Swimming in a Half-Empty Pool? Working in Different Enabling Environments

Ginka Tchavdarova from the National Association of Ministries in Bulgaria spoke at the Conference “Capacity Strategies: Let the Evidence Speak” about the conditions for decentralised development. She gave the case of Bulgaria where initially responsibilities were transferred to communities and leaders, and later (10 years later), the rights associated with the responsibilities were transferred. She used the analogy of “swimming in a half-empty pool” to describe that long interim period.

Sometimes we are working in situations where the enabling environment is not quite there, it is somehow missing a couple of feet of water, and you can splash around a great deal but you cannot really swim. To take this analogy a little further…

When do we see cases where responsibilities are given, and rights are not there? Perhaps the titles are not there in addition to the associated rights, or maybe these are Acting swimmers. What kind of enabling environment is created for those people to do good work?

If you really want to swim that might be frustrating. At the same time, is there another way to see it? Can the swimmer see the pool as half full (it’s not empty, right?) Can the swimmer use that time to practice her/his strokes so that when the water does come, they can swim even faster? At the same time, the water needs to come in good time, otherwise the swimmer will be so tired from practising that when the water does come…

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