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by Phil Bartle, PhD

Training Document and Reference

Details of each stage of the cycle


This document looks at each stage in the mobilization cycle. Each stage is explained briefly. It should be read in conjunction with the Mobilization Cycle one-page workshop handout. This cycle is illustrated in Strengthening Cycle Illustrations

Mobilization Cycle


The mobilization cycle is sometimes called " The Community Participation Promotion Cycle," or the "Problem Solving Cycle," or "The Community Development Cycle," or "The Social Animation Cycle.". It is a series of interventions (carried out by one or more mobilizer) designed to increase the level of involvement of a community in the decisions that affect its own development.

It is called a "Cycle," in that it is repeated, each time building on earlier successes, errors, and lessons learned.

The cycle:
  • Is a series of interventions in a logical and progressive order;
  • Is carried out by a legitimate, authorized and recognized mobilizer (or mobilizers);
  • Uses the community choice of action as a means of strengthening, not as an end in itself;
  • Requires that the mobilizer(s) be informed and sensitive to community characteristics;
  • Can be implemented by a ministry or department at central or district level, or by a non-governmental organization;
  • Is not "bottom-up," community-based or "grass-roots" in its origin, but aims at "bottom-up" community-based or "grass-roots" strengthening as its goal; and
  • Promotes (encourages, advocates for, trains in skills necessary for, and supports) community participation in control and decision making of all actions affecting the community as a whole.

The main steps:
  • Are logically linked with each other and to the cycle as a whole;
  • Are all needed (absence of any one will seriously weaken its impact); and
  • Are initiated in the following order, although there may be some overlap and continuation.

Participation of all members of a target community (irrespective of biological or social characteristics) is essential to both poverty reduction and community strengthening.. Here in CDP "participation," specifically means full community (not only some factions of a community) participation in control and decision making.

The key decisions to be made, and control to be exercised, include: assessing situations (needs and potentials); determining priority problems (and generating goals and objectives from them); planning actions (community action plans, project designs): implementing and monitoring them, and evaluating their results.

The community as a whole takes responsibility (not leaving that to an outside party).

Contributions of resources (eg donations, communal labour, supplies), dialogue and consultation with external agencies are encouraged, although "participation" (in this strategy) is much more comprehensive and inclusive than either "contribution" or "consultation."

Sensitization and Clearance:

The community mobilizers must be recognized by authority and obtain legal status if they are not to be vulnerable to arrest as seditious agitators, and harassed by police and others concerned with maintaining law and order.

Furthermore, it is among the authorities where the most vested interest lies in maintaining the "provision" approach and fear of the "enablement" approach, as civil servants, officials, politicians, traditional and new leaders, and technical experts see immediate benefits of the provision approach as a means to obtain influence, popularity, votes, promotions and career advances. Sensitization is not just a formality, but must be well planned and executed. The counteracting of rumours and false assumptions must be integral to the sensitization strategy.

Awareness Raising:

Before encouraging the community to act (and therefore learn and become stronger) the mobilizer must make the community members aware of specific realities.

During this step, it is important to avoid raising false expectations, and actively counteract the inevitable assumptions and rumours about the kind of assistance to expect.

The awareness issues include:
  • If they remain passive and expectant of government or other outside help, then they will remain with the burden of poverty and weakness;
  • No community is totally poor; if there are live humans in it then it has resources and potentials, including labour, creativity, life, desires, and survival skills and living attributes;
  • # People will be more likely to join in and help when you are already helping yourself; and
  • The mobilizer (and the mobilizer's agency or department) does not bring resources (funds, roofing materials, pipes), but is there to encourage and assist in some management training and guidance.

Unity Organizing:

No community is unified; there are schisms and factions in every one.. The degree varies.. When there is much social disparity, it is more difficult to reach a community consensus of the priority problem, and thus the priority goal.

Unity organizing is a necessary precedent to most community mobilization, and continues throughout the cycle as needed. See Unity Organizing.

Mobilizer Training:

The few mobilizers available can not reach every community in need of an intervention to encourage empowerment and self reliance. In the case of Uganda CMP, there were ten local council mobilizers in each parish.. These were unpaid volunteers originally set up as part of the Resistance Movement who were recruited to raise awareness about Museveni's form of participatory democracy.. We offered them training and a few perks, such as tee shirts and bicycles, and they extended the mobilization efforts of CDOs and CDAs (Community Development Officers and their Assistants).

The lack of mobilizers trained enough to stimulate self help is one of the major factors in the creation and expansion of this web site and the development of training modules on it. Many of these are guidelines for writing training material in local languages and adapted to varying local conditions. The core training material is Training for Strength, a community management training curriculum, and three handbooks for mobilizers, on (1) mobilization, (2) income generation and (3) monitoring. Since the key input into the process of empowerment is mobilization and management training, not the partial funding for community projects, this training material is central to the process.

Management Training:

One of the elements of the community management programme that distinguishes it from orthodox animation or community development interventions, is the addition of management training. It is not sufficient to allow or even stimulate a low income or marginalized community to participate in democratic and developmental decision making and actions; it is also necessary for that community to have the capacity to participate. Management training is designed to increase that capacity.

