Why work with cases?

Knowledge brokering02 Dec 2010Herman Brouwer
The Inspiring Change event used cases of multi-stakeholder change processes (MSP’s) as a basis for discussion and inquiry. All participants had submitted cases in advance. The reason why we decided to work with cases, rather than plenary inputs, was to arrive at a grounded understanding of how multi-stakeholder change processes are currently being practiced by African organisations and facilitators. From there, was our assumption, it would make much more sense to arrive at a common understanding of the issues, and find entry points for the Change Alliance to start developing a network of change practitioners and policy makers. So on day one we delved into cases – and met an overwhelming diversity and richness of experience.

For example: we looked at a multi-stakeholder process in Uganda, where tribal conflicts were limiting the ability of leaders to work towards a regional development agenda. The convenors shared experiences about the conception of a yearly Leadership Retreat of competing tribal leaders, and how this retreat gradually grew to include Members of Parliament, central government representatives, civil society, and private sector. Through the trust building between leaders a stronger regional development agenda could be pursued.

This process illustrates that it is not enough to ‘work together for a common purpose’, as MSP’s are often understood. The common agenda needs to be based on analysis and a process design which reflects the system change needed to address issues effectively. If that perspective on underlying factors in the system is absent, an MSP becomes nothing more than yet another project. The Uganda case was not without challenges, though. Managing power dynamics in this platform is an ongoing challenge, and linking the results of this cooperation back to the community is not always easy.

Other cases featured Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa. Some cases descibed a change process on a local or district level, while others covered complex multi-country settings, such as the case which involved civil society and business involvement in shaping regional policy processes on SADC level.

We used rich pictures, timelines, and interview protocols in small groups to investigate what the cases were about, and what challenges the convenors met in trying to stimulate learning and action amongst stakeholders.

On Day 2 we will go a bit deeper to explore how some of these challenges can be tackled – again, using the experiences of participants as a starting.