The aim of all professionally trained project managers is to deliver high quality deliverables at every stage of the project, with effectively utilizing their team and without compromising costs and deadlines. Professionals must be trained to be effective leaders and managers by developing key qualities and applying smart strategies that uphold the integrity of the organization. Recognizing this requisite, Shewaram Suthar felt that his organization and department needed to enhance their capacities on specific skills to ensure that their organizational goals and objectives are met timely, effectively and efficiently.

Shewaram is working as Manager Programs with the Association for Water, Applied Education & Renewable Energy (AWARE) and firmly believes that training and skills development provides both, the organization and the individual employee, with expertise and benefits making it a worthwhile investment.

I have been with Aware since 2014. We have four offices operating in Sindh. Our head office is in Umerkot with district offices in Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan and Tharparker.

Though I completed my masters in Zoology, I was always attracted towards the social sector. The work done for the development of the country and building better lives for the people of the country inspired me to join the development sector. I wanted to play my part in making the world or Pakistan a better place to live. We are not a very big country but playing our part to make living easier for even a few is an essential motive to achieve.

Shewaram is heading a group of teams implementing eight projects in four districts of Sindh.

Many challenges are faced internally and externally. One of the main problems in the organization was the lack of technical knowledge in reporting, project planning, financing and monitoring. With time changing so rapidly, new methodologies and tools are being introduced to improve the functions of various departments. However due to lack of resources, it is difficult to stay updated. This affects the quality of work we do on a daily basis. In addition, we particularly lacked in proposal writing skills. My team and myself, failed to develop winning and all inclusive project proposals.

Through November 2016 to March 2017, Shewaram attended trainings on Project Design and Project Planning conducted by Community World Service Asia. The trainings aimed to provide a systematic approach to managing and maintaining different types of projects, organizational changes and development. Shewaram also nominated his team members to participate in other topic and subject specific trainings conducted by Community World Service to enhance the organization’s overall staff capacity.

Given a platform by Community World Service Asia, I thought of utilizing its benefits to the fullest. I sent relevant staff members to the trainings which were conducted under the Capacity Institutionalization Program. This capacity building opportunity offered to us provided all the necessary guidelines for seasoned and skilled professionals to effectively master project management,

quoted Shewaram. Prior to the participating in the trainings, the departments of Human Resource Management, Finance, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) and Programs lacked in quality management and technical knowledge shared Shewaram.

Coming back from the project planning training, I initiated work on revising all policies and manuals. All the documents for our Human Resource, Finance and M&E departments were updated. The Gender Policy, Child Protection Policy, Communications Strategy, Accountability Framework and other existing documentations were renewed. Each department assigned a focal person who was looking into implementation and enforcement procedures of the revised documents. That focal point would be contacted in relation to any query addressed by internal staff or external stakeholders, donors or partners.  The Logical Framework Analysis (LFA) of M&E was formed after two of our staff participated in the M&E Training conducted in March 2016 in Islamabad.

Shewaram further added that the M&E methodologies incorporated in the M&E LFA has helped to derive quality outcomes from the projects. The Complain Mechanism (CM) Policy was revised, providing a contact number to all staff members and assigning the number to the focal person appointed to handle complains according to the CM Policy.

Every focal person has a Terms of References (TOR) document according to which they deliver their duties. They are trained to research for new tools or methodologies for timely revision of all policies and manuals existing in all departments.

Shewaram also recognized that it is essential to have consistent collaboration among projects with multidisciplinary teams.

We established the Resource Mobilization Unit (RMU) lead by the CEO of Aware. The unit consists of seven members including the CEO, Manager Programs, three Project Managers, one M&E staff and a Finance Manager. The main function of the unit is to secure new and additional resources for the organization. It also involves making better use of, and maximizing, existing resources. This unit has filled the gap which existed between the employers and the management team. The RMU has become a useful tool through which we communicate effectively and share necessary updates about the status of the project and departments. The progress and challenges faced internally and externally on field by all departments are discussed and inputs are shared in the meetings we conduct on a monthly basis.

The training I attended on project proposal writing was very beneficial. I use to write basic proposals due to lack of knowledge in technicalities. The training helped built a better understanding in format writing, word limit, line spacing and various components attached to make a good proposal. We often overlooked these minor details which resulted in improving the quality of our proposals immensely.

Shewaram and his RMU have developed five project proposals since the proposal writing training out of which two have been accepted.

We developed the proposals as a team. I would draft the project proposal which was reviewed by the RMU individually or in a joint meeting.

The HR officer of Aware took part in the Human Resource Training held in July 2016 in Islamabad.

The training highlighted various HR tools which can be effective for the organization. Web Human Resource (WebHR) was one of the tools shared in the training, which is a cloud based HR application. After revising the HR manual, we brought WebHR through which we have been working efficiently. We are currently in contact with the purchasing company for more information on its working. WebHR has made it easy for the HR Department to start managing HR processes and maintain databases effectively. It acts as a bridge between human resource management and information technology. WebHR has converted human resources information into a digital format, allowing that information to be added to the knowledge management systems of the organization.

 In addition, three of Aware’s Finance staff participated in the Financial Management Training conducted in May 9-13, 2017 in MirpurKhas to which Shewaram opined,

The quality of financial and budget monitoring reports have improved significantly due to the technical knowledge learnt in the training.

According to Shewaram, Aware is working in a more organized manner.

The teams’ capacity has enhanced allowing the deliverance of quality work. With polices and manuals revised, the working of all departments is running smooth and orderly. Some documents are in process of being revised. Moreover, the staff sent to the trainings, shared their learning with their concerned departments This exercise allowed enhancing the knowledge of all departments in their field of work. I am pleased to say that we have progressed immensely in a year and half,

reported Shewaram proudly.

