Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Re: Most powerful learning experience

(Posted in on 4 October 2004)

Dear all:

I would like to apologise for coming late in this discussion. Our e-mail system has been 'dead' for the past several weeks and therefore I could not access my e-mails. Firstly, my name is Tendayi - I am a Zimbabwean lady who is currently working for the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) under the Adaptive Collaborative Management (ACM) research project. The ACM research project was introduced in 1999 to add value to an already existing co-management scheme where the State and communities are managing a protected forest, the Mafungautsi State Forest - the initial scheme had failed to improve collaboration between the communities as was intended at the start of the program in 1994.

The ACM research project aims to facilitate a shift away from blanket prescriptions for solving problems towards locally based management that has freedom to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances in a manner that is in accordance to sustainable forest management. This is an adaptive management research project that is centred on 'learning whilst doing' in which phases of action are followed by phases of reflection on how things can be done better or improved. At the beginning of the research project, we facilitated the creation of resource user groups - these groups consisted of people with an interest in a similar resource e.g honey. We later facilitated processes for the groups to go through the participatory action research process of problem identification, action planning, collective action, collaborative monitoring and reflection, learning and improvement. An example to illustrate how stakeholders learnt together in order to improve their resource management strategies is outlined below (I also have several cases to share if anyone is interested):

A joint experiment by stakeholders before the ACM research project

In an effort to enhance learning together about sustainable methods of harvesting broom grass (Aristida Junciformis- one of the resource found in the forest), community members in one of the communities around Mafungautsi Forest, with an initiative from the Forestry Commission (the government department responsible for managing state forests), decided to conduct an experiment in the area where they harvest broom grass to find out the sustainable method of harvesting broom grass. The experiment was conducted in two small plots in the wetland area. In one of the plots, resource users harvested grass by digging. In the other plot they harvested the grass by cutting using sickles. These plots were then monitored to see how the grass would grow in each of the plots. In the seasons that followed no new broom grass germinated in the plot where grass was harvested by digging. Instead a new grass variety, which could not be used for making brooms, emerged. Stakeholders concluded that the best method to harvest their grass without depleting it was that of cutting. For two years after the experiment, there was a remarkable reduction in the digging of broom grass. However, after the two years, some people resumed digging despite the fact that they knew its adverse impact on the resource. Unfortunately, no opportunities were created for stakeholders to come together and discuss this undesirable change in behaviour by resource users.

Creation of learning platforms after the ACM research project

In trying to build up on the stakeholder learning processes, we therefore organized platforms (such as informal discussions, meetings, workshops) for resource users to discuss the new developments and problem they were facing in their broom grass resource. During these platforms, stakeholders got opportunities to discussions the new developments, reflect on them and come up with solutions or action plans to address the situation.

Key lessons

Group learning processes are important in enhancing stakeholders’ capacity to adapt and improve their management strategies. And it is important that these (group learning) are not just one-time events, but should be continuously facilitated so that stakeholders can continue to learn in order to adapt and improve their management strategies given the rapidly changing environments.

That's all I have to share for now.


Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

What is your most powerful learning experience?

(Posted in on 14 September 2004)

Hello everyone,

My name is Jennifer Graham and I am based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. For the last few years, I have worked to support community-based fisheries management in Atlantic Canada and internationally. Most recently, I am working with Becky Guieb and partners in the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam on a research project about sustainable livelihoods and community-based natural resource management. As Becky mentioned, we feel the relationships we have and our collective learning experience make our project a learning community. We have found a way to learn together.

Elmer has asked me to play a role in moderating this discussion of learning communities. He suggested I ask a few questions and offer some synthesis throughout.

I think I'd like to know a bit more about who the members of this online group are as people, as learners. Individually, we all find ways to transform our experiences into knowledge and to share those with others. How do we do this?

My question is: Tell us about a meaningful learning experience in your life? What made this such a powerful learning experience?

For myself, I immediately think of a course I took a few years ago at a retreat centre located here in Nova Scotia, called Tatamagouche Centre. The course was about Adult Education Design and the teaching/learning style was experimential learning in which we as participants were responsible for shaping much of the activities, and the facilitators led us through collective reflection. An activity that stuck with me, was quite early in the course when we did an exercise to learn more about our own learning styles. Did we prefer to have information told to us in a clear linear fashion? Did we like to come up with our own interpertation i.e create our own theories. Did we like to do something and then be told about it or did we want all the information before we started?

