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Hi everyone,

I have been coaching the CLCP in Malaria affected areas along the Cambodia-Vietnam border since late last year. The Malaria Control programme, a joint programme between Thailand (HRH Princes Sirindhorn of Thailand) and Cambodia (MOPH), has been implementing in the areas in the past 7 years. After they found that the activities in the communities dried down after the programme phrased out a year ago. The programme invited me to help them to re engage the communities in the programme.  After around 6 months of facilitating the CLCP in the areas, the communities (ethnic minority groups) have built their dreams and started to take some actions based on their priority dreams. Examples of their plans include (i) clean water, (ii) toilets, (iii) community forest, (iv) community schools, (v) community center, etc. Though none of the 6 villages have any plans directly related to Malaria, the programme does understand that this is the process to first building ownership and revealing and strengthening the capacities of the communities so that they can take actions in any other issues in the long run.

Recently, the Cambodian Ministry of Public Health (the joint partner) has a plan to distribute Abate Sand Granules to prevent Dengue fever which is expected to become the next health issue in the areas. Since we have been facilitating the communities to build their own dreams and plans, we suggested that communities  should be involved and be part of the new programme. I am going to join the planning meeting in Phnom Penh this coming Friday the 29th to discuss on how we can implement the new programme in such a way that it will go along with what we have been promoting and facilitating and will not go back to the same outcomes like what happened 7 years ago.

What is your experience in this kind of situation where the community has already developed the action plans and the program wanted to implement another plan which is not in line with the community dreams and plans. What should we to do to make the community feel ownership of the new plan?

Please note that Dengue is not yet an issue in the areas. I am not sure how many people know or even have heard about it. However, the programme sees the signs of the epidemic coming….and quite soon.    

Kindly share your experience, your thoughts, and suggestions.

Thank you so much.


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As someone working for an NGO I too always encounter this. The things we call "projects" happen to be dealing with matters of life (and even death) for communities we work with. For us our project is very important, that we like communities to say things we like to hear. NGOs over time teach communities what to say as their needs when asked for. Water, toilets, community centres are some of those very common things NGOs like people to prioritize because that is what we can deliver. I am not saying that these are not important.
People also know that clean safe environment could be more important to achieve their dreams than a community centre. But they may not say it as the first thing as they do not expect this to be a typical expectation of someone coming from outside.
When we Stimulate, we support communities to think beyond just typical, prescribed goals, issues, needs and solutions. And think harder on the goal itself, what we need/what are the barriers to achieve our dreams and how we can collectively address those barriers. Solutions that come out from community are more fascinating, practical for them and effective than the solutions we had in mind to prescribe.
If I were in your village I would try to stimulate the community to think about a clean beautiful community environment as a way to achieve their dream. What can we do collectively to make it so. Answer to dengue lies somewhere in the collective brains of your community and would come out in the discussion. It may not be exactly what government wants, but I am sure it is going to be equally or more effective and definitely sustainable in preventing dengue, and other environmental sanitation related issues. Good luck and please share your experience after.

Thank you very much Kalana.

I also share similar experience with you re the NGOs and other organizations work. I would like to share some additional information to give you (and other friends here) more picture of the situation. The examples of community plans were all decided by the communities and did not have any influence from the programme (from our teams). As you know the program would very much want to see any plans related directly to Malaria issue. But they were none at this time. As this is the very first time for the community to dream for their community and to think together what to do to achieve their dream. And they have already started to work on it by themselves. We tried to facilitate the process as simple as possible to avoid making it too complicated. Our goal for this first engagement is to mobilize the community to come to work together though on a very simple dream. But they feel it's their dream and their plan. Then we can move a bit further when they have gained some experience.

I like your idea of stimulating the community around the issue - say clean environment, for example. On HIV work, we stimulated the community to dream about a community without HIV problem. Not sure this is what you suggested?

Hope to hear more from you.

Two things I would do in this scenario,Sirinate. First is in the meeting bring out the common dream of the community and the Ministry of Public health. I would place it in perspective of systems approach. Development change is most often non-linear, making the argument that the response of all stakeholders are inter-linked. Response or lack of response from one stakeholder can adversely affect the collective response to the issue. I hope community members will be present in this meeting.

Secondly, I will propose participatory action research as the way forward. If we want to collectively and systematically learn from local response, engaging the primary stakeholders through PAR is a very effective way of reflection and collaborative action. 

As Kalana said please do share your experience with us Sirinate. We would like to learn from you.

Thank you my dear Rituu.

Your first thought is interesting. We are going to organize the Knowledge Fair in August/September. This may be a good forum for all stakeholders to share their dreams and see how they can support one another towards the development of the community. What do you think?

