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UNIT 1: Beginning the planning process


This unit covers all the preparations required to begin the planning process. At this stage, you will establish whom you will work with and what you will be doing. You will also organize your work and develop a time frame.


In this first part of the planning process you will:

Key terms

A feedback meeting is an opportunity to present preliminary or final results to landing site users, community leaders and other key people. This helps to make sure everyone is aware of recent activities and results. It is also a chance to correct any false information and add any information that is missing.

A landing site user refers to people living and/or working at the landing site. These are people involved in fishing or fishing-related activities, such as boat owners, fishers, fish processors, fish traders, mechanics, food sellers and carpenters. For the purpose of this manual, the term "landing site user" does not include members of government, NGOs or other agencies, such as fisheries field staff, customs officers or harbour police.

The working group is the body in charge of landing site development planning. It consists of representatives from the many groups that influence the functioning of a landing site. It may include people from landing site user groups, development agencies, NGOs, government agencies, related projects, religious groups and others. It can also include fisheries field staff, customs officers or harbour police.

A work plan is a table of activities in which you specify the time, date and tools you are going to use in the planning process. It will give a clear idea of what is going to happen to all those involved, including the working group, the landing site users and yourself. It also indicates when an input is needed from a certain group of people and when the planning process should finish.

Finding a suitable landing site

One of the basic requirements for devising a plan that will work is finding a landing site whose users are receptive to development planning. If they are interested, willing and able to collaborate, you have a much better chance of success.

Who should participate

You should talk to your superiors and colleagues as well as development and government organizations that work in fishing communities. Also talk to representatives of fishers at several landing sites.

Steps to take

1. When looking for a suitable landing site, you will probably have some ideas based on landing sites you know. If you have limited experience with participatory landing site development planning, you may prefer to start with a relatively easy site. This is likely to be small, with user groups that you know well, where you already collaborate with landing site and community leaders or representatives and where people are economically and socially dynamic and interested in contributing towards their own development. Make sure it is a site that you can reach easily, as you will need to spend much time there. You may have more than one landing site in mind.

2. Visit the landing site you are considering and explain your intentions to community leaders, user groups and service providers. Be clear about whether your organization will be financing the development plan and its implementation. If it is not, be very clear about what you can offer. Even if you have not identified the external resources required to implement the plan, you may still be able to proceed. This manual includes a section on identifying partners and financiers. One advantage of going through this type of planning process is to strengthen the capacity of landing site user groups to express their need for technical and financial assistance.

3. Give community leaders, landing site users and service providers the opportunity to meet in private and consider your proposal. If necessary, give additional explanation about the intended planning process, the inputs required and the expected outcomes. If one landing site decides against participating in the process, find another. Choose to work with the landing site that is most receptive. Remember that this choice is mutually reinforcing: you must choose each other or it will not work!

4. Once you decide on the landing site, you may need to arrange a more formal meeting with representatives of user groups and development agencies or government. This will ensure everyone is aware of the agreement and the next steps to initiate the planning process. Also agree on how you will keep these leaders updated on progress, and how often. Maintaining good relations with community leaders is both a courtesy and an opportunity to ask for support.

Creating a working group

Once a landing site has been chosen, you need to find a working group composed of three to five people. You are looking for a small, enthusiastic and representative group of people from the landing site to work closely with you and carry out the exercises.

Who should participate

You should look for people who are trustworthy and respected in the eyes of a variety of landing site users. The advice of government and development agencies such as the Fisheries Department or NGOs could also be useful, but as advisers rather than decision-makers.

Steps to take

1. Talk to representatives of landing site user groups, community leaders, government and development agencies. Explain to them the particular role of the working group: preparing and carrying out the exercises, conducting interviews, arranging meetings with relevant user groups or outsiders, taking notes and summarizing information. Let the representatives guide you by either identifying an existing body or by suggesting names of people who could be members of a new one. If you know the landing site users well and have some of your own ideas, discuss them with these leaders. Draw up a list of possible names.

