Development Cooperation Handbook/The video resources linked to this handbook/The Documentary Story/Ideas that emerged following Eugad workshop and training program, Sofia, Bulgaria April 2010

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The partners meeting in Sofia emerged as a necessity during halfway project time to evaluate the first year’s activity, highlight the results and successful implementation and recognize the possible oversights or miscommunications.

A certain workflow gap has been observed among the partners as a result of setting different expectations as to project coordination, cultural background and work ethic.

The need to synchronize partners implementation and results throughout the project and set further steps gained shape into a training and workshop program, on the basis of intercultural awareness and management strategy.


Both good and bad examples of building transnational partnerships practices are notable for the current action.

The managerial approach and reaction potential internal issues that led to significant achievements:

  • Creating the opportunity for the partners to meet and to better get to know each other, thus securing a more effective communication and partnership reinforcement. Maintaining a high level of interpersonal focus through direct meetings, discussions and one-to-one relating can significantly influence individuals' motivation and involvement.
  • Focus on intercultural issues and creation of an awareness program giving the participants a chance to exchange from local approach to planning, acceptance of diversity, curiosity and learning, communication patterns and cultural expectations – including specific gestures, traditions and attitude towards global society, social acceptance, work ethic and hierarchic management
  • Open and flexible managerial and cultural approach by extending the partnership with representative from Rroma community in Bulgaria with the effect of social inclusion opportunities and participation of this minority group into policy making and local governance
  • Creative and empowering approach in management. Resolving crises management through meeting and working together with partners, discussing specific issues related to project coordination and technical tasks

Important aspects related to cultural expectations to keep in sight in building and managing international partners that can emerge from less successful practices. Facing multicultural projects requires an enhanced level of cultural sensitivity and competence. Particularly in different response of the partners to creative style vs executive style in project coordination approach on the basis of cultural expectations, society evolution and – to some extent – traditional governance (typically among Eastern European states)
Thus it is not always the case, as it proved in a transnational partnership involving Romania and Bulgaria, two newly member states and neighbor countries. While the Romanian partner positively reacted to a flexible management style in coordinating the project, its Bulgarian counterparts required closer coordination and precise guidelines. As it turns out, although both countries have been under totalitarian ruling for a significant time period, Romanians have emerged with renewed entrepreneurial energy and interest for tackling new ideas and projects initiatives, while among the neighbor partner, in absence of aligned perspectives regarding the work that is being done, tended to lose efficiency and interest in its work.
Therefore, lack of consistency in coordination in absence of a clear vision shared by this partner involved in the project results in an aspect that may lead to a slow working rhythm and low quality results as well as a lost of motivation due to generalized confusion regarding the objectives and activities.
In this context, lack of clear stated roles and positions the partners are expected to have in the project and consequent confusion at this level fosters delays in implementation the tasks and in clarifying emerging issues.
Communication style that is not sufficiently culturally aware can oftentimes lead to crisis inside the partnership. Simply communicating the monitoring report results, raising some aspects to keep in sight during project implementation could be an example of such approach, that practically blocked the execution flow and generated confusion among the partners


Lessons Learned

Highlights of the Internal team training program in Sofia, Bulgaria, April 2010 and Intercultural Training Program organized by Mirela Ciucur, Liviana Mustafa and Stefano De Santis with the participation of Bulgarian partners: Children of Europe, NASMB, Erceq and Time Foundation

It is rather beneficial for partnership building and generating successful results during cooperation for development endeavor to recognize the impact of diversity and to give the partner states the opportunity to meet on a mutual ground and exchange from their various experience and cultural perspective.

The contribution of newly member states to increasing the project’s horizons has been repeatedly emphasized as the key way of gaining a new perspective on how the MDGs are perceived, good and bad practices in implementing them by empowering the local actors. Incidentally, by encouraging representation of Rroma ethnic minority, significant ideas on improved education system by involving the local authorities as well as participation in the policy making have emerged.

The element of diversity has been stressed several times as the key ingredient to progress and successful partnerships. It is at the essence of building the European Union itself to recognize the role of culturally and historically divers nations and to work on understanding, accepting, learning the differences and finding a mutual language and constructive ways to work together.

Therefore, one of the most important aspects to highlight was the initiative of including the newly members from Eastern Europe, their significant contribution in reaching the local authorities, educators and media and learning from the partners in this region’s unbiased perspective on cooperation for development. While the necessity for a certain culture of giving education at the public level has been recognized, so many important aspects in implementing the MDGs in the region were brought to the table, particularly models to follow or to learn from. The experience of the partners to some extent but mostly their initiative and drive for learning more and successfully achieve the goals for development – are all part of the positive outcome of the meeting in Sofia.

One of the program’s priorities – resolving the differences in managerial approach and vision has been successfully achieved by identifying a rather flexible and open style in coordination, in an attempt to encourage initiative and creativity of the partners in implementing the project, while their need for a closer communication and guidance was acknowledged on the basis of cultural background.

It turns out to be more rewarding to work with our counterparts in an environment of mutual understanding and aligned objectives. And nowhere can this be more needed than in an European endeavor, where misunderstandings based on culture can make or break lucrative projects, transnational partnerships and any other type of cross-cultural working.

Media.png Report on Intercultural Training Program in Sofia, Bulgaria. April, 2010