Not strategic enough

Posted Thursday June 11, 2015 by Hazel Durbridge

The view from the garden of my favourite beer drinking hotel

Friday was a bit torrid, but not a total surprise. Basically big wig provincial (next level up from district) strategy man has come and decided that my plan is not strategic enough. To be honest I know it isn’t really, but because quite a lot of them are pretty useless at managing I put in quite a lot of explicit comments about what was wrong and suggestions about what they could do. Obviously big wig man did not like that. He poo poo’ed the details as not being strategic, which they aren’t, so for example my comment that staff need to spend a couple of days a week out in the field if they are going to address the rural deprivation issue will be subsumed in to something bland like ‘there are management issues’. I wanted something readable at 100 pages. He wants 2 volumes of 300 pages. He actually said you start by deciding how many pages you want for each section. Go weep. In Africa a room was unlocked that had boxes stacked to the ceiling of strategy documents that kept consultants rich and were never read ( I saw them and ploughed through them). Strategy documents are good if they create policy that accesses or unleashes funds or justifies decisions. Otherwise they are just posh words.

The irony is if they need my level of English to write it, will they read 600 pages? Of course not.

What made the experience more painful than it needed to be is how they set things up behind my back. I was asked with no warning to give a presentation in front of what turned out to be about 80 people (78 of them men which is probably significant) and then this provincial guy who had not spoken to me before, but had obviously spoken to my colleagues critiqued my document. The sensitive bit of me berates myself for not getting it perfect first time and is humiliated. The pragmatist realises they would not be at this level of discussion without my first draft and that actually it is enabling for all of them. The more they talk and refine it themselves, the more they are engaged in the process.  My only fear is they are not delivering on the things closest and dearest to them now.  If the details of their needs get lost they may feel it is not relevant to them and something to be resolved at a senior level in which they are powerless.

Anyway les deux bossy young men were crowing. They actually asked him if they could have another writer, but he said no, they have me. The Oxfam funding will not be used. My ideal outcome would have been to publish as draft 1 so the participants had evidence of our dialogue, but it was not to be. If I was to be sacrificial I could be here for months doing endless re-writes (which to be fair is not that different in the UK only I got lots of dosh for doing it), but I sat there and felt relieved that I have my ticket home. I’ll write their English for them until then.

I am not too sad really just a bit wounded. I went and bought a beer and thought about what I could do to comfort myself. Saturday I went for a long, long bike ride on the promontory on the other side of the lagoon to where I live and then went to my beer drinking hotel for lunch and ordered omelette with cheese (very rare here) and ice cream. Then I spent the afternoon reading booklets on mental health and spoke to my landlady who flew home with her son-in-law’s body yesterday which puts everything in perspective.


Executive Summary

This Development Plan for Batticaloa District sets out a vision and strategy for what it is hoped can be achieved over the 5 years from 2014-2018. It takes account of national policies and of the policies and proposals within the Eastern Development Plan 2012-2016. The overall aim of the Plan is to ensure that Batticaloa continues to develop its infrastructure and resources in a way which ensures a legacy for future generations, enhances the prosperity of all those involved, protects the environment and is fair to all.

It documents what local Government Departments and others are currently doing. It prioritises what local experts see as the fundamental issues. It identifies gaps and weaknesses in programmes of work and suggests ways in which these can be addressed. Where possible, 5 year plans for departments have been included identifying budget needs.

The UNDP team were deployed to work together with the Director of Planning starting in November 2012. Meetings and workshops were held to support the relevant departments in pulling together 5 year plans attached in volume II of this document. Departments were asked to focus on projects that brought a direct benefit to local people rather than ‘capacity building’, involving improvements to or construction of buildings, training for staff and the purchase of office equipment and vehicles.

In April 2013 an international volunteer with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) was allocated to Batticaloa District to help pull the relevant information together, agree priorities with the decision makers and write the plan. Oxfam GB agreed to pay for the printing and publication costs of the plan.

The UN team will help facilitate the implementation and monitoring of the plan. It is envisaged that the contents of the plan will become a website, accessible to all and showing evidence of how the suggested actions and plans are progressing.

The strategy aims to consolidate a legacy for future generations by focusing on what all have identified as the main challenges for the area – water management and flood mitigation, the development of rural areas (livelihoods, roads and schools), maximising on tourist development and a convergence of working practice amongst all professionals working in the relevant areas.

These aims are to be achieved through a series of targeted measures in priority areas where the consultation and analysis indicated that most beneficial progress could be made.

Batticaloa District Development Plan DRAFT 2013

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