MDF Bangladesh LLG Workshop Summary 20101214
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MDF Bangladesh LLG Workshop Summary 20101214

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The purpose of the workshop described in this document was to advance the concept of Local Learning Groups (LLGs) and make it an effective ...

The purpose of the workshop described in this document was to advance the concept of Local Learning Groups (LLGs) and make it an effective
means of connecting local practitioners’ experience with international discussion fora. As a pioneer, the Market Development Forum (MDF) already collected experiences in establishing an LLG in Bangladesh and now wants to bring this group forward for an effective exchange of experiences on the ground and online.

MDF aims to establish LLGs on market development topics with practitioners from Bangladesh. The idea of local learning groups is twofold. On the one hand, they serve as a platform to exchange experiences and lessons between the different members of the LLG, on the other hand,
they allow to connect the local discussions with discussions on the international level.

The establishment of the first LLG was done in collaboration with MaFI. The MDF-LLG was the first LLG established under the MaFI. In July 2010, a first
LLG meeting was organized in Dhaka, discussing on the Lead Firms Approach. The result of this discussion was then fed into an online discussion forum at MaFI.

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MDF Bangladesh LLG Workshop Summary 20101214 Document Transcript

  • 1. How to bridge local experience and international practitioner fora Synthesis of the workshop on Local Learning Groups 13 December 2010 Organized by the Marked Development Forum Bangladesh Synthesis paper by Marcus JenalBackgroundThe market development forum aims to establish local learning groups (LLGs) on market development topicswith practitioners from Bangladesh. The idea of local learning groups is twofold. On the one hand, they serve asa platform to exchange experiences and lessons between the different members of the LLG, on the other hand,they allow to connect the local discussions with discussions on the international level.The establishment of the first LLG was done in collaboration with the Market Development Initiative (MaFI), aninitiative of the SEEP Network. The MDF-LLG was the first LLG established under the MaFI. In July 2010, a firstLLG meeting was organized in Dhaka, discussing on the Lead Firms Approach. The result of this discussion wasthen fed into an online discussion forum at MaFI.Inputs from the SEEP conferenceMDF participated with Marcus Jenal in the SEEP annual conference 2010 in Washington DC. The following pointswere discussed during the SEEP conference and especially the MaFI session regarding LLGs: • Local Learning Groups (LLG) are important vehicles for MaFI to root its discussions in field realities. It is therefore important that the LLG get support from MaFI and the information gained in the field is flowing back into MaFI in a meaningful way. Existing local networks like the Market Development Forum (MDF) in Bangladesh could serve as coordinators of different LLGs on national level. • The organisational learning agenda of international development organisations are searching for low- cost learning systems and hence are looking to promote local face to face learning groups (LLGs). The LLGs should synchronise their agenda with the agenda on an organisational level, but also with local needs.Purpose of the workshopThe purpose of the workshop was to advance the concept of local learning groups and make it an effectivemeans of connecting local practitioners’ experience with international discussion fora. As a pioneer, MDFalready collected experiences in establishing an LLG in Bangladesh and now wants to bring this group forwardfor an effective exchange of experiences on the ground and online.
  • 2. Questions for the workshopThe following questions were discussed during the workshop: 1. How can a system look like that enables field level staff to feed their experiences in discussions on international level, e.g. international conferences, online discussions, webinars, etc.? 2. How can LLGs effectively channel learning from the international level to the field staff and use it as a means to develop their capacities? 3. How to select topics that can be discussed by LLGs? What are currently burning issues that could be tackled by LLGs and how could this be approached? 4. Based on the comparative analysis done by Practical Action on two LLGs (will be presented during the input presentation): Where do we see the MDF-LLG’s strengths and why do we think it is working well and sustainably?Summary of the discussionMain success factors for MDFBased on the comparative analysis of MDF with another network of organizations in Peru that was presentedduring the workshop, the group came up with what it sees as crucial success factors that made MDF a thrivingnational network, tapping into question 4: • In contrast to the findings of the analysis, branding has been a main success factor of MDF. Before 2005, four big development organizations were active in the group promoting their agenda and their brands (Katalyst, SEDF, Care, and GTZ). The secretariat was only shifted between those three organizations and other members of the group had problems identifying themselves with its strategy. Only after 2005, when the common brand ‘MDF’ was put forward and the secretariat was also shifted to other members, other organizations started to feel part of the forum. • Leadership was necessary to push forward with the network in the