Last week I attended the first phase of DEN-L’s DELTA training. The program is based off of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and a series of training workbooks by Sally Timmel and Anne Hope called Training for Transformation. The authors came out of apartheid in South Africa and began their DELTA trainings in the 1970s. The program centered on raising critical consciousness to social problems, leadership, and analyzing communication and interpersonal relationships. It was a week of exercises, a few of which I was required to help facilitate, and educational discussions. It was an anthropologists dream, as a group of 36 strangers sat around and talked about Liberian culture, social problems, and worked together to solve problems. Not only did I learn about the background of Liberia (in more detail) but I also learned how people perceived Liberia. I hope to go another training as soon as possible. There should be phase 3 in July.

The program is divided into 4 phases that are one week long, roughly 3 months apart. The group sets their own goals during the first phase and the facilitation team centers on those in order to continue the program. There are also objective for each phase inherent to the program.
The listening exercise forced everyone to think about the problems they had in listening to others. The exercise listed common reasons that we don’t listen to each other, like “too deep for me,” or above my head, and thus not applicable. This forced me to think about how everyone has problems listening, for one reason or another, and that the facilitators themselves were always going to have difficulties listening to the group even with the most concerted effort. Which led to the question: what gives an individual the power to empower? Is it just talking?

I did get an answer to this question, but I haven’t transcribed it yet. That’s going to be a time consuming process…

The process is more critical than a lot of US workshops and teambuilding exercises. For example, at the end of each day, there is a planning meeting of facilitators involving a self criticism and everyone’s criticism of each person. The hierarchy of established facilitators versus facilitators in training appears here, as the more “expert” facilitators critique themselves less and the others more. This also might come out of the personality of the head of the CAP team who seems to be pretty dominant in terms of his authority and position.

The DELTA program, and Paulo Friere, is explicitly socialist. I know, that’s a four letter word in the US, but the way the program emphasizes empowerment and participation in decision making actually combines a direct democracy approach, with the established belief that the international community is stacked against African states and that the government is responsible and must be held responsible for the welfare of the people. Obviously, socialism in Africa has not been a beacon of success, and the authors in the most up to date version accept this. However, their argument, while explicitly recognizing their own bias towards socialism, is that without a truly participatory process at all levels, it doesn’t really matter what kind of government there is, it will always be exploitative.

*The picture has nothing to do with this but it's a fruit called a sousa fruit that tasted good and I thought might be of interest since I'd never seen it before.