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Wan Fambul: National Framework for Inclusive Governance and Local Development in Sierra Leone

Development from the inside-out

Photo of John Caulker
19 12

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

For our user experience research we focused on how women can interact with the People's Planning Process. We visited a group of Peace Mothers who were part of the first Fambul Tok intervention -the community healing process and the bonfires- but were not one of the PPP pilots. A key takeaway was that without the larger system (the PPP and IDC process), the Peace Mother structure was a good local intervention but was not as effective as when fully linked in the larger inclusive gov. system.

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)

The PPP and the broader inclusive organizing process grew out of Fambul Tok’s post-war community reconciliation work and the needs that came from responding to and recovering from the Ebola crisis. Fambul Tok started its work with community reconciliation in response to the externally-driven recovery and development efforts after the war. Most efforts were ‘outside-in’ and did not address the needs or utilize the resources of the communities and community members most impacted by the war. The concepts, design, expertise, leadership and resources came from outside the impacted communities rather than from the communities themselves. Through an inclusive community-centered process, Fambul Tok facilitated the creation of community structures that led their own reconciliation efforts as well as follow-up peace and development initiatives, such as the formation of the Peace Mothers – a women’s group designed to bring women’s leadership to community improvement initiatives.

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)

During the Ebola crisis, the structures FT supported in communities, especially the Peace Mothers, mobilized prevention and response work from within their communities. It was effective. In contrast, the pattern of national and international response, once again repeated ‘outside-in’ patterns, ignoring community voices and missing the opportunity to mobilize local engagement and leadership. This led to an effort between FT, and the Ministry of Local Government to fill the gap nationally.

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)

Today in Sierra Leone community voices are still not put in the centre of the conversation. The Wan Fambul Framework is a national effort to organize community voices, so they can interface with externals (those outside their direct community and those from a national or international level) to mobilize community resources and request specific aid supporting community priorities and initiative. The national framework changes everything, and brings people into the center for the first time.

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)

The change will be sustained by the structures the WFNF supports. The structures will have both the capacity and the mandate to lead and sustain the PPP in an ongoing way. Actors at all levels will be empowered to direct resources to serve people’s needs/agendas. It will take 3 months to see the differences at the local level; 6-12 months to see sustained change at the District level and in new districts. National impacts will be both ongoing and incremental, some immediate and some longer term.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

The WFNF is designed to listen to, learn from and adapt program design from 'beneficiary feedback' as part of its modus. And for this application we had a focused user research phase that illuminated how activities and structures without the overall inclusive supporting system do not allow for as much impact for women's leadership in community decision making. Just creating activities and local structures is not enough. The supportive system is necessary for them to function fully. Aggregating the PPP at the Chiefdom level provides a critical system to support and strengthen the local actors. The longer term support is the IDC, and how it connects to the Chiefdom, which in turn connects to the local -while also being able to connect to the national. This is why a systemic approach to the link between governance and peacebuilding/development is required. As we move forward with the national roll-out phase, this feedback is helping to develop the ways of linking structures to systems.

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)

We are requesting 15 months of funding to kick off the national program -- to get it moving right away and strengthen the foundation as longer-term funds are raised by the government and other partners. We wish to start with a national dialogue and consultations taking the draft framework to every district in the country asking people to improve the framework and make it serve their needs. This type of comprehensive national consultation has never been done. The pilot District IDCs and Fambul Tok will work with the MOPED and MLGRD to guide the consultation process. The consultation process will be done in a way that jump starts the establishment of the IDCs in the new Districts and helps identify key local government and civil society leaders to work with in those Districts. We want to work with this broader group of leaders to roll out the PPP/IDC in a new District, which will support critical experiential training for new implementers of the process and for FT staff as trainers.

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)

The Wan Fambul Secretariat, housed at Fambul Tok, is the working body to support the ongoing design, development, implementation and monitoring of the WFF. It will be the technical coordinating arm of the collaborative partnership. The Nat’l Government will provide oversight and policy guidance, with leadership from the Office of the Vice President. MoPED will be the policy level lead & focus on building to a national People’s Plan; MLGRD will lead implementation & focus on the IDC process.