As a method of capacity building, management training goes beyond traditional training, with its emphasis only on skill transfer. Developed in the fifties for senior managers of large corporations, management training included some skill transfer, but also awareness raising, information transfer, encouragement and restructuring (organizing for decision making and organizing for effective action). Our participants liked to say, "This is not just training about empowerment, mobilizing and organizing, this training is empowerment, mobilizing and empowerment."

Participatory Assessment:

Although the mobilizer must first make an assessment of community resources, potentials, hindrances and needs, the strategy of the mobilization cycle requires that an assessment be done with the community as a whole.. This might not be done all at once, and may be done or continued to be done by the community executive later, after it is formed and organized.

All future plans and actions in the intervention must be made on the bases of observed reality, not on the imaginings or special interests of specific factions within the community.. The needs and potentials must be recognized by everyone in the community.

Defining Priorities; Problems and Goals:

When the community is sufficiently unified, and when all factions are involved, including women and disabled and other persons less likely to enjoy full participation in community decisions, it is time to set the community into action.

That is done by obtaining a consensus of priority problem, and turning it around as a way to identify the priority goal. The brainstorming technique is one of the tools to use here.

Community Action Plan (CAP):

The community must agree on what it wants to achieve over the next period of time, one year, five years (usually the same period as for the district plans). The plan can also include one or several community projects.

Organizing a CIC, Executive Committee:

Because the details of a project design can not be accomplished in a public meeting of hundreds of people, it is practically necessary for the community to form an executive (Project Committee, Development Committee, CIC or Community Implementing Committee). This executive committee should be chosen by consensus if voting will contribute to factionalism and schisms; here the mobilizer must be aware of and sensitive to community values and practices.

The mobilizer then needs to train the committee in participatory planning, management and leadership, so that it does not become non-transparent (secretive) to the community as a whole. The CIC should review the action plan, add details as needed, and prepare a project design for community approval (again using the participatory methods encouraged by the mobilizer). Here it is necessary to look more into the community management strategy (in Element B) and integrate it into this mobilization cycle.

Community Project Designs:

The key to management training is the asking and answering, of four key questions: (1) What do we want? (2) What do we have? (3) How do we use what we have to get what we want? and (4) What will happen when we do? These are expanded in detail to become a community project design. In the methodology here, the answering of those questions, and the design of a community project, is participatory, in that it is guided by the mobilizer as trainer (who asks the questions), and generated by the participants as a group (who answer the questions).

A "project" is the action (or set of actions decided upon by the community (as a group, stimulated by the mobilizer). The format of the project design is something like this: What is the problem? Define the goal as the solution to the problem; refine the goal into a finite set of objectives (SMART); identify resources and constraints; generate a set of strategies to use the resources, avoid the constraints and obtain the objectives; choose the most effective strategy; decide upon organization (structure, who does what, budget, schedule); and decide upon monitoring, reporting, and evaluation.


The mobilizer is walking a fine line here. One one side is too much reliance on outside resources; on the other is the genuine need for supplementary resources needed by the community (and to which it may have a right of access such as to ceded funds from central or district governmental revenue). Where a project design is used as a proposal, or a proposal proper is written by the community executive, it becomes and instrument of negotiation between the community and external authorities and potential sources of resources.

Even if it is not seeking outside resources, the community needs to ensure that its plans are consistent with the general plans of its geographical environment, the neighbouring communities, the district or region in which it is located, any national plans and priorities.. Negotiating discussions should include these topics. All stake holders involved in the community project should be involved in this negotiation.. Whether the community seeks resources or approval, or both, its project design and/or proposal is its instrument for negotiating.

Contract Preparation and Negotiation:

A contract is an optional instrument, recommended here. The mobilizer can assist and guide the community executive in drafting a contract, based upon the project design.. Its wording should be simple and it should be short, while the proposal or project design can be attached as an appendix.

The signatories of the contract should be representatives from all the stake holders, and this phase can be blended into the negotiation phase listed above.. The negotiations ensure that there is public transparency about the proposed project, that all concerned (all stake holders) have access to understanding the aims and actions of the community project. They also confirm the legitimacy of the community taking responsibility for its project.

Contract Signing:

The signatories include representatives of all the stake holders (community executive, district officers, local leaders, agency officers, mobilizers). The meeting for signing the contract can be an opportunity for all of them to meet face-to-face at one time. This is therefore an opportunity for the mobilizer to keep the community involvement in its own project (civic engagement; community participation) as a high profile characteristic of development.

If it is assured that all signatories previously agree to the contract, then the signing can be a ceremony, and included with in the following public ceremony.. Setting aside an inside room, such as in a classroom block, may be appreciated by the signatories.. Making it part of a public ceremony increases its legitimacy, and raises public awareness about the methodology of community empowerment.

