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Community Visioning in Palau

Community Visioning - what is it?

Community visioning is essentially a long term planning process whereby communities lay out a blueprint for changes they want to see within their communities, they then implement the plan and evaluate their progress on an ongoing basis.

 

Palau's experience with Community Visioning

Community visioning is designed to provide communities with the opportunity to reflect on and decide upon a shared vision for the future. By working together, visions can become a reality.

Photo caption: Blindfolded participants at the August 2004 workshop learn that the only way they can build a 'rope house' is by working together

Phase 1 (2001-2002)

In 2001 the State Governors of Palau, during a meeting in Hawaii, were impressed by a presentation on community visioning in Moleka'i and Oahu, and decided to implement a similar activity in Palau. A workshop was held in Palau with more than 100 participants, during which the Moleka'i experience was presented and discussed. A core group was formed after this workshop, chaired by Mr. Francis Matsutaro, and the Palau Conservation Society was designated as the secretariat to help with administration.

The visioning process got off to a good start in several states. In Airai a meeting was held with the state legislators and Planning Commission. The group discussed their core values and their vision. But there the process stopped, with the group recommending that someone outside of the state be brought in to facilitate the process. In Sonsorol State, a state consisting of four inhabited islands with small communities, visioning was linked to the development of a state land use plan. A vision statement was prepared, however, the process came to a halt before a strategic plan could be prepared.

Visioning statement

Sonsorol State Islands and people are unique culturally, socially and environmentally to the rest of the Republic of Palau. By nature, our islands are tiny in size and located further away from neighbouring developed islands. In today's world of new and improved technology, the islands are even farther away due to lack of good communication technology and reliable transportation. Nevertheless, we love our islands and its cultures. We honour our ancestors who fist settled in the islands and called them our home.

  • We envision preservation of our cultural values and tradition of family respect and community of people who live in harmony with each other
  • We envision protection and preservation of our islands' environmental integrity and its limited natural resources that people on the islands will live self sufficiently and in harmony with the environment
  • We envision more people wanting to live on the islands with feeling of security in health care services and education for their children

Visioning also started in Koror, the most populated state of Palau. A group was formed including the governor and legislators and a meeting was held with the state community offices and government offices. A vision statement was developed. A major issue was the type of development that would be encouraged in Koror. The plan was to take the vision statement and other outcomes to all the hamlets of Koror for discussion, but it was difficult to get people to come out for meetings.

In 2002 the visioning process stalled and with no clear time line, the core group stopped meeting.

Phase 2 (2003-2006)

During the 21st Annual Pacific Islands Environment Conference, held in Palau in June 2002, there was renewed interest in the process, especially after a keynote address by Mayor Jeremy Harris of Honolulu, an island where the visioning process has been very successful. Thereafter, the Palau Conservation Society requested help from Small Islands Voice to reactivate the process.

Starting in 2003, and with the support of Small Islands Voice, there has been a re-awakened interest in community visioning. A community awareness campaign has been undertaken: brochures in Palauan and English have been prepared, as well as a poster. A logo and slogan 'Communities at their best' have been designed and the visioning activity has been discussed in newspapers and aired on radio and television.

 

Communities at their best

Partnerships have been established between the Community Visioning State Representatives and the Palau Conservation Society. The two states of Ngaremlengui and Ngerchelong have been undertaking in-depth activities in 2004. Disposable cameras have been distributed to 90 community members (largely adults and a few youth), and community visits held to discuss the project. Community representatives from the Palau Conservation Society went from home to home in these two states to ensure that the concept of the project was understood. Community members were asked to return the cameras, with pictures of things they like and dislike in their community. Certain themes emerged such as a high value for taro patches and a dislike of trash along the shoreline. Photo murals of billboard size (8 ft by 4 ft) have been prepared by community representatives; one side shows things people love and the other side shows things people want to see changed. The murals will then be used as a starting point for developing vision statements.

What does the community want - the good or the bad?

A refresher workshop on community visioning was conducted 3-5 August 2004. Ms Stacey Crivello from Moloka'i led this workshop, which was attended by 35 persons, mainly Community Visioning State Representatives, designated by their State Governors. The workshop served to reawaken awareness and enthusiasm, to promote information exchange, and to advance future project planning. A report on the workshop is available. The workshop focused on the key activities involved in preparing a vision statement and a strategic plan. During the workshop, the nine states represented, Ngarchelong, Ngardmau, Ngiwal, Airai, Ngeremlengui, Ngatpang, Koror-Meyuni, Angaur, and Sonsorol, voted to continue or start the community visioning process.

The Community Visioning process is integral to the operations of the Palau Conservation Society and it is the first of its three main goals in the Strategic Action Plan. The Society has dedicated a significant portion of its focus in 2004-7 to creating community visions on the island of Babeldoab.

During 2005, the Palau Conservation Society has conducted more than 65 community visits to gain the acceptance and support of communities for community visioning (see 2005 report). Planning workshops on the process of community visioning have been held in different regions of Palau, and community facilitators have been trained in organizational skills and conflict resolution. Twelve states are actively working on vision statements, although no state has yet completed its vision statement. Toolkits, photo murals and video footage are being collected and used to facilitate the visioning process.


Community facilitators examine the photo mural created in Ngaremlengui State. The photo mural illustrates both highlights and challenges in a community and is used as a tool to assist with decision-making.

Overall progress is steady, but slow. One of the greatest challenges in this project has been in encouraging communities to shift their way of thinking. More than a century of foreign rule followed by a heavily governed independence (with many decisions made at the Federal level) has removed communities from the decision-making process. Most communities are used to having decisions made for them and are not used to the idea that they have the right to decide their own future, and in fact that they have ownership of and responsibility for their own future and the future of their lands. The Community Visioning Process is attempting to shift the way of thinking and to empower communities to indeed make their own decisions. Next steps will continue to encourage the creation of Vision Statements but will accommodate the slower schedule.

2006 update

The Community Visioning process has continued throughout 2006. Four states have completed their vision statements. As some communities begin to move from preparing their vision statements to the next stages of community assessments and strategic planning, the Palau Conservation Society (www.palau-pcs.org) has begun to conduct a series of workshops focusing on project proposal development for community-based organizations. This will develop capacity at the community level to take ideas and turn them into attractive project proposals.

Interestingly a national 'buzz' about the importance of having a common vision has emerged. National and state leaders are emphasizing the need for 'vision' and are utilizing concepts from the community visioning process more and more often. For example, the community visioning concepts are being used in community and leadership dialogues currently underway to discuss land use and the possibility of amending the national laws and constitution to allow for 99-year leases of public and private lands.

With major land use planning exercises in Palau expected to start shortly, it is the hope that community visioning will provide the core substance for a common vision for the communities and the nation.

 

To get involved, contact :

 
         

National Co-ordinator
Mr Joe Chilton
Palau Community College
PO Box 9
Koror, 96940
Republic of Palau
T: + 680 488 2470
F: + 680 488 6563
Tutiic@yahoo.com

     
Ms. Tiare Holm
Palau Conservation Society
P.O. Box 1811,
Koror, 96940
Republic of Palau
T: ++ 680 488 3993
F: ++ 680 488 3990
pcs@palaunet.com
 

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