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

We are requesting BridgeBuilder funds to support the national kick-off dialogue and nation-wide District level consultations (in 10 of the 16 Districts) for the WFF, and also funds to pilot the PPP/IDC process in Kono District, which would be a new district. This would be strengthening the foundation for future WFF implementation in critical ways. And finally we would seek support to fund Secretariat activities--the critical work of strengthening the 'national cup' to prepare for full rollout.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

1. Today the space for civil society engagement is shrinking across the world. What can be done to expand civil society space in developing countries? 2. How can our partnership with the government and others continue to ensure communities remain the main drivers of their own development? When things are scaled how do we protect the process so that it does not become just another business as usual process, where political expediency overrides community needs? 3. Assume government and civil society are collaborating on a specific initiative. How do you ensure sustained engagement after a national or local election when there is a new government? Are there ways to help makes sure one does not have to fully start over again?

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

Our evolution has happened mostly at the national and governmental level. The new government was just taking office as we started this application. Since that time, our relationships with them have gotten clearer and stronger. They are also a 'beneficiary' of the process, and the feedback from them made it clear that in the new government we needed to work with the Ministry of Planning and Development, in addition to the MLGRD. The Vice President indicated he wanted the Framework to help the two Ministries develop healthy collaborative capacity and that his office would help lead that process. With Catalyst for Peace we have designed a learning and planning retreat for both Ministers and the Min. of State for the Office of the VP to be held the first week of September in Washington, DC. Getting out of the country is critical for high level leaders to be able to focus fully, to gain a depth of understanding of the Framework, to cement relationships and to do the next phase of planning.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

FROM CATALYST FOR PEACE: We have seen how building peace and development from the inside-out not only requires new ways of working from communities, from local development stakeholders including local government, from civil society organizations facilitating the process, and ultimately from both the national and local governments - but it also requires new ways of working as funders, and new kinds of funder/recipient relationships. Catalyst for Peace has been both the primary funder and core program partner in this work since the beginning of Fambul Tok, and together we have modeled a mutually healthy relationship, representative of the how funding is not separate from the larger process of social transformation, but rather how it can be a part of that larger process, and a healthy part at that. As we move to implement the Wan Fambul National Framework we recognize that the Framework will not only be working nationally (the work of which is what is already most fully outline in this proposal) but will also have a global dimension, especially through the funding of the process, which after this initial phase is likely to be mostly large (government and IGO) funders. So far, for example, we have had interest and some funding from UNDP and the USG, and also interest and conversation with the JICA, EU, World Bank, and DFID. We see this upcoming phase (for which we are requesting BridgeBuilder funding) as critical in strengthening the national 'container' for engaging the conversation with other government and IGO funding entities from a position of national strength. Catalyst for Peace is especially eager to broaden the global conversation about how to fund local peacebuilding and development but at a national scale - how to fund/support peace and development from the inside-out. We (CfP) also recognize that we will need more voices and more support for that conversation, especially when working with large government and IGO entities. We have seen how private foundations have unique potential not only to work creatively, but also to convene and host conversations with government/IGO funding in ways local and even national peacebuilding actors cannot. We would welcome GHR's partnership in the global funding process and conversation, and, if it is of interest to GHR, we would invite not just funding but also partnership in this next phase of the Wan Fambul National Framework implementation. We can envision intentional collaborative work focused on how to help global funding mechanisms serve the fulfillment of local leadership potential, rather than (even if unintentionally) subvert or deplete it. We could see this collaboration having many potential interested audiences, even beyond the direct scope of this proposal. We have seen from our own experience how having a grounded in-practice context allows conversations to expand learning and impact in uniquely powerful ways. The time is ripe to make significant impact in helping funding accomplish its intended purposes more fully and effectively, and we are convinced the Wan Fambul National Framework process can make a powerful contribution to helping that happen. We aim to strengthen and grow our capacity to do that, hopefully with GHR partnership.

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

There are no big changes to our proposal. It is something we have been working to develop through beneficiary feedback for the past 3-4 years. The one thing thing which has developed over the past three months as we interacted with the OpenIdeo platform is the new Government of Sierra Leone has fully endorsed the Wan Fambul National Framework, even though it was developed in partnership with the leadership of the former government. In an extremely heated, partisan environment such as post-election Sierra Leone this unheard of. The Wan Fambul National Framework was created in a non-partisan, people-focused manner. It is encouraging the new government has recognized the importance of building a people-centered focused national development plan and are ready to work with the foundation which was developed in the 3 pilot districts.