early stages after 2005, when the members were still very skeptical of sharing their experiences and information with the other members. Especially Katalyst kept on sharing and inviting others to share and thus building a culture of open sharing between the organizations. • Resources or more precisely the lack of resources was identified as another success factor for MDF. Without having resources, there was no need for the individual members to fight for getting access to these resources and there was also no danger of the forum starting to compete with its own members, which would have been fatal for MDF. • As another success factor, the flexibility in terms of participation as well as in terms of topics was mentioned. The organizations can always decide based on their interest and available resources if they want to attend an event or not. The selection of topics is done in a participatory way including all members and hence reflects the needs of the members. • A sense of equity between the members, the responsiveness and timeliness of the coordinator’s response to requests of the members, genuine interests of the members to share and discuss as well as the fact that pro-poor market development is a relatively new approach in Bangladesh and consequently there was a need for exchange were further factors mentioned by the group.
  • 3. One challenge identified by the participants is that MDF consists mainly of international organizations and localorganizations were hardly participating or becoming MDF members. There might be different reasons for that.In order not to exclude them, more emphasize will be given to invite them to MDF events, especially on locallevel (see below).Communication of field level practitioners with global foraA number of vehicles were discussed to improve the communication between field level staff, the national levelforum as well as global discussion fora (mentioning specifically the MaFI, but not excluding other fora). Thesevehicles could work in both ways, i.e. enabling field level staff to feed their experiences in discussions oninternational level (question 1) and channeling learning from the international level to the field staff and use itas a means to develop their capacities (question 2): • Improving intra-organizational communication between national level staff and field staff e.g. through regular internal meetings or email discussions. Results of such discussions can be communicated to MDF and MaFI or be inspired by discussions going on in MDF or MaFI. • Organizing regional meetings of field staff of MDF members that could be held in Bengali and discuss topics that were agreed on by the respective MDF member organizations. • Establishing local chapters of MDF in regions where multiple MDF members are active and were dynamic people can be found to lead such a chapter in the name of MDF.The subsequent discussion mainly focused of the last point, i.e. the establishment of local MDF chapters forexample in Rangpur and Barishal. These chapters would give local staff of MDF members but also otherorganizations, especially local NGOs, a platform to discuss common issues.Three main challenges were identified when following such an approach: 1. Language: In order to enable the field staff to express themselves freely, the discussions should be held in Bengali. If these discussions should however be brought to MaFI (which is the intention), they have to be synthesized and translated to English. 2. Hierarchy fear: the fear of openly expressing questions regarding one’s work or questioning approaches and interventions in presence of a superior is very widespread in the Bangladeshi society, mainly based on cultural values of hierarchy. 3. To synthesize and translate the discussions, a certain amount of (human) resources are needed and have to be found within the member organizations since the chapters won’t have any own resources.Discussing the last challenge, a number of ideas came up, such as using existing ‘learning budgets’ within theprojects of the participating organizations or trying to tap resources that fund this kind of learning activities, e.g.through practitioner learning programs of the SEEP network, through MaFI or through approaching otherdonors.To begin with, a process was sketched out that would follow the MDF principle that the organization that comesup with a topic would also bring in the resources needed to meaningfully follow up the discussions. The processwould consist of the following four steps:
  • 4. 1. The local chapters would organize discussions on the topic brought up by a specific organization. 2. This organization would summarize the discussion and translate the summary into English. 3. The summary would be shared with MDF and MaFI and discussed on these levels. 4. The same organization would collect and summarize the discussions on MDF and MaFI level and translate them back into Bengali so it can be shared with the field level staff.A follow up discussion on field level can be organized if needed.Capturing burning topics from the field for the discussionsTapping into question 3, the group discussed that the capturing of topics for the discussions on local, nationaland international level should mainly be driven by ‘real life’ issues that are faced by field staff. The discussionsshould be less ‘top-down’ driven by topics that come up on international level which usually have the tendencyto be on a rather intellectual level.The process of collecting the topics would be the same as practiced now by MDF, i.e. the topics would becollected by the end of the year by the member organizations and included in the MDF business plan for thesubsequent year.