Participatory Practices Empowering People

1 Introduction

This report deals with the practical training period which I accomplished as a part of my social welfare worker’s studies. My training organization was KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC), a Christian non-governmental organization in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. My sending organization was North Karelia University of Applied Sciences (NKUAS), an institution of tertiary education in Finland. The practical training period took place from March to June 2011.

The task for the practical training period was to plan, implement and evaluate a communal project in co-operation with the people whom the project concerns. It was recommendable to apply community art methods in the project. However, my training period was rather a versatile familiarization to the organization than a single project. I participated in different activities in the organization and did different tasks, such as taking the minutes in meetings, visiting communities and HIV support groups and organizing an event. In addition, I accomplished a small project which is described in this report. The goal of the project was to develop participatory practices in KwaZulu- Natal Christian Council. In the project I compiled a practical guide which proposes actions for keeping an involving and empowering meeting.

2 HIV and AIDS as A Social Problem in South Africa

Approximately 5,6 million people were living with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) in South Africa in 2009. That is more than in any other country in the world. According to a research by UNAIDS, in 2009 South Africa’s HIV prevalence was 17,8 per cent among adults aged 15 to 49. (UNAIDS 2010, 28, 180-181.) Based on a sample of women (aged 15-49) attending antenatal clinics The National Department of Health has estimated that the HIV prevalence among pregnant women is 30,2 per cent. In the
same study it was discovered that the epidemic touches worst the province of KwaZulu- Natal with its 39,5 per cent of HIV prevalence among antenatal clinics attendees. (National Department of Health 2011, 3, 34-35.)

When the first infections in South Africa were found in the beginning of 1980s, HIV/AIDS was named to be a disease of marginalized groups, such as prostitutes and intravenous drug users (Walker, Reid & Cornell 2004, 12-13, 61). Due to the enormous expanding of the virus, it has been necessary to change this perspective. Nowadays the researchers and organizations working against HIV/AIDS see the epidemic as a vast social problem, which inextricably deals with the societal situation in South Africa. Structural problems connected to HIV/AIDS include, for example, poverty, hunger, unemployment, gender inequality and diseases such as tuberculosis. (Walker etc. 2004.)

There still is a social stigma directed at HIV positive people. It is caused by ignorance, fear, cultural and religious understandings and history. In practice stigmatization means, for example, rejection and excluding people from their communities and everyday situations, such as the dining table. The stigma complicates the success of the efforts made to improve the situation of people living with HIV and AIDS. (Walker etc. 2004, 100-103.)

Overcoming HIV/AIDS requires efforts and cooperation of different quarters, such as the government, non-governmental organizations and religious groups. The actions need to be made both on structural and individual level. (f. ex. Kwizera 2011, 18, 46; Walker etc. 2004, 106-131.)

3 KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council 3.1 The Organization

KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC) is a provincial fellowship of churches and church-based organizations. It is an autonomous organization founded in 1996 and is a
member of South African Council of Churches. (KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council: Home.) KZNCC works to identify and respond to provincial challenges, such as HIV/AIDS, gender inequality, traumas, economic injustice and poverty. The organization aims at being an ecumenical networker, coordinator, facilitator and supporter in the provincial level. Being a networker as its essence, KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council has a range of partners. All KZNCC programmes act together with churches, organizations, local communities and other stakeholders. Some of the key partners are the regional Christian councils within the province. These councils are Diakonia Council of Churches, KwaZulu Regional Christian Council, Midlands Christian Council and Southern KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council. (KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council: About us; KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council: Programmes.) In addition, the independent organization Thukela-Amajuba-Mzinyathi Christian Council which also operates within KwaZulu-Natal province is a close partner to KZNCC.

3.2 KwaZulu-Natal Church AIDS Network

The programme of KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council dealing with HIV/AIDS is called KwaZulu-Natal Church AIDS Network (KZNCAN). The programme was born on 2004 to coordinate the HIV/AIDS related activities that churches and faith groups have in the province. The aim of KZNCAN is to strengthen the cooperation and communication between those groups, non-governmental organizations and the government. One of the objectives is to equip churches with skills needed in HIV/AIDS work. (KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council: KwaZulu-Natal Church AIDS Network.)

