Saturday, January 28, 2012

Freeing the Mystery: Valuing IWRM

This being human - the mystery never leaves us.

We know that we are at once precious and whole - and incomplete. We thirst for wholeness.

Pablo Freire noted that in our yearning to complete ourselves we can turn to either humanisation or dehumanisation. History is rife with both. But it is only humanisation which is the 'people's vocation'. Humanisation is only possible with freedom. Freedom terrifies: It requires authenticity which requires breaking away from the images of the adult when that adult is our oppressor. And who among us is neither oppressor nor oppressed? It requires maturation. As we deeply social creatures need one another during the strife of acquiring our freedom, this means we need to reach beyond our individuality towards the other without loosing ourselves in the process.

And so this becomes our task: to free one another from the bonds of our own and our society's oppression.
To do so, we use what we have always used - hands, hearts, minds - and language. We use words.

We must call one another forth.

And not just any words. We use those words that are so powerful that they call us into action. Freire called those action-words, praxis - where reflection and action intertwine, allowing a pathway towards freedom. 30 years ago, Dr Brian Hall called these words 'values'. My colleague Tone Ringstad sometimes calls them 'sparks'. They spark the engine of any organisation. The engine that enables human development. Certainly those who actively work with these values' eyes have a certain light sparkle to them. It is as if these intangible pockets of energy have their own life, and when we work with them, we touch something that is deeper than much of the superficiality of human existence and yet forms and re-forms it.

Inspired by Freire, developmental psychologists and his own work Latin America, Dr. Hall systematically found 125 Universal Human Values, named them and created a way to measure them. Their development echoes a spiral dynamics that may be familiar to some of you, but with a level of granuality and - critically - of measurement that provides proxies, insights and focus for some of the most critical aspects of human work: enabling the alignment of individuals, teams, and cultures within and between institutional structures. Have I mentioned the measurement part? We can measure them. And as any of us who have followed the debates on the importance - and pain - of GDP as an indicator of so-called 'development', what we measure is what we count and what we count, well, counts.

I've been steeped in values-data the past few days/weeks as I prepare to go to India for the first-ever evaluation of an Integrated Water Resource Management project.

It turns out that some of the early work of Values Development was done in India. Dr Hall worked closely with Fr. Anthony De Sousa of the Xavier Institute of Management, Mumbai. That collaboration led to the Manohar publication of a book on leadership and values in 1979: Developing Leadership by Stages.The book's publication was sponsored by the Department of Research and Publication of the Indian Social Institute, New Delhi.
So I stand on the shoulders of giants, embarking into one of the modern 'Tiger' economies. Yet I feel quite small, embarking into a strange culture and a strange land to talk - and to learn - about human values. It is an opportunity to live out some of my own 'higher' values: of interconnection, minessence, synergy and 'word'. There's a lot we don't know.

Here, in the world of water engineers and floods (we lost some good data due to recent flooding; less fortunate people lost their lives) and fisheries and farmers and the desire to improve service delivery and agricultural outputs and the complications of the Indian beauracracies that these questions of freedom and the values that will get us there become real. By real I mean, really messy. By really messy, I mean, complex. By complex I mean, the stuff of life. Where it is possible to detect patterns and to find the difference that will make a difference.

Irrigated Agriculture Modernisation and Water-Bodies Restoration and Management (IAMWARM)
was instigated in response to the report of an Expert Committee on “Development and Management of Water Resources”. It emphasized the critical need to increase agricultural productivity, especially in the absence of possibility for bringing additional land area into cultivation. It saw the challenge as one of
increasing the efficiency and productive use of water and strengthening and integrating institutional structures to give small and marginal farmers access to irrigation management and improved agriculture practices.This entails bringing together 8 departments, from fisheries to agriculture. This is no small task.

Integrated Water Resource Management requires a certain collection of values. Researchers continuously find water decisions and processes for service delivery require balance of diverse perspectives and the promotion of shared vision values, such as sustainability. It requires that administrations move out of the 'me centred' perspective and towards a 'we centered' perspective. This is a significant Inherently complex, water basin systems require multi-stakeholder negotiation and what some folks at MIT and Tufts are calling 'water diplomacy'. This trip, at least, is less about water diplomacy per se as it is about how much a particular change management programme that has sought to bring together the different departments been successful. We are using this cutting-edge values technology to measure this - and doing what I hope will be a large and rich array of field work, talking to a string of water engineers, departmental heads and others to discover just how much this particular programme has had the desired impact. Are they able to work together in a way that increases their shared humanity? Or are they being pulled towards continued disintegration?

It's not easy, bringing about integration for better service delivery, though it is essential for sustainability. That search for wholeness. In a state with a long history of water conflicts, this is one evaluation that might put a small drop towards making a difference. But at the moment, most of what I have is a lot of unanswered questions, and a sneaking suspicion that the real mystery is that amidst all of our differences, we connect ever, at all.

No comments: