Making it their project – ORP Institute facilitates ownership and commitment in Monglolia

South Korea has changed from a being an aid-recipient to a donor nation. It was among the poorest in the 1960s after the devastating Korean War during 1950 to 1953 and 35 years of Japanese colonial rule. But by 2010, it had become a member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee. “The Miracle of Han River” is now a role model for economic development.

South Korea received aid from the United States and other countries. Among the NGOs which also played a role was the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), which led a community development project on Cheju Island in the 1970s. It’s now time for South Korea to pay it forward.

South Korea has increased its ODA (Official Development Assistance) budget every year. Its history as an aid recipient is a strength – it allows it to see ODA from that standpoint. But its experience in helping other nations to develop countries is limited and it is still learning. This article is about these lessons.

Our rapid development had a dark side – military dictatorship until the 1980s. Because of this, many people in developing countries assume that dictatorship and corruption are a necessary evil for fast development. Korean culture was destroyed: crimes, violence, hatred, jealousy and limitless competition are the side effects today. We remember when we behaved like beggars and the government depended on foreign aid. If we reflect on these experiences, we can be wise in our approach to development assistance.

We believe South Korea has a duty to share its experience, wisdom and resources with developing countries. As the introduction to the Social Process Triangle (Dynamic Screen) developed by the ICA says: “All the Earth Belongs to All the People”.

Ownership and Commitment: ‘This is Your Project!’

ORP 72Thanks to the expanded ODA budget, Professor Shin, a co-author of this article, has been involved in a technical assistance project for Pacific Island nations affected by NCD (non-communicable diseases) and climate change. As part of the project, 96 health professionals from 14 countries were invited to Suva, the capital of Fiji, and reached a consensus on “fighting NCDs in the Pacific area” and were trained in ICA’s community development methodology.

Prof Shin expects doing a three-year project for continuing professional development of medical doctors in Laos through on-site training. A workshop using Technology of Participation (ToP)® methods was held there during 2012 to 2014 to plan this project.

We have learnt that the participatory approach is essential for sustainable development. People in recipient nations tend to be dependent on the prescription of the experts from donor countries. However, they are the ones with the best knowledge about themselves, their situation, culture and the project environment. At our workshops, our  slogan is “This is Your Project, not Our Project.” We tell them to plan, not in a Korean, Japanese or American way, but in their way, whether it be Pacific, Laos or Mongolian.

We recently began two projects in Mongolia. The first is the continuing professional development of doctors. We invited all the important stakeholders from the Ministry of Health, central hospitals and professional medical societies to a three-day strategic planning workshop. We got a great result. Many of the participants wanted to learn facilitation skills. Now we are training 20 of them to conduct participatory workshops for cultural and systemic change at their hospitals.

We have learnt that Mongolians, a nomadic people who value freedom, challenge and change, love discussions. For people who had been passively following top-down directions in the hierarchical culture, the sessions provided a release. They took an active part in  discussing each focus question, and talked about their wishes, problems and the system. They enjoyed the process and were surprised to see that their discussions actually produced an outcome. They saw the power of participation! The facilitators were proud of what they had accomplished and were eager to use these processes in other settings.

We plan to hold a “Facilitation Festival” in Mongolia at the end of this year to share and celebrate what they have accomplished. We believe we can establish an IAF chapter or ICAI associate member in Mongolia some day.

Changing the Culture of Partner Institution

The second project is to strengthen the capacity of the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences. We held a three-day participatory strategic planning workshop with 19 stakeholders in April this year. Although the result was good, there was evidence of a “blame culture” and a “lack of thinking” prevailing at the institution.

ORP 71To change this and improve ownership and commitment to the project, we decided to do  an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) workshop. About a quarter of the professors, numbering 150 and aged between 30 and 60, were invited to the event entitled “Inspiring the Spirit of Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences”. The topics were strengthening the educational system, setting up a research university and promoting a positive culture. We designed an appreciative interview guide, asked the professors to interview each other and published their findings in “The Book”.

The three-day workshop was held at a hotel in Ulaanbaatar in June. It used the 4-D cycle of AI: discovery, dream, design, and destiny.First, participants reviewed “The Book” in 15 groups. Each group found positive cores (hidden, under-utilised strengths and assets) from the book and illustrated them by drawing “positive core maps”. Some of the images that appeared in the map reflected Mongolian culture: the Sun, a Ger (traditional Mongolian house), Snow man, Eagle.

ORP 73For the dream phase, each group envisioned what things would look like five years later. To portray the change, they created a news brief, a skit, a dance and a song. They then put on a performance for the rest of the participants. You could see they really enjoyed “acting as if dreams came true”.

They had difficulty in the third phase – creating design principles (principles on how to innovate the system, relationship, communication pattern etc.). We gave them copies of two of ICA’s analytical charts – the Map of Organizational Journey and the Social Process Triangle, which seemed to help. It was the first time we had done this in the design phase of AI workshop, but it worked very well.

For the fourth and last destiny phase, participants voluntarily reorganised themselves into other group formations and made plans for action.

This three-year project has just begun. However, thanks to the ICA technology and the AI approach, we have built a positive culture and set up ownership and commitment of the members of partner institution. It’s now really a Mongolian Project, not a Korean Project.

.The authors are facilitators certified by the International Association of Facilitators (IAF). Professor Jwa-Seop Shinteaches at Seoul National University College of Medicine. Young-Seck Lee and Hee-Jae Yoo are president and director, respectively, of ORP Institute, an associate member of the Institute of Cultural Affairs International (ICAI).

This post was first published in Winds and Waves, September 2015.