Active Listening to Advance Development
When the White House released its New Approach to Advancing Development earlier this summer, I was struck by two of its key points, tailoring development strategies and underscoring local ownership.
Seeing both objectives as being interlinked, I’ve been thinking of the many ways that IREX—and the development community as a whole—engages local partners to adapt program models to their needs and achieve buy-in. While there are plenty of formal mechanisms (assessments, focus groups, surveys, and the like), one of the most powerful means is to create an open atmosphere where stakeholders feel they can give substantial input and be heard throughout the life of the project.
For example, IREX’s Biblionet program works to modernize the Romanian library system by equipping libraries with technology and training librarians in both technology use and the design of new services to meet community needs. When the program started, IREX asked the local library association to review the project design.
The association suggested that we provide every county library with a training lab for public librarians entering the program. After nearly two years of implementation, it’s proven to be a very wise decision. It not only helped to train over 500 local librarians, but it empowered the participating county libraries and catapulted them into the role of true co-implementers of the Biblionet program. They now provide training to librarians and citizens beyond the basic program requirements.
So, actively solicit the opinions of stakeholders and keep your ears open. You never know what you might learn.
Randal Mason is the Director of Strategic Development at IREX.