Sunday, December 26, 2010

Marry Christmas and Happy 2011!

We wish you a Marry Christmas and Happy 2011!

The Youngsters from Ulmu village made a nice video message sharing their Christmas and New Year wishes:

The Youngsters from Ulmu village, Moldova are participating in the Youth Development program 'Youth in the Center', which is facilitated by Procommunity Centre with support from Kontakt der Kontinenten, Proni Centre for Social Education and Hogeschool Windesheim.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thinking through about a capacity development intervention!

Which activities to select on how to guide an organisation in its process of development? 1. Exchange, 2. facilitation, 3. coaching, 4. research, 5. training, 6. advise, 7. management or 8. implementation?

Two Young Professionals from Togetthere met for a one-day training on the 21st December, 2010 to think through about their capacity development intervention. Both Young Professionals will be assisting for a period of 6 months local development organisations in Peru and Rwanda in the area of communication and micro-finance. Part of the training was to gain skills on how to plan for a capacity development intervention based on their job description and some basic principles of capacity development.
The training was led by Simon Koolwijk, professional in the area of facilitation and capacity development. Some useful information and literature about these topics can be found at the ICCO CAD tookit site and the UNDP CD site. The training was a combination of theory, practicals in planning, presentations and discussing about dilemma's Young Professionals are facing in these kind of interventions. Some interesting stories are shared at the blogspot "Everything you always wanted to know about Capacity Development" and the Barefoot guide.

The training was useful, interactive and dynamic, commented the participants the end of the course. It was actually a bit too short. We would have loved more stories about the challenges and dilemma's in capacity development interventions and on how to tackle that.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Developing capactities of local organisations

'Build informal contacts', 'build good contacts with your supervisor', 'organise a cultural exchange party to build cultural understanding', 'conduct a participatory meeting with your colleagues guided by an external facilitator', 'consult a coach or a local mentor', 'plan monitoring and evaluation moments with your supervisor', and 'get clear about the conditions which your partner organisation can fullfill to make your capacity development intervention to a success'. These were some of the recommendations which were shared on how to tackle dilemma's and build ownership during a capacity development intervention.
Dilemma's and how to create ownership in organisational development was one of the sessions during the training Project Cycle Management & Capacity Development of organisations which was held and organised by the Hendrik Kraemer Institute. The training was attended by Development professionals from World Servants, Mensen met een Missie and Togetthere - ICCO. The 3-day training conducted by Simon Koolwijk delt with the principles of Project Cycle Management, Organisational Analysis and capacity development. A compilation of literature can be found at the ICCO-cad toolkit website.
Participants presented their cases from Ukraine, South-Africa and Guatemala on where they are planning for a capacity development intervention. Applying the theoretical principles and practising with tools in organisational development, it helped the participants to get their plan of action clear on how they will assist their partner organisations. The barefoot guide and the blog 'Everything you always wanted to know about capacity development' provide deeper insight on what is involved in capacity development.'The training was a good combination of theory and practise. There was a balance between our experiences and this from the trainer' commented the participants at the end of the course. 'It was an eye-opener on how to work with our partner organisations.'

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Formulating indicators at policy & strategic level; Project Cycle Management

The training was a mix of 'deepening understanding' about our strategic plan, teambuilding and receiving professional feedback on how to optimize our relations with our project partners. This training gave us new insights and tools on how to further develop our 4-year strategic plan. It was useful and practical! These were some of the comments from staff from Kom Over and Help after participating in the training Project Cycle Management & Partner Relations. KOEH is a development organisation supporting NGO's and churches who are assisting poor and disprivalaged families and children in Eastern Europe.
The 3-day in-company course was conducted by Gerard Verbeek and Simon Koolwijk. The training was focused at reviewing the strategic plan, formulating key indicators at project, policy and strategic level and gaining tools for project visits to project partners.As most development organisations, KOEH is applying the Project Cycle Management approach for monitoring & evaluating its projects. Main purpose of the PCM method is to optimize the effectivity, impact and efficiency of projects. The role of Gerard Verbeek and Simon Koolwijk was to assist KOEH in optimizing the key indicators for policy formulation and to review the existing procedures for monitoring & evaluation, reporting and partnerships.

