Jill McAllister, ICUU Program Coordinator
I’ve just finished a two-week visit to our Unitarian groups in
The goal of
The tools which are offered include exercises designed to help the community see and know itself – such as mapping, timelines, and identification of community structures and institutions. Out of these exercises a list of achievements, problems and needs emerges. The list of needs and problems is then fine-tuned and agreed upon by the group, and then priorities are discovered through an exercise in pair-wise ranking, where each item on the list is compared to each other item, to decide, without voting, the community’s highest priority needs and goals. I emphasize the part about not voting – pair-wise ranking is an exercise in concensus building – and it works! The whole process is a participatory decision-making model which avoids potential conflicts and hurts that can sometimes be produced when voting leaves losers and minorities.
Several congregation members participated as small-group facilitators, and all those who attended were actively engaged in the process and discussions. Out of the pair-wise ranking exercise three priorities emerged; securing an agreement with the government for purchase of land, building a church home for the congregation, and continuing to nurture the religious and spiritual lives of the members of the congregation while reaching out to others. An action plan was prepared for the top two goals – and the Bujumbura congregation is already half-way to the goal, as funds have been raised for purchase of the land, with help from partners in Kalamazoo, Michigan and around the world.
In addition to clarifying and strengthening these goals for the congregation, the workshop was an excellent learning opportunity for newer congregation members – to see how the congregation works, and to hear the values and goals articulated. This was also true for the observers from
Following the workshop, at the request of the congregation, for two evenings, I provided a short class in comparative religion and theology which was attended by 20 from the workshop.
The exercises once again proved engaging and fruitful, and incredibly noisy as more than 100 people conversed! From the list of eleven needs which emerged, the pair-wise ranking exercise produced four top priorities: the need for income-generating activities, support for agriculture and for schools, and the need for greater access to health car. Working with the top priority, six action plans were prepared. The participants broke into small groups according to their interests to work on action plans related to activities such as livestock production, horticulture and improving village cooperative banks. Prior to the work on action plans, the whole gathering participated in a Sunday morning worship service provided by members of the local fellowship, with singing and dancing from children of the school. Pastor Mark’s sermon included a hearty invitation to all the villagers to join with the Unitarians in aiming for a community based on openness, acceptance and unity, capable of working together to achieve their goals.
Prior to these workshops, I had seen these tools used only partially, and not as effectively, in an ICUU council meeting several years ago. Having seen them in action in