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

In the past two years, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) of Sierra Leone formed a new partnership with Fambul Tok International (LNGO) and Catalyst for Peace (INGO) to develop the Wan Fambul: National Framework for Inclusive Governance and Local Development. The Framework is designed to bring devolution to the next level and development to the doorstep of the people. The Wan Fambul Framework outlines a holistic, community-owned and led process leading to a National People’s Plan, and it is built on the learning from a 3 ½-year comprehensive pilot process in three districts, in Kailahun, Moyamba and Koinadugu. The pilot tested a People’s Planning Process to mobilize communities to lead in their own recovery and development, while also creating an inclusive infrastructure to sustain and support that process. It is anchored in the Districts by an Inclusive District Committee (IDC), coordinating all the District peace and development stakeholders, including the District Councils, Traditional Leaders, MDAs, NGOs/INGOs, CSOs, Women, Youth, Disabled, Inter-Religious, and Community Representatives. Since 2007, Fambul Tok and Catalyst for Peace (CFP) forged an approach to healing, recovery and ongoing development that places people and communities in the very center and at the helm – first through post-war reconciliation, then adapting to Ebola recovery and culminating in the People’s Planning Process. The People’s Planning Process (PPP) is an inclusive community mobilization and engagement process for community welfare and development. The process has built structures that are helping resolve long standing conflict and engaging communities to champion their own recovery and development. Inclusive District governance structures (IDCs) are then built to support/sustain the process. This ‘inside-out’ approach repairs the torn fabric of community and builds social immunity for the next crisis, helping break an endless crisis/response cycle.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The beneficiaries of the Wan Fambul Framework are the citizens of Sierra Leone. The Wan Fambul Framework offers a vision of a whole, inter-connected Sierra Leone, undivided by region, ethnicity and partisan political affiliation. Research has demonstrated that strengthening social capital with particular reference to the proxies of trust, collective action, inclusion, local groups and networks, and information and communication as embodied in the principles of the planning methods below, is relevant for peace and development operations in rural community levels. By offering “a new way of doing business” the WFF demonstrates Sierra Leoneans can live as “Wan Fambul” and value the gifts diversity brings. Institutions and structures and people are part of the Wan Fambul Framework, including: District Councils, Traditional Leaders, MDAs, NGOs/INGOs, CSOs, Women, Youth, Disabled, Inter-Religious, and Community Representatives.

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

Genuine ownership is fostered. Fambul Tok has a three-layer approach to development: 1. The PPP mobilizes every village to define their own development needs and priorities, while also establishing gender-positive local inclusive governance structures that put implementation of local solutions squarely in the hands of local populations. Village representatives work together with their neighboring villages to address priority needs, even before outside aid is available, creating networks of empowered local leaders, with specific emphasis on women, and unleashing powerful local energy and resources for development. 2. The IDC fosters cross-sector coordination, addresses District conflicts and challenges, and allows District leadership in the ongoing rollout of the PPP. It fills the communications gaps to enable responsive service delivery to the people; 3. Development of a national policy framework to support grass-root development efforts.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Full Scale Roll Out: I have already tested and scaled this idea significantly with the intended user base.

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

Fambul Tok is the inspiration and creation of the people of Sierra Leone, drawing on Sierra Leone’s “family talk” tradition of discussing and resolving issues within the security of a family circle. As a result, our approach is rooted not in western concepts of crime and punishment but in communal African sensibilities that emphasize the need for communities to be whole – with each and every member playing a role.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

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

“We are saying deal with Ebola in a way that structures will be in place to handle post-Ebola discussions, because experience or history has taught us that Ebola – there’s always a possibility that it will come again. So how do we put in place structures in the communities, in the districts, in the villages, to ensure that once Ebola comes again, we’ll have structures in place to deal with that immediately and it [won’t] get to where we are now.” — John Caulker, Executive Director of Fambul Tok

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

Peace, prosperity and planet are integrity connected in Sierra Leone. In Sierra Leone when community mobilizers ask, “What kinds of problems contribute to the brokenness in our communities?” The answers one hears from both the community as well as the institutions related to the dire poverty found in rural and urban areas, to communal and personal conflict at all levels of a broken society, and to the changing climate which cases mudslides like the one in September 2017 outside of Freetown where 1,200 people were killed one morning at 6 am. The People’s Planning Process acknowledges that the cup needs to be repaired—the community needs to be made whole—before any more water can be poured in, and it focuses resources and programming first in ways that repair the cup. Supporting communities to lead a process of community healing, and bringing communities together to create and own their own development agenda, repair the cracks in the cup.

