Key learnings from the diocesan strategic planning workshops
Understand the context and community you’re working with.
The strategic planning process was informed by the realities facing the communities in which the planning took place. So, each diocese brought different issues to the table, to plan around. In that way, the community decides what the priority issues are and how they can best respond.
Identify supportive leadership and work closely with them.
For any transformation process to work successfully you need to find leadership that can support and guide the project. Without this, you’re facing an uphill battle.
Develop accessible tools.
We developed the manual, Planning our Response to HIV/AIDS – A Step by Step Guide to HIV/AIDS Planning for the Anglican Communion (PDF Document 4.3MB), and piloted it with the target audience to ensure it met their needs. The end product was easy and self-explanatory enough for everybody to pick up and use. Also, the manual could be easily adapted to meet the specific needs of each diocese.
Have a vision.
What drove the diocesan planning process was the vision that was carved out collectively at the All Africa Anglican Conference on HIV/AIDS. In faith-based organisations this is particularly critical because the patriarchs of the church are seen as visionaries, and vision plays a very important role in the church. Vision may not be as powerful in a private sector or government environment, but in a faith-based organisation it is very important and it moves people to make shifts in their thinking that may otherwise not have happened.
Don’t underestimate the importance of collective statements
to support the process.
Proclamations such as those from the All Africa Anglican Conference and the Primates’ Statement from Canterbury are leadership’s commitment through the written word and are very important in informing subsequent actions.
Make use of good facilitators.
Skilful facilitation can make or break an undertaking like this. You need people who are experienced enough to manage the different power relations within the church and who have a deep understanding of HIV/AIDS. Facilitators cannot be prescriptive in their facilitation of the planning process, as the content of the plan must honour and be driven by the needs of the local community.
Start the planning process with the “I”.
If you want practical solutions to problems and don’t want to run an academic exercise, start with the community’s experience around HIV/AIDS. As a participant at an HIV/AIDS workshop it’s important to ask, “What do I feel about HIV/AIDS? What have I seen about the disease, and what have I heard?” These questions form the beginning of the situational analysis that provides insight into what the individual and collective meaning around HIV/AIDS is, and this understanding impacts on planning. From this, identifying the priority areas for a particular community’s response to HIV/AIDS flowed naturally.
Incorporate the Spirit into your work.
Each day began and ended with prayer and song and this was very powerful in uniting people and validating the work they were doing.
Strategic planning should be process rather than product driven.
In this way, the plan is shaped by and through the experiences of the local community and the community voice will be heard. Through the interactive and experiential planning workshop, a plan emerges which reflects the issues and solutions of that community.
Make resources available for travel and accommodation.
Taking care of practicalities means participants only have to think about the work at hand.
Look to the field for wisdom and insight.
Communities are experiencing grief and loss and they’re witnessing what’s happening within their churches. This is where the richness of the experience of HIV/AIDS comes from, and this is what you have to listen to because that’s where the wisdom lies. And, whatever information you glean from the community, you have to be sure to feed back to the leadership. This needs to be an ongoing dialogue.