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In Reply to: area growth document posted by Bart Micker on December 06, 2101 at 21:33:53:
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AREA GROWTH PROGRAMS
AREA GROWTH PROGRAMS 1
An Unfolding Process of Organic Growth 2
* Systematic Institute Process: 2
* Grassroots Involvement: 2
* Regional Activities: 2
* Sense of Ownership: 2
* Individual Initiative: 3
* Local Collective Action: 3
* Introducing Socio-Economic Development: 4
* Responsibility of Institutions: 4
* Role of Auxiliary Board Members and Assistants: 4
* Other Administrative Structures: 4
Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation 5
* Simple Plans in Phases: 5
* Initial Survey: 5
* Maintaining Statistics: 6
* Planning Process: 6
* Activity Calendar: 6
* Management: 6
Evolution of an Area Growth Program 7
* Increased Complexity: 7
* Challenges of Growth: 7
* Learning Experience: 7
* Acquiring Capacities: 8
* Generation of Funds: 8
* Organic Process: 8
* Series of Endeavors: 8
The aim of an Area Growth Program is to increase the capacity of believers and communities in a region to foster a process of accelerated and sustained growth. The program achieves this aim by raising up human resources for well-designed expansion and consolidation activities and by strengthening local and regional institutions.
An Area Growth Program takes place within a manageable geographical area (usually a cluster of villages and a few larger towns or cities) where past experience has demonstrated reasonable receptivity, and where there are already some Bahá'í communities and a degree of institutional capacity. The area selected needs to be small enough to permit interaction among the believers and their joint participation in the activities of the program.
An Unfolding Process of Organic Growth
Through a process of consultation between Counsellors and National Spiritual Assemblies, and, where applicable, Regional Bahá'í Councils, a geographic area is selected for the purpose of launching an Area Growth Program. The approach will be one whereby the believers and institutions in the area engage in a continuous learning process that aims at generating the experience of accelerated growth. Although such a process will involve different strategies and lines of action at different points in time, the experience of the past few years has shown that for learning and growth to occur, a few essential elements will need to be in place.
* Systematic Institute Process:
At the outset, the institutions must ensure the presence of a systematic institute process in the area, either in the form of an institute branch, or as an extension of the programs of the national or regional institute. It is expected that in the initial stages the programs of the institute will focus primarily on delivering a sequence of courses to a significant percentage of believers in the area. This usually takes place through mobile courses or through study circles.
A challenge to the rapid advancement of institute courses in some communities is the problem of illiteracy. If a sizable segment of the population in the area is illiterate, literacy programs sponsored by the institute may be necessary at an early stage. However, regular institute courses should not be deferred in these areas, as it is expected that there are almost always some people in every community, usually among the youth, who have gained some level of literacy through schooling.
From the start, it is important to ensure the participation of women in the institute programs, so that a firm basis is laid for the advancement of women and for their later participation in community life.
* Grassroots Involvement:
The existence of study circles in a locality generates grassroots involvement that is essential for the growth of the community. Such involvement leads to informal activities by a group of believers who would consult together, take action, and generally support one another in their efforts.
* Regional Activities:
An important characteristic of the Area Growth Program is the participation of believers in regional efforts and the collective learning that takes place in such interactions. The majority of the participants in such activities are expected to be those who are involved in the institute courses.
Area-wide seminars and conferences, regional teaching campaigns, and small socio-economic development projects are examples of endeavors in which increasing numbers of believers in the area can take part. Such activities are set in motion early in the programās establishment and are a constant feature throughout its duration.
* Sense of Ownership:
It is clear that the success of the program depends upon the believers residing in the area having a sense of ownership and participating increasingly in its activities. However, in its early stage, the program may well benefit from visiting travelling teachers or teaching teams, as well as the settlement of homefront pioneers.
Meeting Financial Needs:
One aspect of acquiring a sense of ownership is universal participation among the believers in the area in meeting the financial needs of the program. This, in itself, constitutes one of the major indications of success and should be assessed periodically to ensure participation by an ever-increasing number of believers.
* Individual Initiative:
It is anticipated that most communities in the area will not have achieved a basic level of functioning. In such cases, the Auxiliary Board members and their assistants are expected to play a pivotal role by encouraging and promoting individual initiative in teaching and in the development of community life.
