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.

See presentation and follow up to the IFAD Household Methodology Forum Rome June 2016.

Upscaling Household Methodologies: Presentation for IFAD Rome June 2016

From thousands to millions: Ways forward for Gender Action Learning for Sustainability at Scale Blogpost July 2016

Sustainable upscaling to millions and empowerment mainstreaming in development interventions and private sector requires more than just rolling out a few tools in a series of ‘expert-led’ TOTs. Building a sustainable and dynamic change movement needs to be based on:

  • Anyone can be a leader of change: Going viral through voluntary peer sharing within support networks based on enlightened self-interest and proven progress towards visions.
  • Leadership and facilitation strengthening to facilitate replication of the methodology and help in bringing together empowering documentation. Replication and documentation in the interests of the project is co-facilitated by community empowerment advisers, particularly people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, certified and paid on fixed term renewable basis by the project.
  • Not just a pretty project frill: Sustainability plan for integration and mainstreaming methodologies into existing interventions and activities to increase effectiveness and reduced costs of those interventions and activities.
  • Clear support, documentation and advocacy roles for implementing organisations to reinforce ownership of the methodology by the users, complement community actions and not dominate, bring together documentation and research and create linkages between communities, particularly women and men from most disadvantaged backgrounds, with ‘ambassadors’ among powerful stakeholders and policy-makers.
  • Planned sustainability from the start based on analysis and knowledge of how community networks operate, particularly among the poorest and most disadvantaged groups, identification of the best starting points for catalyst processes that will then spread through these networks and how they can be linked. Identification of stakeholders and ‘ambassadors’ who could open opportunities for upscaling.

‘Everyone can be a leader of change’ : going viral

voluntary Pyramid Peer Sharing within social networks: 1 – 5 – 5 – 5…..

GAMEChange methodologies are distinctive in that the main facilitators and implementers are women and men within communities using and innovating with the methodology to improve their own lives.

The basis of peer scaling up is people’s self interest and voluntary dissemination to other people within their own support networks who they have an interest in assisting – because these people will then assist them.

As part of a Catalyst workshop, and other subsequent workshops, champions use a tool called the Empowerment Leadership Map to identify people in their families, friends and communities with whom they will share – those they love and who will help them, and those they need to change in order to achieve their visions. They commit to training a number of other members using all available means that will not cost anything ie meetings of savings and credit groups, churches, school meetings, government meetings and going house to house in their neighbourhood. In this way the initial champions are reaching an average of 50 other people each. Those trained also learn the same Pyramid Peer Sharing tool.

The aim is to ‘go viral’ with an endless chain of volunteer sharing within peoples’ own networks without cost or excessive burden on each champion.

Accessible Tools that can be used independently without special manuals

The importance of voluntary peer sharing and aim means that GAMEChange tools must be designed to be used independently by people who cannot read and write as well as people with higher levels of formal education.

Participants keep their own individual diaries in ordinary A4 exercise books which they themselves buy, together with coloured pens. Women and men farmers and entrepreneurs design their own pictorial manuals to teach others the tools they themselves have found most useful. The diagram outputs and diaries from workshops and subsequent discussions are much more powerful than any externally designed printed manual – as well as much cheaper and more likely to be used. The more people are involved in designing the manuals they themselves will use, the greater the sense of ownership and local creativity, and hence likelihood the change process will be dynamic, sustainable and scaled up through community initiative.

no free lunch or training kits

Reaching thousands and millions of people also means minimising unnecessary costs. All GAMEChange processes require participants to take responsibility wherever possible so that external resources and support can be properly targeted for maximum benefit tgo things that are really necessary. Participants are asked to provide their own exercise books, pens and manilla sheets wherever possible – if they can afford a bottle of beer or a hairdo, they can afford to miss out once or twice to get materials for their long term education! Materials should only be provided for people who are really poor and unable to buy for themselves – they also should take responsibility once their livelihoods have improved.

Leadership and Facilitation Strengthening


Active and experienced champions with a proven record of personal change and voluntary upscaling for more than 1 year are the best people to facilitate replication of the methodology to new areas. But continued certification should be periodically reviewed and dependent on continued personal change and voluntary sharing in their own locality. CEAs should be free to use the experience and reputation gains from the GAMEChange process to move on to other activities and employment. The certification system should be continually open and encourage new applicants. Particular encouragement and support should be given to people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds who are the best people to share with others from that background.

