BRIDGE Comes to Jordan
4 June 2008
The program, the first of several planned for Jordan, was really well received by participants and proved once again the ability of BRIDGE to work in a cross-cultural environment. The materials were all provided in Arabic and the workshop was presented in a combination of Arabic and English to Arabic interpreting.
Hermann Thiel, the IFES Chief of Party in Jordan, has made the following very useful observations about the program:
“The course was hugely successful, largely because of the following:
We had two very experienced facilitators in the lead(Ross Attrill and Emad Yousef). Both of them are excellent facilitators and are very knowledgeable in the subject matter we dealt with (Electoral Systems, Electoral Management, and Strategic planning as part of an Introduction module). I strongly recommend combining these two factors (experience as a facilitator and knowledge in the subject matter) in selecting facilitators for all BRIDGE courses. Even though I am now an accredited facilitator, I will continue to get experienced people like Ross and Emad for the next few times I facilitate before I would conduct BRIDGE as a lead facilitator. It is also crucial to involve specialists in the subject matter. Between Ross, Emad and myself we had enough knowledge of the subject matter for this course, but we would not have had enough knowledge for other modules. It is not good enough to have a very good facilitator without specialist knowledge. If you do not have facilitators with specialist knowledge, it is crucial to involve a specialist.
We were not scared to involve translation for Ross, myself and Ambar. I am convinced that it is more important to have experienced facilitators and specialist knowledge than only Arabic speaking facilitators who may not be specialists in the field. I am also convinced that the added value of outside perspectives is crucial. We learned a lot about the way to use translation during the BRIDGE training, and I will write up a few separate notes on that. It did not detract from the quality of the course and the enjoyment of the participants to work with translators.
It is crucial to have an experienced Arabic speaking facilitator as part of the team. Emad is brilliant and we were very lucky to have him available. Despite what I said about translation above, you cannot do it without an experienced Arabic speaking facilitator who can pick up on nuances that the rest of us are not able to identify. And make sure that you have at least two Arabic speaking facilitators as part of the team.
We had five facilitators for a five day course (Ross, Emad, me, Ambar and Rasha – two Arabic, three English speaking; two experienced, three inexperienced facilitators; three with specialist knowledge, two without specialist knowledge). One of the main advantages of the BRIDGE method is that you work as a team of facilitators. Besides preventing boredom, it demonstrates the power of working in well-balanced teams, and you can build the course around the diversity and strengths of the various facilitators. I strongly recommend combining experienced facilitators (such as Ross and Emad) with inexperienced facilitators (such as myself, Ambar, Chantal, Zeinab, Rasha) for all our courses. Ross will provide us with the names of experienced BRIDGE facilitators who we can invite. For the next year or two, until we have developed enough experience among our in-house facilitators, we must invite experienced people from outside. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that being accredited as a facilitator does not make you experienced enough to conduct BRIDGE on your own. I will definitely make sure that I conduct BRIDGE with experienced facilitators for the time being, and I hope that all our other recently accredited facilitators would do the same. Even more experienced facilitators can benefit from working with other experienced facilitators from time to time. We should have a structured plan to make sure that our in-house facilitators (and those of our partners in the various commissions, ministries and NGO’s) get as many opportunities as possible to work with experienced people so that they can gain the necessary experience. We must make sure that we include this in our respective budgets.
Also, do not be scared to increase the size of the team of facilitators. For a five day course, I think that three facilitators would have been too few. It is just too taxing on the facilitators, and the participants need more variety.
We took the participants away from their daily environment. It is not always possible to pay for all the participants to stay in a hotel, but it definitely helped to take all of them away from Amman (to Aqaba) where they were unreachable and there was no temptation to get away to attend to work.”