The search conference and the community based survey were introduced to two ongoing streams of endeavour, participatory community media and the development of community leadership capacity.
The project was designed in careful, step-by-step increments but implemented with flexibility based on perception of the work and human needs at the time.
The experience has also been an experiment in networking community development professionals through the internet - locally by email, web board and website and nationally by email and videoconferencing.
Next steps may be a search conference series for the region and a "participative web server" designed to provide direct user input and control. These initiatives will become proposals for future evolution.
Project name: Enlarging the Circle: Enhancing Community Leadership Capacity
Project number: NF-0014-CD
Organization Name: Community Education Network
Contact name: Beverley Kirby
Address: Box 5600, 31-37 Gallant Street
Telephone number: 709-643-4891
Fax number: 709-643-5490
Enlarging the Circle springs from two ongoing initiatives - the evolution of community media and the development of community leadership groups. The Community Education Network also recognized the potential of interweaving two new threads - search conference design and community-based "zap" surveys.
The project proposed to enhance leadership skills in the region by providing support and guidance for community leaders and facilitators in implementing community media forums and learning about the design of community search conferences.
2. Proposed project
We propose to help three rural community regions develop capacity to implement effective community media public consultation forums to collectively "do strategic planning and implement these plans."
We will partner with two already established core groups (Port au Port and Bay St. George South) whose
members already have experienced training in "community leadership". We plan to work with a community media committee in the Stephenville area.
The project facilitators will work with the community leadership committees, a community media committee, the zone board development officers and the development associations. Additional information can be found at http://www.ryakuga.org/rural/
The focus of our community training activity will be community forum preparation, implementation and follow up. A community forum is a facilitated public meeting which also features cultural celebration. It is interactive within the community and typically includes moderated panels of local people with "phoneins and
The forum itself would be enhanced by other mixed media tools - for example, internet webcasting and discussion boards. In a sense, the forum is the "tip of the iceberg" representing planning, public
mobilization, promotion, dissemination and ongoing consultation and evaluation. Our process therefore includes identifying specific local issues, using community media for a focused discussion and implementing
follow-up procedures for community learning.
The public consultation forums will be complemented by practical community media training. This would mean training practitioners in utilizing the technology. We will be partnering to build skills in the
As part of the process to develop the capacity for local implementation of community forums, three community forums will be facilitated in each subregion. Tools used for the implementation of community forums include community communications needs, skills and resources assessments; local dissemination through traditional communication channels; community radio/television, and webcasting to bring in expatriates. We will use a "virtual office" for reporting and networking.
Our proposal is also an evolutionary step in a continuous community communications concept which began locally with the Port au Port community television public forums in 1993.
Furthermore, it is a learning from the Sharing Our Future communications experiment. Specifically, communities and local facilitators need support and guidance in order to establish the practice of effective
community media public consultation forums.
The second thread of our proposal is a design team planning module for a community search conference. Community search conferences originated in Australia in the 1970s. The process is now being implemented in Canada - as, for example, in Brandon, Manitoba. A community search conference is a carefully planned and designed event in which a community plans its own future and takes responsibility for making it happen. The basic concept is that responsibility is located with the people who have to live with the consequences of their actions and the plan.
Community searches usually follow the simple classical design of exploring the external social environment, the system which is the town, industry or issue and then integrating these into a set of strategies and detailed action plans to achieve their most desirable future.
Developing the search proposal is ancillary to developing the capacity for local implementation of community forums. The commonality between a community forum and a search conference is they are both issue based. They are complementary in that the community forum can provide the "diffusion" of the search to the community at large. Diffusion is important both to increase community awareness before the search and to make known the results of the search.
The third thread of our proposal is adding zap surveys to our evaluative procedure. Our traditional evaluative process combined collecting quantitative data through online reporting and qualitative data by means of a videotaped participatory evaluation.
The community at large will benefit. Youth will learn media skills. The Long Range RED Board's economic development staff will benefit from new communication tools. The process will also provide support for CEN implementation of its community communications plan.
3. Project activities
Enlarging the Circle focuses on using technology - community communication tools - but the most important components are face to face meetings. The facilitators of each component - community forum, search design and zap surveys - have gone to the communities to meet with the local committees.
Each meeting with the local committees has been a work meeting for planning actual events. It helps that each subregion has now community media plans which fit very well with this project.
Three FM radio special events and webcasts were implemented in each subregion. This promoted the project and encouraged the local committees.
