In the three months since completing the EarthRights School Myanmar Organizational Strengthening Training (OST), ten inspirational earth rights defenders from all over Myanmar have begun developing coordinated plans to create change in their country. We created this training program to ensure that CSOs in Myanmar react effectively to the wide-ranging impacts of an increase in democratic space. We accepted leaders from CSOs and NGOs all over Myanmar who were hoping to develop skills to grow and strengthen their movements against large-scale irresponsible investment.

As Myanmar Alumni Program Coordinator, I was privileged to participate in these workshops, and I could really see the impact on the students because of the vivid discussions and experiential learning. I could almost see the students’ future as they delivered rich stories of nurturing their newfound skills to create an environment of continual progression and long-term success within their staff and organization.

Throughout my office visits, the values of togetherness flourished amongst each young leader and their colleagues. I say colleagues in the loosest sense of the word, as time and again, across states and divisions, family terms seemed a more appropriate fit. In Tanintharyi Division and Kayah State, two pro-bono law firms showed this as they approached strengthening their organization with an eye on inclusion. Their work for progressing their organization began with sharing a summary of the training to their colleagues. This summary would give their staff an insight into the OST training and inclusiveness in future development of the organization.

In another of my visits, I witnessed this approach to inclusive growth taken in another direction as Pa-Oh Youth Organization (PYO), staff united to develop a year-long strategic plan for their organization. PYO General Secretary, Khun Oo, emphasized the benefits of this to his organization:

“Firstly with the strategic planning, finally we can see who is doing what with our human resources. Before, we had four main objectives, we had aims and we had visions but how do we implement? Now, we have strategy. This came from OST.”

Through this strategic planning process, I could see the enthusiasm building within the PYO team as the roles of the organization and individual staff were pictured with more clarity. Members went beyond planning and shared their thoughts on strategy. As a team, they critically analyzed their organization from office management to finance to human resources so as to make a decision on the logical next steps.

Long-term success within the organization also represented a key factor in the work of alumni group, Youth Circle. Their leadership team wanted to find a way to ensure that their organizational growth would be sustainable in the long term. As we discussed together about the state of their organization, their passion and togetherness reverberated around the room. So too did their apprehension about the future as they considered how to  they could build on their successes effectively. Youth Circle’s leadership team evaluated the way their team and their structure represented a generational commitment to their work. They considered how their team could build the foundations to increase the effectiveness of their work. After this discussion, the importance of monitoring came to the forefront and the need to evaluate strengths and weaknesses.

Through meeting in person with each participant and discussing in detail where they would intervene to ensure a more effective future for their organization, the journey ahead of each and every one of them became clearer. Their training could now be used to ensure that the environment and human rights of the communities that they serve will be protected in the long-term, supported in solidarity by long-standing and effective organizations.