fact that capacity development can not be endless, especially not in times of budget cuts, there should be a balance between investing in organizations and their outcomes in terms of developmental change. It will be a challenge to develop a strategy to incorporate the recommendations, especially the call for specialized support (Knowledge Center or at least a specialist on Financial Management) and sharper monitoring and supervision of the functioning of the FOs. This work used to be done by the former HAZs in the Global Offices,.currently, a similar role is desired in the GO and RO. This will have budgetary consequences and will be further investigated.

In general the audience was positive about ongoing initiatives like the wiki on Financial Management as presented by Guido Hulshoff and the idea to establish a learning community on Financial Management.

It was agreed that follow up of this study will be discussed at management level of ICCO and that actions will be integrated in the ongoing project cycle and processes towards increased efficiency of the organizations.

For those interested in the main findings and recommendations of Anna, please find below her PowerPoint presentation.

View more presentations from ICCO Alliance.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Everything you always wanted to know about F&S advisory service….

Are you one of those people wondering what Fair and Sustainable Advisory (FSAS) is doing? Our website is now launched! It provides you with the products FSAS is delivering and the profiles of the FSAS consultants. It also indicates how you can reach our beautiful office, near the Dom in the centre of Utrecht.

If you want to have a more detailed insight in the work of FSAS, you should have a look at our recently restyled blog. Scroll over it or select specific tags from the ‘cloud’ in the side bar. For ICCO staff: the blog can be accessed via the ‘compart toolbar’. For others: save this blog in your favorites or iGoogle or register to receive an email for every new post.

For an impression of the FSAS team, on website and blog you will find a team picture similar to the one in this blog post.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Business and Human Rights through the perspective of the Ruggie framework

The 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' report prepared by Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Prof. John Ruggie, aims to lay the foundations of a system for better managing business and human rights challenges. What are the opportunities and limitation that this document provides to companies, governments, civil society organisations and communities?

On 16 February 2011 ICCO hosted a one day work session to discuss the main elements of the framework and their practical implications on business and human rights. The session saw the attendance of some 40 participants from in and outside ICCO. After a presentation of the Ruggie framework and a critical look to its guiding principles, participants split in groups to discuss examples of Human Rights abuses and protection related business practices, debating the case of Brazil national agreement to eradicate modern-day slavery and the state obligations under land and water rights in the context of land grabbing. Further food for thought was provided by a presentation on the concept of Human Rights due diligence in supply chains and complaints mechanisms in the global garment industry. The closing plenary discussion aimed at defining actors and roles in the context of the Ruggie framework and the core elements of an agenda on Business and Human Rights for ICCO.

David Vermijs has been part of Prof. John Ruggie team in the development of the 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' framework. David underlined the importance of the framework in clarifying the roles of States, Governments and other parties in the business and human rights debate. In this sense, it is now clear that governments have the duty to protect human rights and business has to respect human rights, while victims of alleged corporate human rights abuses have an avenue to seek remedies for these abuses. The Ruggie framework has also managed to bring the parties to a common platform in a multi-stakeholder way based on evidence and research and therefore follow an inclusive process on how to move forward to reduce corporate related human rights abuses.

From his side, Rolf Künnemann, Human Rights Director at FIAN International stated that the work behind Business and Human Rights aims primarily at creating a culture of human rights in business. Civil Society has a big role in this as it also emerges clearly from the Ruggie framework. However, according to Mr. Künnemann, states and companies have obligations that CSOs cannot take on: it's the role of states to protect citizens and make sure that companies respect human rights, also outside the territories where they are located and registered.

Finally, according to John Morrison, Executive Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Business, the discussions in the seminar covered a lot of ground, focusing in particular on how the Ruggie framework on Human Rights and Business can be applied in concrete terms. There is now a big challenge and opportunity for the development community to re-apply the right-based approach to development in a business context. He concluded encouraging ICCO to take the lead and develop a position paper on this specific issue, also to create a bridge between the human rights and development communities.