As growing numbers of believers pass through the courses of the training institute, it is natural that the pool of human resources for various expansion and consolidation undertakings should increase. By encouraging individual initiative, the Board members and their assistants will ensure that these believers utilize their newly acquired capabilities in acts of service. Individual initiative in teaching, deepening oneās fellow believers, holding devotional meetings, and conducting childrenās classes would naturally constitute some of the first acts of service in most communities. Experience has shown that youth represent a vast pool of human resources for implementing such actions.
Children and Junior Youth:
So critical is the education of children and junior youth to the building of Bahá'í communities that it will need to receive primary attention throughout the entire program. Establishing childrenās classes may thus be one of the first community activities to be undertaken, in order to ensure the future of the Faith within the area. Along with this, efforts must be made to instruct parents on the importance of Bahá'í education for their children. In the past, when this crucial aspect of community life has been neglected, the progress of the Faith has been hindered and, in some regions, a generation of youth has been lost.
* Local Collective Action:
As capacity develops in the area, local collective action becomes a possibility. One such effort to be promoted by the Auxiliary Board members and their assistants is local teaching campaigns undertaken by those Local Spiritual Assemblies that show signs of growing maturity. It is expected that these campaigns, in most cases, will be of short duration, have concrete and achievable goals, and aim at fostering unified vision and action among believers and at bringing to the local community the joy of teaching and the experience of success. It is also expected that at this stage more complex community activities such as the observance of the Nineteen Day Feast will become a possibility.
In the case of Local Assemblies that have achieved a basic level of functioning, they are expected to provide much of the human resources for the early activities of the Area Growth Program and also to learn to formulate their own plans of expansion and consolidation and to shoulder the responsibility of systematic growth in their communities.
Nature of the Nineteen Day Feast:
Since the whole program is to be viewed as a learning experience, it is important that each of the above activities becomes the subject of consultation among the institutions and between them and the believers. For example, communities need not simply be asked to add the Nineteen Day Feast to the list of their activities. Rather it would be more fruitful to initiate a process of consultation at various levels to decide what the nature of Feasts should be within the cultural settings of the region, and what kind of individual and administrative initiatives it takes to ensure the success and continuity of Feasts. The use of culture, local art, and music could, for instance, be emphasized in the conduct of the Feast.
* Introducing Socio-Economic Development:
At some stage of development, certain communities in the area will advance to such a point of maturity and strength that they will be able to engage in socio-economic development. This line of action will tend to consist of simple grassroots initiatives through which the members of the community express their desire to serve their fellow human beings and the wider society. As capacity increases, more complex projects can be envisioned requiring the involvement of other agencies such as the training institute or Bahá'í-inspired organizations.
Importance of Towns and Cities:
Many of the Area Growth Programs will take place in the rural areas of the world. In such cases, it is advantageous if there are one or more larger towns or cities included in the designated area. Towns and cities usually have greater access to resources, be they intellectual, material, or governmental, and can provide a significant portion of the programās needs. Clear lines of action are also required to ensure that people of capacity, whether in towns or villages, are given the Message and invited to embrace the Faith.
* Responsibility of Institutions:
The Counsellors and the National Spiritual Assemblies and, where applicable, the Regional Bahá'í Councils, while initiating the overall program through a process of consultation, have the responsibility of closely following the progress of each aspect of the program, extending the required assistance and resources to the regional and local institutions, evaluating the gains, and applying the lessons learned to other areas where such programs are to be launched. In many countries where Regional Bahá'í Councils have not been formed, the National Teaching Committee will become directly involved in the program and have the responsibility of overseeing the work of Area Teaching Committees.
* Role of Auxiliary Board Members and Assistants:
The Auxiliary Board members and assistants play a central role as they assist individual believers as well as local and regional institutions and agencies in creating unified visions of growth, and in designing and implementing teaching plans. They foster consultation and a learning environment, promote individual initiative, and urge the friends to participate in the projects of institutions. They will also have at their discretion certain funds that they can use for promoting activities within the program.