The first day of the training was focused on the theoretical principles of project cycle management and formulation of project indicators. On the second day a role play was exercised to get a deeper understanding about the existing partner relations with project partners in Eastern Europe. The exercise provided some useful tools on how to optimize partnerships in helping deprived and poor groups. Some tools can be found in the Barefoot Guide. On the third day the strategic plan was reviewed and key indicators were formulated for the strategic plan.

Finally participants shared their excitements about the course. The perspective from 2 outsiders and specialists gave us some useful hints optimizing in helping poor families and children in Eastern Europe. The training was welll prepared! It was practical! And the open atmosphere gave space for gaining new insights in improving our work!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How to deal with cultural differences as a facilitator?

'Build up informal moments', 'Apply the indirect way', 'Use local discussion techniques', 'Humor', 'Move along and adapt to the situation'; These were some of the outcomes from the workshop "What are ways to deal as a facilitator with cultural differences in a group?" The workshop was part of the Training Group Facilitation Methods, which was held and conducted by Simon Koolwijk for staff from IccoenKerkinActie and Togetthere.

Three participants applied creative techniques on getting out the ways on how to deal with cultural differences. A combination of 'story telling', 'role plays', 'associative thinking' and 'collecting' ideas provided 16 answers to the focus question of the workshop.

This workshop was part of the training 'Basic Facilitation Methods', which was held on the 9th and 10th November, 2010 in Utrecht. Participants learned about the theoretical principles of facilitation (consult handbook Group Facilitation Methods - IAF), the Technology of Participation techniques, and creative methods (Creativity Today - Igor Bytebier).

The first day was focused on the theory and demonstration of facilitation methods. On the second day all participants practised and received feedback. The training was both fun and a learning experience! Content was connected to practising, it was well prepared. In two days we were put in a pressure cooker, but that made it that we thoroughly learned the basics of facilitation. We missed some background about the why of the 'left' and 'right'brain. Next time we hope to get some more information about brainlearning. (Brain_work, Ria van Dinteren)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Youngsters in front and behind the camera. Participatory Video Making in Moldova!

Comparing life of youngsters of today, with the life of youngsters in the past. This was the main theme that young people were filming during the training Participatory Video Making which was held from 1 - 3 November, 2010 in Ulmu village, Moldova. The training was led by Mr. Vlad Druc and Mr. Mircea Chistruga, both video lecturers at the Moldova Academy of Filmmaking. Support in facilitation and discussions was provided by Procommunity Centre and Simon Koolwijk from Kontakt der Kontinenten.
During the training the youngsters did filming at around 10 sites to develop their story - Youngster in the past and today. The visits were very diverse. Interviews were done with the mayor, a handicapped mother, an old women who was taken care of by her daugther, an old single woman, a family producing local products, a young business entrepreneur and women working in the local clothing factory. Youngster activities in the youth club, a dancing class workshop and a spiritual water point with youngsters were also included. Developing the story and the video making were part of the first two days of the course. The final day was focused at editing and discussions. By the end of the training a final draft of the 10 minute story was ready. A core group of youngsters of the Ulmu youth club wil further elaborate and finalize their movie in the coming weeks with the support of the Moldova Film Academy.

The participatory video making is part of the program 'Youth in the Center', which is financed by Matra (Ministry of Foreign Affairs). This project which is aiming at building sustainable structures for community youth development work in Moldova, is a partnership between Pro Community Centre, Kontakt der Kontinenten, Proni Centre for Social Education and Hogeschool Windesheim

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Green Agenda: Environmental improvement through a process approach!