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

The Wan Fambul Framework is designed to support the MLGRD and the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development (MOPED) in facilitating the process for the next 5 years in order to develop a National People’s Plan that is owned by the people from the sections, chiefdoms and districts up to the national level.

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

Like Fambul Tok, the Wan Fambul Framework originated in the realization peace can’t be imposed from the outside, or from the top down. Nor does it need to be. The community led, and owned reconciliation process Fambul Tok supports, witnesses and celebrates in Sierra Leone illustrates communities have within them the resources they need for their own healing.

Geographic Focus

Sierra Leone

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

15 months

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

  • No
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Team (4)

Angi's profile
Angi Yoder Maina

Role added on team:

"Technical Advisor to the Wan Fambul Secretariat, including the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development."

John's profile
Libby's profile
Libby Hoffman

Role added on team:

"Director of Catalyst for Peace, co-developer of the Fambul Tok program and the "in-side out" development model, and core partner in developing the Wan Fambul Framework."

Aminata's profile
Aminata Sheriff

Role added on team:

"Wan Fambul Secretariat Program Manager"


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tom Smolich SJ

Dear John and Fambul Tok Team:

Congratulations on making it this far in the Challenge. I am the advisor matched to your proposal for feedback. I hope you and others who read this feel free to add to or challenge my contributions.
1. Today the space for civil society engagement is shrinking across the world. What can be done to expand civil society space in developing countries?
The Wan Fambul project is a great model for expanding that civil space, as you are integrating it into existing personal and governmental structures which allows it to draw on existing spaces and ties to thrive and expand. Civil space is inhabited by people, so the more people know of it and participate in it, the stronger it remains. Two other thoughts which might be helpful:
** Social media: the power of a photo/image/video/personal testimony can be powerful when the communication is coordinated around a unifying idea like civil space. I'm sure you have met some young people who have a real flair for this kind of work: give them some structure, and put them to it!
**Partners in social space: I was struck by Jill LaLande's comment as someone else working in Sierra Leone. No matter how good your project is, it won't be for everyone. Building coalitions with like-minded group is essential to keeping civil space open. Beyond this, I would encourage you to tap the power of faith communities across religious beliefs. Faith communities also function as civil networks, and they can help expand the one you are building.
2. How can our partnership with the government and others continue to ensure communities remain the main drivers of their own development? When things are scaled how do we protect the process so that it does not become just another business as usual process, where political expediency overrides community needs?
**The civil space dimension of your work is critical to protecting and maintaining the process. If you can keep that dimension place, you are more than halfway there.
** Keep your process outcomes focused. We can all get seduced/thrown off track by inputs (satisfaction with gaining a government meeting) or outputs (promises from a government official, the beauty of Wan Fambul structure [which it is!]). Making sure that the conversation is outcomes focused from the outset (what will be the concrete outcomes/why will this make a difference in my life) is crucial. I like your image that the broken cop needs to be fixed before it can be filled. Keep a focus on what will ultimately fill it!
**The project will need donors for financial (and possibly technical) success. Do your best to make these donors partners, people/organizations deeply invested in the process itself who can help keep the right focus when things get complicated. No one wants to say no to financial support.

3. Assume government and civil society are collaborating on a specific initiative. How do you ensure sustained engagement after a national or local election when there is a new government? Are there ways to help makes sure one does not have to fully start over again?
Most of my work has been in the humanitarian sector, so I cannot offer specific experiences. But from a community organizing perspective, I think you want to make it easier for a new national government to engage you than to not do so. This is done by pulling together everything above: your structure, your coalition partners, people filling civic spaces, social media, partners with financial backing, etc. make it in the new government's "enlightened self interest" to engage you. Especially with the power of social media, I suspect this is doable in ways not imaginable in the past.

Congratulations on this effort. Your responses to Ashley and Gayanjith give a broader picture of what you are doing, and make the story even more compelling and real. I wish you all the best.

Tom Smolich SJ
Jesuit Refugee Service

Photo of John Caulker

Thanks Tom for your comments and thoughts. Our new civil society and government leadership team is meeting in DC in early August and we will also looking at answering some of these same questions.

All the best,


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