* Other Administrative Structures:
As the program unfolds, in addition to the vital role played by the Auxiliary Board members and assistants, there would be a need for different aspects of the program to be promoted by certain other institutions or administrative structures such as:
* An Area Teaching Committee, working under a Regional Bahá'í Council or National Teaching Committee, may be needed to coordinate the regional activities mentioned earlier. These might include:
* seminars and conferences
* teaching campaigns
* the acquisition and stocking of literature and audiovisual materials
* the coordination of the movement of travelling teachers and teaching teams
* the settlement of pioneers
* the initiation of small-scale social and economic development activities
In this connection, the Committee would need to maintain a close collaboration with the training institute in order to ensure the participation of trained resources as needed. The Area Teaching Committee would also be generally concerned with developing, evaluating, and refining the vision of growth for the area, consulting from time to time with other institutions and agencies involved in the work of the Faith in the region. The Committeeās plans and structures should be simple and consistent with the capacities of the people in the area.
* A full-time coordinator of institute activities in the area is another component that might well contribute to the rapid development of the human resources that will be used in the various activities in the program.
* A full-time coordinator of the overall program may be needed in some areas in order to ensure the execution of the plans of the institutions; in such cases, care will have to be taken to avoid dependency on this one person.
* It is also expected that there would be a number of local and area-wide teaching campaigns, each of which may benefit from having its own coordinator.
* As the range and scale of activities in the area increase and as larger numbers of active supporters of the Faith participate in their execution, the need may arise to provide financial support to a few believers in order to ensure the continuity of the program. The institutions should be alert to this need and open to this possibility.
* The overall program of activities may need access to some physical facilities in which courses can be conducted and meetings held; at some stage of development this issue will have to be considered.
Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation
* Simple Plans in Phases:
An important aspect of an Area Growth Program is the development of the Area Teaching Committeeās capacity to create and implement simple plans with clear lines of action. It is expected that such plans will be made in phases of a few months each and will take into consideration not only opportunities for expansion and consolidation, but also the human and financial resources available to the Committee.
* Initial Survey:
At an early stage in the unfoldment of the program, the Area Teaching Committee may need to carry out a statistical survey of the region, which would be useful to the planning process:
* How many villages and towns are included in the cluster?
* What is the general population of the area?
* How many of these are children and youth?
* Which educational institutions exist in the area?
* What other major organizations are in the area?
* Which months are people free to participate in major activities?
* Which minority groups are present in the area?
* How many Bahá'ís are there in the area?
* How many Local Spiritual Assemblies are there?
* What is the range of Bahá'í activities in the area?
These are some of the basic questions that may be addressed in such a survey. The information gathered will enable the institutions to identify opportunities, assess the human resource needs, estimate the financial requirements, and evaluate, over time, the transformation that the Area Growth Program is designed to bring about.
* Maintaining Statistics:
In order to sustain a systematic process of expansion and consolidation, it is important to keep track of believers as they enter the Cause, pass through institute courses, increase their capacity to serve, and join the band of active supporters of the Faith. For this reason, some kind of arrangement needs to be made for maintaining statistics. Such statistics, moreover, will provide a useful tool to the institutions for evaluating the progress of the program.
* Planning Process:
The on-going planning process should be one whereby the institutions consult and reflect, preferably with the active supporters of the Faith in the area, on the experiences of the previous months, evaluate their strategies, and modify, improve, and add lines of action for the next phase. In the words of the Universal House of Justice, ćThis process should be one in which the friends review their successes and difficulties, adjust and improve their methods accordingly, and learn, and move forward unhesitatingly.ä (26 December 1995 letter from the Universal House of Justice to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors)
* Activity Calendar:
It is important for the Area Teaching Committee to be able to convey its plans to the believers in the area, so as to encourage their participation for the period specified. One effective mechanism for doing this is the preparation of a calendar of activities. Such calendars will not only offer ready information to the believers on the plans of institutions, but also provide the Committee itself with a valuable tool to evaluate its own achievements.
In many rural areas of the world, information dissemination is a major challenge. It would be valuable to encourage consultation among institutions on the ways of ensuring that information on institute courses, seminars, and conferences, as well as teaching campaigns will reach the believers in a timely manner. In all such consultation attention must be paid to both traditional means of information dissemination and the more modern facilities that may exist in the area.
