The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has launched the second year of its capacity building program on participatory democratic planning and project management in Mohammedia, Morocco – in collaboration with the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).
Led by the HAF team in charge of the Center for Community Consensus and Sustainable Development at the Faculty of Law, Economics and Social Science, the program aims over two years to benefit over 80 university students and 80 members and leaders of local civil society organizations (CSOs), while building on the first phase’s successes and lessons learned.
During the year phase of the project (September 2012- August 2013), and using an integrated approach that combines program goals and those specific to beneficiaries’ training needs, the project team and partners were able to achieve considerable results, including:
- Training, supporting and providing guidance for 53 CSOs to create and register two federations (themselves CSOs), one in the commune of Mohammedia and one in the commune of Beni Yekhlif.Both federations are now operating, and have been able to develop their visions, missions and strategic programs as well as an ambitious action plans;
- Developing a structured and a long-term partnership with these two federations through the HAF signing conventions with both CSO federations;
- Securing funding from the National Initiative for Human Development (NIHD) for projects led by the students, including toward creating a university journal, an on-line card catalogue and faculty-student shared governance. The projects’ design (development through participatory action research) provided a tremendous opportunity for 76 students to effectively contribute to improving the learning environment of their own University;
- Working with the Dean of the Faculty and students to develop a green university program with the goal to strengthen the University’s position as a national leader in sustainability development;
- Training and providing guidance to CSOs to build partnerships with different government departments and advocate to gain support of their elected officials to achieve their project goals;
- Contacting and recruiting new students and CSOs to benefit from the second year of the program, including signing a partnership convention with a leading NGO in the commune of Sidi Moussa Ben Ali and receiving an official approval to collaborate with Youth Centers to reach out to and work to empower youth.
Achieving the program goals of promoting social responsibility and good governance of university students and members of CSOs through building their capacities in participatory democratic planning and project management requires the participation of individual citizens, organizations, and institutions. The experience of the High Atlas Foundation and other development groups suggests that there is a powerful correlation between the level and intensity of people’s engagement in a project and the impact and sustainability of the development activity.
This is why HAF’s team has adopted a strategy based on two major elements: 1) bringing the capacity building activities to the communities and groups that are far from the University location, and 2) maintaining an extensive network to promote communication and collaboration with all project partners. This strategy of proximity and sharing information between project team and stakeholders provides the project with the necessary feedback to keep updated with the current development initiatives at the community and province of Mohammedia levels and to continuously identify new and promising opportunities for collaboration and project development.
The project team has been enjoying very much the visits to the CSOs in their communities and meeting new individuals in their own homes and with their families. Engaging with students and supporting their activism has also been a thrill. These processes are allowing the project team members to build constructive relationships with the project beneficiaries and interact with them at a personal level.
by Mouhssine Tadlaoui-Cherki, HAF Program Director, Mohammedia