I am not quite keen on your second thought. Can you elaborate a bit more. What we are practicing now is that we involved the key stakeholders (from national, provincial, district and sub-district levels) throughout the whole process. They participated in the CLCP learning event, the actual facilitation in the community, the self-measurement of change. They will also join the KF in the future. We conducted AARs every time. Not sure this is already part of the PAR as our AAR s focused more on the process of our facilitation rather than the changes in the communities.

Will wait to hear more from others before finalizing what should be the way forward for this situation.

Stay tuned!

Response via email from Gerlita Condino-Enrera, Philippines

Hello Sirinate! I hope my thoughts is still valid and can help. In cases like, the community has a different view and plan other than the project/ program....we go back to the process of helping the community see the strengths of each project details. If they understand and take action then they will take ownership.

There are also instances that both, the community and the program can make adjustments to fit in the community needs and the program/donor requirements.


Thanks Rituu for re posting Girlie's comments.

Hi Sirinate. Great question! It brings to mind a conversation thatPhilip Forth and I had recently, where we discussed the notion of Ownership being a Journey, which requires a focus not only on the Community, but also the staff members and influential people in the government agency or NGOs - that is, those who are making the decisions (initially). Here is a link to our notes: I wonder if our focus needs to be less on the role and ownership of the community, and more on the attitudes of those in power? Is there a way to challenge them in that meeting to consider themselves as facilitators rather than experts?

Very good question in deed, Olivia! Actually, the health officials from all levels are part of the facilitation teams since start (of our CLCP process). The dengue project is a new proposal of another office under the joint partner. This is the reason we wanted to talk to them and plan with them how their project can be implemented without damaging our process being built so far. 

So, my question is how can we implement the new project within our ongoing process which has just been facilitated only 6 months ago. Should we suggest to them to give community sometimes to complete their first actions before revisiting their dreams say a year after their first dream building?

What do you think?

Programming that are not informed by what the community desires, reflects a top-down approach. Use the bottom-up approach in program design, implementation and evaluation to ensure community ownership and sustainability.

Fully agree with you, John Pierre. In your experience, if the community has just built their dreams and started to take actions then an x agency foresees the y issue coming to the community which is of course not yet a concern of the community and therefore not in their dream. What will you do?

Thank you in advance for your continuing sharing.

Hello Sirinate,

Thank you very much for your response and query. It depends on the flexibility of your organization's policy. Your project team should revisit your project design and action plan then adjust by reprogramming based on the identified priorities of the community.

I also have experienced this kind of situation in which I am confronted by two problems: (1) its difficult to adjust because there is no policy to reprogram already-approved plans/goals/objectives or realign budgets and (2) the project is already in the implementation phase (otherwise, we will go back to square one and implement again with budgets already consumed).

So what I usually do is to "deviate" the original plan and reflect the deviation in my accomplishment report under "alternative courses of actions" (for the additional activity)" and "unintended outcomes" (for the results). I inform the community whenever this happens to ensure that deviation to the original project plan was indeed drawn out from the newly emerged community needs and priorities.


Hi Sirinate,

An important point to remember is that community organization is fundamentally a grassroots process. It's not about an outside "expert" telling a community what it should work on. Instead, it's about community members getting excited about something, and using that energy to create change. In short, community organization is all about empowering people to improve their lives, however best that might be done. So the Ministry should make a real effort to actually visit the ethnic communities and 'experience' what they have to deal with on a daily basis.

A fundamental lesson for the community organizer is that you don't organize people to do something you think should be done; instead, you find out what is important to people in the community, and then help them reach their goal.  We found this out the hard way :)

You may also want to ensure the key stake holders and Ministry of Public Health are informed and aware that without grassroots community participation and involvement from the very beginning it will be hard to get any desired outcomes that actually benefit the same communities. We found that 'diplomacy' and 'tact' actually did most times get us the desired results.

That being said the earlier program which you say phased out after 7 years please do not think of as failure but as lesson(s) learnt ? Sustainability in the face of  constantly changing needs of the community is never a easy task.

I am sending you some information that may be useful: Community Toolbox

You are probably fully aware and informed of these models but please humor me and all I ask is you go through the ones that you feel can help you as sometimes we all need to step back and re-think the entire process ? It is quite surprising how many times we forget the little details that then come back to bite us in the rear-end.

Dengue though it may not be a real issue for you right now we have alternative treatments that do work in resource poor settings as you will see when you watch the video below:

I wish you all the very best and good luck with everything. Thank you Sirinate.



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