The public consultation forums were complemented by practical community media training. This also meant training practitioners in utilizing the technology. We collaborated to build skills in the
Representatives of each committee and the community-at-large participated in a full day search design workshop. The search conference and participative design managers personally contacted most of the participants before the workshop.
A proposal is being developed for a zonal search conference series.
The zap survey facilitator prepared, implemented and analyzed surveys distributed in the Bay St. George South subregion.
The economic development officers met with the local committee members as intermediaries between the steering committee and the communities. The steering committee communicated electronically (except for one meeting) and the advisory committee communicated by email and software videoconferencing.
Internet communication activities included webcasts, videoconferencing and the "virtual office" - website, web board and email.
4. Anticipated results:
The Community Education Network is working with the search conference and participative design managers to prepare a search conference series proposal.
The Bay St. George South Area development Association has received informal approval from CRTC for an FM licence. They hope to set up a radio station later this year.
The media club at the Lourdes high school is producing programs on community TV. This is expected to continue.
The community forum facilitator met with representatives of L'Association Regionale du Cote Ouest to suggest how their radio station can be reactivated.
A plan has also been proposed so Stephenville youth facilitators can resume programming on community television. The school board has approved establishing a community television studio at the L.S. Eddy building in Stephenville.
It is anticipated that videoconferencing will accepted as a valid communication tool by community development professionals in the region. Communities In Schools Newfoundland is planning to adopt the medium.
The virtual office - using a web board, website and email as a communication tool for community development professionals - will continue to evolve in the region. The next step is to develop a "participative web server" with user-controlled programs.
Youth participated in all the community media events. One would expect that youth will continue to participate as volunteers.
Local committee members and community development professionals have skills in implementing community forums. This process is now recognized as an important expectation of community media events.
Major obstacles encountered
1. Describe problems encountered during the course of the project? Who raised them? What were the causes? What impact did they have? What corrective action was taken to remedy the situation?
The major problems were the weather (worst winter in 100 years) and the truncated timeline of the project (three months instead of five months). We rewrote the workplan to include all activities. The weather perhaps reduced the number of face-to-face meetings in favour of electronic communication but all events and workshops took place. For example, there was a storm the day of the first Stephenville event but we went ahead anyway and our volunteers turned out despite the storm.
We perceive Enlarging the Circle to be a segment in an 18 year old history of participatory communications in sou'west Newfoundland. Our philosophy therefore is now to dwell on obstacles but rather on what we can do differently in the future. Within the timeline, we must work with the parameters of project funding rather than core funding.
The truncated timeline including all activities also meant less time for reflection, analysis and face to face meetings.
2. Is anything hindered through working in a partnership? (Provide concrete examples.)
During the evolution of participatory communications in souwest Newfoundland, we have developed basic principles which inform our work.
Two of these principles are collaboration and local control.
The Bay St. George area, in particular, has a long history of working in partnership without "turf" issues. It was a birthplace of the co-operative movement in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In other words, the common or ordinary way of our day-to-day work is in partnership.
Working in partnership obviously goes hand-in-hand with projects which emphasize local control.
However, both concepts play havoc with a project design which has been written without the full participation of all partners and local committees.
A number of factors are at play here. Without core funding, the proposal writer are at best hoping the proposal will be accepted. If there are no funds for proposal writing, it must be done in an expedient manner. Prospective partners will be consulted, of course, but there is not time to fully include everybody in the proposal writing.
The proposal, when and if funded, is taken to the partners and local committees in detail. We tried to make this process participatory with proposed collaboration agreements which we asked to be signed as social contracts. Again we were restricted by the timeframe.
So our basic course of action was to take our careful, step-by-step plan and be as flexible as possible in implementation.
3. What were the unintended and or/negative outcomes of the program?
There were no unintended negative outcomes.
4. Regarding lessons learned, what would your recommended do's and don'ts be to anyone else undertaking this type of project?
A participatory evaluations is essential but try to get it funded as a separate project.
Hire experienced facilitators and managers for the different streams of the project.
Try to fund a preliminary project (Office of Learning Technologies format) to build partnerships and collaboration agreements prior to startup.
Think of a participatory communications project in a defined geographic area as a segment in a long timeline. Community development is a lengthy incremental process.
Make sure that your virtual efforts are designed to enhance rather than replace human contact.
Stress collaboration and local control.
Tap the skills of youth volunteers.
