The Truth of the Work:
Theories of Change in a changing world
an article by Doug Reeler and Rubert Van Blerk,
the Community Development Resource Association, 2017
After several sessions of a Theories of Change Learning and Study Circle in 2016, we wrote this reflection on the use and practice around the notion of "Theory of Change" being demanded by donors, and the problems and possibilities practitioners are experiencing.
Striving for wholeness – an account of the development of a sovereign approach to evaluation
by Sue Soal
This case study offers an approach to evaluation that serves to support and strengthen social change organisations and initiatives. It is also a case study and account of the development of a practice, and a practitioner, showing the path this approach took in its development through experience. And then that path is illustrated by several smaller case-stories that give insight into particular emphases and practices supported by the approach. In so doing it attempts to offer both theoretical and practical insight into what practicing evaluation out of a ‘sovereign’ approach might involve.
Facilitating Social Change: Seven Questions that Keep Us Awake
By Doug Reeler, 2014
Social change does not begin with the ability to find right answers but to continually develop more powerful questions, out of experience, and from there to move forward. Often there are no answers, only continual questioning into the future.
This writing shares seven questions and lines of inquiry that guide our work:
Voices: the building blocks
of social change
by Nomvula Dlamini (2013)
Out of the diversity of “voices” we find the richness of conversations, and out of our rich conversations spring the relationships, ideas and impulses for change. We are social beings and it is through our many voices in many conversations that we are most social. How authentic voices are brought, received, engaged with and supported makes a world of difference to the quality of conversation, to human
engagement and to the contribution we each can make to processes of change.
Civil Society and the future work of social change
by James Taylor (2013)
Many civil society organisations in the funded business of social change have been overtaken by the very thing they have been pursuing. Changes in the context around social development organisations are demanding that they reflect deeply on what they do, how they do it, and on the very identity of what they should become if they are to remain relevant to the demands of the time.
Business and Civil Society and Societal Progress
by James Taylor (2011)
In this article, James Taylor argues that business and civil society need to work together differently to achieve their aims in the field of societal progress.
CDRA Annual Digest 2011
This is our annual digest for practitioners of development. The title of the first edition is Investing in the Immaterial, and the focus is on the resourcing of civil society, with contributions from a range of practitioners, whose voices, taken together, offer an account – somewhat alarming – of the current situation and challenges facing the sector.
Writing to Learn
by Sandra Hill (2011)
In this chapter from our Barefoot Guide 2, Sandra Hill tells us why she loves writing so much, and describes her approach to writing, offering helpful tips for writing to explore, inquire and learn.
The more things change, the more they stay the same
by Sue Soal (2010)
Reflecting on the history of Community Development Resource Association’s (CDRA) approach to ‘capacity development'.
This is what we need more of: messages on organisation and creativity
by Sandra Hill, 2009.
"During the Biennial, we asked ourselves and each other, What do we need more of and what do we need less of for organisations to enable creativity? We shared our findings on the last morning in five presentations. This is some of what we came to."
Freedom, Inclusion and Sufficiency - another look at what really matters
by Sue Soal and Doug Reeler (2009)
Exploring three values to address contemporary challenges.
Learning and creativity
by Sandra Hill (2008)
Experiencing development as creativity and learning holistically: incorporating creative processes and art forms in your learning practice.
Sovereign Local Organisations and Social Movements - holding rightful power
by Doug Reeler (2008)
"If development is about shifting or transforming power there has to be a clear concept of where power can be rightfully and sustainably held - sovereign local organisations and social movements are an obvious location."
Facilitating the becoming of healthy community
by Nomvula Dlamini (2008)
A new Nugget that explores different concepts of "community" and what this means for working in community
Annual Report 2008 - Points of View
This year's writing offers a faceted reflection on the state of organisation in development. In looking at this theme, we pursue two angles on "organisation.' We are interested in organisations - as things, entities, structures. What is their condition, their status and their health? In asking this question, we find differing, sometimes contradictory answers. Organisations are in crisis. Organisations are blossoming like never before. Much depends on how you look at things.
