Seeking to combat South Africa’s severe periods of drought and slagging economic progress, LGCP South Africa has supported local governance institutions in South Africa in their water management and local economic development policies since 2012. December 2016 was marked by the end of LGCP’s activities in South Africa, a great moment to look back at the achievements of the last 5 years.
Coming together in Johannesburg, all partners of LGCP South Africa celebrated the results booked through the collaboration between local governments, catchment management agencies, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the national departments of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) and of course VNG International’s daughter company based in Pretoria, CMRA. For the occasion two booklets were developed which collect some of the significant change stories attained since 2012.
Below Mr. Alexander Verkerk shares his experience with developing this booklet:
“Armed with a phone, notepad and questions, I have sought to capture the most significant change stories brought about by LGCP South Africa. I did so by interviewing beneficiaries who were directly affected by the programme, including nine CEOs of Catchment Management Agencies (local water authorities), 14 LED practitioners working in various municipalities and the Dutch local governments and water authorities involved in the programme.
Ideally, a significant change story outlines how the programme brought about one particular and notable impact for beneficiaries in a practical and in-depth manner. At times it was a tough challenge to extract such stories because interviewees were often difficult to reach, did not always understand the purpose of the interview, talked about something that was yet to happen, reflected on a more strategic level and had limited time for an interview. By steering the interview and asking the right questions, for example on how the intervention affected stakeholders, such challenges could be prevented or overcome.
In a few weeks’ time, two booklets were filled with each nine significant change stories, among others capturing how stakeholders in a catchment management area were enabled to influence decision making through a forum, how businesses gained more confidence in municipalities because of reduced red-tape, and how a neighbourhood for lower-income households was designed through engagements between prospective tenants, a social housing institution, a provincial government and some community-based organisations, to name a few.
Getting these stories via email is a no-go. Believe me, I tried. That method got me a bunch of documents, bullet points concerning various topics and stories that lack depth and practicality. This way also necessitates you to ask follow-up questions, which in turn can take much time to be answered. The most efficient way to document significant change stories seems to schedule appointments by phone, email them the purpose of the interview and some example questions, conduct the interview, process the story, and receive feedback.
Amplified by pictures and reflections of LGCP partners, the booklets were distributed at two separate LGCP South Africa close-out conferences and received positive reactions.
Altogether it has been a pleasure to talk to people involved in LGCP South Africa and note their enthusiasm about the programme. This journey of asking, listening and writing has elucidated my understanding of the workings and benefits of international collaboration to improve water management and develop local economies.”
For more information you can contact Anne-Marie.Tosserams@vng.nl.