Dph : thought and action in the service of a country
03 / 2003
A former French colony and an overseas Departement since 1946, the Island of Reunion has experienced rapid demographic growth since the 1960s. A rural exodus, an increase in slum dwellings, the growth of unemployment and the destruction of the countryside led the French State and the local authorities to implement policies for economic and social development during the seventies. However, in spite of these measures, the settlement continued to develop in an unplanned and chaotic way, and it quickly became obvious that the territory’s development should be considered in global terms, rather than piecemeal.
From 1994, public funds were used to promote training sessions and exchanges between "High" people (those in the mountains) and "Low" people (those by the coast). To reinforce this strategy, a documentation centre for the town and the development of the territory was created in 1995. Then in 1998 the AKOZ review "Notebooks from development staff in Reunion", was launched to capitalize on developers’ experience. Ideas and analysis proliferated, but never resulted in a coherent development plan.
The Dph network was involved from that time on. Its aim was to facilitate collective thinking and coordinate new ways of approaching problems, by formulating and circulating local experiences better. In 1998, the first contact was made between FPH and the Island of Reunion. As part of the town’s Inter-ministerial and Regional Delegation (DIV), Catherine Foret organized a programme of training in experience exchange, intended for project managers and local development agencies. The agencies met every three years to capitalize their experiences. However, although there was the will to act together, the absence of methodology was noticeable.
In May 1998, the DIV organized the conference "Meetings in Reunion Town", during which Pierre Calame, Director of the FPH, gave a presentation on levels of governance and the relationship between the local and the global. In October 1998, the first 5-day training session, led by Vladimir Ugarte and Dasa Radovic of the FPH, familiarized those involved with the Dph method: definition of objectives, selection of experiences depending on objectives, reciprocal interviews, writing forms, identifying key ideas, analysis, rewriting the forms, identifying topics, etc. The main body of the participants comprised around twenty representatives from associations offering basic education, but others came from public institutions. The session also led the participants to consider how a network for local experience exchange should be constructed to meet the huge challenges in the areas of urban and rural development. On the technical side, the Dph software was installed in the Centre for Resources for Town Policies and for the Development of the High-People, and five people were trained to use it over a two-day period.
From 1999, the informal group set up decided to progress this strategy without any official support or financing. They set objectives of perfecting the forms produced during the training in October 1998, producing new ones, creating a local bank of development experiences, and gradually defining the operating conditions and structure of a network. These development agents met every two months, with the tacit agreement of their institutions, but without a formal written agreement. Members took it in turn to issue invitations and keep the minutes, and the meetings were at a different site each time. To increase gradually the network of those involved in this initiative, a second training session was organized in May 1999 by two members of the initial group. This trained ten additional people.
However, producing "a development plan for Reunion" is a very ambitious objective for volunteers. In spite of this, the group succeeded in bringing the project to a number of institutions, so that the self-qualification would be recognized as equivalent to more conventional training. The training body IRTS (Regional Institute for Training Social Workers) sought public funding to produce around fifty forms.
The local network was formed, and moved on to the second stage: of linking its experiences with those of other islands in the Indian Ocean. The workshop at Grand Ilet, organized in November 1999 by the FPH, the Fondation de France (France Foundation) and the Fondation communautaire de l’Océan Indien (Indian Ocean Community Foundation), extended the network to participants from neighbouring islands. This workshop brought together 35 development agents focusing on the concept of "Indian Ocean-ness". Dph tools and methods were used to define a common plan, based on strengthening the South-South cooperation.
: It is, above all, individuals, rather than institutions, who become voluntarily involved in Dph. For the Réunionnais, two principles governed the network design: on the one hand, a network only exists if its members are active; on the other hand, a network has no obvious centre, but shared resources and skills. The corollary of these two principles is that the rules of use need to be quite clear to everybody.
Two Dph practices have developed over time: a set of "endogenous" activities including self-training, self-assessment, capitalization, amongst others, plus "exogenous" activities, involving the sharing and building of exchanges between practitioners.
However, according the Emmanuel Souffrin’s assessment, "the network gives the impression of being tugged between a number of themes and objectives: doing forms, doing the network, working across the entire Indian Ocean, responding to local issues, extending institutional commitment, etc." This is why, in future years, the network wants to test the efficiency of Dph action in more narrowly-defined social and economic issues: social work and social economy, social bonds, social action and integration, etc.
based on papers by Daniel Guérin, Emmanuel Souffrin and Catherine Foret.
CAH/DRIV (Délégation interministérielle et régionale de la Ville) - 10 rue de Nice, 97417 St Denis, LA REUNION - (Yolaine Blanpain) - Réunion - centreressources-reunion (@) wanadoo.fr