Real Learning Requires Attitude
by James Taylor (2006)
"We need to engage in forms of learning that are driven from within our own organisations and based on our own thinking and questions. We must use our relationships to learn from and share our learning in ways that challenge others to learn rather than impose our answers on them..."
Dreaming Reality -
The future in retrospect....reading social intervention through the CDRA Annual Reports, 1990-2003; and its relevance for the future
by Allan Kaplan
This year, to celebrate CDRA's 20th anniversary, we decided that, instead of an annual report, we would produce a book. Compiled by Allan Kaplan, founder member and former Director of CDRA, the book tracks a 13-year journey of exploring and describing development practice as done by CDRA. It is introduced with an essay by Njabulo S. Ndebele, an author and Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Cape Town. The book also contains a number of photographs, providing a beautifully illustrated journey through the years.
The Arrogance of Giving
by Rubert Van Blerk (2005)
A challenging reflection on the practice of "giving", so characteristic of our sector
Experiencing freedom's possibilities: Horizontal Learning in CDRA's Home Weeks
by Doug Reeler (2005)
From the CDRA Annual Report 2004/2005.
How continuously and rhythmically 'grounding' itself internally is at the heart of CDRA's practice and organisational structure.
Jazzing up the ancient art of conversation
by Desiree Paulsen (2004)
In my work as organisation development practitioner I have been hearing the terms ‘dialogue’ and ‘conversation’ being used more and more in various places both in written form and when bringing people together.
Story-telling - getting to the heart of things
by Doug Reeler (2004)
Exploring story-telling as part of practice.
Conjuring the invisible - stories from practice
From CDRA Annual Report 2003/2004
CDRA breaks open the fruit of words such as development and examines the seeds inside it.
If you meet the White Rabbit on the road, steal his watch!
by Doug Reeler (2003)
...or what began as an attempt to write a donor report became a stream of consciousness on time, development-land, activism and practice.
Seeking the Eye of the Needle
by Sue Soal (2003)
From the CDRA Annual Report, 2002/2003
Bringing to life the intention and impact of our work.
The Poverty of "Partnerships"
by James Taylor (2002)
A sabbatical journey
by Allan Kaplan (2002)
From the CDRA Annual Report 2001/2002
Making the learning organisation literal. CDRA's homeweek
by Sue Soal (2001)
The why's and wherefore's of our monthly homeweek for reflection and learning, its role, what it consists of and how it works.
Establishing Developmental Relationships
by James Taylor (2001)
"Relationship is at the heart of development itself. The developmental intervention takes place through relationship."
How do we know what difference we are making? Reflections on measuring development in South Africa
by Sue Soal (2001)
This article draws on the thinking in the CDRA’s most recent Annual Report – Measuring Development, Holding Infinity. In it, we argued that knowing the difference that we are making is itself a part of good development practice.
Measuring Development - Holding Infinity
by Sue Soal (2001)
A writing from the Community Development Resource Association's Annual Report 2000/2001.
"A Good Death" - In Search of Developmental Endings
by Doug Reeler (2000)
In a world filled with news of plague, famine and war it may be difficult for us to appreciate the Japanese notion of a "good death". We know that everything in this world that has life - people, relationships, organisations - faces the prospect of its own death and that the way in which we face the significance and inevitability of death has a bearing on the process of life.
So now they are going to measure empowerment!
by James Taylor (2000)
"In recent years donors and international agencies in the development sector have successfully promoted and insisted on the implementation of strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation models and methodologies. There have been many positive spin-offs as activities have become more strategic and measurable, and organisations have become more accountable. But there is growing concern amongst practitioners around the limitations inherent in these seemingly sophisticated, but unavoidably reductionist, methodologies."
The High Road Practice at the Centre
From the CDRA Annual Report 1999/2000
Crossroads: A development reading
"Development, as in Third World Development, is a debauched word, a whore of a word. Its users can't look you in the eye."
by Allan Kaplan (1999)
Capacity Building - shifting the paradigms of practice
by Allan Kaplan (1997)
Shadows: The development sector - face to face with itself
by Allan Kaplan (1996)
From the CDRA Annual Report, 1995/96
NGOs, Civil Society and Capacity-Building: Towards the Development of Strategy
by Allan Kaplan (1994)
Development Practitioners - Artists of the Invisible
by Allan Kaplan (CDRA Annual Report 1998/99)
Capacity Building: Myth or Reality? (1995)
From the CDRA Annual Report, 1994/95.