1. Who are the recipients of your project/services?
The primary recipients were the people at the community forums. Typically this would include members of the local committee, youth volunteers, leaders of youth groups, community groups and individuals being interviewed and making presentations, and musicians/cultural groups.
Other recipients would be members of the community who tuned in to the broadcasts and expatriates who listened to webcasts.
Secondary recipients would be members of the communities which will benefit from the advanced leadership skills of the participants and their anticipated increased engagement in community development.
2. How are the recipients informed about the project (referrals, ads, print, radio, TV, etc)?
The primary recipients were informed by word of mouth through the networks of the partners, by email and by the website and the web board.
The community at large was informed about the broadcasts and webcasts by PSAs on the community cable channels and mainstream media; posters; announcements in schools; flyers placed in every mail box (Bay St. George South), and the website.
3. How did you monitor your service delivery and what have you learned?
Our monitoring of the primary recipients was carried out by email, the web board and reviewing "lessons learned" at local committee meetings.
We also used video interviews and a video camera set up at the events.
4. How did you monitor or modify the project operations on an ongoing basis?
The project was carefully designed with a precise workplan and timeline.
We began the project with collaboration agreements which were discussed and signed (appendix c).
However, in the central area we found ourself working with an adhoc group of agencies supporting youth development rather than a community media group as planned. This group decided not to follow the step-by-step design and started with a youth organization event which they designed rather than choose a cultural event. Their second event became two events - one a community forum they implemented and the other a school event produced by students with the support of the community media facilitator. For the most part (with notable exceptions) the committee was hands off on the third event which was implemented by a youth organization outside the committee with support of the community media facilitator.
We originally planned our community forum workshops as discrete events. However, the workshops for the committees were redesigned in conjunction with community visits by the zap survey facilitator. The community media facilitator then designed a subsequent workshop which was implemented as part of the live community events.
We completed all activities proposed in the project but the inevitable need to be very flexible in geting all people out to meetings and events suffered because of the need to finish the project in the shorter time period. One economic development officer salt sometimes "like hanging on".
5. What types of reports did you receive and provide over the course of your project? Who was the intended audience and what was the purpose of the reports?
Originally our five month proposal was intended to give time to bring more people "up to speed" on the "virtual office" concept.
We intended to collect reports by email and web board. Electronic reporting was adopted by some recipients but not others.
The virtual office concept has worked well with some recipients and not others. Communities In Schools has developed the concept by insisting all employees report regularly on the web board. This is more difficult with volunteers. But we introduced the process to one committee member (a fisherwoman) who had just set up and internet account.
One individual, the central zone economic development offficer, used the virtual office to great advantage. Ryakuga set up email lists for all interested committee members.
Still, for some people the telephone and face to face meetings were the only effective communication tools.
The search design manager communicated with most of his contacts regularly by telephone.
Ryakuga prepared a website which includes photo slide shows of all the events.
The interim project report was published on the website.
6. How did you communicate the outcomes to the recipients or your program/services (print, news releases, radio, TV, etc.)?
The project was discussed in meetings with the committees, by email and on the web board.
All information is being archived on the website and will continue as audio files are processed and new developments take place (such as the search conference proposal).
The zap survey report will be archived on the website as well. The web board will continue to be maintained.
The project included webcasting/community radio components so it disseminated to the community at large by what it did. The project was discussed during the broadcasts.
1. Project objectives
(a) What were the project objectives?
The objectives are to increase the community media implementation capacity of community leaders and to design a search conference, with the goal of enhancing leadership skills in the region.
1. To facilitate community forum skills development workshops in the communities.
2. To implement a step-by-step community forum learning process in three sub-regions to facilitate community dialogue and broaden the base of community planning.
3. To facilitate information gathering meetings and a design workshop for a community search conference.
4. To evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of the proposed initiative.
(b) Specify and provide details on how you met your objectives.
The facilitators worked directly with community "leaders" in planning meetings, workshops and community media events. Many of the responsibilities of carrying out community events have been carried out by the "leaders". The search conference workshop included a practical design experiment. A regional series of searches proposal is underway.
1. Nine community forum skills workshops were facilitated in the region. In addition, one-on-one training sessions were conducted at community media events. Youth also learned practical production skills in an informal learning environment.
2. A step-by-step learning process was designed and introduced in each subregion. However, in practice, it was not followed. In other words, the events took place but did not follow the design of first implementing a media event around a existent community cultural event; then a community forum led by the facilitator, and finally a community forum implemented by the local committee.
