In Accra, we facilitated a group discussion with some 18 representatives from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and IFAD. The conversation explored the assets and aspirations of the poor and how empowerment can help increase confidence and unlock potential. We also met with the chief director of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, an agency that is focused on building good governance and balanced rural development. The chief director spoke of the need for leadership development among public officials and requested assistance from CCL for a program for nearly 90 directors in June 2009, to be followed by a program for other officials at the regional and district level. CCL also visited with Asheshi University in Accra that is interested in train-the-trainer programs for its faculty, and with a number of microfinance entities in Southern Ghana.
In Kumasi, CCL and IFAD conducted a session on empowerment and development for the management team of RTIMP, a government unit responsible for providing technical assistance for Ghana's main food crops. The staff expressed an appreciation for this approach and the desire for development for staff, farmers, and the collective – stating that “every individual has to build on their strengths.” Drawing on this understanding, we crafted an empowerment methodology and an instrument that assesses three components of empowerment (i.e., cognition, emotions, and behavior). The methodology and instrument were meant to enable the government agents to engage with the rural community as development partners, gain empathy for the community needs and aspirations, and help the community identify strengths and assets and how it can collectively achieve desired objectives, such as gaining access to loans and clean water. While we were able to thoroughly field test and finalize the empowerment methodology during our visit in Ghana, the empowerment instrument we created is still under development. Thus, we will need to continue to work with IFAD to field test and refine the instrument to ensure it is a useful assessment for its intended purpose and population.
With the RTIMP team, we conducted sessions in two outlying rural villages for some 120 people to test these methods. These were villages without electricity or running water. The participants were mainly farmers and included the village chief and elders. The RTIMP government agriculture agents facilitated the sessions using the methodology we had developed. The sessions were quite powerful for all involved. For the people, it created individual and collective awareness of assets, aspirations, and challenges. It built collective leadership to take the challenges. For the government agents it increased empathy, understanding, and relationships of/with the community – they were told, “with this conversation, I can trust you more.” An RTIMP facilitator stated: “What we have done will be helpful for every development worker. You learn with the community.” An observation is that this methodology of building empowerment is an important supplement to the assistance to address rural poverty. This approach contrasts with traditional approaches that set objectives for the poor with little support by way of mentoring or facilitation.
In Kumasi we met with a key officer at the Rural Enterprise Project (REP). The agency, along with the Business Advisory Centers (BAC), helps to increase rural production, employment and income through small off-farm enterprises. REP and BAC represent models that serve to increase the capacities of the poor. Seventy percent of their clients are able to set up their own enterprises. The REP officer expressed much interest in adding leadership development to their roster of services. CCL stands ready to provide a train-the-trainer program that will transfer knowledge and resources to REP trainers.
We concluded our trip to Ghana with a two-day Leadership Essentials program for 40 representatives from IFAD supported projects (MoFA, RTIMP, REP, BAC) and local NGOs working in the area of development and microfinance. The participants described the program as very different from what they had experienced before in other training. They appreciated the interactive approach and the opportunity to learn from each other. They commented on the need to create feedback-rich environments in their workplace and more collaborative approaches.
CCL and IFAD plan to continue to develop and test the empowerment instrument and methodology as a resource for community empowerment and engagement by development agencies. The work in Ghana demonstrates the potential to enable development agencies to engage communities more holistically, to fold human and empowerment development into economic development efforts, and to help communities take ownership of their challenges.