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Knowledge FAN: Youth & Community Knowledge Sharing in the North East

CHP, Care Foundation, Galaxy Club, Kripa Foundation and Prodigals' Home recently launched the Knowledge FAN project in the north eastern states of Manipur and Nagaland with the support of UNAIDS, India.
As part of Phase I of the project, a 3-day capacity building workshop -- on use of tools and processes for community-led knowledge sharing, advocacy and mobilisation -- was held in Dimapur, