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If Holistic Community Development is the 'what', Social Learning Circles are the 'how'.

Piloting a practical, scalable framework for community and ecological regeneration, and global mainstreaming

Photo of Richard Hatfield

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Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

See attached image 'Impacts of resource base collapse' with description.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

Collapse of the resource base has at its heart the breakdown of community knowledge, management and confidence. This is the result of many powerful drivers including modern aspirations, cash needs, self-interest, land adjudication, government controls, modern education, insufficient biological knowledge and rising population pressure.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

The essential change is transforming current community disempowerment into empowerment, by putting the process of their own development into communities' hands. Done by co-developing with communities the necessary processes to achieve this, delivered through a social learning process, and focused on social, environmental and livelihoods well-being.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

Process results & impact results. Process results will involve actualization in communities of social learning components. These components are described in the image above 'Impacts of resource base collapse'. These can be in the first year. Anticipated impact results include enhanced collective management capacity, enhanced forage production & water, healthier livestock, decreased stress and competition. Results can start to show from one year but will vary by community.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

1. Video recording the events and change process in each community both as a record and as a tool for introducing new communities in the future.
2. Setting up of the group structures including facilitator and legal status if necessary.
3. Situation assessment and future visioning process by communities.
4. New technical knowledge transfer on land and water regeneration, governance and management options, and livestock value addition through better management and market options.
5. Community prioritization, decision testing, action planning, organisation.
6. Community continuous cycles of implementation, review, learning, re-planning, re-implementation, review, learning.
7. Mentoring support of the above process.
8. Learning exchange between communities and networking to build a Community Of Practice.
9. Dissemination of results and learning, again, preferably by video / whatsapp groups / facebook groups etc for community, NGO and government audiences.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

2 types of partners are involved: first, each community in the 10 sites; second, a group of organisations under the new 'White Mountain' (Mt. Kilimanjaro) initiative, of which we are one. This is a community-led, holistic initiative focused on regeneration of the Kilimanjaro ecosystem & livelihoods; based on wide collaboration amongst all players. Community teams will lead the community processes, facilitated by ourselves; whilst learnings and results will feed into the wider group's efforts.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

BridgeBuilder funds would primarily support testing and refining of the set of core components that together will constitute an effective and efficient community social learning process. It includes most if not all the key steps outlined above over the next 1-3 years.

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

We cannot have peace without prosperity, or prosperity without peace; similarly, we cannot end poverty without healing ecosystems, and we cannot heal ecosystems without ending poverty. Management must be holistic.

To date piloting a holistic approach to development has taught us that change can only be achieved through a process of social transformation; which cannot be done for somebody by somebody else.

Within this approach, social learning has emerged as the key process for solving complex issues - as opposed to expert knowledge. Social learning brings together all the relevant players to share their knowledge and perspectives on problems for which no-one has the full answer. The beauty is that no-one's knowledge displaces another's; there is only addition. Out of which the best actions to test will be agreed, how they should be tested, and by whom.

This is only the start of finding the right answers; social learning involves regular review of actions tested, conclusions, re-planning and re-implementation - as cycles of continuous group learning, based in the local context. As the cycles continue, so do the solutions to complex issues become more visible and achievable.

We would like others to benefit from our experience by mainstreaming social learning as a key process for achieving peace, prosperity and healthy environments.

The specific purpose of this project is to now - through social learning - design, test, refine and record the most effective and efficient models for how to apply social learning in practice including preparation, entry points, participation models, activity sets and organisation, universal facilitation techniques, resource mobilization, etc.

The overall aim is to develop a practical, shareable 'user manual' of best-practices for solving complex, interconnected issues for local and global audiences. The manual will likely use a visual / video platform for communities, development organisations, and policy makers.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Ultimately our idea is applicable to communities everywhere. However, the main beneficiaries at this stage will be the families in 10 pilot Maasai communities, 5 in Kenya and 5 in Tanzania, who number approximately 1000 families (100,000 people) and whose land covers approximately 600,000 hectares (1.4 million acres) supporting some 400,000 livestock and containing some of the richest wildlife populations and most iconic landscapes in Africa.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Different organisations in the Eastern African development and conservation sectors apply parts of an ecological or social approach to their projects. Few, if any, are using an explicit holistic approach. None are applying the structured and comprehensive approach to ecosystem health and productivity that we are; very few are applying the structured and comprehensive approach to social transformation that we are; and none are combining them as drivers of community-desired holistic outcomes.

The confidence in our approach comes from validation from all the communities (approx 15) in which we piloted our approach over the past 10 years. As such, we believe the concept and content has been proven; what is now needed is to combine our learning, principles and techniques into a generic package which can be used by others and ourselves to scale up and out.