3. The information gathering meetings (one in each subregion) and the design workshop for the community search conference (attended by 23 people from the region) were facilitated according to the workplan.
4. A constant analysis of the implementation was carried out in the day to day correspondence of the committees. Participatory evaluation video interviews were also conducted and a video camera was set up for documentation and evaluation at the community media events. Dr. Ivan Emke designed, implemented and analyzed a "zap survey" (Appendix A) in the Bay St. George South subregion.
2. Implementation of project activities
(a) What activities have you undertaken?
The zone board field workers liaison with three local committees before Jan. 20. In the central area the committee chosen is the youth initiatives committee which is more subregional than the Stephenville community media committee.
The field workers communicate with the sponsor and the facilitators by email and phone.
The community forum facilitator prepares a prototype collaboration agreement; a proposed work plan; a virtual office for reporting and networking; a prototype community forum manual, and a prototype website before Jan. 20.
This information is transmitted to partners, field workers, and committees by email and on a website. Hard copies are given to the fieldworkers.
The community communications facilitator prepares for and meets with the three local committees by Feb. 4.
The facilitator follows up on the meetings with an email list; additions to the website and postings on the web board.
Local committees negotiate workplans and sign collaboration agreements by Feb. 4. The prototype community forum manuals are distributed to the field workers.
This information is made available on the website.
The search design manager prepares for and meets with the three local committees by Feb. 4.
The search design manager reports in the virtual office space. He also follows up on the meetings by telephone communication.
The field workers and local committees negotiate agreements to host cultural events (in the central subregion this is replaced by a youth network general meeting).
Application is made for three FM special events.
Three special events are broadcast and webcast by Feb. 22. Local people operate the equipment and speak on air.
Photos of the events are archived on the website.
Lessons learned are discussed with each local committee.
Components of the community forum workshop are prepared and delivered to each local committee by Feb. 27. Members are asked to sign up for onsite training during the actual events.
Committee members are given hard copies of workshop information and the field worker is also given a prototype community radio manual. This information is available on the website.
The zap survey facilitator prepares a prototype survey and meets with each local committee by Feb. 27.
Committee members are given hard copies of the survey. It is also available on the website.
Application is made for six FM special events.
Six special events are broadcast and webcast in March. Local people prepare programming, operate the equipment and speak on air. One-on-one workshops are offered at the events.
In addition, a school at Stephenville Crossing designs and implements a full day of broadcasting to the community.
On March 11, the search design manager and a colleague from Montreal facilitate a workshop for 23 people from the region. The steering committee meets for a face-to face consultation. Most "discussions" are conducted by email, web board and telephone.
The zap survey facilitator mails out 677 survey forms to residents of Bay St. George South.
Committee members were interviewed on video and a video camera was set up at the special events for documentation and evaluation.
The advisory committee meets five times in a software videoconferencing experiment.
(b) Describe how the project operated (e.g., how services were offered, delivered, received and by whom, processes used, etc.)
The project operated with three committees (flat structure) - steering, local and advisory. The timeline of the project ran in three streams - the community media events, the search design workshop and the zap survey.
Each stream was designed and facilitated as a separate component but explanation to the local committees and delivery was integrated.
The economic development officers (all local people) served as liaison between the steering committee and local committees and took an active part in each stream.
The advisory committee (community development and community networking professionals from across the country) discussed the project streams using experimental (and free) videoconferencing software.
Training for the community media events followed an informal, popular education format. Youth learned production and documentation skills while committee members learned principles of community forum design.
The search conference manager met with the groups and followed up initial discussion with telephone calls and emails. Participants at the workshop itself included local, advisory and steering committee members.
The community-at-large was involved as participants in the community events and listeners to the FM special event broadcasts. The zap surveys were mailed out to the community in the Bay St. George South area.
The webcasts were listened to in Canada and as far away as Korea but there is no indication as to the number of people who participated.
(c) Are project activities consistent with the objectives of the project? Have you changed what you originally set out to do? Describe what changed and why?
For the most part, activities were consistent with the objectives of the project. The most significant factors of change were because of the compression of a five month project into three months and "the worst winter of 100 years" which made travel impossible in some cases for a wekk at a time (Port au Port - January).
However, these factors simply made implementation more difficult and did not affect the content of the implementation itself.
In the central subregion, we had originally intended to work with a community media group but our partners felt it is currently too dysfunctional to be of use. So we worked with a youth umbrella committee representing a variety of groups serving youth throughout the subregion.