I learned a lot about what I like and don't like as a learner, but equally important, we were challenged to think of activities that would suit other learning styles. What would please an enthusiastic learner?, a rational thinker? It was very rewarding to hear how grateful people were to have their needs and learning styles met. I learned a lot about the necessity of seeing from another perspective to truly work (and learn) in community.

From this, I think of learning communities as places were we learn to see the world through other eyes so that all may feel welcomed and accepted.

What do you think? Can you share a powerful learning experience and tell us what it has taught you about being part of a learning community?

Jennifer Graham
Nova Scotia, Canada

Learning by fishers in Grenada

(Posted in on 9 September 2004)

My name is Sandra Grant (new member), PhD candidate at the Centre for Community-Based Resource Management, Natural Resources Institute University of Manitoba. I am from Jamaica, but did fisheries work in the small island of Grenada (which was devastated yesterday by hurricane Ivan....we call it IVAN the terrible, and now it is heading towards Jamaica).

I have read some of your stuff on "learning community" and i was also at the workshop and heard peoples ideas and thoughts of what is a learning community. Reflecting on my work in Grenada, which focused on the management of large pelagic species caught using the longline gear, i documented tremendous learning by fishers, i can't say much for the wider community (maybe i wasn't looking). The story (brief).... In 1979 the revolutionary government in Grenada invited the Cuban fishers to come to the island and teach local fishers how to construct and fish surface longline. The Cubans used 250 lbs strain twisted monofilament plastic, deployed from a box. After the revolution, fishers were introduced to single plastic type gears operated from hydraulic reels by American fishers. Since then fishers have changed the construction of lines and boat styles to accommodate this new technology... I have come to the conclusion that fishers learned from observation of other longline fishing fleets (USA, Venezuela, Japan), and experimented with locally available technology. More importantly they learned from each other....e.g., one person came up with an improvement, if it worked, others followed. Take for example, one fisher decided to use gillnet to catch flying fish for bait, instead of using a dip net; it worked so everybody started using this technique. These fishers are the most innovated people i know. I was in the community for 13 month (+/-) and the fishery i saw at the beginning is not the same at the end.

Thus, fishers are constantly experimenting, trial and error learning to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the gear. Unfortunately the Fisheries Division (FD) is not a part of the process. Technologically fishers are ahead of the FD by far. In the words of one fisher, "we don't need the FD anymore". Small minute changes in gear construction affects catch and effort analysis.... I should stop here, as i continue to think about the process....

Again, thanks for the invitation to join this group. And please say a short prayer for people who have been affected by the last 3 hurricanes (Charlie, Frances, and Ivan).

Sandra Grant

University of Manitoba

Re: Building learning communities

(Posted in on 7 September 2004)

One recent experience we had in trying to build a "learning community" involved NGOs in Sumatra, Indonesia. There are many such NGOs in the island implementing CBCRM programs at varying levels and scope. They recognize that there is no one way to do CBCRM, believing that the concepts and processes continue to evolve as field practitioners seriously explore, innovate and generate new ideas and techniques in managing the coastal environment.

A local NGO, Laksana Samudera, proposed an activity to LeaRN to hold a learning event where these NGOs can share information and experiences and learn from among themselves to further improve ways of working. LeaRN coordinated with Jaring Pela (a national network of organizations and individuals involved in coastal and marine issues in Indonesia) to help in organizing the activity. It also tapped the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) based in India for technical and financial support. A Fellow from the Community Organizing Cluster, Dick Balderrama (Executive Director of SIKAT, a partner NGO), was also asked to share their experiences during the workshop.

The three-day event consisted mainly of case presentations from 14 NGOs coming from all over Sumatra. They discussed the issues and problems they are addressing and the interventions and strategies they are implementing. These were followed by presentations from: (a) Jaring Pela and Telapak on their work to reform destructive fishing practices; (b) Nalini Nayak of ICSF on the feminist perspective in fisheries; and (c) Dick Balderrama of SIKAT on their fisheries development and management program in the Philippines.