Specialized training for some of those participating in the management of the program may be necessary in order that they learn various planning skills such as maintaining statistics, ensuring the dissemination of news, formulating calendars, improving their level of consultation, and carrying out elementary accounting practices.
Evolution of an Area Growth Program
The evolution of an Area Growth Program will depend on a number of factors such as the efficacy and quality of trained human resources that emerge from the institute programs and other efforts to raise the managerial capacity of institutions, the availability of literature and financial resources, the maturity of institutions in handling various affairs, and the special conditions and possibilities of each area.
* Increased Complexity:
Whatever the conditions, it is expected that activities connected with the program will grow in number and complexity with time, and that the capacity of institutions to handle more complex actions will increase and develop. For example:
* Institute programs, which would most likely begin with a single sequence of courses, would eventually evolve to include more than one track.
* Actions born out of individual initiative may become more enterprising and systematic.
* Teaching campaigns, which may have started as isolated events, would become more complex and sustained over time.
With an increase in the number of human resources and an enhancement in the diversity of courses that are offered by the institute, as well as the implementation of clearly defined plans of action by the institutions, it should be possible to envision an environment where growth takes place naturally in an organic fashion. In the course of time, it is hoped that the program will generate many devoted believers who will arise not only to serve their own communities, but travel and pioneer for the establishment of the Faith in other regions.
* Challenges of Growth:
The development of an Area Growth Program would naturally entail challenges that have to be met and overcome as the communities in the area grow and mature. For example, it is often observed that the unity of the friends can be tested when they are asked to work over long periods towards common goals, especially in cases where most believers are new in the Faith and the institutions have not achieved a certain degree of maturity. Apathy and lack of initiative, insincerity, criticism, and harmful attitudes contrary to the spirit of the Teachings--these are some problems that may arise and impede the pace of growth. In addition, there may well be a degree of opposition resulting from the perceived growth of the Faith. Resolving such challenges will, in itself, constitute an opportunity for both the elected and appointed institutions to raise their capacity for leadership and problem solving and thus advance the aims of the growth program.
Indicators of Sustained Growth
At the heart of the Area Growth Program is a continuous learning process that draws both from practical experience and from constant study of the Writings and the messages of the Universal House of Justice. This interaction between experience and a growing understanding of the Faithās guidance will lead to the programās success and sustainability.
* Learning Experience:
It is expected that within a few yearsā time the visible expansion of communities will have taken place. In addition, the process of consolidation will have been advanced through the development of trained human resources and the establishment and strengthening of certain institutions and structures. Therefore, above and beyond the growth of the Bahá'í population, a degree of knowledge and experience for carrying on the work of the Cause and for learning how to sustain that growth in an organic manner will have been gained.
* Acquiring Capacities:
It is hoped that the Area Growth Program will provide a framework within which the believers and institutions in the area can acquire certain capacities. These would include abilities such as learning how to instill a spirit of dedication in the generality of believers, how to inspire and sustain initiative, how to consult in accordance with principles, how to build visions of growth and create team spirit for collective action, how to delegate responsibilities, administer with flexibility and an openness to new ideas, how to sustain unity and harmony in the community, and how to foster a learning and nurturing environment in which the community can grow and flourish.
* Generation of Funds:
It is also expected that with the gradual passage of time and increased maturity, many of the communities will begin to generate a reasonable level of funds for supporting their own activities in the area.
* Organic Process:
As the believers and institutions in the area begin to demonstrate their increased capacity to foster and maintain a process of accelerated growth, the Area Growth Program begins to achieve its aim. The communities will then move ahead in an ongoing process of organic growth, and arise to explore new challenges alongside their sister communities worldwide in advancing the spiritual conquest of the planet.
* Series of Endeavors:
Such a process of growth will naturally require different periods or lengths of time in different areas. It is hoped that a number of initial endeavors of three to five yearsā duration will be launched in the coming years, which, in themselves, will enable the worldwide Bahá'í community to learn more about the overall process of growth within a given area. In many parts of the world, a series of such endeavors may be necessary in order to achieve the objectives of the Area Growth Program.
Area Growth Programs - ITC September 1999
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