In the young democracy of Tunisia, civil society is developing rapidly. Many citizen initiatives, community projects and associations are currently being started all over the country. But a great idea and enthusiasm in itself are not enough to ensure a successful project. Often, initiators of these projects lack sufficient funding, project management skills and a useful network in order to build a sustainable initiative with significant impact.
Luckily, several European development cooperation programs support the growth of civil society initiatives in Tunisia. ‘Houmtek’ (‘my Neighbourhood’) is one of those programs. It provides five teams of people who have an idea for a project for their own neighbourhood with the opportunity to participate in a capacity building trajectory. We were asked to provide a one-week training for these participants.
Unlike many other capacity building courses, our focus was on the development of the teams and the personal growth of the individuals launching the projects, rather than on their technical skills. The underlying rationale is that a project can only be successful and sustainable when the people carrying and building it are intrinsically motivated, fully aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and able to attract the necessary support within their network and beyond.
Our training week started with exploring the individual strengths and personal ambitions from each of the 15 participants for their projects. Then, we focused on team building and group dynamics. Participants discovered how to build a strong team, how to work efficiently together and how to present their ideas in a personal and authentic way. Powerful exercises, practical assignments and (reflecting on) personal experiences were the main ingredients of the course (rather than lectures).
After five intense days of training, each project team had redefined their project, had engaged in dialogue with their target audience, had finetuned their personal focus and was able to explain and present their project in an attractive and concise way to stakeholders. And best of all, the first phone calls and little implementation steps were already realized during the week.
Participants left the training focused, full of energy and confidence. The project teams couldn’t wait to start realizing their various neighbourhood projects. A strong awareness of their own strengths, of their ability to motivate their fellow project partners provided them with the safe ground and confidence necessary to dare to experiment, try out things, learn from any mistakes and grow their project along the way.