The purpose of this and the other posts this week is not to diminish the work that the JCI chapters and the JCI members do but to get us to enter into new projects with our eyes open. It is perfectly alright to do a project because it makes the chapter visible in the local community, creates team spirit in the chapter and develops the knowledge and competences of the members – or simply because it is fun. My thesis is that a project which stays within the framwork of the Active Citizenship principles will result in at least one of those things but with a much larger effect and, because it is sustainable, make a significant difference. I hope that these articles will inspire and help the JCI local chapters think their projects through so they are aware of what they want to get out of their projects and thereby insuring maximum impact.
In June this year several “jaycees” from around the country met in Aarhus for the JCI Denmark “Great Development Day”. Vi sat through a number of workshops on different themes, I was lucky to spend a couple of hours in the company of a small group of dedicated jaycees at my Active Citizenship workshop. We played “advisory board” for a national project which has been long in the making but slowly catching the attention of more and more members of JCI Denmark. I am referring to the environmental project “From Coast to Coast”.
The main purpose of the “From Coast to Coast” project is to make the Danish beaches clean. Other expected outcomes of the project are education for the younger generations to help them become more aware of environmental protection and to aide the local chapters in forming partnerships with other local agents.
It is hard to argue against the claim that the project will wolve a real problem. But what is the first step? The first move must be to identify if there really is a need (defined as a need that groups outside of JCI can comply with). The method here is to invite possible partners in fo ra chat on the framework for the project. To get the ball rolling, an analysis of interests must be done.
In an attempt to find possible partners for the project, the participants at the workshop discussed the effect (the impact) of a succesful project – economical impact, social impact and environmental impact.
Who benefits from clean beaches?
The possible partners are, possibly this is rather obvious for most readers, the ones who have a vested interest in the beaches being cleared of garbage. Some of us may think that this will benefit all of us. However, we live in a world where most of us juggle a busy life and not everyone has the health of our environment and the state of our beaches at the top of their lists of priorities.
The participants at the workshop worked by the principles from the Impact Training and the analysis ended up like this:
Economical impact: Tourism can get a much needed boost, the authorities can save on resources (which can be used on other projects and improvements), and the health bill could be lowered .
Social impact: The regulation of peoples habits could have a preventive effect on future visitors to the beach in general. School childrens education could benefit from the different subjects being used simultaniously on a practical problem (mathematics in practice, local history, social sciences).
Environmental impact: The birds will get better conditions. Life in the ocean and at the beach would improve for the animals that live there.
On the basis of the analysis of partners the participants arrived at the following possible partners for the project:
Schools – children are great at raising their parents to become better citizens!
Environmental and nature conservation groups – there is a common goal here, and the environmental and nature conservation groups possible have both the expertise and the connections to local govenment ect.
Camping sites / local tourist committees – could we sell the idea of Denmark as a green country? A.k.a. “eco-tourism”.
Why should they work with us?
But, if a local chapter needs to convince the city council/the schols/the environmental and nature conservation groups etc. to participate in the project they will need some very good arguments. Time is of the essense and the money (if there is any) is often ear marked well in advance. The key is to be an interesting partner ourselves.
A really good argument in environmental projects is that we are relevant as a partner with advisory status to the UN and therefore have a strong focus on the UN MDGs.
Another action, one that should always be considered, is to investigate if there already are other initiatives and decide if they should be integrated in the project. Could the chapter commit itself to a project which has already been initiated by the local government? If the local nature conservation organisation already a “Collect Rubbish Day” it might pay off to either join forces with them or to plan the event for a date not too close to the original “cleaning day”.
The most important conclusion from the workshop
The participants at the workshop agreed that it is very important to answer the question: For whom is this the biggest problem?
In the “From Coast to Coast” project the motivation for the schools to participate could be that they save money and maybe get a gift, i.e. a baseball net or something else for the school. A positive impact of the project could be that the original project turns into an annual event – maybe with at party at the end of the day 🙂
Advice for the project managers
The participants in the workshop came up with the advice listed below for the “From Coast to Coast” project – but in my opinion the advice is also valid for giving other Active Citizenship projects a head start (with the exception, of course, of “C”, which is specific for the ”From Coast to Coast”-project).
A) Make a project plan that you can present to potential partners – the plan should be divided into different phases:
1) Analysis of interests
2) Find local partners and define their roles from phase 1 (in order for the partners to take ownership).
3) Write a specified project plan.
6) Pass the project on to an organisation or group that can continue running the project in the future, possibly a partner from the original project.
B) When the project is a national project that involves local chapters, those chapters must commit to phase 1 so they can find out for themseves, who the potential partners could be in their local communities. The most important thing to remember is that there is a chance to create a sense of ownership for the project in the chapter when they define the project themselves.
C) It has to be a town on the coast.
D) The principles from Active Citizenship/Impact training should be applied throughout all four phases of the project.
What did the Active Citizenship Director 2013 learn?
What did I take with me from the workshop? The most important lesson was probably that we should be better at working with real problems in JCI. Some times the problems that we try to solve are only superficial symptoms of the real problem. Working with those problem exposes us to the risk of working on the same problems year after year without gaining any real learning experiences for the members and no real solutions for our local communities. Therefore it is important to keep asking questions until we are sure that we have found the core of the problem. Only then can we make a positive and sustainable difference in our local communities.
We will identify the challenges in our local communities and through projects of high quality generate sustainable solutions.
Quote from the JCI Denmarks Strategy 2013-2015