Mainstreaming. An issue that many of you deal with in some way. As the Constellation, we were asked to provide some inputs on a HIV mainstreaming strategy of a bi-lateral donor. Instead of reverting to the ‘standard’ arguments on how HIV is inherently linked to all kinds of other development issues, I took another stance. For me, the solution to effective mainstreaming can (again) be found in communities that respond.
Think back about the community visits you have done before….. How often did you discover that at the end of the visit a lot of issues seem to be interlinked with each other and that these links were complex and difficult to map out correctly as an outsider? Well, this happened to me many times and I think the expert in mapping this out correctly is the community itself.
Every community already mainstreams naturally. Communities do not think vertically. They own a certain local wisdom that understands the deep relationships between the different issues (e.g. HIV, Malaria, health, infrastructure, education, and agriculture) better than any outsider. A community in Northern India understands the link between road projects and HIV vulnerability. A women’s group in DR-Congo has analyzed the relationship between Gender and Education and has found a creative response to link them. A youth group in Papua New Guinea grasps the important link between Income Generating Activities and risky behavior. Every community has the capacity to link those issues that are relevant to their response.
However, organizations or communities that have mainstreamed certain issues successfully have one thing in common: They have taken ownership of their response, discussed the causes of their challenges and analysed the relationships between various issues. Therefore, if a development organization or a community really wants to reap the potential benefits of mainstreaming, they require (facilitated) discussions. They need to understand the ‘WHY of mainstreaming’ instead of ‘mainstreaming because it’s written somewhere’. So how can we reveal this organization/ community’s capacity to mainstream effectively?
The Community Life Competence Process (CLCP) can be one way. It has naturally evolved from vertical-focused processes, such as the AIDS Competence Process (ACP) or Malaria Competence Process. CLCP acknowledges the capacity of each community to mainstream those issues that are relevant for them and facilitates the discussion around this. This doesn’t mean there is no starting point. HIV can in many cases still be a great key to the door of discussion. However, as we have seen all around the world, the discussion and the resulting response will not be limited to HIV. It’s about Life and it’s about the Community, hence the name for a more generic process.
As these are still initial ideas from my experience, I request all of you to share your views on this.