Pier Andrea Pirani

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Programme régional de promotion de la SDRS chez les jeunes de 10-24 ans dans cinq pays de l'Afrique Francophone


Cotonou, 6 – 10 Décembre 2010

Le plan stratégique 2011-2015 de ICCO accorde une place importante à la promotion de la santé des adolescents et des jeunes tel que recommandée par les résultats de l’étude commanditée par ICCO sur le sujet dans 5 pays d’Afrique francophone en 2009. Une consultation des partenaires de ICCO, tenue en Novembre de la même année à Bamako, a permis entre autres aspects de partager les résultats de cette étude. A l’issue de cette rencontre, les partenaires des 5 pays se sont engagés, avec l’appui technique et financier de ICCO, à faire une analyse plus approfondie de la situation des jeunes de 10-24 ans sur le plan santé sexuelle et reproductive par pays et aussi à élaborer un programme de promotion de la santé et des droits sexuels et reproductifs de cette tranche d’âge.

Depuis janvier 2010, ce processus est en cours : toutes les études de base ont été réalisées et des propositions de programme multi acteurs par pays ont été soumises à ICCO. Une rencontre des PFN était organisée en Juillet 2010. La présente rencontre, deuxième consultation des partenaires du programme SRDS de ICCO, se veut un espace d’échanges et de réflexion sur les interventions de ICCO et partenaires en matière de promotion de la SRDS des jeunes, tant sur le plan national que régional. Finalement, un programme SRDS 2011-2015 sera développé.

L’objectif général de cette consultation est de développer les principaux contours du programme régional SRDS 2011-2015 intégré dans les programmes d’éducation, aussi bien au niveau national que régional. Les stratégies et activités régionaux, un premier cadre pour le suivi évaluation et une structure de coordination régionale sont développés.


  1. Evaluation et partage des leçons de la phase préparation (2009 – 2010)
  2. Les partenaires ont connu les axes principaux des différents programmes nationaux à travers des présentations et discussions
    1. Brève présentation par les partenaires des axes / interventions/ acteurs principaux de leurs programmes nationaux, suivie de feedback (pair évaluation des partenaires), des questions et discussion. Stratégie d’intégration de programme SRDS dans les programmes éducation est claire.
    2. Echanges sur les modèles et modalités de gestion des programmes.
    3. Travaux du groupe (par pays) pour finaliser les programmes nationaux
  3. Un programme régional (à travers des activités régionales) est développé
    1. Révision / consolidation de la vision, mission et orientation stratégiques basées sur les orientations des programmes nationaux. Vérifier si les programmes nationaux contribuent à cette orientation régionale.
    2. Identification des besoins d’appui du niveau régional, y compris le renforcement des capacités, lobby/plaidoyer, communication, réseautage etc.
    3. Développement des objectifs et activités régionaux
    4. Responsabilisation : identification des responsables par activité
  4. Un système de suivi et évaluation (indicateurs, gestion) est développée
    1. Développement des indicateurs nationaux et régionaux
    2. Planification de baseline (collecte d’information basée sur les indicateurs développées, selon les exigences de notre bailleur de fond) :
    3. Gestion et responsabilisation (identification des responsables par activité)
  5. Un mécanisme de coordination sous-régional est mis en place

Il est attendu au total 37 participants repartis comme suit:
  • 4 personnes de ICCO : 1 Spécialiste/ Programme Coordinator d’ICCO Utrecht (Willeke Kempkes), 2 Chargé(e)s de Programme d’ICCO Bureau Regional (Mr. Adaffana Noh et Mrs. Manon Stravens), 1 Coordinateur SRDS (Dr. Habibatou Diallo-Sylla)
  • 3 facilitateurs externes : 1 Modérateur (Mr. Bertin Affognon) + 1 Rapporteur/spécialiste Wiki (Mr. Oudou Bengaly), 1 Spécialiste suivi/évaluation (Mr. Mathias Finoude)
  • 27 participants des ONG partenaires:
    Bénin (6 personnes)
    Burkina Faso (5 personnes)
    Cameroun (4 personnes)
    Mali (5 personnes)
    Sénégal (7 personnes)