Green Balloons with 60 wishes were flying into the air! It was one of the highlights of the Final Evaluation Seminar of Green Agenda on the Balkans. From 22 - 24 October 2010 60 representatives coming from NGO's, MilieuKontakt, trainers from Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro met to evaluate the 3-year project Green Agenda on the Balkan. The event was facilitated by Suzanne Bakker from MilieuKontakt and Simon Koolwijk.

Green Agenda is a participatory method for developing and implementing local sustainable development strategies and plans with active involvement of the different sectors in the local community where the process is conducted. The method (developed by MilieuKontakt) is special, compared to other processes with similar aims, in at least 3 main aspects: the process starts out by identifying local values rather than problems; participation in the process is not limited to experts or certain stakeholder groups but is wide and open to all; and as a result the process and its results are genuinely owned by the local people.
Improved environmental practices were initiated in 18 communities in the Balkans. Energy saving light, improved garbage disposal practices, renovated monuments, establishment of teams of ecological tourist guides, start of ecological awareness centres, marketing of sustainable and ecological food are some of the successes which were presented and shared by the participants. In more than 90 % of the communities, the local municipality developed and approved a long term strategic plan (The Green Agenda document) for environmental & sustainable development. In Macedonia and Serbia even more communities requested and provided funds for initiating the Green Agenda process in their own communities. All 18 participating communities developed a participatory video with the faciliting support of Julijana Daskalov, Kocka and Insight Share. During the first evening of the event all video were shared and watched combined with a cheese and wine tasting event, promoting local and sustainable products. By the end of 2010 the videos will be found at

Besides evaluation, the meeting was directed at looking at the future. Through the open space approach, participants were invited to start and share in discussion groups. All partners decided to continue to work together through a regional network. Later on ideas for promoting and strengthening Green Agenda initiatives will be further elaborated.
"The atmosphere was great! And it was professionaly organized!", commented some of the participants. "It gave new energy and direction that we should move forward with this process and that we have to take further steps to develop a network!"

Monday, October 11, 2010

Facilitating resistance in a group discussion

You are facilitating a lunch meeting in a big consultancy company. One of the key questions is "How to stimulate entrepreneurship in the organisation". One of your participants is showing a big resistance, because he was requested by the director to attend the meeting. He shows a non-verbal non interested attitude and is eager to sabotage the meeting. You as a facilitator are worried and are doing your ultimate best to involve this person. What to do?
Involving resistant people and making them feel responsible for the group proces is one of the biggest challenges while facilitating a meeting. "Checking people's expectations" is one measure. Another is the temparature method. Just check people's feeling about their presence, while you are starting a meeting. Address and check people's behaviour is a risky one, but if you recognize people's emotions, it can be an effective one. "Is it right that you are angry? " This statement provides resistant participants space to express their emotions and feel themselves recognised in a meeting.

How to deal with resistant people as a facilitator was one of the topics of the training 'Basic Facilitation methods' which was led by Simon Koolwijk on the 6th and 7th October, 2010 at ICCOenKerkinActie. The training was composed of the theoretical principles of facilitation, the Technology of Participation methods, creative methods (Creativity Today, Igor Byttebier) and how to deal with resistance.

"The training was practical. It had a good balance between theory and practise" commented the participants. I liked the tools, attributes and the coloured smelly markers and the sticky wall. The atmosphere was safe and open to practise.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Facilitating difficult people in a supermarket!

It is 5 minutes to 8, just before closing the supermarket. Four people are queing. All of them are in a hurry and actually not willing to wait. Some of them do not behave properly. The casher is playing the role of facilitator. There are different options to deal with the difficult clients: 1. The exit option, 2. Make the group responsible or 3. Judo, make a difficult person responsible. This was the setting of a role play, while generating ideas on the question: "What are the key competencies of an effective facilitator?"

