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The “people who we serve” are major stakeholders in all of our planning, strategies, programming, activities and evaluations.
By any definition, “people who we serve” are decision makers and information users, and this applies to even most “passive” beneficiaries. In over 30 years of international development work all over world, I have yet to find a “client” who didn’t make some sort of decision about participation in a program or have questions about it.
These are key decision-makers in any program activity. In English, there is a saying, “You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. The horse makes final decision. As an analogy, you can provide all program and program support you wish, but final decision to participate or “benefit” comes from “client”, not program, sponsors, donors, or boards of directors.
Certainly a good deal of information comes from program implementation staff, and most programs provide as much information as possible for “clients” to be able to make those decisions with respect to participation or “acceptance” in case of beneficiaries .
Nevertheless, once a program is accepted and activities begun, there is often little if any systematic effort to maintain participants informed, and even less in terms of on-going activity decision-making.
The concept and definition of accountability and responsibility to “stakeholders” requires that our local decision-makers be fully informed about progress and interim results of program or project activities. Most NGOs submit a variety of monthly, quarterly and special reports to their donors and internal (executive level) stakeholders. They mostly do a poor job, however, of maintaining their principal stakeholders – participants and beneficiaries – informed. Stakeholder Information for Participants and Beneficiaries
Client-stakeholders – participants, beneficiaries, customers or whatever term is appropriate to your organization – can be informed and consulted with a minimum of resources but it takes considerable internal political will to achieve.
Figure 2 is a generalized diagram of how a more complete stakeholder system might appear.
Figure 2. A more robust model of stakeholder accountabilities and responsibilities.
It should be clear that participants and community leaders are not always same group, and in many instances, project or program target populations and community leaders are at odds with one another. That is, their interests may not coincide or overlap and in some cases may be opposed .
One Strategy for Getting Participants into Accountability - Sustainability Circle
A. Plan for it 1.Develop an agenda 2.The main thing is to invite them
B. Design for it 3.Outline main points of project or program
C. Hold Meeting 4.Specify in detail what your organization wants do, why and when 5.Specify in detail what you expect of participants
D. Find out what attendees think 6.Establish a schedule for feedback and decision-making meetings
E. Review their opinions, doubts, objections and observations 7.Review your operational plan with participants and get their opinions and advice 8.Make appropriate changes in your current activities if possible
F. Hold review meetings 9.Review your operational plan with participants and get their opinions and advice
G. Determine how program or project activities have progressed to this point 10. What to participants think of progress 11. What suggestions do they have for improvement
H. Review results and make decisions on remaining activities of program 12.How can this information plus technical findings of your regular work plan be used to improve rest of activities planned under project or program?
I. Implement changes and maintain accountability system.
Tim Farrell is an expert on strategic planning, management and evaluation of voluntary, non-governmental, social development programs.
He is a private consultant and lives and works in Guatemala, Central America.