Building Mountains – BRIDGE at the top of the World
30 November 2008
Mr Laxman Bhattarai, Ms Shanta Marasina Nepal and Mr Dhruba Prasad Dhakal from the Election Commission and Fernanda Lopes from UNDP Nepal participated in a Train the Facilitator (TtF) course, in Melbourne, Australia, in May 2008. It will be these three officers of the Election Commission who will have the responsibility of incorporating BRIDGE into the programs of the Election Commission. I spent one month in Nepal as Lead Facilitator to assist the team to prepare and conduct a showcase and a TtF.
The showcase for the Election Commissioners, Secretary and under Secretaries and the TtF preparations were conducted in the bustling city of Kathmandu, in the Kathmandu valley. The TtF was conducted in the clear air of Dhulikhel Mountain Resort, with beautiful views over the Lantang range of the Himalayas.
Each morning Mr Laxman and I would rise at dawn and make the short climb up the hill behind our hotel to watch the sunrise. The moment when the sun would rise over the horizon and cast its first rays on the mighty Himalayas never failed to leave us with a sense of awe. It always left me energised for each day of the TtF.
The TtF was like all TtFs, intense, draining, challenging and rewarding. There were twenty one participants from all over Nepal; nineteen District Officers and one IT officer from the Commission and one officer from the Nepal BRIDGE Office funded by IDEA. The TtF was conducted in Nepali and in English and was facilitated by Laxman, Dhruba, Shanta, Fernanda and myself. For many participants this was their first exposure to adult learning techniques. BRIDGE adult learning methodology can be challenging for some. One of the interesting responses that we facilitators received from a number in the group was a questioning of the style and structure of the group feedback sessions. Some of the participants felt that it would have been more useful to provide the other participants with an unveiled critique of their activities. It was a constant struggle for the facilitators to keep on top of this surging negativity. I have very occasionally experienced groups where such negativity has been allowed to flourish unchecked. Far from improving the performances of the participants, it has had a significant and detrimental effect on the group; reducing confidence levels, building animosity between participants and creating an overall sombre mood. Before going into the reasons why the feedback sessions were structured in this way we decided to teach the group an English word that they could all relate to.
We explained it like this: Each morning we rise and look at the mountains. An English word that is sometimes used for large imposing mountains is Edifice. The act of edifying – edification, means to build people up, literally into mountains. We told the group that there will be plenty of critics when we leave this training room but our job is to build mountains in here that will be able to withstand the pressures outside.
Many times I have met participants who have entered a BRIDGE workshop or TtF who were shy and lacking any real confidence. By participating in the structure of the workshop and through the process and methodology of BRIDGE that person has grown in confidence and stature. This was no different in Nepal. It was exciting to see the participants grab hold of the material and methodology and jump right in. There were some fabulous presentations. As Lead Facilitator I was constantly surprised with the high standard both of the participants and my fellow facilitators. With the high standard of Facilitators and the nurture of the BRIDGE Office within the Election Commission, BRIDGE has a bright future in Nepal.
The plan is to begin rolling BRIDGE out to the regions beginning in December. The modules identified by the Election Commission for implementation are:
- Voter Registration
- Legal Framework
- Civic Education
- Voter Education
- Pre-Election Activity
- Polling and Counting
The aim is for initial modules to be run with strong international support and as the confidence and skill levels rise this support will be reduced so that the Commission takes sole responsibility for BRIDGE implementation. As BRIDGE rolls out to the regions I am sure Nepal will be able to say they have held the highest BRIDGE workshops in the world. Building mountains in the mountains!