It was part of the practise of the training 'Basic Facilitation methods' and 'How to work with the KOLB learning cycle' on 27, 28 and 29th September, 2010 which was facilitated by Simon Koolwijk. Professionals working with ICCOenKerkinActie, Togetthere, Mensen met een Missie and the Theatre Embassy participated in this training.

During the training participants got acquainted with the Technology of Participation methods. These are basic facilitation methods which have been developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs. The first day covered theoretical parts of facilitation and the second day was focused on practise. The third day was focused on 'How to develop a training based on the KOLB learning cycle'. Here the participants developed and taught a lesson based on the principles of 'direct experience', 'reflecting on the experience', 'generalisation of the experience' and 'application'. At the end of the training attention was paid to the principles of coaching. For example how to work with the GROW model. And participants got acquainted with the 7 F's on how to stimulate and optimize the conditions of the brain, while conducting a training. These principles can be read in the book Brain_work, Ria van Dinteren.
The training provided and generated a lot of inspirational knowledge from the participants. More about creative thinking and learning can be discovered at Pressure cooker and Acht uuroverwerken. 'The training was both structured and inspirational' commented one of the participants. 'It was a safe ambiance to practise and a cosy environment. We got double value. We practised but we also gained insight in some important issue of teamwork and facilitation'.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Creative facilitation in overcoming a lunch dip!

Imagine your organisation is searching for an effective facilitator, who can facilitate and deal with learning and change processes in your organisation. Three practising facilitators of ICCOenKerkinActie guided their colleague participants in identifying the key competencies of an effective facilitator. Challenged by a task, participants were asked to interview some of their colleagues outside the training room. After 30 minutes the competencies of an effective facilitator were presented and shared.

This session provided us some space to move and get outside the training room, expressed one of the participants. The whole session was composed of a diversity of creative methods; the bloopers, statue theatre, interviewing outsiders and a smily evaluation. Creative methods are very helpful in overcoming a lunch dip. It is energizing!

The creative sessions were part of the training Basic Facilitation Methods, which was held on 20 - 21 September, 2010 at ICCOenKerkinActie. ICCOenKerkinActie aims at supporting development initiatives in the South aiming at Improving Basic Services (education, health, water, food), Fostering market & economic development and Building Peace and Democracy in fragile states. Through this the organisation aims at contributing towards the Milenium Development Goals.
The training, led by Simon Koolwijk, was focused the first day on learning the Technology of Participation Techniques. These are basic techniques, developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs, which stimulates people to give direction to their own lives. The second was focused on practising and getting feedback.
The training appeared to be a fruitful occasion of exchange. Additional methods such as the 'Experiential learning cycle', 'Rich picture' and 'Back casting' were shared and further elaborated. It was a fruitful course for learning trics and tips!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Similarities between an animal and a facilitator?

How to come from an animal to the competencies of a facilitator? This question was answered by a group of 8 staff working with ICCOenKerkinActie, a Dutch development organisation which has one of its aims to contribute towards the Millenium Development Goals. The staff members participated in a two day training (6th - 7th September 2010) on learning and practising basic facilitation skills led by Simon Koolwijk.
A team of three facilitators practised this creative workshop with the key question: "What are the competencies of an effective facilitator?" Inspired by the book Creativiteit Hoe? Zo! (Author Igor Bytebier) the 5 other colleagues were asked to draw an animal which symbolizes an effective facilitator. An owl, lama, elephante, octopus and eagle were some of the inspiring animals which were shared. After that the participants were invited to associate words, through the brainwriting technique which reflected the 'ideal' of an effective and competent facilitator. Finally the best compencies of an effective facilitator were selected, written on coloured cards and posted on the sticky wall, whereafter an interesting discussion followed about the 'ideal facilitator'.