Leadership and Management
by Allan Kaplan (1994)
An investigation into the training of Community Development Workers within South Africa
By Dr Peter Westoby and Rubert Van Blerk
In his classic book Training for Community Development: A Critical Study of Method (1962:69), T. R. Batten argues that, ‘training is the key activity of any community development programme.’ Following Batten, and building on more recent literature, this article documents a research project that explored the training taking place within the South African National Community Development Worker Programme (CDWP).
A Three-fold Theory of Social Change - and Implications for Practice, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation
by Doug Reeler (2007)
"Most significantly, and ironically, the very Project approaches that donors insist be used for planning, monitoring and evaluating practice and impact, like Logical Framework Analysis and its cousins, have tacitly introduced a misleading and self-defeating theory of social change." This paper puts forward a different theory of social change that goes beyond implicit conventional theories, providing a different framework for seeing and working with the complexities of change.
Download version in Russian
From Learning Together To Working Together
by Doug Reeler (2013)
The story of the Early Childhood Development Learning Community in South Africa and its approach to mobilising rural caregivers to bring their voice, leadership and initiative to programmes that address the well-being of young children in South Africa.
Drip-drip funding across the growing divide
by James Taylor (2011)
In this article (which he has also illustrated) James Taylor reflects on the resourcing of civil society.
Reconciling Community Development and Rights-based Approaches to Social Change
by Doug Reeler (2010)
Some different approaches to social change have begun emerging that offer some hope of combining the best of community development and Rights-Based Approaches into something more effective and sustainable."
Nurturing sustainable north/south relationships: the importance of honest dialogue, critical self reflection and human connection
by Nomvula Dlamini (2010)
The Moshi Dialogue, a platform to discuss issues pertaining to relationships in promoting social development and strengthening civil society in the south.
Power in Practice: The ability to listen, the courage to hear.
by James Taylor, 2009.
A return to some of the fundamental challenges around working with power - and why we struggle to translate what we have learnt into practice.
Horizontal Learning - Engaging Freedom's Possibilities
by Doug Reeler (2005)
Exploring transformative practices of horizontal learning and community exchanges at the creative margins of the development sector.
Annual Report 2009 - Pursuing a Learning Agenda
Between 2007 and 2009, CDRA underwent an extensive period of evaluation, including self-evaluation, external feedback, a facilitated OD process and several rounds of strategic review. In this period, we aspired to incorporate evaluation into our ongoing learning and strategising, to balance self-evaluation with external perspectives, and to balance internal evaluation with review of impact and strategy. In addition to creating the conditions for a comprehensive organisational overhaul, this evaluation period offered an incubated experience of evaluation as a self-directed and managed activity.
The Wave and The Anchor
by Sandra Hill (2008)
Which presents the essential elements of CDRA's approach to organisational learning. CDRA’s internal, collaborative learning process takes the form of something we call home-weeks. Held almost every month, they are “a week long process of organisational connecting, strategising, action-learning, co-creating, managing, resource allocating, peer supervising, accounting, team building, record creating and practice developing.”
Towards "better evaluation" - an account of one internal practice
by Sue Soal (2007)
Keynote address to the Australasian Evaluation Society (AES) Conference, September 2007, Melbourne.
Evaluation, a developmental approach
by Sue Soal; Sandra Hill; Doug Reeler (2007)
"Slow down and enjoy life. It is not only the scenery you miss by going too fast, you also miss the sense of where you are going and why." (E. Cantor)
A short piece on some fundamental considerations in developmental evaluation
Transparency of Process - Monitoring and
Evaluation in Learning Organisations
by Nomvula Dlamini (2006)
"Learning, we should remind ourselves, is the process through which an organisation sustains the interconnections through which it knows what it knows and therefore becomes an effective, competent and thinking entity that can realise its transformational impact. Monitoring and evaluation that is integral to the life of an organisation contributes meaningfully towards sustaining the interconnections. Monitoring and evaluation therefore should not become something that organisations do when they stop doing or are doing nothing else; it should be integral to the process of 'doing' - these practices should continuously inform and shape that process of 'doing'."
