Multi Stakeholder Change Process? My Perspective

Civic Action05 Dec 2010Emmanuel Dennis Ngongo

The just concluded Inspiring Change Event in Nairobi (December 1-3 2010) was a great learning opportunity for me from the old to the new thinking of doing things. I have related the event to my personal experience for growth. I was part of the organizing team as well as a participant and trying to understand some concepts behind my past frustrations in dealing with humans and from a facilitator’s point of view to improve on my skills. To a great extend, I am glad I participated in the event and I can only describe it in a few words…. It was life changing.

This blog item was part of the ‘Engaging stakeholders for change’ dossier

Increasingly, multi-stakeholder processes are being used in response to ‘tough’ problems such as responding to climate change, fighting poverty, and creation of sustainable business models. Many development organisations and networks have become aware that these change processes are of an increasingly ‘emergent’ nature, and need to be facilitated. The Change Alliance is an emerging global learning network which aims to support good practice in facilitating and strategizing around multi-stakeholder cooperation for systemic change.

From 1-3 December 2010, 20 facilitators of multi-stakeholder processes from across Africa are meeting in Nairobi. Co-hosted by the Change Alliance and SNV, to exchange experiences with leaders, researchers and donors. This ‘Inspiring Change’ event aims to share and collate state-of-the-art experiences and explore ways of supporting and strengthening capacity for effective facilitation of multi-actor processes.

This blog provides an online discussion platform for speakers, participants and other experts in the field, where they can reflect on the discussions and opinions voiced at the Inspiring Change event as well as further discuss the wider topics it addresses.

I lead a couple of multi stakeholder youth processes in Kenya and the larger Africa. Two of the networks deal with Creating Sustainable Livelihoods for the youth and the other on opening up an open society with democratic ideals using governance based approaches. The experience has been challenging and stimulating at the same time. Challenges bring out the best and worse in us though sometimes resultant actions can be catastrophic with reflexes from the partners involved.

In my evolving experience, I used to see partners as targets or beneficiaries of my facilitation. From the Nairobi event, I now realize the mistakes I committed early in my practice attributed to the failures in achieving ultimate impact. It is discriminatory in nature to operate from a higher moral ground when you are expecting ultimate results from your multi-stakeholder partners.

Two years ago in my quest to support the unity of purpose of the Youth Voices in Kenya, I have faced myriads of challenges. From the knowledge of communities of practice, I knew it is important for all the stakeholder to feel appreciated and consulted at all levels when making decisions. After being called upon by a leading organization to organize for a national youth process, the participants in the process resolved that they needed to transform into a national movement. The Lead Organization frustrated my efforts in creating a platform for equal participation and viral effect to become a people driven process. Such experiences can make one give up in the quest to support those who feel powerless.

Driven by values my resolve has been a passion to ensure I co-create a platform where the young generation will be consulted as equal partners in matters affecting them from local grassroots to the national and international level. I have modestly become influential both at the national and international platforms in matters Youth Development. This realization has pushed my resolve not to give up given the frustrations of the so called status quo beliefs entrenched in some young leaders and other stakeholders with responsibility to facilitate change processes.

I have had to change of tact and to ensure I go on with what my resolve pushes me. Recently we managed to bring government, youth leaders from various organizations, donor agencies and other partners to a dialogue table to objectively discuss issues affecting young people and agree on a framework for implementation that will ensure those issues are resolved.

We are now creating a Rapid Results Initiative for implementation with the equal participation of the stakeholders. This is a complex situation given the learning from the Inspiring Change Event in Nairobi. I have know it will be a very diffusive, diverse situation. Without using a systemic thinking, such a process will not be successful. In concluding the event in Nairobi, we have seen a strong willingness by the African Facilitators to create the Change Alliance for Africa using perspectives unique to the developmental challenges bedeviling Africa today. We want to create a platform that will enable us learn from each other, exchange ideas support each other since the overarching goal is to make an Africa wide Movement of partners working together using externally self driven value systems to support the growth of our continent.

In the wake of doing things differently, the emerging forces are enabling us to connect, create a momentum for growth and sustain our uniting forces for development. This will only happen if we appreciate each other’s work, learn from various tools and engineer an approach that will define a new Africa for all.

I believe after the Nairobi event, there has been new knowledge created and we need to manage it and create a platform for emerging approaches. It will be interesting to see how we manage to sustain the process of Change though political and economic realities show us that change has been resisted before, learning together, and reinforcing the need for democratic processes, the Change Alliance for Africa will enable a development focus discourse from the Global level connecting to the local for systemic impact.