2. Look at your list. Use the principle of triangulation explained in the introduction to this manual to ensure you have representatives of the major user groups (boat owners, fishermen, fish processors, fish traders, service suppliers); women and men; and older and younger people. Remember that you are looking for charismatic people with a vision on landing site development and a strong belief in the need for landing site users to participate in realizing this vision. Finally, keep in mind that it is very important that landing site users recognize the working group and its members and trust it to come up with something that will be in their interest.

3. Another possibility is to identify an existing group that could function as a working group. You may need to reduce the number of members or add people from groups that are not yet represented.

4. It is important to have only three to five people or it will become unmanageable. Explain the planning process to the candidates. Clarify what they are being asked to do and how long it will take. Then ask about their availability. Be clear about how they can benefit: they will learn tools and techniques for identifying constraints and devising solutions for their landing site, including where to find support to implement the solutions.

5. Once you have the consent of the leaders and the people involved, decide on the list of members. You may wish to record this in a notebook used exclusively for this planning process. Also keep a list of people who may not be part of the working group but could function as temporary members or advisers for certain exercises. (This could include students and retirees.) Write down their names, at what stage they could be involved, and what they would like to do. Remember to refer to this list during the exercises; otherwise they may be disappointed.

6. Call a meeting of the working group, in which you explain the planning process in general terms. You will need to discuss the different exercises you will use, the people and user groups you will talk to, and the expected outcomes. Explain the role and functions of the working group. You may wish to give certain tasks to each member or agree to rotate the tasks, for example the role of Chairperson. It would be helpful if some people in the group could read and write, as they will be able to take notes. Non-literate members may wish to make drawings or sketches where required.

7. Clarify your own role in the planning process. One of your roles is to act as the working group’s technical adviser. You will brief them on the process as a whole and take them through the different steps of the manual. Also explain your other role, as a facilitator, ensuring that everyone participates and that the group can make joint decisions.

8. Establish some working rules. For example, agree that everybody’s contribution is valuable and that everyone will listen to each other and respect each other. Make more rules as the group feels necessary. Write the rules in the notebook so you can refer back to them if necessary. Discuss and clarify any questions, and make changes where necessary. Make sure everyone is comfortable with their roles and the working rules. Make an appointment for the first meeting, which will focus on devising a work plan for the planning process.

Devising a work plan

By establishing a work plan, you and the working group are clear on the steps ahead. You know which strategy you are going to follow, when you will do which exercises, which outputs you are expected to achieve, and how much time it will take. The work plan also indicates if other people need to be involved and when.

Who should participate

You will devise this plan together with the working group. You may wish to discuss it with community leaders and user group representatives to ensure it poses no problems.

Steps to take

1. Meet with the working group and give them an overview of the process you are going to follow. The main stages will concern information collection (Units 2-4), situation analysis (Unit 5), strategy development (Units 6-7) and developing a project proposal (Unit 8). Then explain the different exercises at each stage, and indicate which you think are the most useful. You do not need to do every one; remember the principle of "optimal ignorance"!

2. Give a time estimate for each of the exercises or stages. Roughly speaking, each exercise is likely to take half a day, plus two hours preparation time and four hours for processing the information. That is, about one to one and a half days per exercise.

3. Discuss how much time the members of the working group have available in the coming months. Consider fishing seasons, intensive agricultural work, rainy or dry seasons, and festivities or other occasions that will affect the available time of working group participants. Ask them what time of day would be most convenient for meeting. If you cannot find a time suitable for all members you may wish to include someone from your list of temporary members.

4. Go through a similar exercise of availability and time constraints for landing site users. It is no use setting up interviews when people are harvesting an important cash crop or involved in a community ceremony. On the other hand, observing work during peak activities (for example using fisheries production chains) may be useful to identify constraints. The members of the working group should be able to suggest suitable times for different landing site users.

5. Decide on the exercises you will do and when to carry them out. Note the kind of information you need, who can provide it, and when that person will be available. Remember to plan feedback meetings with landing site users. Write all this information in your work plan.

6. Consider the work plan and decide whether you will need extra meetings as a working group. Include any extra meetings in the time plan. This rough time frame will serve as a guide as you implement the process; you may wish to adapt it from time to time. Make sure working group members know they have the freedom to add or replace topics and design new tools when required.