The KZNCAN programme is also conducting different projects within the province. Male Caregivers project is striving for changing the attitude and behaviour of men regarding gender-based violence and the spread of HIV. Project SOFIA (Sisters of Faith in Action) encourages women to keep gender inequality and marginalization of women under discussion. These projects arrange, for example, training workshops and seminars both on practical skills and theological reflections concerning HIV/AIDS itself and related issues. Under the KZNCAN there are also projects and activities which concentrate on lobbying and advocacy in terms of HIV/AIDS, supporting gay and
lesbian people and assisting HIV/AIDS support groups. (KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council 2010, 20-25; KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council: KwaZulu-Natal Church AIDS Network.)

KZNCC has provided economic empowerment work for HIV/AIDS support groups. Some groups have been trained to make and sell candles or cards, the others have been guided in gardening skills. The objective of these projects has been mitigating unemployment, hunger and poverty. (f. ex. KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council 2010, 21­22.) To reach more groups and more people, KZNCC has in 2011 started to create a platform which answers to the needs of the HIV/AIDS support groups. The new platform project operates under the KZNCAN programme. The support groups are typically peer groups for people who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the work is to offer the support groups a platform where they can share their skills, knowledge, policies and experiences and thus support one another. The groups also get the opportunity to receive training on different issues, such as advocacy and HIV/AIDS counselling. However, the situations of the support groups vary and that is why it is important to hear each group and their needs.

4 The Idea of People Taking Part

4.1 The Diversity of the Terms

In the English language there are several words which can be used to describe people’s taking part in certain activities or decision-making. According to Liisa Haikio the English terms participation, empowerment and social engagement all approach the same phenomenon from their own starting point. (Haikio 2000, 20.)

Participation describes mainly taking part in something. Typically it refers to something that is arranged by the government or an organization. The people participate in the planned activities in the way and the extent the organizer allows them to. In this case the
initiative to the action comes from above, not from the participating individual or group. (Haikio 2000, 20.)

Empowerment represents the type of action that aims at improving someone’s life management skills and possibilities to take part in the society. Also in this case the initiative comes from outside of the individual or the group. However, the objective of empowerment is to equip the participants so that in the future they will be able to act by their own initiative. (Haikio 2000, 20-21.)

Social engagement is a term which includes the idea of an individual or a group as a self-motivated, active player. Social engagement means the person chooses what are the decisions or activities he/she wants to take part in. He/she also decides how to participate. Social engagement highlights the personal commitment. (Haikio 2000, 21.)

In my opinion, close to social engagement is the term of involvement. Involvement is taking part of something and involving can be done from the outsid. Still, it includes a more active tone compared to participation. Involvement is something an individual chooses, something he/she commits to.

Inclusion as a value and a practice is a perspective of enrichening and strengthening diversity. It is allowing and enabling people to contribute. (Miller & Katz 2002, Preface.) Inclusion gives a sense of belonging and increases the participants’ motivation and commitment (Miller & Katz 2002, 17).

Social pedagogy wants to promote, not only taking part in some action, but also the individual’s experience of being part of something. The experience may concern being part of, for example, a community, the society or a decision-making process. To reach the experiential dimension it is essential to use other terms apart from participation. In this report I have chosen to speak mainly about involvement and involving. I also speak about empowerment but my interpretation for it is different than the one above.

  • Empowerment as Liberation

Empowerment is a term which has various definitions. Different branches of sciences regard empowerment from their own perspectives. In social pedagogy empowerment is seen as liberation from oppressive structures and marginalization. Depending on the time, place and culture the inequality has been tied up with, for example, gender, race, sexual orientation or state of health. Empowerment can be observed both on individual and communal or societal level. An empowered person or a community is able to see the oppressive structures and the societal reasons behind them. Due to the awareness it is possible to start operating against the oppression and thus become liberated from it. (Johansson 2011.)

In the social work field the empowerment work has been and is, among other things, influencing in the inequality-generating structures in the society. The work is done together with the people who are oppressed. One of the key ideas is that the people excluded by the society are included to the work against the inequality. Different participatory practices are used to realize this. (Johansson 2011.)

