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  Technical assistance
Specificities and themes

Since the early 1990s CERFE has also dealt with the management of complex programmes, with particular reference to urban development programmes and/or those geared to valorising and strengthening skilled human resources. In this regard, CERFE has assured technical assistance to some actions in various parts of the world (Latin America, East and West Africa and Europe). It has not merely handled and implemented the activities envisaged (which it has always guaranteed, though, along with all quality standards), but has also tried to make a contribution in terms of new knowledge on the phenomena and processes concerned. Something which may be referred to as the heuristics of action in this regard.
All development programmes, in all their various forms, tend to radically affect the social, economic and cultural context, thereby changing it and often also influencing the fate of many individuals or of entire local populations.

The need to know the context one is acting on, as it develops, also observing the effect of actions carried out and the role played by all the actors concerned (from institutional actors and financers to the final beneficiaries), has thus become vital in the project-designing and implementation of CERFE’s technical assistance activities.

Establishing technical assistance along these lines also favours the possibility of permanently monitoring the progress of the relative activities, making any necessary adjustments, corrective actions and design improvements, also during the implementation phase, and also of collecting and formalising indications and recommendations useful for project-designing and for implementing similar programmes in the future.

On the basis of the above, CERFE has in recent years devised and experimented a methodological approach based on dividing the target context into eight observation systems (partly or completely applicable to the different situations) in order to analytically gather information and knowledge elements not just relating to programme actions, but also to all the actors concerned at various levels, to their actions and to the main results achieved.

The “reality observation systems” relate to:
  • Observation system 1 – the institutional actors involved in programme management (financing body, implementing body, control subjects, etc.) and their ability to positively and negatively affect the success of the programme itself.
  • Observation system 2 – third-party implementers (all kinds of bodies commissioned to locally carry out specific parts of the programme) and the internal dynamics in the programme implementation phase.
  • Observation system 3 – relations inside the projectt and thus the relations between the actors and the staff provided by the implementing organisation (programme managers, staff sent out, local staff, the implementing organisation’s management, managers of specific parts of the programme, administration, etc.).
  • Observation system 4 – the actor/beneficiary (direct beneficiaries) system concerning the actors and beneficiaries of the programme activities in the target areas, as well as their strengths and the dynamics they can activate.
  • Observation system 5 – the actions implemented by these actors through the support of the Programme and the possibility to contribute to local social and economic development.;
  • Observation system 6 – the communities living in the target areas and the effects of the programme in terms of changes and improvements in their quality of life.
  • Observation system 7 – public communication started up by the programme through all its instruments, and the capacity to use it to create a favourable environment and widespread consensus to the programme.
  • Observation system 8 – the general activities and initiatives of the programme not directly geared to the target areas..


In order to carry out this type of programme, CERFE uses a dual management structure consisting of a technical assistance team operating on site and a backstopping team. The latter team works from a distance and through specific missions, and deals – amongst other things – with guaranteeing assistance on such aspects as institutional relations, project-designing, monitoring and evaluation, implementation of specific activities, programme reporting and follow-up.

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