TRAVEL NOTES: JUNE 2012, TRIP TO TURKEY

by Ouafa Elbargui the HAF’s Center Coordinator

From June 19th to  June 22nd 2012, the World Bank Civil Society Fund (CSF) held a Social Accountability Regional Workshop in Istanbul, Turkey. The workshop was designed for CSF grant winners and runner-ups from Middle East and North Africa working to promote and enhance social accountability in their community or country. The High Atlas Foundation, as a CSF grant  runner-up, was one of the NGOs invited to participate in this three days workshop. Mr Abderrahim Ouarghidi, the HAF’s Project Manager, and I are both humbled and inspired to take part in this workshop as the representatives for  the High Atlas Foundation from Morocco. Now, Thanks to the HAF and its president Dr Yossef Ben-Meir, I want to say that I’m lucky to have this opportunity to talk about my personal experience about this trip to Istanbul as it is my first flight outside my country, Morocco.

Monday June 18th 2012, Travel to Istanbul: I’ve never been outside Morocco and I’ve never caught a plane! Mr Abderrahim was very interested to share this first experience. While in the plane, seeing the ground from above, I thought of the supremacy of Man, his intelligence, ability and success in making dreams come true and going beyond frontiers. I  deeply believe in the human being’s capability of making the impossible become possible because of great will  and withstanding. The view from above makes me enjoy  the beautiful scenes from a different angle, and not the usual one  : Sun, clouds, tiny areas of the earth and the Mediterranean sea…etc. I was also very craving to arrive to Istanbul to discover the new place. We enjoyed very much the warm and kind welcoming of the World Bank Group when arriving to airport and to the hotel.

Tuesday June 19th 2012, and Wednesday June 20th 2012: There were about 15 NGOs as participating organizations from Middle East and North Africa, and 4 Service Providers organizations in addition to the World Bank and Support to Life and Civil Society Fund organizations. The attendance of this great number of organizations made the workshop sessions very interesting and rich, theoretically and practically.

During the first and second days of the workshop we got to know each other; each NGO introduced itself, its objectives , area of intervention and its method of working…etc  to the others. We have gotten to know closely the World Bank and Civil Society Fund, the concepts of Social Accountability and the  best practice of its tools in some cities. The session of the market place tour was a very useful part of theses two days in the way that it brought the participating organizations with Service Providers organizations all together to identify their common points and areas of cooperation and how they can be in touch and work together in the future.

Generally, the first and second  days were very theoretical in the sense  that most of its presentations are designed to introduce the World Bank institutions as well as Service Providers organizations and many notions of Social Accountability as the biggest issue of the workshop.

Thursday June  21st 2012 and Friday June 22nd 2012: The most important point of those two days is the precious training material which was offered by the Service Providers (Restless Development, Lebanese Transparency Association, World Learning and World Network CS) as well as World Bank group about how the participants can improve  their organization’s strategic plan of working, project design, monitoring and evaluation, financial management and resource mobilization and partnerships. In the afternoon, we had one- on- one mentoring for the participant group; it was a very practical session in which each group  of an organization chose a topic from the morning  training topics  to discuss it with a World Bank staff member. We learned from this small workshop how to mobilize our financial resources, how to meet the World Bank’s expectations while writing a certain project proposal for they score the proposals based on some criterion, and how to be more specific in our objectives, outputs and outcomes.

On Friday morning, we had a panel discussion “ Budget Monitoring Platform” from some  Turkish NGOs and from some of the participants in which I made a short presentation of the HAF mentioning the objectives of the project proposal we submitted to the World Bank and also its method and tactics of working. The best thing of this discussion is the feedback and the questions raised from the audience which means that they are very interested to have more information about the HAF.

Highlights

Personally, I realized that the journey to Turkey was a journey to knowledge, to learning and to life. Attending this workshop was a unique opportunity and a moment to step up and enrich my work experience especially that working with the HAF had given me the basic points to start. Knowing about Social Accountability strategy is a very interesting thing for me as a beginner who has never heard about it. In this sense, the workshop had succeeded to develop my understanding of social accountability concepts and tools and the more practical thing how to apply these in different situations and contexts. What I appreciated more is their way of the distribution of workshop sessions; they started with theoretical concepts, then small group discussion workshops in which we applied the knowledge and skills learned; that also helped to create a fertile space for exchanging how-tos between the participants and the international specialists  of social accountability. Each day of workshop days was concluded with a learning evaluation in which we participants could assess and rate the skills and techniques gained to move forward. I believe that most of the underlined objectives of this workshop was that exchange of knowing-how between regional practitioners, and regional and international experts of social accountability.

I should not  forget the boat cruise to Bosphorus Strait on Thursday night, It was like a dream; those beautiful pictures of the sea, the yellowish  lights of Istanbul city and the ancient castles and palaces alongside the strait are still reigning my thoughts. I’ll never forget the joy and happy  moment we share together during our sailing on the rhythms of  jazz music. It was really a wonderful night in the sense that there were people from different parts of the world with different life experiences and cultural backgrounds: Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, US, UK, Japan, Argentina, Turkey, Tunisia…etc sharing many very nice things: pictures, discussions, food, smiles. It is like the whole world is in the boat coexisting peacefully  and respectfully. Everyone was ready to help, to give and offer anything he has to the other to see him happy though not belonging to his country or city or language or religion or race because at the end we are all human beings.

I have also to mention our short outside walking adventures while in the taxi challenging the Turkish language. Though it seems hard to go to a place where the people speaks language different from yours, it’s not an obstacle to communicate with its people because I think we have that common sense of thinking and communication even through gestures. Mr Abderrahim succeeded to communicate with a Turkish taxi driver, who knows no other languages except Turkish, using  the Mrrakchy Arabic; It was very funny but workable. We enjoyed also the Turkish food, cakes and drinks at the hotel and the kindness of waiters and receptionists.

Finally, I take the opportunity to thank World Bank, Civil Society Fund and Support to Life  for providing this workshop in the favor of us as  participating NGOs  to learn from their specialists of Social accountability  and for them to know more about our organizations. It was really a very rich experience for us to participate in that workshop. I’d like also to thank all the people who did  their best to make this event successful especially the World Bank staff members and all the facilitators, Translators and the participants. I have to thank again Dr Yossef Ben-Meir, the president of  HAF, who gave me the chance to benefit from this workshop.

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