Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The CBCRM Resource Pool of Fellows

(Posted in cbcrmlearn@yahoogroups.com 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

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