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REPORT ON COMMUNITY VISIONING ACTIVITIES IN PALAU
IN 2005

PALAU CONSERVATION SOCIETY
December 2005

 

BACKGROUND

There has been a high amount of one-on-one training with facilitators and a fair amount of ongoing education. The Community Visioning Program is much more than a land use planning program, but rather it is an empowerment program, and requires a major shift in community perceptions and thinking. The Community Visioning Project, therefore, is proceeding much slower than anticipated, but does seem to be achieving positive benefits for communities.

ACTIVITIES

Activity 1: Work with community leaders as they introduce project

Individual work with leaders and facilitators has been a major component of this project. Palau Conservation Society (PCS) staff, including the Community Coordinator (who serves as the Community Visioning Team Leader) and a Community Conservation Coordinator (a locally-based coordinator who works directly with states in Babeldaob), traveled to almost every state in Palau a number of times to have one-on-one meetings with facilitators and decision-makers.

 
Foober Obi Skebong, PCS Community Conservation Coordinator, and Bernadette Keldermans, Community Coordinator and Community Visioning Team Leader, are the faces of the Community Visioning Project in Palau

Between March and September 2005, the Community Visioning (CV) Team conducted a total of 65 state visits or meetings. These meetings often were targeted at the State Governors, to gain their acceptance and support of Community Visioning. The CV Team has met with all State Governors and continues to encourage them to participate in Community Visioning and to support land use planning in general. Meetings are also targeted at community facilitators and include training and encouragement for volunteer facilitators (there are approximately 3-5 facilitators for each of the 14 active states). Many of these visits were also general community visits meant to involve larger community groups in the process. Between November 2004 and March 2005 there were an additional 39 community visits. Many of these visits were conducted at the request of communities.

These community visits have been successful at raising awareness of the project, raising support for Community Visioning, and raising capacity of facilitators. Several states have now formed groups who are working collaboratively on creation of a Vision Statement. However, no state has as of yet finished a Vision Statement and begun the subsequent strategic action planning.

An additional challenge, and one of the reasons for the high numbers of state visits, was that the Community Visioning Team assumed incorrectly that volunteer facilitators would be comfortable and skilled at working and organizing groups. This assumption has proved to be false. Although the community facilitators are respected in their communities, few of them were skilled at facilitation and in managing group dynamics. Thus the CV Team has conducted training in organizational skills, and enabled a group of facilitators to take part in a conflict resolution workshop that was held in Palau for another project.

 


Representatives and community facilitators from Ngarchelong, Ngardmau, Ngaremlengui, Ngatpang, and Aimeliik gather after the state Community Visioning Workshop in Ngaremlengui. The Governor of Ngaremlengui State is the gentleman standing in the center of the photo.

Activity 2: Hold a workshop on Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation

PCS held a National Workshop in August 2004. In 2005, PCS has held another series of workshops for smaller groups. There were three separate workshops held for regions of Babeldoab (East, West, and Central States). There were also two individual workshops held for states that requested personalized workshops (Angaur and Ngarchelong). The PCS Community Coordinator participated in a Regional Conference (Region 9 EPA Pacific Islands Environment Conference) and in the International Small Islands Voice Conference in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In both international conferences, the Community Coordinator gave presentations on Community Visioning and on community perceptions of the project. The CV Team conducted an in-house Community Visioning Workshop for new PCS staff. Finally, the Minister of Health from the Palau Ministry of Health heard about the Community Visioning Project through third party sources and then requested that the Palau Conservation Society give the Ministry a workshop on the process. These workshops both introduced the project and project concepts and worked participants through the processes of visioning and planning.

During two of the state-based workshops PCS worked with communities to finalize the photo murals. These murals, started during the first phase of the project, depict those things in a community that community members want to preserve and those things that they want to change. The photo murals have then been used a tool to assist states with visioning. In addition, the legislature in Ngaremlengui State has used the photo murals to assist itself with problem solving and drafting of legislation.


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.

Distribution of materials has been an important part of the workshops. PCS has created a toolkit consisting of handouts detailing the process, and these toolkits have been distributed to all participants.

Activity 3: Assist 6 states in preparation of vision statements

PCS has been working with 14 states (out of 16 total), 12 of them actively, to coordinate working groups and facilitators who are working on Vision Statements. This includes 9 states in Babeldoab. So far, no state has completed a Vision Statement.

Activity 4: Facilitate the preparation of community assessments, situation analyses, and long-term goals

These activities remain a challenge due to the slower-than-expected timetable of the Community Visioning Process. No state has completed a Vision Statement, and thus no states are yet ready to move onto the next phases of the project.

Activity 5: Videotape CV Activities for a future video presentation

The CV Team has been actively filming the Community Visioning process, and in addition has worked with communities to identify and record those things in their communities to be recorded for posterity. The goals of the filming are to create state-specific segments that will be used as a record of changes in the state (including those changes that are a result of community visioning) as well as to remind states of what they are seeking to change or preserve. The state-specific segments are planned to be used as tools to assist states with planning.

In addition, the CV Team is taking footage with the goal of creating a video for use both inside and outside Palau. This video will explain and document the entire Community Visioning Process.

The video will be an ongoing process, and PCS will continue to acquire footage, but will also seek additional funding to contract a professional video company to turn the footage into a feature video.

CHALLENGES

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. The process is slow. In the space of the past two years, however, the CV Team has begun to observe enthusiasm for the process and a gradual awakening and acceptance of the project. More and more community members are taking ownership of the project and embracing its ideals. This is evidenced by the high number of requests for community meetings or workshops that PCS has received.


The Governor of Ngaremlengui State, John B. Skebong, leads facilitators and participants in an opening prayer before beginning the state Community Visioning Workshop in Ngaremlengui.

Because the process is so slow, an additional challenge faced by the PCS team is in accomplishing the tasks it set out to do. So far, no state has finished a complete Vision Statement, and thus no state has begun the assessment or planning processes.

A secondary challenges arises out of the belief that change is dependent on money. Many community members have been reluctant to envision future changes because they think it will be impossible to make those visions a reality due to lack of funds. It is for this reason that the Community Visioning Team at PCS has been so heavily involved with the GEF Small Grants Program, a newly-available funding source reserved solely for NGOs and CBOs.

A final challenge comes out of the fact that decision-making is highly politicized, and influenced by changing officials. Often there is a desire to wait until new officers have been elected, but this is a continual delaying process. It is for this reason that PCS has invested so much time in developing the skills of facilitators, who are respected in their communities regardless of political changes, and can thus transcend many of the political pressures facing other community members.

CONCLUSIONS

Despite the challenges and slower-than-expected pace of the project, the CV Team has been able to observe positive changes in the communities where they work. In the beginning of the project, the CV Team observed that most community members were reluctant to speak about the project and questioned the validity of the process. However, the CV Team and other PCS staff have started hearing more positive comments about community visioning, both about the process and the concept of community empowerment. The fact that the Palau Ministry of Health heard about the process through third parties, and then requested a workshop on the process, is further evidence that the concepts of Community Visioning are spreading and becoming more and more embraced by communities.

NEXT STEPS

Upcoming activities include video creation and continual work with communities and facilitators. PCS will continue to encourage the creation of Vision Statements but will accommodate the slower schedule.

 

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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