  • Participatory Methods and Practices

The structures of the society and its sectors, such as organizations, can cause disempowerment. Sometimes even well-meaning projects and professional workers fail to take citizen’s perspectives into consideration. Especially in the development work it is, however, crucial to find out what people in the target group of the work (or other stakeholders) really think and how the work affects their lives.

In the social work field it is argued whether it is possible to involve people in decision- making and development processes and empower them from the outside or should the initiative to the involvement and empowerment always come from the people themselves. Personally, I think the threshold for sharing one’s ideas, telling one’s opinions and taking part of joint decision-making can be actively lowered. It can be done by a social worker, a project leader, a group facilitator or a chairperson of a
meeting, for example. In this sense I think people can be involved, taken along and empowered, given power to.

The first step is to accept the attitude of involving. When it is decided that it is good to involve people in the process, there are numerous methods and techniques which can be used in putting the involvement in action. These methods are called participatory methods. Obviously, the term “participatory methods” is derived from the word participation which was considered unsuitable above. However, the word pair “participatory methods” is entrenched and does not carry the same negative burden as “participation” does. That is why I have chosen to use the term in this report.

In this project I did not concentrate on participatory methods alone, but widely in practices that can be applied in order to involve people. I use the term participatory practices to describe generally the type of acts that enable people to influence and take part in activities concerning them. According to this definition, participatory methods are a form of participatory practices.

The use of the participatory practices is justified in social pedagogy and drama pedagogy, for example. The methods are based on the idea of equality and shared knowledge. In inclusive situations it is seen that every participant has some important information about the discussed matter. Everyone is an expert when it comes to their own experiences and lives. The facilitator, the professional social worker, the community leader or any other person in a leadership position is not superior to the others and does not have any more “correct” knowledge on the basis of his/her position. The key idea of participatory practices is to involve people in decision-making over issues which concern their lives, in other words to promote empowerment.

5 Participatory Practices Empowering People 5.1 The Background of the Project

Riitta Seppanen-Jarvela has made a research on several social welfare work and health care developing projects in Finland. In her research she states that ideas for developing work are born when someone wants to reform, change or clarify things. The need can be seen to come from either an organization or an individual. Interestingly, the view on what should be developed is clearly linked to the personal interests of the giver of the idea. She also notes that in the developing work it is important to know the current situation in the working field and the actuality of the players in the field. The impulse for the developing work can well be found in understanding the reality. (Seppanen- Jarvela 1999, 125-128.)

The idea for this project arose from my two visits to HIV/AIDS support groups with a small delegation from the KZNCC’s new platform project. During the visits I was mainly observing the working practices which were used to approach the support group members and to collect information from them. I also paid attention to the group dynamics in the meetings. I noticed that open discussion, which was the approach used, managed to raise ideas, suggestions and opinions. However, there were only few people speaking and sharing their views while the others remained quiet. This discovery made me think that there might be a need for working policies which involve more people in discussion on common issues. I also presumed that in multilingual South Africa it might be useful to know practices which are more functional than verbal. I thought the participatory methods could enrich the group working. Due to my drama pedagogy and social pedagogy studies I was already familiar with the principles and benefits of involving people. I also knew several methods from my own experience.

5.2 The Objective, the Product and the Target Group of the Project

The objective of this project was to develop the use of participatory methods in group working within KZNCC employees, project workers and volunteers. The final product of this project is a practical guide which proposes actions for keeping an involving and empowering meeting. In the target group of the project were the people who work with and lead groups: the people who are creating the new platform and therefore meeting HIV/AIDS support groups, the SOFIA and Male Caregivers workshop facilitators, the project leaders et cetera. In this report and in the practical guide I call the target group professionals. It does not refer to the facilitator’s education or to the type of his/her employment relationship but generally to someone who meets clients or groups in his/her work. Right from the beginning the idea was to distribute the practical guide not only to KZNCC but also to the regional partner councils of KZNCC.

6 The Process

6.1 The Shape of the Process

In a linear process the work starts from noticing the development need. After that the objectives are defined, the project is organized and launched. Next, the development work is implemented and finally, the work and the results are estimated, introduced and distributed. (Paasivaara, Suhonen & Virtanen 2011, 82; Rantanen & Toikko 2009, 72.)

