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Getting Clearance from the Authorities

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Training Handout

Showing local authorities and officials how community empowerment will benefit them

Before you begin working in your target community (or communities), you must have obtained both the needed permissions, and also the active co-operation, of the authorities and leaders responsible for the area.

For some mobilizers, the authorities are seen as the "enemy" or "opposition" and see their task as organizing the poor communities to oppose those "oppressors."That may be an appropriate approach in some situations, and is often seen as "civic engagement" rather than as "community participation."

The methodology in these modules (developed mainly in Africa) sees the bringing of those authorities on side is more likely to lead to sustainability and a consistent national policy and programme of poverty elimination.

Remember that you really have two targets (beneficiaries), not only (1) the community but also (2) the authorities who are responsible for the area that the community is in.

Your goal for each community is to strengthen it by promoting self-help actions. Your goal for the authorities is to work towards sustainability by moving towards an enabling context or environment (political and administrative) around and above the community. Your goal for leaders (political and informal), administrators ("bureaucrats"), and technical experts ("technocrats") is to persuade them from being "providers" to becoming "facilitators of self help by the communities."

This is no small job.

When politicians can claim they "provide" (eg to provide any communal facility), then they obtain popularity and votes. They are likely, therefore, to have a vested interest in the "provision approach."

Likewise, when administrators and technocrats can claim they "provide," then they believe (often rightly) that they will enhance their careers and obtain promotions.They may have a vested interest in not changing to "facilitators."

Your strategy is to demonstrate and convince them that they will benefit by abandoning the "provision" approach and moving to a "facilitating" approach.

The truth is that, if they shift from a "provision" approach to an "enabling" approach, in time, they will benefit. That is because every community has hidden resources that will not be identified and used so long as outside authorities are expected to provide all the resources. If the community gets the responsibility to provide its own facilities and services, and given management training to do so, many hidden resources are revealed and used.

If leaders and responsible authorities shift to an enabling approach, the resulting strengthening of the communities can become the bases from which they can obtain their popularity, votes, career advances and promotions. It is your duty to demonstrate that the "provision" approach may benefit leaders and authorities in the short run, but is not sustainable, whereas the "enabling" approach contributes to genuine development and growth which benefit them in the long run.

To the extent to which you can convince the authorities of their benefits from strengthening communities, you will more easily obtain permission to work, obtain their active co-operation, and counteract vested interests that would seek to hinder the strengthening and self reliance of the communities.

To obtain clearance or permission from the authorities, it is useful to provide them with some documentation, referring to official policy, agreements and memoranda of understanding (MOU), that you might have. (This depends upon your circumstances). As you do, explain to them how they will benefit from having stronger, self reliant communities in their areas of responsibility.

If your budget and work plan allow, this is the time to organize a workshop for sensitizing authorities.

If you copy text from this site, please acknowledge the author(s)
and link it back to cec.vcn.bc.ca/cmp/

© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
Web Design by Lourdes Sada
Last update: 2012.06.30

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