Annual Report 2005/2006 - Transparency of Process CDRA
In this Annual Report we suggest that monitoring and evaluation are integrally connected to learning. And that the demand that we monitor and evaluate may well be a gift, an opportunity to engage with and transform our own experience. If we embrace this obligation, and pursue it appropriately, we are in the best possible position to learn, and therefore to pursue thoughtful and purposeful work in the world. In the pages that follow, we share some approaches to monitoring and evaluation that seek to render developmental process transparent.
Emptying and doubt
by Rubert Van Blerk (2006)
"Doubt and uncertainty are as much an aspect of the client's experience as they are the practitioner's. In today's world the tendency is to seek an antidote for doubt, even settling for denial in the quest for certainty. Therefore the client demands certainty and the practitioner offers it. Doubt can begin to become a quality when the act of not knowing can be as deeply valued, if not more so, than the act of knowing."
Action Learning - a developmental approach to change
The ins and outs of this central approach of a developmental practice. Taken from the Associates Toolbox, adapted from Action Learning for Development: use your experience to improve your effectiveness by James Taylor, Dirk Marais, Allan Kaplan, Juta and Co. Ltd., 1997 (out of print but available as a photocopy from CDRA - go to the Bookshop)
"Who asked you anyway?" Some feedback on Feedback
by Sue Soal (2005)
Solicited or unsolicited, opinion or observation, giving feedback is not an obvious art - Sue explores why with some ideas on how to give feedback developmentally.
Emergence - from the inside out
by James Taylor (2004)
From CDRA Annual Report, 2003/2004
Our view of the kind of practice it takes to shift those relationships in society that exclude, diminish and impoverish.
Listening at three levels
by CDRA (2003)
A favourite handout on listening with a listening exercise.
Measurement in Developmental Practice - from the mundane to the transformational
by James Taylor; Sue Soal (2003)
This is not in any way an attempt to capture the collective conclusions of the group process. Through this paper we share only what lives in, and between, the two of us after engaging with the others.
Freedom and Constraint. Introducing the concept of archetype
by Allan Kaplan (2002)
A chapter from his book Development Practitioners and Social Process - Artists of the Invisible.
NGOs on the line
by Sue Soal (2002)
From the CDRA Annual Report, 2001/2002.
An essay about purpose, rigour, rhetoric and commodification.
Mindfulness and Sacred Space in our lives
by Dirk Marais (2001)
Thoughts about connecting with your own inner and outer self in order to build own capacity and strength.
Talking about stories - a conversation with a development practitioner
From the CDRA Annual Report, 2000/2001
Unlearning - Facing up to the real challenge of learning
by Doug Reeler (2001)
"Unlearning involves a conscious individual confrontation of the past with the future, involving paradigms or beliefs that come from the fully formed past at odds with those that come from a future, still in formation. The risk, the vulnerability of not having answers, of being in-between ideas, of acting in the face of the unknown, has to be faced as unlearning takes place. In this way unlearning prepares the ground for a deeper kind of learning."
Is participation one of those concepts used for manipulative purposes?
by Nomvula Dlamini (2001)
More and more, it is becoming understood that the participation of communities in development initiatives/projects aimed at improving their lives contributes towards empowerment. There is a strong belief that communities should not be left out of processes that, in one way or another, affect their lives.
Exploring Organisational Culture
by Sue Soal (2000)
Exploring this elusive but unavoidable element of organisational life.
The Developing Of Capacity
by Allan Kaplan (1999)
Originally published as a Development Dossier by the United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service
NGOs as Learning Organisations
by James Taylor (1998)
Paradoxes of Power
by Allan Kaplan (1997)
From the CDRA Annual Report, 1996/97
Desarrollo de la Capacidad: ¿Mito o Realidad? (1995)
Del Informe Anual 1994/1995 de la Asociación de Recursos de Desarrollo Comunitario (CDRA).
Evaluation for Development
by Allan Kaplan (1989)