The GAMEChange family of empowerment methodologies adapt similar facilitation techniques, diagram tools and implementation processes, aiming to:

  • empower women and men of all ages and from all backgrounds with skills in visioning, analysis and planning to have more control over their lives
  • mainstream empowerment tools and participatory skills across other development activities and interventions to improve inclusion, effectiveness and cost-efficiency of these interventions
  • develop leadership skills and participatory networks to support inclusive, democratic and dynamic movements for social justice, democracy and environmental sustainability.

But each GAMEChange 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.

The ‘flavour of the methodology’ can be best understood through direct experience and visiting champions in an organisation that is already using the methodologies. The videos below are no substitute for that, but give an overview of the main distinctive features.

THINKING WITH Diagrams: Templates for Visioning, Analysis and Tracking
Vision Journey Multi-lane Plan, Uganda
Men’s Gender Challenge Action Tree for women’s land ownership, Kenya
Joseph’s Coffee Business Tree, Tanzania
Empowerment Leadership Map, Uganda
Facilitation FOR CHANGE: Fun with a Serious Purpose
Visual Communication and Drawing, West Bengal, India
Peer Sharing Role Play, Uganda
We Are the Champions Song, Kenya
Action Learning System: improving practice AND ADVOCACY
Women’s Decision-Making Change Diamond, Uganda

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
  • Inclusion and respect for all
  • Self-reliance
  • Everyone can be a leader of change
  • Action from day 1
  • Reflective learning
  • Community-led and multi-stakeholder
  • Social justice principles of gender and diversity rights are mainstreamed and non-negotiable

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 features

MOVEMENT-BUILDING, MAINSTREAMING and advocacy: the ‘big picture’

The ‘big picture’ aim of GAMEChange methodologies, underpinning all other elements is the vision of a community-led change movement promoting social justice, inclusive and participatory democratic structures and environmental sustainability. Empowerment methodology and strategies are shared by community ‘champions’ as a way of strengthening their social networks rather than organisation-led Training of Trainer systems. Experienced champions are then certified as paid community trainers to train outside their own communities. The role of development organisations is to respond to issues coming up, mainstreaming the methodology into other activities and decision-making, and empowering enquiry to ensure quality information and research for advocacy.

participatory action learning system

Participatory action learning by individuals and organisations at different levels, coming together through participatory information systems and workshops forms the basis for this change movement-building. Individuals and organisations at all levels develop their own visions and plans, based on analysing their own situations and contexts. They then track, analyse and share experience over time to assess how far they are progressing towards those visions, and how they can improve their own success. Through sharing experiences and collective aggregation and analysis of information they further improve their own success, develop collective actions and increase their voice in policy advocacy.

process implementation

GAMEChange processes are adapted to specific contexts and programme priorities.

There are no blueprints. But they generally follow three basic phases over 1 year:

  • Catalyst Workshops and first Community Upscaling Workshops with first champions. 6 days plus training for the implementing organisation.
  • Skills Strengthening Workshop for most active champions after 3-6 months.
  • Annual Review, Leadership and Certification of first Community Empowerment Advisers and Integration and Sustainability Plan after 1 year.

Community Action Learning – champions tracking progress on their own diagrams, sharing experiences and voluntary peer sharing – takes place throughout the first year. After 1 year the Integration and Sustainability Plan is implemented in the original areas and the same cycle replicated in new areas.

visual communication

GAMEChange methodologies are based on diagram tools that are designed to inspire with change visions, ensure that certain questions are analysed and to identify actions for change. s pictorial drawing tools. People who cannot read and write can often draw better and communicate directly with powerful stakeholders. But drawing is used not only because it is more inclusive, visual communication enables more information to be put on a page with clearer concepts and showing interrelationships.

Four diagram templates are adapted to different issues, contexts and processes:

facilitation FOR CHANGE:
‘Fun with a Serious Purpose’

The overarching aim of GAMEChange empowerment methodologies is to inspire a dynamic change movement. Participants need to have fun and gain confidence to innovate and change. The main sharing and capacity-building takes place within participants’ social networks, within households, communities and local groups. The aim of external facilitation is not to ‘teach’ but to give participants the confidence and skills to vision, analyse and plan for themselves, and to then inspire others, creating spaces for different voices to be heard and listened to.

Facilitation techniques : empowering and fun ‘disruption of comfort zones’, experiential leadership and deep listening, ‘facipulation from the back’, using:

‘Successful’ GAMEChange facilitation is when the facilitator can leave the room, focus on photographing or video while participants facilitate themselves.

Methodology Overviews

Adaptation Toolkits

Livelihood Strengthening Toolkit, Gumutindo, Uganda. TWIN UK 2013.

Growing the Diamond Forest 2015
comprehensive gender mainstreaming in Value Chain Development for the Oxfam Novib and IFAD GENVAD process May 2015.

Happy Family Happy Coffee 2014-2016
adapts the livelihood tools specifically for coffee:

Future Adaptations

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.