GAMEchange promotes and innovates with:
Community-led empowerment methodologies that aim to give women, youth and men of all ages and from all backgrounds more control over their lives and catalyse and support a sustainable movement for social justice that will as far as possible include and benefit all stakeholders to be sustainable.
Each GAMEchange empowerment process is unique and adapted over time to different purposes, contexts and types of development action. There are an ever-expanding range of adaptations of the original generic PALS methodology, often with names to reflect the particular purpose of the process and/or local terminology.
Principles and non-negotiables
The different methodologies vary as they integrate into different types of intervention and sector, and adapt to different organisational and social context and responding to needs of different stakeholder combinations. Nevertheless, they are all underpinned by a number of common principles and non-negotiables:
- Inspiration is key: Start with visions, opportunities and where the ‘spark energy’ is. Be clear there you want to go and what can help you get there and who will support you and what you can do fast. Tackle the negatives and slower things later from a position of strength and optimism.
- Inclusion and respect for all: everyone has a right to be listened to and respected without prejudice or stereotyping.
- Everyone can be a leader of change in their own lives and the lives of those around them. Sitting around waiting for ‘leader heroes’ is not an option. If each person has a vision to be active against injustice around them and inspire others, then real change is possible and democratic civil society can thrive. Self-reliance is seen both an end in itself, and also essential to building negotiating strength for people who are currently disadvantaged to articulate and communicate together what they really need from external agencies to best use scarce resources and avoid corruption.
- Action Learning from day 1: All tools and sessions, right from the start and at all levels, identify change goals and actions that participants themselves can take towards those goals without waiting for external assistance. Actions must also be tracked and achievements and challenges analysed on an ongoing basis by people themselves as individuals and groups to increase their achievements. Participant’s own action learning for their own benefit is then the basis for external empowering enquiry and organisational action learning.
- Community-led and multi-stakeholder: bringing together those without and those with power around a common agenda – as far as possible. The process of consensus-building is never complacent and content with ‘sticking plaster’ on the cracks. But aims as quickly as possible to build empathy, respect and confidence for as many participants as possible to address more sensitive conflicts of interest further down the road.
- Gender and diversity empowerment strategies are non-negotiable and mainstreamed as essential components of the effectiveness and sustainability of any development intervention. Human rights are contextualised from a community-led perspective, but ultimately non-negotiable. Human rights include women’s human rights under the 1979 Convention on Elimination of ALL forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and child and minority rights under different UN Conventions.
Distinctive methodological features
The methodologies are also characterised by:
- Drawing and pictorial diagram tools adapting a set of four diagram types: road journeys, trees, circle maps and diamonds to different questions.
- ‘Fun with a Serious Purpose’ participatory facilitation and listening techniques based on ‘facilitation from the back’, ‘facipulation of chaos’ and participant-designed drama and songs.
- Community-led movement-building based on champion peer sharing rather than organisation-led Training of Trainer systems.
- Mainstreaming empowerment into existing activities and interventions to build capacity and self-reliance at community level, reduce costs and enable organisational energies and resources to be focused on other levels, particularly advocacy.
- Empowering Enquiry as participatory action learning, based on individual reflection for their own learning and progress aggregated and analysed through participatory systems and workshops to feed into advocacy.
The original and generic methodology was Participatory Action Learning System (PALS). This started to be developed in 1999 – 2002 as a set of sustainable empowerment tools that could be used by members of savings and credit groups, brought together in a participatory ‘action learning system’ to assess effectiveness of empowerment strategies and other interventions. For origins and evolution of the PALS see:
PALS tools and facilitation techniques were then further developed as ‘Participatory Action Learning for Sustainability‘ methodologies promoting the business and development case for empowerment methodologies, particularly gender empowerment, adapted as an integral part of livelihood, business and value chain methodologies. The most comprehensive and recent are:
- Happy Family Happy Coffee (2014-2016) methodologies developed with Hivos, Ecom, IDH and other private sector coffee companies in Tanzania, Kenya and Indonesia.
- PALS Toolkit, SNV Ethiopia (2018) developed as part of the Gender and Youth Empowerment in Horticulture Markets (GYEM) project.
- BALI (Business Action Learning for Innovation) Toolkit (2019) developed for Women’s Associations with IFAD and CDA.
Many of the early PALS processes were used as part of gender empowerment/mainstreaming processes in India, Pakistan, Sudan and Uganda. Gender Action Learning System (GALS) as a specifically gender-focused methodology was developed from 2007 as part of Oxfam Novib’s WEMAN programme, advocating Gender Justice and women’s human rights under the 1979 UN CEDAW Convention. The most comprehensive manual (in need of updating) is:
- Rocky Road to Diamond Dreams (2014) based on experience with Bukonzo Joint and New Home in Uganda and TWIN-UK partners in Uganda and DRC.
Gender Action Learning for Sustainability at Scale further developed GALS as part of work funded by Hivos and private sector, arguing the business sustainability case for gender mainstreaming in value chains like coffee. In practice many of these are really PALS processes (see above) that mainstream household sustainability tools as an essential part of any intervention claiming to be ‘development’. So far few processes have worked in depth on issues highlighted in CEDAW like land and property rights, reproductive rights, structures of inequality in marriage and kinship etc. Though it is hoped they may do so in future, building on PALS gender achievements.
The original PALS work with the micro-finance sector and financial service providers also continued focusing on client financial empowerment as a necessary and integral part of Responsible Finance, linking with participatory market research, social performance management and client protection.
Governance and Leadership (GOAL)
This is a methodology currently being developed bringing together:
- PALS leadership tools that establish the principles that ‘everyone can become a leader’ and that ‘good leaders’ can only thrive where everyone takes responsibility for change, not leaving everything to leaders and then blaming them for being unable to do an impossible job.
- PALS strategic planning and systems diagramming tools used for developing gender policy in co-operatives in Tanzania integrated into good governance processes.
- Participatory facilitation techniques that integrate leadership and confidence building into the above capacity-building, and become part of the facilitation techniques use by participants as leaders.
Adaptations for future development
Further adaptations explored and envisaged for further development include:
- literacy and numeracy integration
- environmental management
- nutrition and food security
- health and reproductive rights
- counselling and conflict resolution.