After the presentations, the group analyzed the factors that contributed to the success or failure of the CBCRM programs and later on proceeded to formulate their own concept of CBCRM. They tried to define what is CBCRM, its goals, objectives, strategies, and principles. Based on this preliminary concept, they then identified the capacities needed to implement it and the existing skills they already have individually and institutionally.

They put forward several recommendations to ensure continuous learning, mainly by institutionalizing a capacity exchange system among them - as a "learning community" - through: (a) a mailing list/egroup that will serve as a forum for discussion and means of easy communication; (b) cross visits and internships; (c) annual consolidation meetings and workshops to share information and learning; (d) publications; and (e) regular documentation of activities.

Overall, the participants appreciated the very participatory manner in which the learning event was conducted. There was no single person who came as an "expert"; each one had something to contribute to enable them to come to a common understanding of CBCRM and how to take it forward, collectively and individually, given their own contexts.

Mike Reynaldo
CBCRM Resource Center

Learning processes

(Posted in on 7 September 2004)

I am part of a team of people providing support to groups in the Philippines, Cambodia and Viet Nam who have common concerns and interests, one of which is how to facilitate a process in the community that supports the development of sustainable livelihoods.

It was interesting for me to read Learn’s ideas on “building learning communities” because I think that in many ways, the partnerships and interactions between the researchers and their community partners form part of what it takes to build learning communities. It is through interactions and joint processes of learning and re-learning that our views of the world are continuously shaped, including how we view our relationship with the resources we use, or how we choose what livelihoods to pursue or not. Surely, we looked at the the outcomes of these interactions but it is also important to document which processes enhance more learning and more intense interactions.

In the Philippines, the project teams have been facilitating a visioning process with partner communities as an entry point for supporting SL work. This process intends to provide venues where community partners articulate and agree on a vision or a dream for themselves and their community. The process and its resulting outputs vary. In Tinambac, Camarines Sur, the visioning exercises are intended as inputs for developing research and training modules on SL. In Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon, the SL visioning process feeds into the barangay planning. In Asinan, Buenavista, the visioning exercise led to the development of a community plan that relates resource management with livelihoods activities. In San Salvador, Zambales, a livelihoods development plan of the fisherfolk organization is emerging out of this visioning process.

The SL visioning process in the Philippines is led by supporting organizations such as the Network for Sustainable Livelihoods Catalysts (NSLC) Tambuyog Development Center (TDC) and Pamana ka sa Pilipinas. The researchers of these supporting organizations work with local community members. For example, 2 male and 2 female leaders from resource management cooperatives in Prieto Diaz work with TDC researchers. These local leaders co-facilitated the barangay consultations which included an orientation to the SL project as well as a discussion on the possibility of integrating SL into barangay development planning. In Tinambac, the participants of the SL visioning exercises are 10 community residents from 2 barangays. They are being called “community scholars” by NSLC, following the example of Bolinao where fisherfolk leaders who were nominated by their organizations as community scholars subsequently learned the skills and attitudes of a community organizer with the intention of developing and strengthening local capacity. Called local community organizers (LCOs), these leaders are regarded as representatives of community groups and not the supporting non-government organization (NGO). The LCO development emphasized sharing, confidence-building and learning-by-doing activities. Pamana is in a slightly different condition because it is not an NGO but a federation of fisherfolk organizations. Its work in the community is thus facilitated by a fisher-leader who is also a resident of that area. Pamana works with NSLC in Asinan, Buenavista and San Salvador, Zambales.

Becky Rivera-Guieb
Dalhousie University

The CBCRM Resource Pool of Fellows

(Posted in on 3 September 2004)

Dear Friends:

I’d like to initiate the discussion on learning communities by sharing some of our experiences at the CBCRM Resource Center with regard to facilitating the work of what we have come to call as the CBCRM Resource Pool of Fellows. The formation of the pool came about as a result of a 3-year project of the Resource Center initiated in 1999 with the support of Oxfam-Great Britain. Called “Learning and Knowledge Management for CBCRM Program” or LKM for short, it aimed to address the felt need within the local CBCRM community to synthesize and disseminate the growing body of knowledge and experiences from implementing CBCRM programs in the country.