Monday, 31 January 2011

Stepping-out Prostitution: Supporting young women to reclaim their rights and change their lives

Mudando de Vida/Cambio de Vida: Aprender de Programas que Apoyan a la Salida del Trabajo Sexual Comercial de Mujeres y Menores en América Latina. Programa de las Religiosas Adoratrices -Bolivia, Sodireitos –Brasil/Surinam y Tesis –Nicaragua con financiamiento externo del Gobierno Neerlandesa a través de ICCO& Kerk in Actie.

Since early 2010 three ICCO/KiA partners have access to specially earmarked funding from the Dutch government (made available to implement the motion Van Staay/CU) to address the needs of children exploited in commercial sex trade and support women who - voluntarily - wish to leave prostitution. In the Cambio de Vida project TESIS, in Managua-Nicaragua, Sodireitos in Belem-Brazil and the Sisters Adoratrices in Bolivia draw on their experience and research and are engaged in a systematic process of collaborative learning-by-doing. Early March 2011 staff from the three organizations will come together at an learning event hosted by the Adoratrices. Together they will share their experiences and the lessons they learned over the past year(s).
And they have a quite some experience, very diverse experiences. TESIS supports - mostly young – women that, as they phrase is – are in a situation of prostitution. Where the women work may actually vary from an upscale nightclub via low-end bars to the street of the city of Managua and though their situation has some communalities there are also vast differences between these women. Sodireitos works with (young) women that have been, or are at risk of being trafficked to brothels in Surinam. Sodireitos applies a rights-based approach and – working together with its Surinam counterparts - aims to support women so they can actually claim their (socio-economic, sexual and other) rights, including the rights they have as workers and migrants. The Sisters Adoratrices generally label their target group as “women and children that are prostituted”. A large part of their work is dedicated to attend to minors – as young as 13 years old – that are a brought to their care, often by the police with whom they also work to ensure the treatment by the authorities does not further traumatize these children. In their work in support of prostituted women, the Adoratrices also coordinate with local organizations that defends the rights of commercial sex workers.

The main goal for the regional event in March will be learn and share experiences. High on the agenda will be how to improve our monitoring and learning. Much information is gathered to be able to report and comply with the need for transparency, but how can we make use of this information and learn and actually improve our practice on the ground? For example, while we may know how many women participated in a particular event, do we also know which women did or did not complete their courses and why? And what does that mean for how we work? Besides monitoring practices and learning, another important agenda item will be the issue of trafficking, which – with the borders opening up more every day in Central and South America - is a common concern

Civil society is diverse and approaches to sexual exploitation and commercial sex work vary broadly. Even the actual words used to talk about what whom we work with and what we do, carry political and moral connotations. In this ICCO/Kerk in Actie program the focus is on acknowledging such diversity and drawing on that diversity, promoting effectiveness and learning to capitalize on all the energies and strengths of civil society.

The regional program event is scheduled for 28 February – 3 March in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Participation is by invitation only. If you are interested in more information on the program or the event please let us know by posting a comment.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

ComPart Evaluation - Three key roles to support collaboration and learning

We are still thinking through the implications of the recent ComPart evaluation, first announced on this blog, We know it wasn't the perfect time, given the changes the ICCO Alliance has been going through lately, but if you have been able to contribute to the evaluation in one way or another, we really want to thank you for your time and effort.

One of the suggestions of the evaluation team was to develop and work with three key roles (though not necessarily three distinct people) to support this way of working. If you're somewhat familiar with ComPart, you probably know the ComPart admin team (based in Europe) relies heavily on the continuous efforts of the ComPart ambassadors (personnel of the regional offices) and the ComPart enablers (web 2.0 and collaboration experts in the regions).

