IAF Seminar

"Strengthening NGOs – Winning support for ideas and their political implementation"
Message26.07.2016
Strengthening NGOs, Azlina

Gummersbach, Germany, from 13th to 25th March 2016, a longstanding partner of FNF Malaysia,namely Merdeka Center has sent its talented staff to IAF Seminar after passing the selection. Below is a mixture of impression, feedback and material review.

reported by Azlina Halit

Winning support for ideas depends on how well I communicate. My own style of communication is at the heart of this success. However, communication starts with the way I perceive my interlocutor. It is him or her I have to reach.

Communication is about more than just exchanging information. It's about understanding the situation and intentions behind the information. Communication is also a two-way street. It’s not only how you convey a message so that it is received and understood by someone in exactly the way you intended; it’s also how you listen to gain the full meaning of what’s being said and to make the other person feel heard and understood.

I was delighted upon knowing that I was among the participants chosen for the seminar. With a bit of tentative background readings made a week before the seminar, I was already looking forward to the critical discussions, interactive activities and looking forward to meet fellow participants of the program.

Most participants arrived on the 13th of March at the IAF, greeted with a welcoming dinner and an informal introduction to the seminar by the head of IAF, Bettina and later introduced to the facilitators of the seminar Arno Keller and Tauseeq Haider. Participants later took the opportunity for a brief introduction. The seminar officially started on the
13th of March for the next thirteen days till the 25th of March, filled with interesting sessions giving participants new lessons and experiences to bring back home.

In preparing this brief report I’ll look into the three main points that I see best to summarize the whole seminar. These three aspects are the seminar’s program design, the content of discussions and the seminar participants. At first I felt that this seminar was quite long spanning 13 days. However, as each session passed and looking into the program design, the seminar was fleeting. The program was designed to include a variety of sessions from conceptual discussions such as understanding the term value, strategic goal setting, structure analysis and brand communication strategy.

There were also a few sessions done via group discussions to develop a common understanding on issues relating to business plan development and communication. There were also sessions on communications with debate trainings. The project development part was also very interesting. Selected participants were asked to present their own project initiatives with the help of fellow participants.

• Strategic goal setting for NGOs: Formulate of vision and mission statement and strategic goals.
• Expectation of potential donors, civil society and politics.
• Structure Analysis: Strength/weakness analysis and identification of strategic focus areas.
• NGO business plan and development.
• NGO brand and target image.
• Strategic to strengthen NGO capacity in resource mobilization.
• Communication: Fundamental principles; the use of social media; practice direct communication training in speech and interview.
• Brand communication strategy.

And surely not to be missed here, the trip to Cologne, Aachen and Brussels. In Aachen,
our arrival was greeted by Bernard Goffart, who is responsible for the refugee program, the NGOs and other voluntary workers of the city of Aachen. Participants also visited the
Aachen Cathedral and did some shopping.

At European Parliament
At European Parliament

In Eupen (Belgium), we had a discussion with community Senator and Vice President of the Parliament of the German Community (Member of Liberal Party for Freedom and Progress, PFF). The trip continued via Hombourg where we visited the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, and short visit and sightseeing to Maastricht (Netherlands) and experiencing the Three Countries Tour in Brussels.

The second day in Brussels, we were at the FNF offices in Brussels. There, we learnt about the European Union and Transatlantic Dialogue through a very interesting and informative presentation by the Program Coordinator, European Dialogue Program, FNF. We also learnt about the Acquisition of EU Funding and Funding Options, presented by Alba Cako, EU Liaison Manager FNF, whereas other speakers were Alina Garkova, of ENop spokeon lobbying and Democracy Support, Vania Freitas, Advocacy and Policy Coordinator, CONCORD Europe talked about strengthening the voice of the Development NGOs. In the evening, we visited the European Parliament. For me that was an awesome experience and I learned a lot. The last day in Brussels, we were still at the FNF offices. Joakim Frantz, Manager Campaigning and Capability Building of ALDE Party presented about the International Relations and Cooperation. Informative session and great guy!

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Another key point for me to comment is on the content of the seminar, which in general is about Business Plan Development, Structure Analysis and Brand Communication Development. The flow of the content went on smoothly from getting a proper definition of strategic to strengthening the NGO’s capacity in resource mobilization for a common understanding. The sessions were ramped up into more specific topics such as values, strategic goal setting, business plan development and communication skills. This process was guided skillfully by the facilitators to ensure participants were not alienated from the discussions.
Personally, the most interesting session was a communication session, “Personal Branding” where we were split into several groups to choose the brand of each organization. , We had to role play characters in the group to introduce our organization. Another session was the practical session on direct communication training in speech and interview. These sessions are interesting and we had fun.

The other aspect, which I would say as best at the seminar, was the variety of participants coming from different countries. There were almost 24 of us coming from 22 countries that all the different regions. This diversity didn’t just provide richness in terms of cultural settings of the seminar but lent a uniqueness in the participants’ point of views, making all issues to be critically discussed and debated to understand the complexities of politics, religion, culture and individual experiences. The only limitation to this diversity was the command of language that could be noticed among non-English speaking presenters or speakers, which needed to rely on translation tools at times disrupting the process of the seminar.

To conclude on the report, I would certainly say the whole seminar provided me with a variety of lessons. Overall, the best lesson that I took back home was mainly on how a similar seminar or workshop could be conducted and organized at home. I am certain the lessons learnt here are beneficial for my personal development, and also to the communities I deal with on a regular basis with regards to the programs and activities I organize here at home.

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I believe the experience acquired from interacting with the trainers and the seminar participants broaden my ability to offer more valuable and meaningful methods in tackling the issues faced by my fellow NGO counterparts. Furthermore, attending a seminar as such provided me with the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and exchange knowledge with them, thus broadening and deepening my understanding on the subject, may it for work or for self-improvement.

Thank you to FNF for the opportunity and I look forward to future engagements and the possibility of working together in the near future.