The Resource Pool is made up of CBCRM practitioners, advocates and researchers from NGOs, the academe and other development sectors. Members are organized into several teams or “clusters” that focus on particular aspects of CBCRM: community organizing, gender, sustainable livelihoods, law and governance, participatory monitoring and evaluation, fisheries management, disaster management. The main work of the Resource Pool and its clusters has been to initiate and organize activities that serve as venues for dialogues and sharing of experiences among CBCRM practitioners. These include roundtable discussions, research forum, conferences, workshops, e-group discussions, etc. Lessons and insights from these activities have been captured and disseminated in books, case studies, proceedings, newsletter, web documents and other learning materials that the Resource Center publish regularly. Fellows have also been tapped by the Resource Center for providing capability building and mentoring support services to communities and local organizations.

Initial experiences with the Resource Pool of Fellows in the Philippines informed the efforts of the Resource Center and its partners, the Center for Community-Based Management (CCBM) and Dalhousie University, in establishing the Learning and Research Network (LeaRN) in 2001. The lessons and how these were intended to be applied in the regional network that is LeaRN have been synthesized in the document that Prof. Elmer Ferrer sent earlier. I just want to note here that the Resource Pool now includes individual partners and CBCRM practitioners from other countries in Southeast Asia and Canada.

In response to the initial questions posed by Prof. Ferrer-- about how learning communities are organized, how such communities work and how they generate knowledge-- I want to share here some insights on the work of the Resource Center’s fellows system that came out from the last yearend assessment and planning:

  • Communication was a crucial factor in the community of fellows. While the work of the different clusters often depended on good facilitation by the cluster convenors and the Resource Center staff, the effectiveness of the whole system also hinged on ensuring a regular stream of information and feedback among the Resource Center, the clusters, and the individual fellows. Communication in this case, and in fact the relationship, also need not be confined to discussing work or output. Personal communications and relationships that express a sincere awareness and concern for each other’s views and involvements proved to be a more effective mode for ensuring the participation of fellows in the learning community.
  • The interdisciplinary approach that the Resource Center promoted in its work with the clusters and the fellows was a good thing as it promoted a wholistic perspective in addressing CBCRM issues and cultivated a healthy atmosphere of sharing within the Resource Pool. The Center noted the need to further strengthen and institutionalize such approach in its work with the fellows.
  • The level of theory-building among the Resource Center staff and the corresponding comfort level in engaging and working with the fellows was also seen as an important factor in facilitating participation in the fellows system. As a catalyst in the learning process, the Resource Center worked to ensure the dynamic links among the learning teams or clusters of fellows, the learning sites or partner communities and local organizations, and the learning network within the broader CBCRM/CBNRM community. The work of managing the learning process and that of generating knowledge thus have to be properly integrated in the process of building the fellows system and other similar learning communities.
Randee Cabaces
CBCRM Resource Center

Building learning communities

(Posted in on 2 September 2004)

Dear Friends,

Good day! Magandang araw sa inyong lahat! (In Filipino)

During the week of August 9-13, 2004 Allan Vera and myself attended the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property in Oaxaca, Mexico. Our participation was sponsored by the IDRC and we attended a Pre-conference and Post Conference organized by IDRC to share and discuss the new thrust of IDRC’s ENRM Program Area. We also attended a meeting of the co-investigators, collaborators and partners of the “Governance Proposal” led by John Kearney.

During this time we renewed friendships and made new ones, picked up new ideas and affirmed our ideals for participatory, equitable and sustainable management of resources towards the empowerment of the poor. One powerful idea that emerged, blossomed and captured the imagination of many participants is the idea of “learning communities” i.e., the idea of building learning communities as an experiment in social learning.

LeaRN (Learning and Research Network) as a learning network for CBCRM mainly based in Southeast Asia has been experimenting with the idea of learning communities in generating and enriching the theory and practice of CBCRM. We would like to initiate an e-group discussion to learn how our friends and colleagues in the CBCRM/CBNRM community/movement in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean understand the nature of a learning community: how it works, how is it organized, and how is knowledge generated.

We would like to begin by sharing with you LeaRN’s conceptual framework of a learning community and how this has been applied in several contexts (click here).

We would like to invite everybody to share their experiences and ask questions. Allan and myself will moderate the e-group discussion and we have invited Jen Graham and John Kearney to assist us. Periodically, we will be requesting Raul Lejano, a Fellow of CBCRM Resource Center to summarize and synthesize the discussion.

OK then friends, let’s begin.

Elmer M. Ferrer
CBCRM Resource Center