Supporting the organizational management of Myanmar, which has began its transition into an open country

The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, located in the western part of Indochina, was ruled by the military regime for many years until 2008, when the constitutional referendum was held to initiate democratic reforms. Myanmar began its steps toward becoming an open country with the establishment of the Thein Sein administration in March 2011. The tide of democratization and globalization is creating the needs to enhance the quality of public servants' work, which is increasing in volume. The organizational management capacity is essential in order for government agencies to function effectively while utilizing their human resources efficiently.
Anticipating the country's needs, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation has been offering organizational management trainings over the last 3 years since 2012 for Myanmar's public servants on the senior (bureau chiefs) and intermediate (department / section managers) levels.

Training content for fostering advanced human resources to lead the country

The organizational management training program educates participants on how they could smoothly administrate their organizations through lectures on 'responsibilities of public servants', 'communication skills', 'organizational management overview', 'leadership', 'human resource development', etc. Experts from Japan and the ASEAN have also offered seminars that provide international perspectives on Myanmar, e.g. 'Japan's economic growth after WWII' (FY2012), 'Myanmar in the international context' (FY2013) and 'Good governance' (FY2014).
The seminars are themed each year so that participants can adopt broader perspectives in examining what Myanmar's strengths are in the international community, and how government organizations can win the praise of citizens, while working out how their own and other domestic organizations can achieve growth through organizational management.

The introduction of a facilitator for dialogue-based lessons

Myanmar's conventional teaching approach is very one-directional, with a lecturer delivering information. For example, one lecturer would teach a class of 200 participants who would simply sit and listen to the lecture. However, this does not encourage the students' to take the initiative in acting independently. The Sasakawa Peace Foundation has adopted the facilitation method to provide guidance to participants during training orientation, goal-setting session and group discussions.
In the facilitation method, a professional facilitator is involved in meetings and workshops as a neutral party to help discussions go smoothly. In the process, the facilitator coordinates in-depth debates to draw out a consensus.
Initially, some trainees appeared to be bewildered by the dialogue-type lectures that prompt their active involvement. In response, facilitators stayed throughout the training schedule to coordinate the overall progress, generating a sense of unity and common understanding to turn it into the most active training session ever seen before.
Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country with a deep-rooted culture of paying respect to those senior to you. This has reinforced the one-directional teaching style from teachers to students. The culture has inhibited the spontaneous development of dialogue-type classes (e.g. workshops), in which a lecturer and participants actively exchange opinions. They have been accepted only as a 'foreign' approach to teaching.

Active feedback and real-life application of training contents

This type of training has been well-received, leaving a strong impact on participants. We have been asked by Myanmar's Union Civil Service Board to provide advice in their efforts to reform the unique civil service system. A wrap-up meeting is scheduled for January 2015 to reflect upon the outcome of this three-year undertaking. In the meeting, past participants will report how they have applied the information they learned in the trainings. 'Progress Now' will continue to report about the outcome, which is also attracting keen interest from the government of Myanmar.