The evaluation suggests working with three 'roles':
converer - technology steward - facilitator
The evaluation team suggest a somewhat different constitution of the roles: conveners, facilitators and technology stewards. The conveners are the ones that bring people together and they make sure that there is trust among the group. The facilitators focus on the processes and the activities that come with it. The technology stewards, in their turn, will assist the group on technological issues, but without loosing the community perspective.

We believe that these three key roles can have a big impact on the adoption and implementation of new ways of working where collaboration and learning are vital. When looking back at our own experiences with ComPart, we have seen several examples of how this can work in practice.

One such case was when ComPart went global for the first time. During the Conference on Informal Education and Literacy in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) several sessions were to be held in which the participants would be introduced to ComPart with exercises to get acquainted with this new way of working. The very first day of the conference, however, the people who had organised the workshop came to us with a problem. During the presentations, the three countries had so many interesting questions about the others' programmes that they needed to spend at least an additional two hours to this session, which, in turn, would seriously mess up the schedule. So we were asked if ComPart couldn't solve this urgent problem. And it could...

We quickly created wiki-pages for the questions per country and instead of starting a 'ComPart session', as we had planned, we briefly introduced the event wiki as a way of getting the work at hand (i.e. answering all the questions) done as quickly as possible. So instead of having a seperate ComPart session about wikis, we integrated it in the session Presentations – part 2.

The wiki was used to let the participants of the
different countries asked and answer each others questions
There were several reasons why this worked so well. First of all, we were lucky to have conveners and facilitators like Machteld Ooijens (ICCO) and Tine Veldkamp (IC Consult) present. They knew the group very well, spotted the need for a ComPart intervention and had the authority to suggest and introduce this 'new way of working'. Local enablers Christophe Hien (Burkina Faso) and Oudou Bengaly (Mali) had good knowledge of the ComPart tools but also had a perfect understanding of the local context, the technical difficulties people might encounter during their daily work and they were acquainted with the theme of the conference. The results of this experiment (it was improvised after all) were remarkable. All questions were answered in less than an hour, where it would have taken more than 2 hours to answer them in the 'traditional way'. Everybody had used and contributed to the wiki without it feeling as a burden or something 'extra'. Instead, it was seen as a real time saver and something that helped them get on with the job at hand.

We think this example not only shows the validity of working with conveners, facilitators and technology stewards. It is also linked with other recommendations of the evaluation team, like blending learning with getting work done, create time-delimited experiments or change one thing at a time.

The evaluation has a lot of valuable suggestions for the ICCO way of working. Luckily, we don't have to start from scratch and we can build on previous experiences (successes but also failures) ComPart and ICCO have had. And that's what learning's all about...

Danny Aerts

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Evaluation of ComPart – The real question

As if there wasn’t enough going on in ICCO in the last quarter of 2010, the ComPart evaluation came to a head in December. Marc Coenders and Nancy White, the lead evaluators, held a validation workshop on 9 December 2010 to discuss their findings and the final report was presented to management on 12 December 2010. It was a deep investigation and the findings described in the report are rich, balanced between positive and negative, subtle and far-reaching so it is hard to summarise the main points in a blog post. This is therefore a personal take on the findings, from my own point of view, as both a ComPart admin team member for three years and an independent consultant with experience in KS and the use of digital technology to support the work of development organisations.

A storm tossed cork

In terms of context the report acknowledges that ICCO has been through a period of turbulence unrivalled in recent times, one that will unfortunately continue for at least the early part of 2011, and not simply because of the current financial pressures. The longer term change illustrated opposite is about

continuing to move to a more networked organisation at a time when public money is reducing sharply. In that context staff and partners are much less likely to be able to – or want to – prioritise learning about a ‘change project’ such as ComPart, especially one that is associated with a ‘way of working’ that is different to the status quo. ComPart, by definition, is focused on ICCO’s partners and alliance members, which, the report notes, has meant that the ComPart way of working has become associated with the wider changes taking place across ICCO during this period, which in many cases produces negative connotations. This provides a context for the finding that internationally based people generally had more positive views of ComPart and its role than Utrecht based staff. This is despite the fact that, as the report notes, international offices in their set-up phase were generally unable to engage with ComPart as they would have liked to and so the ambition to use ComPart with partners has not yet been achieved.