In her research Riitta Seppanen-Jarvela has described the method of actor-oriented developing or process developing (my own translation from the Finnish terms “toimijalahtoinen kehittaminen” and “prosessikehittaminen”). It is an approach which has been born as an opposite to the authority-based developing method in which the objectives and the means of developing are dictated from above, from the government level, for example. In the actor-oriented developing the aim of the work is set on the basis of the needs of the organization or other party that is to be developed. The work is started only with a general goal, while the specific objectives and the working practices

are defined later, in the process. In this approach the actors are involved in the developing in every stage of the process. (Seppanen-Jarvela 1999, 105-112.)

I regard my project contained features of both a linear development process and process developing. As mentioned, I was the one who noticed the development need. The need was clearly based on my own appreciation of and interest in the participatory methods. However, I started to look for the development need with an open mind, without ready- made decisions and the need was discovered in the field. (Seppanen-Jarvela 1999, 105­112, 125-128). After that the project started to remind a traditional, linear development process. I defined the objectives and made the plan for the project. Then I started to advance the objectives and manage the process so that the objectives could be achieved. (Paasivaara, Suhonen & Virtanen 2011, 82; Rantanen & Toikko 2009, 72.) The changes in the process I took mainly as distractions, whereas in the process development the changes are seen as possibilities and strengths (Seppanen-Jarvela 1999, 116).

6.2 Delimiting the Project for the First Time

Involving people in the action which concerns them is in the heart of social welfare worker’s skills (f. ex. Rouhiainen-Valo, Rantanen, Hovi-Pulsa & Tietavainen 2010, 18, 20-21). Involving is also recommended in modern development work (Rantanen & Toikko 2009, 72-73). My original plan was to contact the KZNCC professionals and ask about the need of the participatory methods in their work. The idea was to take the professionals’ perspectives into account and outline my precise project on the basis of the answers. Part of the original plan was to display some participatory group working methods in practice to the professionals, discuss on the methods and after that to compile a booklet which contains the same methods with their instructions. The objective was to equip the professionals with some new skills which they can use when working with groups.

However, all my planned schedules delayed along the way. I only returned my project plan to my supervisors (Ms Miia Pasanen in my university of applied sciences and Dr Douglas Dziva in my training organization) on the 3rd May 2011. At this point I had

one month left of my practical training period. Due to the difficulty to find a shared time I did not have an opportunity to meet my supervisor Dr Dziva to get a confirmation for my project plan. Despite that I started to advance my project. I knew I probably would not have time to perform the project in the planned extent. The first thing to exclude was contacting the professionals and asking their needs for the project. I believed that the participatory methods would have something to give to the professionals in any case. This assumption was based on my observations.

  • Collecting the Participatory Methods

I started to search for websites which contained information on participatory methods. I mainly collected instructions on different methods, but also links to pages that describe the use of participatory methods on practical and theoretical level. I did the search both in Finnish and in English, using different keywords on an Internet’s search engine. I also searched directly for certain methods that I already knew, such as learning cafe. I copied the found instructions to a document in a word processor.

As I was collecting the methods I made a preliminary selection of them. I considered which of the methods could be shown for the employees and chosen for the booklet. I finalized the selection after I had found enough methods from which to choose. The choices based on my own experiences on the methods and their presumed usefulness in KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council activities. The four chosen methods were mind map, learning cafe/world cafe, cumulative group (my own translation from the Finnish term “kumuloituva ryhma”) and chatter group (my own translation from the Finnish term “porinaryhma”). The instructions for the world cafe method I found in English. The three other methods I was going to translate from Finnish to English myself.

  • Redefining the Project

On 16th May 2011 I discussed on my project with my supervisor Dr Dziva in KZNCC. I was asked to combine more closely the new platform project for the HIV/AIDS support
groups and my interest in participatory methods. I was requested to concentrate on thinking how the HIV/AIDS support groups could be involved in forming a development agenda for support groups. I only had three weeks left of my practical training period and I realized I needed to delimit and redefine my project again.

