“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” - Thomas Jefferson
AS LEADERS or simply followers, we all have it in mind. We want to progress and see development happening in our respective communities. But what development and progress do we want specifically for our communities. That is what divides or unites us.
That tension in development project implementation must constantly be balanced by good leaders. Granted that majority of the Project stakeholders would finally agree on their goals and objectives they would yet splinter into groups on how things must be done.
But with just those few statements, we can already see what is basically needed to get community development and progress going: 1) Leaders and followers; 2) Goals and objectives; and, 3) How things could be carried out in a system? Whether long or short-term, stakeholders must also agree on how that system would look like.
In the implementation of agricultural or rural development projects, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have these suggestions on how community development should be done. First, beneficiaries of community development must contribute to the planning of a project.
Second, beneficiaries should participate actively in the implementation and evaluation of development projects and share fully in its benefits.
In the Department of Agriculture, we have in many ways complied with the requirements of such participation. On a number of occasions, I find beneficiaries also added to the organized structure for participation innovating on the existing structure and its intricate details.
While effective beneficiary participation is indispensable to successful project implementation, according to the FAO, few projects have “explicit designs to attain effective participation.”
An FAO study found out that development projects are yet implemented into two categories:
First conventional projects are implemented with “pre-designed project frameworks (objectives, action plans, inputs, outputs and time schedules) mainly based upon top-down planning. Many of them are large-scale, capital-intensive and heavily staffed. The projects are meant for all people in a certain area who are mostly not consulted beforehand on their needs and desires,” the study noted.
Second, the study noted that participatory development projects are implemented that deliberately promotes participation incorporated in their objectives, approach, and methodology.
While both try to promote participation the distinction between the two is that in the practice of participation, it is basically conceived in the latter laterally and vertically or both ways depending on the consultations done with the beneficiaries and their expressed needs.
Depending on what is the best approach to follow – conventional or participatory – beneficiaries and implementers of development projects must really agree to work together to realize goals and objectives. What they need to have is “proper plans and proper standards” promoting quality of life and protecting the environment, with a structure of implementation overseen by the right local people.
The next important concern is to ensure that community development projects are properly and successfully implemented, These are facilitated largely by stakeholders where the need for the project emanated. Gone are the days when expectations for project implementation lies with proponent government agencies in a top-down manner.
But traditional ways are hard to change. That is why local leaders needlessly blame others for the work they themselves are neglecting to face and are accountable to. It does not help the cause of community development in challenging times like these.
Simply occupying positions must be the least among the many concerns of community leaders today. They must continuously consult with their people, study and understand development problems, needs, aspirations; what is needed to be done; how must things be done and lead their people well.
People and their leaders are the authors of their community’s progress and together help create common and shared happiness.