Thursday, 14 May 2009

CI’s Rhoda Karpatkin programme – a true eye opener

Pelisa Manqoyi from the National Consumer Forum (NCF) in South Africa, recently took part in CI’s Rhoda Karpatkin Advocate programme.

Here she writes about her stay in London, how participation in the programme has broadened her perspective and enabled her to look at issues from a global perspective:

The Rhoda Karpatkin Advocate programme is a joint initiative from Consumers International (CI) and Consumers Union to provide training and experience to campaigning advocates from CI member organisations in developing countries. This includes exposure to strategic planning, management and communications, campaigning, advocacy and sharing expertise with other organisations and CI Members.

My acceptance to represent the National Consumer Forum (NCF) in the programme came as a pleasant surprise as I did not expect to be chosen amongst the many applicants. Two applicants were selected from Africa. Emma Wanyonyi from the Consumer Information Network in Kenya was the other candidate.

Advocacy and policy influencing - Oxford
The programme involved attending a course on Advocacy and Policy Influencing in Oxford.

We talked about the importance of strategic planning in advocacy, looked at the challenges, talked about some of the trends that have emerged as a result of advancement in technology and its effectiveness in campaigning, for example how technology-based campaigning tools like e-campaigning, text messaging and social networks like Facebook can lower costs while reaching wider audiences and improving effectiveness of campaigns.

We also looked at specific monitoring and evaluation techniques and the instructor explained how these techniques can be used for various forms of reporting.

We had group exercises to apply what we were learning and had lots of good discussions as everyone came from diverse backgrounds bringing rich experience.

Consumers International
We also spent time at the CI office in London and I gave a presentation on NCF’s work.

We discussed ways that CI and its member organisation can support their objectives, the differences in context from which member organisations in developing and developed countries operate from and how CI can support these and remain relevant to all the members.

We also participated in internal CI activities.

Getting by… A grand adventure
In the beginning it was tricky to navigate around the underground train stations (“tubes” as they are called) but we quickly got the hang of the whole system.

Well, I am sure that Emma and I have interesting lessons like this one that can go in the London 101 guide on travelling.

On this particular day, we joined the late afternoon rush back to Central London, eager to reach the comfort of our apartment and seek relief from the hustle and bustle of London. We took the tube to Russell Square station where we decided to use the stairs instead of the elevator to exit the station. To our astonishment the flight of stairs appeared endless as we carried on flight after flight without any signs of exit point. This continued until we decided to go back to the start, where it then dawned on us, that had we paid attention to these valuable few lines in this photo, we would have saved ourselves miles of exercise and toil!

Organisational visits
One of the objectives of the programme is to build the institutional capacity of participating member organisations. This involved visits to other organisations involved in the areas we are working on in our individual countries.

We discussed the emerging trends in publishing for consumer organisations with Which?. The value of using comparative testing in consumer publications also came out very strongly in the interaction with International Consumer Research and Testing (ICRT). Comparative testing is a key area in the current NCF programme.

We looked at the role of the media with Panos London and Channel 4 TV where we discussed the need to empower journalists to promote change, as well as the key role the media plays in advocacy.

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), British Standards Institute (BSI), Médecins Sans Frontièrs (MSF), the UK Consortium on Aids and International Development provided valuable resource lists through their online resource centres and brochures.

We had session at Consumer Focus on energy efficiency, sustainable consumption, research methodologies and the role of Consumer Focus subsequent to the merger between Energywatch, Postwatch and the National Energy Council.

The end and thank you
The Programme was of great value and I would recommend it to other consumer organisations.

There is a progressive shift in the way non-governmental organisations operate, from being grant reliant to self-sufficient organisations with innovative ways of achieving sustainability and independence – this programme had broadened my perspective and enabled me to look at issues from a global perspective.

We had a great stay in London and I would like to say a big thank you to all the people at the CI London Office for being such good hosts, for taking us around London and especially to Tom who did a fantastic job in taking care of us.'

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