I started to think about two questions: “How to involve support groups in forming a development agenda?” and “How to collect ideas from so many groups?” After that I listed some ground values which, in my opinion, concerned the work, and methods which could be used. I understood that if I created a list of information collecting methods, it would be in someone else’s responsibility to collect and analyse the answers. At the same time I felt I had too little time to do anything very comprehensive myself.

I decided to forget displaying the professionals the group working methods, compiling the booklet and making a collection of single information collecting methods. Instead, I wanted to do something practical and easy to understand. Something that any professional I knew in KZNCC or in their partner organizations could apply in their work. I also wanted to do something so modest that I would finish it before the training period was over. I decided to create a material that presents aspects to keep an involving and empowering meeting. At this point the perspective in my project was widened from the participatory methods to the participatory practices.

6.5 Compiling the Practical Guide

I wanted to make a very practical material that could be applied by anyone, whether the person has previous information on involving and participatory practices or not. I started to outline an idea of a meeting between a professional and clients. I divided the meeting in several subtopics, such as the invitations, beginning the meeting and ending the meeting. I wanted the material to be clear and simple and that is why I chose to present the subtopics in a chronological order, following the procedure of a typical meeting.

In the first phase I listed the subtopics and their contents in Finnish for it is my mother tongue and I think faster in Finnish than in other languages. I wrote down everything I thought was related to each subtopic. After that I started to translate the text in English. I tried to use brief, unambiguous instructions and yet maintain the idea of recommending instead of commanding. I knew that due to the lack of time I would not have the opportunity to present the material to the professionals myself and explain it, so clear delivery was important. I felt I needed to be discreet in my expressions because I only had limited knowledge of the South African society and culture, the KZNCC working policies and the employees’ skills. At the same time I strongly believed that my know-how on participatory practices could truly benefit the work of KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council. I also wanted to take a stance on some facts that, in my opinion, were disempowering in the work I had observed. For example, some professionals often arrived seriously late to their appointments and kept others waiting. I wanted to point that this was improper use of power and added several suggestions about honouring the time to the practical guide. I did this even though I knew that I could have a different concept of time than the one in South Africa. Thus far, however, I had noticed that in KZNCC the aspiration was to be punctual.

In the beginning of June 2011 the practical guide was almost ready and about six pages long. At this point my practical training period was ending. On my last day at KZNCC I got some feedback on the practical guide from my supervisor Dr Dziva. He pointed out that the word “empowerment” which I had used in my title was a little complicated because it lets understand that if something can be empowering, it can also be disempowering. He thought “empowerment” might give a wrong message and suggested that I used the term “capacity enhancement” or “capacity strengthening” instead. He also suggested a few additions to the guide, such as paying respect to the people with disabilities in the meeting. We agreed that I would finalize the guide in Finland and send it back by e-mail.

For personal reasons it took a long time until I returned to the material. In September 2012 I continued working with it. The break had made me see the pros and cons of the practical guide. I wanted to capsulize the material and make it fit in five pages. I simplified the text and made it more outspoken. I also noticed that some of my

instructions were unlikely to suit for the environment KZNCC works in. That is why I modified my expressions, again into more recommending direction. I also made most of the additions suggested by Douglas Dziva. I did not, though, change the title of the practical guide. In my view “empowerment” was an appropriate and a positive word which also described the content of the material. Also, empowerment is one of the key phenomena in social pedagogy and by keeping the word in the title I felt I left my own professional touch to the practical guide.

At every stage of making the practical guide I took care of the visual appearance of the material. I tried to make the guide as legible and clear as possible. Several times I adjusted the text on the pages and modified the sentences to fit on the lines. I used the line spacing 1,5 and chose to align the text to the left for its legibility. Finally, I chose the font to be Times New Roman in the whole document. Times New Roman was an obvious choice for its clarity and commonness. It was important that the text could be opened with different word processing programs and be uploaded to the Internet. The body text is a size 12 point. The main title is a size 14 point and bold. The subheadings of the different sections are numbered, a size 13 point and bold. I also used the bolding to highlight some of the words in the body text. The contents under each subtopic are separated from each other with bullets.