7. Agree on a place to meet with the working group. It would be preferable to have a place where you can keep materials from the planning process so you do not have to carry them with you. It should be easily accessible, either at the landing site or in the community. Make sure that you have permission to use the building or area and explain how often you will be there. Be aware that other groups may use the same space.

8. Ensure that everything needed for the exercise will be available. Decide who will bring which materials (you, user groups, community leaders or others). You may need pens, notebooks, markers, large sheets of paper, tape and other items.

9. On a large sheet of paper, draw up your work plan, including the people you want to interview. On another, write down the arrangements, in terms of place and materials. You will present these to the landing site user groups during the first feedback meeting (see the next exercise in this unit).

Soliciting feedback from landing site users

Now that the working group is in place and you have a general work plan, you need to call a first feedback meeting with landing site users. The purpose of this meeting is to:

Who should participate

In addition to yourself and the working group, you may want to invite community leaders and representatives. Most importantly, you should get as many landing site users as possible to take part in the meeting. Note that some users may not be full-time fishers or may not deal directly with fish at all (e.g. mechanics or food traders); they should still be included as their activities are essential to the functioning of the landing site. You may also want to invite representatives from organizations active at the landing site to attend as observers. They could be from the Fisheries Department or other government agencies, private service providers, NGOs or related projects.

Steps to take

1. Before the meeting, help the working group to prepare the agenda. Plan for the meeting to last two to three hours, not longer. Arrange the venue. Clarify who will open the meeting and who will take care of any other formalities customary in the area. Inform the relevant community leaders and representatives. Arrange who will be the chair, who will take notes, and who will present which part of the meeting (see below).

2. Announce the meeting some time in advance and be sure to spread the word. Be clear about who is invited, what the meeting is about, when it will take place and how long it is expected to last.

3. Officially open the meeting and welcome everyone in a way consistent with local custom. The Chairperson of the working group should introduce you, the working group and any volunteers.

4. Continue the meeting by informing landing site users about the objective of the meeting and the planning process as a whole. As the facilitator, you can explain what will be expected from them and what outputs they should expect. You can also explain the steps that will be taken once the plan is ready, particularly with respect to the search for external resources required to implement the plan. (Alternatively, you may wish to do this together with one or more members of the working group.)

5. Next, the working group can explain the work plan that was devised during their first meeting. Ask for feedback from user groups: have any important groups or people been left out? Is the time frame realistic? Address any concerns that arise. Emphasize that the landing site users will be kept up-to-date via regular user group meetings. They may also want to be notified in other ways. Keep notes on any suggestions and if possible, carry them out.

6. Finally, thank everyone for his or her time and inputs. Remind landing site users about the nature and timing of the next activities. As you will see in the next unit, the next activity will be taking a census of landing site users. Make any necessary appointments. Close the meeting.


You can use this basic structure for other feedback meetings later on in the planning process.

Before going on to the next unit

Having completed the activities in this unit, everything is now in place to start collecting information about the current situation at the landing site. This will include landing site users (Unit 2), production chains (Unit 3) and changes over time (Unit 4).

You may have already collected a large amount of information. Meet with the working group and go over the information together to get a feel for: the different user groups and their distinctive interests, the types of issues and the main layout of the landing site. You may already have questions or may have identified areas where you lack information or want more quantitative or qualitative data. Write these thoughts in the notebook or on a large sheet of paper so you can incorporate them into the exercises in the next units.

For each of the following units, meet with the working group to prepare the next exercise. Make sure everyone is clear on what to do, how to do it and when it needs to take place. You should also plan whom you will want to meet with and what you will need to ask. Divide the roles and responsibilities among the members of the working group. Meet after each exercise to review the results and compare them with other information you have collected and the vision statement. If you see discrepancies, ask for clarifications. But be careful not to go into more detail than necessary or you will be swamped with information!

You will collect a great deal of information in Units 2-4, and you may start feeling overwhelmed. Remember that you will bring together all the information in a more consistent way in Unit 5.

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