Towards a management approach for sustainable social development programmes for orphans in southern Africa : application of systems theory.
The study explored transforming social development project management practice into delivering sustainable benefits for orphans in Zimbabwe, in particular and more generally, in southern Africa. The endemic failures to deliver basic services to vulnerable children despite increased efforts necessitated this enquiry. Applying multiple research methods in combination, namely, guided story-telling and interviews, document review and media tracking, and practitioner-experiential-action-research (PEAR), the study confirmed that orphans in Zimbabwe lived under conditions of extreme deprivation and vulnerability (EDV). Management of service delivery for orphans was dependent on unpredictable short-term donor funding, undermined by a hostile ‘adult-world’ and political environment, bad governance, poverty, and AIDS. Public service delivery and social welfare system in Zimbabwe had collapsed, marred by corruption. Programmes were not informed by an accurate understanding of orphans and their desperate carers. Social development intents were not practiced. The situation was conducive to “corrupting” the otherwise “spiritual” - responsible, astute and ambitious child. Within such a milieu, traditional project management designed for ordered situations became inappropriate. Based on new understanding of orphans and their service delivery milieu derived from research findings, I propose a systems-oriented project management framework based on “pluralism”, “holism”, “totality” and “experiential learning”. The framework takes a multi-paradigmatic approach to solving complex problems of vulnerable children, mixing positivist, interpretive, emancipatory and postmodern systems ideas. The framework requires a balancing of morality and scientific empiricism in order to attain sustainable child development. In this regard, the thesis proposes ‘moral capabilities’ and additional project management knowledge suitable to the challenges of orphans in southern Africa. The systems approach promotes comprehensive delivery of basic needs of orphans, and continuous improvement of their long term holistic development. According to the framework, success of projects is measured by accrued benefits from the perspective of orphans, and not that of service providers. For its application, the framework adapts the project-spiral cycle, replacing the project life-cycle, recognizing that the needs of orphans go beyond single short-term project cycles. The spiral cycle builds on the strengths of conscious-experiential-learning in service delivery, and on dialogue and collective consensus with poor communities targeted by service delivery management systems.