6.6 Documenting the Process

Documenting the process is a part of information production (Rantanen & Toikko 2009, 73-74). I documented my working process mainly by keeping a working diary and making personal notes. After returning my project plan I created a calendar to which I marked the tasks I needed to do each day or week. After every week I checked which tasks I had accomplished and which still had to be done. Also my project plan served as a document of the process reminding me of what was my goal before the alterations.

7 The Product

The product of this project was a practical guide titled “Proposed Steps to An Involving and Empowering Meeting” (appendix 1). It is a five-page A4-sized material which proposes how to plan and facilitate a meeting so that it would involve and empower the participants. The guide is aimed at professionals who meet clients, groups and communities in their work. The basic premise in the material is that the professional plans, makes the invitations and facilitates the meeting. However, it notes that the same principles can be applied in one’s personal action at any time.

The guide consists of seven sections: The invitation, The venue, The facilitators and participants, Starting the meeting, Facilitating the meeting, Ending the meeting and After the meeting. Each section presents two to five topics that can be considered from involving and empowering point of view.

In the end of the guide there are two Internet links for pages that give more information on participatory methods. The documents behind the links present participatory methods and give tools to decide when and how to use participatory methods. They also give detailed instructions on 13 different participatory methods and numerous techniques.

8 Evaluation

8.1 Process Evaluation as a Project Management Tool

Traditionally the evaluation has been seen as a part of the ending point of a project. However, the evaluation is an important part of the whole project and needs to be done in every stage. (Paasivaara etc. 2011, 83.) In my opinion, the evaluation produces information for the project and therefore may serve as a project management tool (see

Rantanen & Toikko 2009, 70-74). That is especially if the process evaluation method is used. According to Riitta Seppanen-Jarvela in the process evaluation the evaluation is done along the way and the work is developed even before it is over on the basis of the findings. Self-evaluation is characteristic to the process evaluation. (Seppanen-Jarvela 2004, 19-26.)

To me the process evaluation was a means to manage the project and bring it to an end. Along the process I estimated several times the remaining work amount and the available time. I redefined and delimited my plan whenever it was necessary in order to finish the project. I found it better to reduce the project and complete it rather than try to hold on to the original idea and leave it unfinished. The process management skills were particularly needed in this project because of the many changes. It was also important to be able to tolerate the incompleteness which is typical for the process development method (Seppanen-Jarvela 1999, 117-118). There were times when I was not sure if I was ever able to finish the project or to produce anything useful for the KZNCC.

8.2 Failures

Involving is in the core of social welfare worker’s skills (Rouhiainen-Valo etc. 2010, 18, 20-21). The teaching emphasizes that it is important to break the authoritarian patterns and avoid action which is initiated and conducted “from above”. The people whom the work concerns should always be included in planning, implementing and evaluating the work. In my project involving was, unfortunately, carried out poorly.

Involving the professionals in shaping the project would have been crucial. It is examined that an open process which the stakeholders are allowed to take part in is more likely to commit and motivate the people. When the developing project arises from the true needs, it can answer to them relevantly. Also, when the stakeholders are involved in pondering what to develop and how the results of the development work will be put into action, they are more committed to make use of the results and change. (Miller & Katz 2002; Paasivaara etc. 2011, 88; Seppanen-Jarvela 1999, 110, 142.)

Informing and monitoring the achievement of the objectives are the most important project management issues (Paasivaara etc. 2011, 101-102). In my project especially the informing was not sufficient. I think hardly anyone in the organization apart from my supervisor Dr Dziva was aware of my project. I think that was mainly because I was taking part in many activities at KZNCC and this developing project did not stand out from the other tasks I was doing. Also the fact that my project idea and plan were shaped in a rather late stage of my training period probably lead to the scarcity of informing.

At the latest when I had almost finished the practical guide, I should have shown the material to the target group (the professionals) and collected feedback on it. It would have been important to me to hear the professionals’ thoughts about the necessity and the usefulness of the material. The feedback would have given me information on whether the material is understandable and suitable to the South African society and to the work of KZNCC. My fear is that due to the failure of involving and informing about my project to the KZNCC professionals the practical guide will remain untapped.