This exercise was part of the training Basic Facilitation Skills. During the training the participants got acquainted with the Technology of Participation methods, which are structured and efficient tools in getting groups focused in discussions. The training was composed of theory, discussions and practicals, including a number of energizers.
Participants commented: 'The balance of theory and practise was optimal in this course! I appreciated the feedback after practise. It was very useful. ' 'The exercise about resistance was very helpful. Deal first with the emergencies, before you further discuss the content, explained one of the participants. 'It is a course definitely a must for managers and project leaders!'

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Capacity development: A course putting theory into practise!

"The fact that we worked our own project, made the course very practical!"; "The application of many diverse tools and methods of teaching made us to involve constantly"; "The case studies were very practical and gave us insight in capacity development and how projects usualy operate"; "The course was very inspirational!"

On the 23rd, 24th and 26th August, 2010 capacity development advisors, working with GZB, Mensen met een Missie, ICCO & Centrum for Israel Studies participated in the course Project Cycle Management & Capacity Development which was organized by the Hendrik Kraemer Institute (HKI). The training was conducted by Simon Koolwijk.

The first part of the course was focused on how to plan and design a project through the Project Management Cycle and logical framework approach. Based on a practical project, participants developed a project plan through the logframe approach. On the second day participants presented their job descriptions, which are focused on organisational development. Based on theoretical principles and organisational analysis tools, participants developed a draft capacity development intervention plan. Feedback and suggestions were shared on how to focus and where to deal with difficulties. Tools for monitoring and evaluation were shared on how to follow the progress of the intervention.

Finally dilemma's and pitholes were shared which can be encountered during a capacity development intervention. Ownership, unclearity about expectations, building trust are some of the main challenges during an intervention. Some strategies are shared at the weblog "Everything you always wanted to know about capacity development".

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Video Evaluation - short highlights about two weeks exchange on International Humanitarian Law

"I have never experienced such a wonderful seminar", "My expectations have been met", "I know how to apply the four principles for International Humanitarian Law", "The composition of the group", "Lecturers addressed the issues". These were some of the comments which members of the ACT Alliance shared during a video evaluation at the end of the face-to-face seminar discussing Humanitarian Assistance & International Law (HAIL) which was held from 25th May - 4th June, 2010. This 2-week seminar dealt about the four principles of HAIL; 1. Humanity, 2. Neutrality, 3. Impartiality and 4. Indepedence. Main purpose of the meeting was to link theoretical principles with the reality of the work in the field. The 22 participants coming from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin-America shared 'best practices,' 'challenging cases' and 'possible scenario's ' on how to apply HAIL during interventions where Humanitarian Aid is needed after natural disasters and armed conflicts. The seminar is an initiative of ICCOenKerkinActie and the ACT Alliance, facilitated by the Hendrik Kraemer Institute.
See video for the impressions:

The video evaluation was facilitated by Simon Koolwijk at the last day of the seminar, where participants shared their perspectives on how they felt about the two week meeting. The scenario of the video evaluation was designed by the participants. This scenario included the goals, questions and video story boards/ shots, that were proposed by the group. The process of filming lasted 2 hours, where each of the participants shared their views. The editing took about 6 hours.

Such a video evaluation has the following advantages:
1. It provides the participants a platform to share their highlights at the end of the meeting
2. It provides space for a making a joint production, which they can share with their colleagues
3. It builds the group and document institutional history.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Public Participation in water and health related issues

Having access to clean water is still one of the long lasting dreams in many countries. On 15-16 June, 2010 around 70 representatives from European governmental institutions and non-governmental organisations met in Bucharest, Romania to exchange experiences on information and public participation in water and health related issues. Most representatives were coming from Eastern European countries and organisations who run water and health related projects in Eastern Europe. Simon Koolwijk assisted the organizing committee to facilitate this workshop.
Main organizers of the international workshop were the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe - Water and Health protocol ) and WECF (Women in Europe for a Common Future). The overall goal of the workshop was to enhance the capacity of public authorities and non-governmental actors to cooperate in the implementation of the Protocol on Water and Health.