The series of skill-building opportunities not only reinforced the need to encourage unity and a sense of purpose where teams are working towards a common goal, it also allowed to assess areas where we can improve to be effective leaders with a result-oriented, yet humane, focus,

concluded Shewaram.

Social mobilization is the backbone of any non-governmental organization.  Since most work of NGOs are centered around communities, social mobilizations becomes essential,

insightfully remarked, social worker Umme.

Social workers act as changing agents in the society by motivating communities to think about their social and economic problems in a community forum. This enables the community to work together in achieving their mutual goals of social welfare.

Forty-seven-years-old Umme Kalsoom Siyal, resident of one of the poorest and most under-developed areas of Punjab, Pakistan, has always had a passion for social empowerment and improvement. Umme is the first woman social worker from Dera Ghazi Khan, a district in Southern Punjab province of Pakistan, and home to a community that largely discourages women from stepping out of their homes, even for basic needs. Umme, however, is a fearless lady who not only stands up for herself but also for the disadvantaged community around her. Her numerous demanding experiences in her social work reveal this inner strength and resolution, encouraging her to never give up.

Umme first began her career in social work in 1994 as a supervisor, along with her husband, in an education project called “Alif Laam Mim.” The education department tasked them with conducting a survey of fifty nonfunctional schools so that they could devise school improvement plans. Umme recalls,

This field task was extremely difficult. We had to travel for 7-8 hours on a motorbike to reach the schools, which were located in the desert. Sometimes, it would take days to reach the right places. When we started working in the field, we observed that people had to deal with manifold issues; low income, poor health, food, education and others.

As Umme and her husband sought to empower struggling communities, the communities developed high expectations from the couple. Consequently, Umme and her husband decided to establish Social Youth Council of Patriots (SYCOP), which works with communities to improve their lives. SYCOP was registered in 1996 under a government act in 1961. The organization had humble beginnings, as it began in a one-room office in Rajanpur. However, it slowly expanded over the next twenty-one years into a highly distinguished non-governmental organization.

Umme and her husband first worked as supervisors in SYCOP, but after her husband’s death, Umme took charge as Executive Director. In addition to this role, Umme is a member of Zila Council Assembly and Punjab Commission on the Status of Women from Dera Ghazi Khan Division.

Notwithstanding her countless years of social work, Umme had never received proper training on social mobilization before she attended Community World Service Asia’s training in July this year. Rather, she learnt all her social mobilization skills through her fieldwork and had no knowledge of the specific tools used in social mobilization. However, this summer, Umme learned the fundamentals of social mobilization through the training in July.

The training not only personally benefited Umme, but it also had positive impacts on SYCOP.

During the training, Umme easily connected with the other participants, and they exchanged their field experiences and discussed community behaviors. This exchange of ideas benefited the participants, as they had diverse experiences and came from all over Pakistan. Umme is still in contact with the friends she made at the training, and they share networking and funding opportunities with each other. Umme explained,

Sharing this experience and conversing with participants has left me with innovative ideas and ambitions for the future.

Furthermore, Umme learnt risk management and conflict resolution at the training.

That was the first time I realized how important it is to go to a new community fully prepared. Social mobilizers should be aware of the underlying community conflicts and risks so that they can develop a risk management plan.

Umme also appreciated the experience of conducting a mock survey on Disaster Risk Reduction with a trainer in a village since she learnt all the practical steps of initiating such a field survey. She particularly benefited from this exercise as SYCOP is also working on Disaster Risk Reduction, so she says it could help SYCOP to replicate the same activity with their communities. In the activity at the social mobilization training, the participants conducted a field survey on hazard identification and then held a community meeting.

Another key part of the social mobilization training was cost management. The training improved Umme’s budgeting skills, so now Umme can discuss SYCOP projects with partners and donors with more clarity. Therefore, Umme is more confident in negotiating project agreements for her organization. Moreover, her communication skills have also improved through Community World Service Asia’s social mobilization training. These skills have helped her build contacts and linkages with other stakeholders’ including government departments, civil society organizations, communities and staff.

Umme replicated the social mobilization training with the SYCOP staff and also shared training results with her board members. They plan to develop a social mobilization strategy for SYCOP, as the organization intends to register with the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan at a national level.

SYCOP has enhanced its’ mobilization skills, and now the staff is working on the field on challenging projects, such as reproductive health. Umme believes that it is important to work with men first in order to break social taboos as it is difficult to get women participation in such projects. She said that her team discussed the health issues of women in the community with their husbands openly and made them realize to prioritize health needs of their wives. After listening to them, they acknowledged SYCOP for taking such useful initiatives and asked them to work with women and protect their lives.

Umme asserted,

The social mobilization training met my expectation, and I am happy that I not only learnt myself, but also that I passed on the information to the other staff. In this way, I transferred the training’s benefits to the communities with which they work.

Umme recently experienced an incident of community conflict while working with the community. A dispute between two community members of a target village of SYCOP was adversely affecting the progress of one of their projects. Umme called both members to the SYCOP office and had individual meetings with them. In these meetings, she discussed the matter in detail with them by listening to them and identifying the reasons for conflict. Hereafter, Umme held a joint meeting with both of them in which she calmly discussed the issue. She gave both of them time to talk to each other and understand each other’s point of view. Both the parties were able to clear their misunderstanding by the end of the discussions. Umme expressed,

I believe that there is no conflict which cannot be resolved through discussion.

The Social Mobilization Training equipped Umme with necessary tools that will strengthen her social work, harnessing her potential to achieve even greater accomplishments in social mobilization.