A. Phase One. (First Six Months): Organizing the Village Through Trust and Awareness Building
In this entry phase, the CHOICE staff (rural development facilitators-RDFs) focus on building trust with the villagers and a mutual understanding of the Self Developing Village Program. Special emphasis is given to all-villager participation to identify key needs, concerns, problems, and goals, first with separate groups of men, women, elderly, youth, and upper, middle, and lower poor, and then to bring a larger village-wide group together to prioritize and outline a common vision for the future of their village. This phase emphasizes awareness building, local culture enhancement, small locally-funded projects through simple processes of leveraging and basic networking, awareness of who the poor are and why, prioritizing village problems, concerns, and goals, and strengthening core values that can bring pride, a sense of responsibility and ownership, and an improved quality of life. The Focus is building enough trust and unity so that all families in the village will understand, have commitment, and gain some sense of ownership over the opportunities available to the whole village, empowering everyone to participate in problem identification, simple project implementation, resource mobilization, and evaluation. This first phase seeks to identify, define and reinforce those aspects of the local culture that develop feelings of unity and collaboration, core values of honesty, integrity, service, cooperation, and concern for the extreme poor.
B. Phase Two (Years One and Two): Organizing Village Development Councils (VDCs). This is the capacity-building phase where leadership development training is conducted with groups of men and women, groups of elderly and groups of youth to expand the leadership abilities of all the villagers and also to expand the pool of people able and willing to participate in the Village Development Councils (VDC) itself. VDCs are also organized into at least five separate sub-committees: health, education, income generation, environment, and cultural enhancement. This second phase focuses on the seven basic skills of VDC functioning: (1) identifying projects and programs, (2) prioritizing them, (3) planning and scheduling them, (4) networking and leveraging for resource mobilization, (5) implementing, (6) impact-progress reporting and (7) evaluating for learning and modification (what is working and not working and why). The activity of Phase Two is the training of VDC members to mobilize their own resources, effectively plan and utilize local government and CHOICE resources for needed projects. The long-term consequence of this resource-mobilization training will be the ability of local village leaders to leverage their scarce local resources with other funds from government agencies, other national and international NGOs, and other private sector donors, often at a ratio of 1 to10 and even more. The focus is on ensuring no one is left out, that every one has access to the basic needs of education, health, food security, water, and cultural life. When these basic services are available in the village, and the whole village is committed to helping the truly poor out of extreme poverty, then the village is ready for phase three.
C. Phase Three (Year Three): Institution Building Phase. The focus of Phase Three is to develop a Local Economic Development Plan (this, of course, can be started earlier in Phase 2 if the VDC is ready) that encourages people to start income- generating activities, micro-credit systems, cooperatives, marketing links to district and national customers. Village leaders begin to take responsibility to ensure all extreme poor in their village have access to their basic needs. This hopefully helps families to move out of poverty from less than $1.25 per day to at least $3.00 per day. The Grameen-based PPI (Progress out of Poverty Index) Program will be used to measure this movement out of extreme poverty. By the end of Phase Three, most VDCs should be close to becoming “Master Village" areas, which means they can function without CHOICE staff being there full time. This phase continues to reinforce the focus of community building and poverty alleviation by building a foundation upon which cooperation with other villages becomes institutionalized. Working with an informal "planning zone" council, made up of one man and one women from each of the 16 VDC areas, such a council begins to network with government agencies, local, national and international NGOs, and private and social sector stakeholders to establish programs in education, health, income generating, infrastructure (water, sewage, communication, electricity, roads, and the internet) and sports and cultural programs distributed to all villages in the Planning Zone. One important focus during phase three is a serious attempt to measure progress: (1) levels of infant mortality rates (key indicator of health), levels of adult literacy (indicator of education) and the number of villagers moving out of extreme poverty (key indicator of poverty elimination) using the Grameen-based "Progress out of Poverty Index" (PPI) data collection in all 16 VDCs. (2) ensuring more children are going on to a district high school, (3) more people are using a district hospital, (4) more are developing value-chain marketing and small- and medium-sized enterprises that take advantage of both district and national systems of marketing, then they are ready for phase four.
D. Phase Four (Fourth to the Tenth Year): A Decade Process of Poverty Elimination through a Self-Developing District Program for Improved Quality of Life for All.
Now with only informal encouragement and monitoring from CHOICE staff, the Zone Planning Council: two representatives (usually one man and one woman) from each of the participating VDCs begin to take full responsibility for the development of their commonly-organized planning zone area. Networking with the central government, district-wide taxation systems can be established to provide the funds needed for expanded district-wide projects and programs. Value-chain marketing and small- and medium-sized enterprises are now being expanded taking advantage of district, provincial, national and international systems of marketing. Since villagers have now developed their business skills through their own cooperatives and district-wide marketing systems, they are now ready to negotiate in ways that ensure they receive a fair price for their products, goods, and services. The focus is on creating partnerships with district, provincial, central government agencies, local, national, and international NGOs, private-sector businesses, and social sector stakeholders (universities, media, religious, service, sports and cultural groups), all combined to focus on an improved quality of life that reflects the core values, traditions, and aspirations of all the families and communities within the District. It is anticipated that in the future, a national federation of Self Developing VDCs would be organized with its headquarters located in Katmandu, collecting best practices, organizing training programs, and encouraging other VDCs to join the Federation that eventually includes Village Development Council areas in all 75 rural districts in Nepal. The goal of this program is to help Nepal to be the first country to eliminate extreme poverty in their rural areas.