Connecting local responses around the world
I have a great privilege to be part of a wonderful coaching team for the Aquatic Agricultural System (AAS) Competence in Bangladesh, Solomon Islands and Zambia. Last week, I’ve learned so much from the team (i.e. Bobby from India, Olivia from UK, Onesmus from Kenya and Wiwin from Indonesia) on how to explain the differences between ‘concern’ and ‘problem’ and why the Constellation chooses to emphasize on ‘concerns’. Here are what we have put our thoughts together.
1. What is a concern?
Concerns can be defined as a combination of factors, that the person or group of people are aware about and care for. A concern is synonymous to worry; it can be thoughts, vision, emotions of a positive or negative nature - and can be experienced as anxiety or even fear about a real life encounter or imagined issue. However, unlike problems, the anxiety or fear is coupled with a sense of hope.
Concerns are usually about things we care for. Examples from AAS could be spoiled fish produce, access to market, product low prices, low yield, unstable input prices, poor breeds, weeds, poor feeds etc. We are concerned about issues that affect us personally, or they affect our family, our loved ones, our group and our community. Of course we can also be concerned for the plight of others whom we don’t know personally but this is generally because we identify with them or their situation in some way. In other words, the issue is meaningful and important to us.
2. Facilitative approach:
If we believe that a group of people or community can own the issues/challenges that they are concerned about, and that they have the capacity to address those challenges, our work is thus to facilitate community to see how the particular challenge relates to them, their family and their community. Further, our work is to stimulate them to reveal what they can do to prevent or to address that challenge. By doing this, communities have ownership of the issues and will find ways to address them.
In the spirit of this definition, we seek to use appreciative yet, strategic questions to help reveal concerns and to ensure ownership and involvement. Examples could be: e.g what really worries you most as a farmer dependent on this river, OR as a person working with AAS dependent communities/hub? Beyond the concerns, it is the conversations by the group members which are paramount as they help elicit common understanding. So, for example, we would follow the previous question with some discussion of WHY this is a concern. Such discussions also trigger solidarity, provoking people to envision and to act together towards a shared vision. Further, through these conversations, people make a realisation of their own strengths to address some of the challenges (i.e. they can act without necessarily looking for external support). Eyes are further opened during the self assessment (deeper analysis).
Our experience is that most individuals, groups and communities experience short-lived periods of worry in their lives that drive them to act and adapt together (e.g. preserving fish to counteract spoilage, value addition for increased product market value, formation of group federation etc.). Our role as facilitators is simply to stimulate this, and support it when we are invited to do so.
3. The difference between concerns and problems:
Unlike problems - which are complaints or annoyances- concerns come from a place of love and care of something related to our life and our community. This is an important distinction because it helps us to identify what is important to us, that is, what drives us to face and solve these challenges. Concerns come with the stimulation of capacity, and the identification of hope.
Therefore, whether it is a concern or a problem depends on what lens we use to identify them and how we articulate them. Therefore, we feel much more related to an issue when it is expressed as a concern. On the other hand, we may not feel as personally connected to that issue (or its solution) when we talk of it as a problem.
Please share your thoughts to enhance our learning.