Monday, September 8, 2014

Active Participation in Social Development

Projects rather than policies should be the crux of international development when engaging the developing south and its sustainable development. I use the word engaging as a matter of earnest advice, as through International Service I have seen the benefits of direct support and project partnership with community NGO’s in Ghana.
Hattie and members of the Self Help group in Wieaga

As well as this, development expert Daniel Lerner, as early as 50 years ago, said that actively engaging local people in development projects leads to stronger community participation. In turn communities see much more achieved in a shorter space of time and with less financial aid from more developed countries. Arguably this is more beneficial to the international tax payer and subsequently, inter-government relations over a long term period. Indeed, informed participation of the global poor through NGO projects motivates longer term sustainable development. They are more reliable clients of global financial aid as they have the most to benefit from development. The most obvious examples of these are education and health developments, both of which are high on the millennium development goals agenda.

Project management and volunteering should be adopted by governments, Lerner argues as an integral part of development strategy by governments and even field workers. Complimentary to this, he argues that developmental policies often create tension and resistance from third world countries’ governments which alienate and reduce trust and the potential profitability of long term partnerships. Grassroots activism is encouraged in local communities through the investment and thought leadership of new infrastructure.

Members of Sinensi's Self Help groups celebrating
My personal experience of researching and writing an impact assessment on the needs PWD’s in Ghana has shown the need for structural platforms and measurable accountability from local leaders. The report recommends this as a matter of priority to enable this marginalised ten percent of the community, who having been engaged during research for the report, tell of a lack of accountability from positioned community leaders. International Service, with the help of local NGO CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation), in future, aim to address this through new platforms and structures which can be managed by International Service volunteers and community figureheads.

The importance of knowledge sharing as a volunteer is also crucial. Imposing government ‘policy’ as a top down agenda, suggests a greater awareness of ‘their’ needs rather than taking the time to work alongside communities. I actively encourage the stance that it is national participation which motivates individual and community development. Majid Rahnema, a prominent spokesperson of development ideology suggests that “no-one learns who claims to know already in advance,” and International Service tirelessly promotes the understanding of partnership whist on project though the deployment of UK and national volunteers working collaboratively in shared goals. This partnership not only delivered sustainable development projects and education, but also meant that we as overseas volunteers came to comprehend how local people perceived and defined change in their own communities and in turn how they wished for this to be facilitated. Having applied these theories to my own experience on a development project, we created a positive alliance and companionship through which we exhibited mutual education and participatory sustainable development. 

1 comment:

  1. "... the developing south ..." Thought you were in the North. I check back here on a weekly basis to see if there is anything even mildly descriptive about the volunteers actual time and experience there - but alas it all appears to be disjointed snippets of scripted and regurgitated corporate rhetoric. Putting a personal 'face' on things would be nice :-)

    Kind regards,

    Kevin Bowden