Depending on the context and intervention, there are a number of sources from which the CEAs can get a sustainable source of income from training apart from payment by projects, and again this should be encouraged as part of a dynamic system:

  • charging people they train a small fee for more advanced trainings. This is possible for example with livelihood training or financial education. People often pay a fee to someone to broker a loan for example. Rather than that they are paying someone to teach them to prepare a business plan.
  • a training budget from the cooperative or company profits (as in eg Bukonzo Joint in Uganda) for replicating to new communities. There will be organisational needs for scaling up to new groups and new areas which cannot be achieved through voluntary training. The peer trainers with the best track record become community trainers paid from the organisation’s increased profits from expansion to farmers to train in new groups outside their own support networks.#
  • training local government extension workers so that they can integrate better practices in their training.
Leadership and Facilitation Strengthening

CEAs should be first in line for more advanced trainings. They should also be given leadership training.

use of technology and on-line social networking for sharing experiences and successes

Another key element in scaling up is publicising successes and/or necessary changes in constraints.

Development of on-line resources and IT skills at all levels from mobile phones of people at community level to engaging websites for an international audience. Internet services are now cheap in many countries and Facebook and local equivalents are used by increasing numbers of people in rural as well as urban areas. Effective use and development of social networking and local and international language blogs can significantly increase upscaling and reduce costs of sharing information. This offers a particular role for youth involvement and contribution.

Use of ICTs and other technology for direct networking and collection of information between champions and communities should be built up. This is both an empowering process in itself to break the digital divide. It also reduces costs of communication, and enables networks to continue even in times of conflict, pandemic or natural disaster.

Sustainability Plan: Integration and Mainstreaming Empowerment

Empowerment methodologies are not an optional add-on to other interventions, but cost-effective in making other interventions more effective and cost-efficient or even profitable. Research has shown that gender and generational inequalities within households and communities are key causes of poverty, leading to violence, food insecurity and wastage of productive resources that ultimately benefit no one. The failure to address these inequalities undermines the effectiveness (and profitability) of financial services, agricultural and nutrition training and value chain development, leading to significant wastage of time and resources by financial service providers, cooperatives, private sector and government as well as NGOs and donor agencies. Empowerment methodologies should therefore be an integral part of longer term business investment or any ‘mainstream’ development intervention.

GAMEChange methodologies have been shown to be effective in enabling women, youth and men to vision and also achieve significant increases in income, food security, asset ownership and participation in civil society and higher level value chains. In some members of this network they have been delivered on a fully financially sustainable basis for thousands of people in rural and urban areas.

Toolkits exist for integration into value chain development, good agricultural practices in cooperatives and private sector companies, responsible finance and have also been adapted for food security and climate change management and projects with youth.

Although the prime focus of PALS is to empower women and men to vision, plan and achieve their goals through individual and community-level actions, this process seeks to link stakeholders in private sector companies, government and other agencies to make the process both sustainable and enable significant gains in wealth creation, development and social justice. Through developing mutual understanding, communication and listening skills of powerful stakeholders. How this is done depends on the purpose and also context, but includes:

  • Training local government and other stakeholders by the champions
  • Identification of local funding from private sector, local government and community-based organisations for continued upscaling to new communities and organisations and other gender, livelihood or leadership activities to further deepen the local process.
  • Advocacy research and media linkages through local research institutes and media to document and promote the process on an ongoing basis.

Advocacy Research: Empowering Enquiry

In order to progress towards future visions it is necessary for organisations as well as community participants to continually reflect on what has worked and what has not worked in the past, in order to better identify and benefit from opportunities, to foresee and address challenges and continually reflect on the implication for strategies going forward.

Alongside the community-led participatory learning there is also a role for external documentation and research, following ethical principles of ‘Empowering Enquiry’. This is particularly the case where information is needed on sensitive issues, or where triangulation of methods is needed for advocacy or fundraising.

This external and more extractive research however, builds on the information from participant diagrams, and reinforces the capacity of participants to analyse their situation and ways forward – those interviewed should always benefit and learn more from the time they give to researchers. They should also be informed of the findings so that the research contributes to their process.

Use of visual methods like photography and video are particularly important as a cost-effective means of recording participants stories as well as communicating findings.

Latest update September 2022

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