A post from Holly Prievo. Holly is a recent graduate from University of South Florida, Patel College of Global Sustainability.
Capacity building. Development. Tourism. Sustainability. What do these concepts have in common? I spent two months with Jlag and the Foundation for European Sustainable Tourism (FEST) in order to find out. My goal was to evaluate their Project Management for Sustainable Development (PM4SD™) training to see if the program holds any strategic techniques for developing capacity within tourism projects for sustainable development goals.
Capacity building in tourism projects is important because the international community is finding a role for tourism in economic development. The concept of development as a means to economic growth has been complemented with the concept of environmental and social development– constituting the goal of sustainable development. This means that our efforts to improve quality of life for the present population should not impede the ability of future generations to also obtain their needs. This concept stems from the concerns regarding rapid depletion of non-renewable resources, overconsumption, pollution, global warming and climate change. Tourism is a means to aid the development agenda of many regions in hopes of improving local populations’ quality of life, however, tourism has also proven to be the cause of some of these aforementioned environmental and social injustices. As a recommended tool for development, it becomes imperative that tourism be handled carefully, with a holistic and strategic approach, creating sustainable and beneficial results for host communities, the environment and tourists. Improving quality of life through development while avoiding environmental degradation, is what sustainable development aims for.
And capacity building? The term capacity building refers to creating an environment where resources – natural and human – are put to their best use and enable sustainable growth and development. The UN and the international community have tried many methods of supporting development in underdeveloped regions and have now stated, that without capacity building, standalone efforts, such as funding and institution building, are most likely to end in failure.
So, what does this have to do with Jlag and FEST? Jlag and FEST have developed an innovative and transformational method for managing sustainable tourism projects, which focuses on delivering benefits to all stakeholders beyond the classic project life-cycle. It is this concept, embedded in their training certification for Project Management for Sustainable Development (PM4SD™), which interested me most for the purpose of my study. The goal was to identify capacity building techniques included in the training material, and evaluate their application in sustainable tourism projects. In order to familiarize myself with the program, I took the 5 day intensive training course to become PM4SD certified. Afterward, I worked with Silvia Barbone, founder and Director of FEST, to identify some capacity building techniques and tools the program offered. These tools were identified and analyzed against the UNDP definition for capacity development:
“UNDP sees capacity development as the process through which individuals, organizations and societies obtain, strengthen and maintain the capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time. Simply put, if capacity is the means to plan and achieve, then capacity development describes the ways to those means.”
Through interviews, emails, face to face meetings and skype discussions with Project Managers that had implemented the program with its capacity building tools, I compiled three case studies evaluating the effectiveness of their implementation in building capacity for each project. Throughout the research and examination of the day-to-day application of PM4SD techniques, I discovered that the capacity building tools are quite effective and simple in their application, and have indeed been successful in creating additional capacities to engage the right set of stakeholders within tourism projects as well as deliver a structured approach for planning tourism products and services.
The three separate projects were analyzed, each taking up a different niche of the tourism industry: a cultural tourism itinerary (Improvement of Mediterranean Territorial Cohesion through Setup of Tourist-Cultural Itinerary: Umayyad Itinerary in Lebanon); the establishment of a Destination Management Organization (A Destination Management Organization in the Bulgarian Danube )and a government funded pilot program aiming to reduce energy consumption in hotels (neZEH: Nearly Zero Energy Hotels).
In the Umayyad Itinerary in Lebanon, it was essential to engage stakeholders, identify an overall objective and designate roles and responsibilities internally and to partner organizations. PM4SD was integral in providing tools to identify and engage stakeholders, as well as mobilizing action through product based planning methods that helped achieve an overall consensus on the project’s main objective, and the pathways to get there. PM4SD offers a means to help identify roles and responsibilities within a project and methods to improve accountability, leading to higher success and capitalization on the capacities a project should deliver. In the case of the Umayyad itinerary, PM4SD was able to solve major conflicts through properly managed stakeholder analysis and engagement, identifying an overall goal that was suitable for all involved, and roles and responsibilities that fostered forward progress, concise planning and management to guide the project.
In the Bulgarian Danube project, the establishment of an effective Destination Management Organization was needed due to a new policy which was aimed at expanding tourism in the region. However, it lacked organizational structure within the tourism sector, and did not have any former policy frameworks from which to start a sustainable tourism project. GIZ, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, a German-based international development organization, was brought in to help alleviate communication problems of the region and transform it into a sustainable tourist destination by establishing a DMO. GIZ relied heavily on PM4SD techniques to engage stakeholders, create a communication and policy map, as well as develop a structured project plan. GIZ established advisory units in the city of Ruse that would work closely with the capital office in Sofia. A communication plan was established to improve transparency and offer all stakeholders accessible information. PM4SD Policy mapping tool was utilized as a means to identify related policies and collect multiple frameworks and guidelines that could be used for the creation of the new tourist destination in the Danube. GIZ implemented PM4SD’s recommended planning strategies to create “Focal Point: Destination Danube”, the management unit of the project, and record its main responsibilities.
Lastly, the Nearly Zero Energy Hotels (neZEH) was inspired by the European Commission’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improved energy efficiency in buildings, the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions. The program focused directly on the hotel sector, and in its preliminary stages, required 14 pilot hotels throughout 7 European countries. Due to its expansive nature, policy mapping and stakeholder engagement were integral to building the capacity of the project. Connecting the project activities to indicators was vitally important to determining the objectives for each hotel, based off of the EU’s new policy. PM4SD was utilized to guide these efforts.
PM4SD is rife with capacity building potential, and its tools, templates and techniques can be used all together as a holistic management method or individually to achieve sustainable goals. There are many more tools embedded in the PM4SD management methodology, intended to improve efficiency and communication and deliver benefits beyond the project life-cycle. The methodology can be applied to whole projects, pieces of projects at the beginning, middle or even the end of a project in order to maximize lessons learned. In general the concept of capacity development is very vague and broad at times, but while the international community stresses the importance of capacity building, PM4SD has developed practical and pragmatic tools to apply and achieve capacity development within the realities of tourism projects on the ground.
For a more thorough discussion, or to view the case studies or the research report, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. Please visit FEST’s website and Jlag’s website for more information on how you can become PM4SD certified or improve capacity building within your sustainable tourism projects.
Holly Prievo is a recent graduate from University of South Florida, Patel College of Global Sustainability, with a Master’s in Global Sustainability and a concentration in Sustainable Tourism. She spent 8 weeks researching the PM4SD training materials in Brussels at Jlag under the supervision of Silvia Barbone.