One of the most terrifying things when it comes to community organizing is that you never really know how the community will react. We base it on assumptions and imagine the outcome and reaction prior. You do not know if they will be receptive or not, but always hope it is the case.
My first time working with the Ng’ando community was hard as most people did not understand what it meant to have ground up solutions applied to the challenges affecting the child in the community. Top down solutions come with fast results, but often treat the wrong ailments and there we go again, back to step one trying to figure out why poverty is still chasing us.
Ground up solutions, on the other hand work towards the root cause and consider community involvement as fundamental. ”Do not sit down and wait for anybody to solve your problem”,were the words Clement spoke out as she looked at her baby seated on her lap. That was a breakthrough for me. At that point I knew the community was ready to begin initiatives towards eradication of child poverty by mobilizing local resources.
The Ng’ando community has set up a leadership team, vetting/oversight committee and decided to increase the number of children going to school as their initiative.
In my case, what I hoped for is what happened. What have you hoped for your community before?
-Liz Njeri, Community Organizer in Ng’ando
There are moments in our work where we sometimes feel like we are not accomplishing anything. It can be hard to quantify the work and see a tangible impact. That does not mean one does not exist!
Last week James held a meeting for the vetting committee in Rongai and the committee had invited a few new members to see what was happening. When those new members started asking questions, something incredible happened- James did not have to answer!
It may seem like something small, but when the members of the vetting committee were able to effectively answer the questions James became aware that something was happening and his work was moving forward.
Look for small details in work that show you are doing something because they are there.
Last week, I sat with our community organizers and taught the Collective Decision Making process. This is yet another tool we use in working with communities, one that involves allowing discussion and dialogue to create a path forward. It is a rather simple, yet complicated process that involves determining how decisions are to be made, creating criteria, brainstorming, narrowing down ideas, and final votes. The community organizers are using this tool to work with the community stakeholders to facilitate a decision about what issue/initiative they wanted to focus on.
As we sat at the table and discussed how the organizers have used this in past forums, and what needed to be changed for future forums, one of the complications that continued to pop up was people not understanding certain words: initiative, criteria, brainstorm and others. Which meant the organizers spent a lot of time explaining what these words meant, trying to translate them directly. Listening to them discuss this problem, I paused the organizers, and we stepped back and worked on explaining and going through the process in simple terms, translating it to Swahili. We learned the word criteria is not important, but the concepts behind it are what really matter.
Working in communities is all about adapting to the audience, shaping the program so that it gives everyone the opportunity to participate. It is incredible to watch this adaptation go on, and know that it could be done again and again in different communities around the world.
– Sarah Welch, Co-Founder Tatua Kenya