The workshop allowed participants to:
1. Review obligations and opportunities under the Protocol;
2. Exchange practical experiences and lessons learned
3. Overview existing tools and mechanisms to promote access to information and public participation;
4. Discuss ways and means to raise awareness – in general on the linkage between human health and water management
5. Discuss future needs in these areas and possible actions under the protocol.

One of the key discussion items was to discuss the access to information and public participation in the fields of health and water under the principles of the Aarhus convention.

There is still a lot of space for improvement commented the participants. They expressed: The implementation of the component of public participation in having water and health quality improved is still complicated. There is a lack of trust with authorities and the public to be involved in making improvements. And in many of our contries we miss a communication culture. However, some NGO's successfully succeed in building bridges and reach results. Now the dialogue is much better than 10-15 years ago, and local people are willing to make investments in clean toilets & water systems and are more aware of the dangers for health of dirty and contaminated water. However, the condition is that it should be affordable and not too expensive. If people know that water is touching their personal life, they want to be involved. There is a role to play for NGO's to build bridges with local governments. There are already some examples where public authorities and NGO's are working together. Also NGO's have a role to play in data gathering, monitoring and using these data for policy making.
The conference was very useful, commented one of the participants. The fact that we had an opportunity to discuss in small groups about the issues and that we could meet people with similar questions and issues was very helpful and stimulating!
More about Women for Europe and a Common Future can be found at youtube. WECFEU

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Promotion of rural entrepreneurship in Rwanda

Promotion of rural entrepreneurship in Rwanda is the main focus of the IPER program, which is led and coordinated by AgriProFocus. Wageningen International, The Royal Tropical Institute, SNV, Larenstein, Agriterra, Oxfam-Novib and ICCO are major partners in this project. On the 11th June 2010 the partners met in Arnhem to discuss about the action plan led by the Advisor of promotion of rural entrepreneurship in Rwanda.
The program is focused at strengthening local market development by building capacities of value chains on rice, casave, maize and other agricultural products. Farmers, producers, service providers and research institutions are involved in this program. Finally farmers and individual families would like to improve their lifes, have fair prices for their products which will lead to better welfare. The meeting was facilitated by Simon Koolwijk. "We all of us produced something on which we have ownership, consensus and it is workable", commented the participants at the end of the meeting.

As preperation of this meeting, the capacity development advisor for the IPER program (financed by ICCO) was trained and equiped with skills in capacity development on the 10th June 2010. Parts of the training covered theoretical principles, how to build capacities through human resource, organisational and institutional development. 'Capacity development is not the purpose in itself, but it should finally lead to better service delivery of organisations and institutions'. Building capacities, linking (producers, farmers, service institutions) and learning are the most important tasks of the CB advisor in the program.

Lots of inspiration in limited time!

"We strengthened our team through joint analysis and practicals with new methods", "The teambuilding was a successfull instrument in coming to concrete results", "We learned a lot of diverse methods on how to support structured group processes", "The training was dynamic", "We gained a lot of inspiration in limited time!"
Staff members from Impulsis and the communication department from ICCO followed the training on facilitation methods. Since Impulsis is regular organising meetings with their project partners, who have partnerships with small scale projects in Africa, Asia and Latin-America on education, peace building or community development, the lessons learned were very applicable for the own worksituation.

Participants got acquainted with the theories of facilitation, the Technology of Participation methods (developed and tested by the Institute of Cultural Affairs - USA) and creative methods from COCD (literature: Creativity Today!) . The focus during the second day was on practicals. Starting from early in the morning up to mid afternoon all participants facilitated a session and received feedback. "Our experience has been strengthened through structure and methods" commented one of the participants. "We already know a lot, but the training provides an additional dimension in preparing and facilitating a group meeting".
Simon Koolwijk, the trainer, is member of the International Association of Facilitators. This association promotes the profession of facilitators around the globe. In 2008 Simon became a International Certified Professional Facilitator.