We also believe lessons from the East African context can contribute to learning for other contexts across the globe.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

We have mainly worked within internationally-funded development and conservation projects in East Africa to design and implement pilot components to test, refine and provide proof-of-concept for a holistic approach to project contexts, driven by ecological regeneration and social transformation.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Growing up in East Africa, I was always interested in maintaining its rich landscapes, wildlife and cultures, all under threat. This journey began with my thesis in resource economics in a famous US university, 'Why and how do pastoralists overgraze'? Very little of the literature I found made sense. One day I read a popular article 'Rolling back the deserts' describing practical, effective but radical approaches to healing ecosystems. I brought these back to East Africa and built on them.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Core livelihoods in the region based on livestock directly depend on nature. Land and water health and productivity have suffered from mainly poor grazing management, exacerbated by drought and climate change resulting in huge livestock loss of productivity and loss, for example, 90% of herds decimated last year in one site.

Collapse of the resource based has hastened poverty, migration to towns especially by youth, and individual interest resulting in breakdown of community safety nets, management structures, sense of being and loss of hope.

Collapse of the resource base has also resulted in increased conflict over access to grazing and water, both between communities and between livestock and wildlife; whilst fuelling cultivation of land unsuitable for crops, further exacerbating human-wildlife conflict.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

The project will involve both communities and organisations. Communities include Enonkishu and Siana in the famous Maasai Mara of Kenya, 3 communities in Kajiado-Taita region of southern Kenya, and 5 communities in the Manyara-Longido regions of northern Tanzania. We will work with the communities directly on social transformation and ecological regeneration as they help validate effective scaling up prototype model(s). These processes will then be streamlined for further scaling up through Mara Training Centre who train communities in East Africa, Tsavo Heritage which aims to protect the world-famous Tsavo National Park by working with the communities and local governments of 12 surrounding counties (1/4 the size of Kenya); the Nature Conservancy / VSF who are project partners in Tanzania; whilst all learnings and results will be shared and fed into the White Mountain initiative described above.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The communities have the strengths of inclusive management through a traditional collective approach to management, cooperation and living, plus the resources needed to enact ecological healing: land, animals, owners-managers-warriors, and inate knowledge of land and livestock in their context. The youth are keen to stay if they can see that they can make a good living from the land. Communities also have the benefit of the partner organisations who seek to support without dictating.

Geographic Focus

Southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, some of most iconic landscapes and cultures on earth.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

36 months.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No
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Attachments (4)

white-mountain2-2 concept.pdf

White Mountain, Oldoinyo Oibor in the Maasai language, refers to Mt. Kilimanjaro. It is a newly proposed initiative spearheaded by an informal group of organisations, of which we are one, for a Maasai community-led, holistic initiative focused on regenerating the Kilimanjaro ecosystem and its livelihoods. The learnings and results of our idea will be fed into and coordinated with the wider efforts of this initiative.

Il Ngwesi land rehabilitation using livestock.docx

This photo demonstrates land rehabilitation using communities resources-at-hand (in this case, livestock)

LCT July 2014 with HM article P6.pdf

See page 6 of this local newspaper highlighting a case study piloting the approach from Il Ngwesi, Kenya.

Arsim, Kenya results extracts_RHatfield.pdf

This brief document highlights results from one project site in Kenya.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jen Artibello

Hi Richard,

What a challenging topic to take on and something that can have such a huge impact. I have been working in Sierra Leone for the past 5 years and what we have found is that by providing a platform for the community to come together to work on a project opens up opportunities for social cohesion.

I would be very interested in the types of tools you are using within the communities to get at social learning.

Photo of Richard Hatfield

Thanks Jen - I can share more on specific tools that assist but, more than anything, we find its about the process - based on adult learning principles.

Photo of Richard Hatfield

Hi Jen - just to circle back to my reply that I could share tools.. we found the 4-book series 'Training for Transformation' particularly useful (I forget the 2 authors' names). We have also concentrated alot on visioning processes, especially unpacking the past, leading up to the present in order for communities to identify conditions and drivers, and which drivers they can control and which they cannot; before moving on imagining the future they want. To make it easier and actionable, we divide the future vision into 3 parts - BE (the life we want), HAVE (what we need to have that life) and DO (what we need to do to make these happen). 'Do' is focused on broad 'action areas' and these are the needed drivers EG 'balancing traditional and modern values & life'; 'regenerating our soils and waters' etc. These then lend themselves nicely to action planning eg 1-year or 5-year plans etc.

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