The intent was to implement the community media events in three stages - first a community cultural event (around Christmas), then an event with the community media facilitator taking the lead, and finally an event facilitated by the local committee.
There was some difficulty finding cultural events in January so the central committee decided to broadcast a gathering of regional youth from the Community Youth Network. Local cultural events were found on the Port au Port Peninsula and in Bay St. George South.
For the second event, the central committee was quite prepared to coordinate another event in Stephenville Crossing - this included community panel discussion around environmental and youth issues. A second unpredicted event happened in this community when the school produced its own community programming for a full day.
The third event in the central area was given to another group (a 25 year old youth group not represented on the committee) who were assisted by the facilitator and several other members of the committee. But they coordinated their own event.
The process in Bay St. George South was influenced by the local partners focusing on gaining skills and advice for the implementation of their own radio station. A core group of youth played an active role and an attempt was made to reach out to the community, especially older residents (the second special event was held in a senior citizen's residence.)
On the Port au Port L'Association Regionale du Cote Ouest became a new partner in the project and it was expected that the second media event would help reactivate their own defunct radio station. The final Port au Port event was broadcasting/webcasting the annual meeting and discussions of the area development association.
During this process the facilitator gave support and advice to the committees but local decisions over-rode the intial design.
(d) Provide evidence that activities met your community needs.
The entire project was initiated with collaboration agreements which were discussed and signed by members of the committees.
Committee members themselves - including most steering committee members - were from the participating communities.
The search design workshop began with a list of expectations and ended with a clinic which allowed for discussion of implementation in local communities or organizations.
The "zap survey" was introduced to each committee for discussion and revisions before it was ent to the community.
The community media events were planned and produced by members of the community. Youth were enthusiastic volunteers that operated all equipment and performed many of the on-air roles.
The events themselves were designed to meet the information and cultural needs of the local communities.
Recommendation/Lessons Learned/Best Practices
3. What has made your project unique and can it be replicated (Please explain why/why not)?
The project was unique in its use of mixed media (special event FM radio/webcasting/interactive website/videoconferencing); its blending of community media, search conference design, and the collaborative approach.
It can be replicated under specific conditions. Tutorials and advice will be archived on the website and the partners have agreed to provide support. However, each stream of the project requires experienced facilitation or management. It couldn't, for example, just be dumped on a group of volunteers. The area of Bay St. George has a long history of partnership and collaboration. Groups and individuals are used to working together on community development projects without "turf warfare."
4. What actions would you recommend to prevent problems/obstacles during the course of your project and how would you recommend remedying them.
The major problems with implementation of Enlarging the Circle were weather (the worst winter in 100 years) and time (the project was designed for five months but truncated to three.) Nevertheless, all activities in the workplan were carried out.
Using electronic communication helped somewhat but our philosophy is that virtual communication follows real human contact. So, despite the wether and shortened time frame we made sure all facilitators conducted planning meetings with the local committees. The community forum facilitator met repeatedly with the committees.
But essentially we were involved in a community development process which is by definition a long term and incremental evolution. There simply wasn't time to bring everybody involved "up to speed" so some individuals benefitted more than others.
The answer would simply be to stage the implementation of a similar project over a longer time frame.
The second solution - again related to longer time - would be to divide a similar project into two stages, and use the first to build partnerships and develop full understanding of the project. We did use collaboration agreements but more time could have been spent in building consensus of direction.
5. What advice would you give to others if they want to replicate your project.
If possible, implement a prior stage which would be used to cement partnerships and collaboration agreements.
Make sure the facilitators are experienced in community implementation of their content areas.
Plan carefully but respect local autonomy and be flexible in implementation. Participatory communication processes only work if the community "buys in" and takes ownership.
6. What lessons have you learned from the development and implementation of your project?
Participatory evaluations are a lot of work and difficult to implement as additions to an ongoing project. However, our experience is that they are invaluable in collecting advice from stakeholders on how to finetune a process and share it with others.
Following the community media events, we typically discussed lessons learned which were then applied to subsequent events. See appendix e.
It's difficult to facilitate both the participatory production and community forum content components of a community media event. They should be seen as separate facilitation areas.
Collaboration agreements should be designed and agreed upon before the startup of a project.
7. What,if anything would you do differently next time?
The changes we would implement would necessitate a much longer timeline for the project. Perhaps, if we had known for sure the project proposal would have been funded, we could have spent more time with prospective partners before the startup date.