ON COMMUNITY VISIONING ACTIVITIES IN PALAU
PALAU CONSERVATION SOCIETY
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.
1: Work with community leaders as they introduce project
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.
Obi Skebong, PCS Community Conservation Coordinator, and Bernadette
Keldermans, Community Coordinator and Community Visioning
Team Leader, are the faces of the Community Visioning Project
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.
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.
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.
2: Hold a workshop on Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation
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.
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.
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.
3: Assist 6 states in preparation of vision statements
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.
4: Facilitate the preparation of community assessments, situation
analyses, and long-term goals
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.
5: Videotape CV Activities for a future video presentation
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.