First Instalment Payment:

If the proposal and contract are aimed at obtaining financial resources for the community project (and remembering the caveat about dependency), then the first instalment of payment can be used as an opportunity for a public ceremony (perhaps coinciding with the contract signing).. This is an opportunity to raise the profile of the project, and of the participation of community in its design.

Entertainment, perhaps in the form of singing, dancing, drumming and skits, performed by local cultural groups, school children, or voluntary groups, is an opportunity to strengthen pride and loyalty in the community and cultural tradition.. The press can be invited so the event can be mentioned on radio, in the local newspaper, and even on national television.. The reason for doing this is that it enhances transparency, raises the profile of the project, and raises awareness about the part of community participation and empowerment.

Implementation Begins:

At this point the community and its leaders, like the politicians and journalists, will be more interested in the actions and results (eg the building of the latrine, water supply, clinic or school), and needs to be reminded and encouraged that monitoring and reporting must be concurrent with the action.. This is where community enthusiasm can decline or be destroyed, if the action (especially in its finances) is not transparent, and made fully clear to all the community members.

While the goal of the community is the finished facility, the goal of the strategy and mobilizer is increased community strength and capacity, so emphasis is put on monitoring and reporting (verbal and written).. Also, this is where the community becomes aware of more needed training in skills related to the action (financial and accounting skills, report writing, technical skills), and where, again, the Element B of the strategy must be integrated with this mobilization cycle.

Monitoring and Reporting:

While the monitoring and reporting is aimed at observing the action in order to make adjustments and avoid getting off track, it is then supplemented by more in-depth assessment and evaluation.. This includes the assessment of impact of the action, and a value judgement about how it was carried out, if it should have been carried out, and what instead should have been planned.

This in turn opens the door to repeating the cycle, because it serves the same purpose as the initial situation analysis and community assessment.

Subsequent Instalment Payments:

The payment of the external funds to the community executive should be phased, and dependent upon the work being completed to each level.

Although this was not needed to be used (by CMP Uganda) it is a form of insurance, so that if work (or reporting) is suspended, so are the payments.

Work Continues Until Completion:

While work is in progress, the mobilizer has a responsibility of ensuring that monitoring is carried out (especially by the community members as well as by any of the other stake holders).. Transparency, especially about the amounts and purposes of any payments, is necessary to maintain community interest and trust in its own executive.

Subsequent payments by agencies providing outside funds should be dependent upon accountability (narrative and financial) and the maintaining of transparency, honesty, trustworthiness and integrity by those responsible to the community for managing the project.

Official Completion Ceremony:

While a ceremony and celebration is a special holiday for most people, it is hard work for the mobilizer.. As with the cheque handing over ceremony listed above, the completion ceremony is an opportunity to make a publicized public event, to raise awareness about community empowerment and about the project, and to confirm the legitimacy and appropriateness of community participation promotion and empowerment of low income communities.

The completion ceremony, replete with the press and cultural entertainment, is also an opportunity to remind the community members that they need to evaluate the project now competed, and to determine what their next priority should be, starting the mobilization cycle all over again.

Repeating the Cycle:

This is not a once-and-for-all action.. It is a process of social change (development) and must be sustained.. While the community will be at a higher level of empowerment that before implementing this first cycle, it should be initiated again.. Furthermore, the mobilizer must train a replacement in view of eventual departure, and the series of mobilizers should identify internal mobilizers (who will not use the mobilizing techniques for their own personal benefit at the expense of community strengthening) from within the community who will be able to sustain the stimulation and interventions after the mobilizers' agency or ministry moves on.

Each step of the mobilization cycle is related to those before and after it, and to the cycle as a whole.. There is a logical and functional order to the steps.. Each time the cycle is repeated, it is done so on the basis of assessments made during the previous cycle, and builds upon the results of the strengthening that has already taken place.

Other Capacity Building Interventions:

The following interventions are also part of the mobilization strategy, but may be inserted at various points in the mobilization cycle.. This can be determined by the mobilizer, if knowledgeable and sensitive to the changing conditions in the community.

The goals of mobilization to develop a community may vary from county to county.. Nevertheless, common elements include: poverty eradication, good governance, change in social organization (development), community capacity building, empowering low income and marginalized people, and gender balance.

  • Assessment and analysis of existing local organizations (elders' or other councils, women's groups, credit rotation groups, people's movements, associations of special interest groups, such as the disabled or other vulnerable groups), before, during and after each of the cycles;
  • Enhancing local organizations (ensuring representation and participation in community affairs), promoting gender participation, assisting in legal status of community organizations;
  • Fostering co-operative and functional relationships between various organizations: promoting opportunities for co-ordination and pooling of local resources (human, capital, supplies, land);
  • Income and employment generation, emphasizing training, credit, marketing;
  • Settlement shelter and infrastructure upgrading;
  • Environmental activities (eg promoting community-based waste management systems which protect natural resources); and
  • Participatory disaster mitigation and management (refugee camps, resettlement, rehabilitation).

For a power point presentation of the mobilisation cycle, with both illustrations and text, look at Power.

© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
Web Design by Lourdes Sada
Last update: 2012.06.13

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