Connecting local responses around the world
In recent years, when I came to know about the Community Life Competence Process (CLCP), I was thrilled by its deep philosophy and approach. CLCP works in the form of learning cycles where a community illustrates their common dream followed with stages of action and learning from the experience. Learning becomes the basis for further stages/cycles of action and learning. The cycle of action and learning gradually becomes a habit of the community that might continue without any definite end-line. However, in reality there could be many ups and downs and challenges at different levels. At times the community might get confused and divided by the pressure of external challenges. They might not find any instant answer or achievable action at their end. Here comes another cycle of learning through sharing, where sharing experiences facilitates further learning directly from the community itself. The process of the transferring knowledge and the feeling of being part of a networked community brings new sets of strength. The newly discovered strength enables the community to lay out specific and manageable steps. On the other hand, this process of discussion also strengthens the engagement of the community and its feelings of ownership. There could be multiple learning cycles at the same time. Each of those cycles complements each other, strengthens the confidence and stimulates the community to take further actions to achieve a common dream. Even the common dreams may evolve and change over a period of time. But the ownership binds the communities together. The unique combinations of CLCP with various appreciative approaches help the community in moving ahead.
In 2015-16, international initiative for impact evaluation - (3ie) supported Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Constellation to carry out a rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of the Stimulate, Appreciate, Listen and Transfer (SALT) and community life competence process in three districts of Assam, India. Two years back, Constellation, in association with two local organizations - Voluntary Health Association of Assam (VHAA) and Centre for North East Studies (C-NES), started working in 90 villages of Udalguri, Bangaigaon and Kamrup districts. These three districts have different demographic and ethnic compositions. Udalguri is a part of the autonomous Bodoland Territorial Area. The district is multi-ethnic and multi-religious in nature. Bodos, a tribal community, forms the largest ethnic group in the district with 30% of the district's population. Whereas, Kamrup is situated in the immediate neighborhood of the River Brahmaputra. The demographic pattern of Kamrup district is a heterogeneous one. In 2006 the Indian government named Bongaigaon one of the country's 250 most backward districts. It is one of the eleven districts in Assam currently receiving funds from the Backward Regions Grant Fund Programme (BRGF). Muslims are a majority of the district with 50.22%.
The primary objectives of the programme were to increase the immunization coverage among those village communities. As part of the process, the Constellation team along with the local team in Assam decided to document each step of the process.
My recent trip to Assam was an eye opener for me as I experienced another cycle of learning where the community facilitators took an oath to document the process of change that has been happening under the CLCP project in Assam. The team of facilitators in Assam started documenting their own work and the responses of the community. Sometime back, they started sharing brief write-ups through their social-media network groups. They started sharing the records of their day-to-day work; the way the cases were managed; the responses of the communities; and the manner in which the changes are evaluated or assessed.
In many other instances, we have experienced that the community facilitators often have a negative response to documentation. To many community workers, it means spending time away from their true passion of working with the community. Overworked facilitators do not appreciate the requirement for case recording and often delay the task. In social work, the phrase “if it’s not documented, it’s not done” is generally used to encourage better documentation habits.
The case in Assam, in many ways is different from the general trend. Here the facilitators had included ‘documentation’ as one of their dream and later decided to stick to their original dream instead of a challenging and time consuming facilitation in those districts of Assam. They, instead, are facing a different kind of challenge, that of organizing their writings and expressing their observations, feelings and analysis.
As a response from the facilitation team, we recently conducted a two and half-day workshop in Guwahati, the capital city of Assam, with about ten community facilitators. The objective was to capture where we are in terms of documentation of their work so that we can improve and realize their dream of systematic documentation. This perhaps will help them to measure the progress effectively and also share and exchange amongst the larger Constellation community. The workshop was conducted through group discussions, self documentations of the discussions; presentations of the key issues; a SALT visit and through re-writing of some of their own documentations.
It is understood that every facilitator may not be equipped with writing skills but she or he may be an excellent oral narrator. One person from each team may take the job of writing while the others may take the job of narrating the observations and analysis in her or his own words. A format for documentation has been developed, so that all the write-ups can be collated and synthesized in an organised manner.
The SALT facilitators in Assam have already set an example for other SALT facilitators across the globe. It is no doubt a unique experiment of using documentation process as a useful learning tool for the communities. The documentation here becomes another learning cycle. It enables to understand how the community moves through the process. Gradually the documentation becomes a part of the facilitation process when it becomes the responsibility of both the facilitator and the community. I hope they continue this process with further sharing and learning and make it another cycle of action and learning.