Beads - Passion for Facilitation

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Blog about learning/change, facilitation, systems: small groups and large scale processes, and poverty/power/progress.

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Informal networks: circles of influence tool

With Aung San Suu Kyi Voted into parliament, everybody wants to be in Myanmar at the moment, so I feel especially fortunate that my old friends from Metta invited me to come back and work with them at this important juncture in history.

I had a very interesting few days in far away Naugn Kham, about three hours drive from the famous Inle Lake in Shan State. Naung Kham is a center for action-research in agricultural and rural development. One of the members of the Pa-O National Organisation had started a demonstration farm in Naung Kham in the 60s, but the PNO were keen to have Metta run it in a new way. The center will soon continue to run without external financial support, something that it's sister center in Alam, Kachin State has already been doing for about 5 years now. How is that for sustainability!

In case you thought nothing has happened in Myanmar the past two decades, you can't be more wrong. Metta in particular has emerged as a strong national player that is ready to make the most of the opportunities as the country opens up. Metta works in various sectors, but is most known for its work on the system of rice intensification which it promotes through Farmer Field Schools (FFS). Over the years, Metta has trained more than 700 facilitators and established at least 1300 FFS. These FFS have trained 33,700 farmers. Participating farmers achieve a 63% increase in rice yield compared to baseline. 

Metta has come a long way since I moved to Vietnam about five years ago. I was particularly encouraged by the result of the 'circles of influence' exercise. I designed it for the workshop which brought Metta's three action-research centers together in Naung Kham. The 'circles of influence' help participants think about their current connections and how these could be harnessed, for instance in the light of the changes in the country. Naung Kham is an isolated place, so the people working at the center where struck by the number and reach of the connections they actually have. It made them think more strategically about the influencing change through their informal network.

The Tool: network mapping, circles of influence

Draw a flipchart with four spheres of influence, local, regional, national and international around the organisation which does the exercise. Participants use cards to represent people and organisations with whom they are currently connected. Colors can represent the types of actors (e.g. government, society, business). In this case, orange cards represent Metta projects and branch offices, and cards with a red border are organisations with whom a relationship could be developed in the future.

Questions for reflection:

  1. What insights do you gain when you considering the pattern of your network?
  2. Which connections are most important for achieving your goals? Is this reflected by the amount of time you spend nurturing these relationships?
  3. Which connections would you like to strengthen and why?
  4. Considering the changes in the country, would new relationships need to be developed?
  5. What are the three things you would like to do now to gain more influence through your network?

 

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