8.3 Successes

The impulses for developing work come from the development trends, abroad and understanding the actuality of the actors on the field (Seppanen-Jarvela 1999, 126). Being an international intern gave me the privilege to observe the work of the organization from the outside. I think it is reasoned to say that if I noticed some sparsity in participatory practices, there must be room for improvement in this matter.

The comments of my supervisor Dr Dziva proved that the participatory practices are not as familiar or as used as they could be in KZNCC. When giving me feedback on the material in the beginning of June 2011, Dr Dziva affirmed that the idea of involving and using participatory methods will be very needed and useful in KZNCC’s work. He told me that some of the employees are familiar with the methods but others are not and my practical guide could give some new tools for their work.

Dziva suggested that the guide could be published on the organization’s website where it would be available for anyone. I agreed to the proposal because from the start the idea was to benefit the professionals around the KwaZulu-Natal province. Also, I did not see any harm in possible (illegal) copying that is always a risk when uploading information to the Internet. I decided to publish the material so that anyone who needs it is free to use it. I added a Creative Commons license to my work and by that allowed legal sharing, copying and deriving the material as long as my name as the original copyright holder is mentioned (more information on Creative Commons on page This enables the legal distribution of the material without asking me in particular, and further editing and improving the material for different purposes. Via Internet it is possible that the proposed steps will benefit someone even outside KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council.

The main purpose of my project was to develop and enrich the working policies of KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council. In the best case the professionals get interested in the practical guide and independently try to apply the proposed steps in their work. If the professionals experienced the proposed steps in the practical guide have improved their group facilitating skills and made the people to involve more, the material would have succeeded perfectly. Also, it is not excluded that someone who already is familiar with the participatory practices will keep a brief training to his/her colleagues on my practical guide. This would be ideal because in a training situation everyone is given an opportunity to discuss, ask about and question the practices. Thus the practices could become truly internalized and more likely used. Perhaps the practical guide at least stimulates discussion on working practices in KZNCC and generates new projects to develop the professionals’ skills.

9 Discussion

When I started my practical training period I saw clearly that I could benefit my training organization with the skills I have. My dream and goal was to get involved in the field work and to apply the participatory methods in practice. While the objective of

equipping the KZNCC professionals with useful working skills remained the same through the project, the final implementation ended up to be quite unambitious compared to the original plan. The project truly demanded the ability to adapt to changes and the ability to relinquish my plans and expectations. It was also frustrating that many other tasks took a lot of time and precluded me from concentrating on this project. Now, afterwards, I believe this could have been avoided with better planning and communication between me and my supervisor Dr Dziva, and also between my sending organization (NKUAS) and training organization (KZNCC).

The weekly plan which I used to plan and follow up my work was a helpful tool for me. It was probably the first schedule type that has ever functioned for me. To be honest, I was surprised that with the weekly schedule I was able to accomplish some of my tasks in time. I believe the planning on the weekly level was conveniently both free and restricted. It also gave me a sense of the task order: what needs to be done first so that something else can happen.

Writing this report in English has been very time consuming for English is a foreign language to me. The word choices have been difficult and I have to settle with the fact that I might have used inappropriate words and expressions. That is always the case when operating in a foreign language. On the other hand I wanted to produce this report in English so that my training organization would benefit from it and also because after accomplishing the practical training period in English it was only natural to choose English for the reporting language.

Working at KZNCC made me see that the development happens in small steps. It is typical that especially the starting stage of a new project is slow and even chaotic when it is still not clear what needs to be done and how (Seppanen-Jarvela 1999, 114-118). This was the case for the HIV/AIDS support groups’ platform project. Development work requires confidence; faith in the fact that changes for the better are possible and needed even when the need or the results of the work are not at sight.

Even though there is no way for me to “make sure” that the participatory practices will be any more used in KZNCC in the future, I believe that my project has all the potential
to set some changes in motion. The project I did was a small step to the participatory practices direction. Now the professionals have the power to choose whether they want to introduce the practices to themselves and each other or not. The next step could be trying the proposed steps to an involving and empowering meeting in action and see what will happen. On the basis of experiences from the trial it is possible to continue developing the working practices into the desired direction.



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