The ComPart Lab

The report notes early on that, "ComPart turned out to be a laboratory with a series of experiments rather than a project with defined, measurable goals." In terms of evaluating the results and impact of ComPart, the report acknowledges and speaks positively about the range and scale of the work that has been done; the quality of support provided; the continual experimentation and the consequent well documented lessons learnt; and the resultant growth in awareness across ICCO of how digital tools can support business and learning processes. However, the number of active users is still small. This, suggest the evaluators, is a product of the complexity of the ComPart toolset, the difficulty of choosing between or integrating ComPart with corporate IT and Communications tools and the fact that its usage is not seen as an essential part day to day working but as an extra. The one occasion where ComPart was integrated into a core Business Process – the development of the Business Plan – did raise ComPart’s profile and usage of the wiki but also generated a lot of extra work and some confusion as it was introduced rapidly and with inadequate preparation. That example also highlighted one of the key weaknesses raised in the report, that wikis are often difficult to introduce into organisations because a lot of people do not like their structure – or lack of it – and are not comfortable with the way of working they encourage. The ComPart wiki has become a rich source of information and learning but many people are less aware of the other tools in the ComPart toolkit.
Questions to do with ways of working as well as attitudes to technology and information storage or retrieval are central to the report, mainly because the evaluators note that there isn’t a consensus about these issues within ICCO. For example, to some people a wiki is a place to store information and should become as reliable, searchable and up-to-date as other online resources. Other people see a wiki as a dynamic and flexible tool to support collaborative processes and are not rigorous in how information is organised and stored. Wikis, of course, can be used in both ways but the result is an inconsistent collection of material not always accessible to new staff or others not so engaged in the ComPart experiments. At the same time, to many people ComPart was simply the toolkit and the ‘way of working’ which it promoted – and indeed depended on for its success – was not conceptually well understood, perhaps too open and flexible for the current ICCO way of working. This leads to one of the most fundamental findings which is that the questions which are raised in the review are not essentially to do with ComPart but to do with ICCO itself, how the organisation wants to go forward in terms of learning and Knowledge Management. The evaluators suggest the most important questions are about what ICCO wants to do with its learning and knowledge sharing, about what is the ICCO way of working - rather than the ComPart way of working; about how Departments work with each other and how ICCO is going to adapt to its evolution to a networked organisation. They suggest that ICCO should concentrate on thinking about those issues, and then look at what can be learnt from the ComPart programme to support those new ways of working.
A rose by any other name…
Names are important. Marc has some interesting things to say about learning and naming/theory (see blip below). The recognition that ‘ComPart’ has become associated with problematic issues for ICCO staff suggested to the evaluators that, “the ComPart brand carries enough misunderstanding that it could become a liability. We suggest this is a turning point where ComPart becomes the historical name of a period of experimentation and learning”. We need to talk about the “ICCO-Alliance way of working” rather than the “ComPart way of working”.

From pioneering to deploying
In the new decentralised (and down sized) ICCO social media and other digital tools definitely have a role to play. So the pioneering phase is over. The time has come to really deploy and integrate working with digital tools in the organisation its processes as it regionalises. Therefore it is time to launch a new phase, taking into account the experience gained and all lessons learnt from the “ComPart phase”. As well as the ongoing regional office development programmes there are other new initiatives, such as the learning communities programme, which could benefit from that experience. However, the report also suggests that two other key areas of attention. Firstly, ensure that the next phase is integrated within the whole organisational way of working. Secondly, as part of that, there must be smoother and more cooperative relations between directly involved departments (P&D, ICT, Communications) and thereby with all staff within the Alliance.
Pete Cranston
(If you are interested you can ask for a copy of the full report at