Nearly all of the technical assistance programs that we have implemented on behalf of public bodies in various parts of the world have included an institutional strengthening component as well as the development of management and organisational elements.
Our experience with addressing development challenges in countries faced with drastic and externally-induced changes has led us to develop a specific know-how on institutional strengthening, change management tools, consensus building and on participatory decision making. Our approach involves extensive stakeholder engagement, involving a multitude of economic and social actors, and by adressing particular issues through a lens and understanding of "organisation as development”.
Nevertheless, one may consider that many of the failed attempts at international cooperation are in no minor degree aresult of having overlooked particular institutional weaknesses, the difficulties and obstacles that societies and their social groups had to face in order to reorganise themselves and manage change, and of ignoring the potential conflicts of interest implicit in any change process. In an era of large-scale and rapid transformations induced by technological innovations, such accumulated know-how proves itself as vital in every corner of the world.
It is because of our multifaceted approach to problem solving and our experience in doing so that we have been frequently asked to advise on policies and strategies as well as to undertake research on democratisation processes, civil society development and on the causes and preventions of conflict. This research can be seen in the 2000 European Commision framework contract titled “Human Rights, Democratisation and Institutional Strengthening".
In our practice a development plan is considered a process rather than a document or a blue-print. The salient feature is the space to the left of the social actors, where the planning is undertaken. A top-down, rational and comprehensive plan carried out by an umbrella agency is thus replaced by an incremental mode of planning - one characterised by flexibility, open to bottom-up input and experiences, subject to feedback and flexible in order to maintain sustainability. We have learnt from experience just how effective a participatory approach, one that involves the various actors in all stages of the project cycle, can be, and while this process is can be difficult and time consuming, the chances of success are greatly enhanced.