There is a buzzing interest among stake holders of Sri Lanka’s local governance sector to strengthen and improve the quality of citizen services delivered at grass-root level. In order to improve staff capacity, Local government officials from selected areas have been exposed to an immense amount of trainings on various thematic areas overtime. Many governmental and non-governmental institutions conduct trainings for LA officials with the hopes of enhancing LA capacity by improving the skills and competencies of its officials. The Asia Foundation, in collaboration with institutions such as the Sri Lanka Institute of Local Government has successfully introduced a range of innovative tools and processors to local governments from all provinces of the country.
Many institutions that conduct such trainings, including The Asia Foundation, do not have the capacity to replicate the workshops in all 335 local authorities of the island. The inability to cater to all LA’s denies equal opportunity and only supports the improvement of selected local authorities. It has also been identified that once the stake-holders move-out after project completion, the knowledge transferred to the local government institutions are not always democratized within the institutions or used beyond the project cycle. These challenges therefore minimize any possibilities of ensuring a sustainable knowledge transfer in institutions overtime.
The Asia Foundation has attempted to create cross provincial resource pools to counter these challenges. Officials who were closely associated to projects/work-shops and were exposed to the initial trainings could potentially conduct the trainings to their colleagues of other local authorities in the country. Organizing a cross provincial resource pool, specialized in knowledge sharing, could therefore be an invaluable asset to maximizing the island-wide spread of knowledge and skills. Creating a resource pool within the local government sector ,as a focal point for knowledge and skills training is being tested by the Foundation.
A primary activity which launched the transfer of knowledge and ownership of The Asia Foundation’s Sub National Governance Program ,was to identify a resource pool of master trainers. A group of Community Development Officers who have attended many training work-shops of The Asia Foundation were initially screened. The most out-standing officials were selected to be trained as master trainers, based on skills and attitudes displayed over the many years of engagement with the Foundation.
Their first task was to lead the eCRC survey process on the ground. 20 master trainers from across the country were taught the back end functions of the eCRC tool and were given the responsibility of training up to 30 new development officers in their local authorities, with minimum supervision of the Foundation. The resource pool has been shaped with individuals who have expertise in different areas, ex: IT, Communication, Coordination, etc to ensure that the pool could be competent in all spheres of conducting surveys. Since the resource pool is an all island team, they include experts from all districts.
The foundation is pleased to note many positive outcomes of the cross provincial resource sharing initiative.
The pool of master trainers supported the Foundation by transferring knowledge and skills through multiple training sessions. The master – trainer’s pool demonstrated the capacity of local government officials to lead knowledge sharing practices within the system. The pool thus holds the potential to ensure sustainability of programs introduced to the local government sector. Once they are known across the local government sector as trainers of a particular topic or tool, they could support at competent focal points for trouble shooting and mentoring.
The initial stage of data collection required tools to be created, and replicated across the county by field level staff. The master trainers, have thus crossed borders and worked beyond their LAs. Working in new spaces has enhanced their understanding of administrative procedures, and the varying strengths and weaknesses in Local authorities of different provinces. The resource pool has used the opportunity to form a formal network of strong leaders, all who have emerged from grass root community level experience. The networks thus facilitate cross provincial communication of best practices and lessons learnt in the local government space.
The master trainers’ workshops were instances of cross provincial resource sharing experiences. Knowledge sharing discussions were facilitated among those of the same professional experiences, across contrasting geographical contexts, to create nationally applicable guidelines for the said tools. CDOs from the Eastern, Central and Southern Provinces are featured in the photo above, exchanging experiences on eCRC best practices.