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Ole Morten Stavland (2009)

Ole Stavland NLM

Ole Stavland – Current position: Regional Director, Norwegian Lutheran Mission, International Dep.

Studying at Kimmage provided a considerable academic and professional basis for me in terms of understanding and analyzing the broad ideas of development and discourses. The Kimmage experience has enhanced my personal development as a team member and leader.
In 2012 I was appointed resident representative of Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM) in Indonesia. One of my initial duties in that role was to guide and coordinate our team’s assessments, design, proposal writing and, eventually, implementation of a new community mobilization project on Sumatra. A number of key objectives were to be taken into consideration. This would be NLMs first Norad-funded project in Indonesia in over twenty years, thus we were obliged to adhere to a certain set of quality requirements and standards, and considerable coordination with local authorities. We also wanted the project to be as community-based, community-initiated, and low-input as possible – not just in “name”, but also in practice. This, we realized, would require patience, flexibility, a healthy and principle-based understanding of our role as external facilitators and a proper selection of methods and tools. I cannot express strongly enough how my background from Kimmage aided me in guiding and facilitating a number of processes throughout the couple years when I was directly involved in initiating and implementing this project. I found myself drawing from a range of “tools” from the “MA toolbox”, not least in terms of utilizing practical assessment and planning methods, while encouraging a critical view on our understanding of development, and our own role as outsiders in the communities. I would like to mention that several of our team members completed individual KODE (Kimmage Open & Distance Education) courses as preparation. This in turn helped us shape a common ground in our understanding of project planning, monitoring and evaluation, as well as of general development principles. Eventually, the project was granted funding and has so far achieved a number of the “mobilizing objectives” initially aimed for.

One thing that has remained with me since leaving Kimmage is the aspect of integration of disciplines. The Kimmage Masters program neither pursues a pure big ideas approach nor a pure technical quality approach to development studies. It manages to integrate both, along with a considerable focus on student collaboration, sharing of experiences, and personal development. I became quite challenged, initially, by the critical approach to development thinking presented to us during the first weeks of the academic year. Seeing this in retrospective I realize that this has contributed to shaping me – and I assume many of my fellow alumni – into humbler and more self-assessing practitioners who place a greater emphasis on respecting the communities where we are involved. Kimmage puts a lot of effort into challenging students to reflect upon development “truths” from a critical-ethical angle, which I believe is one of the primary strengths of the college.

 

 

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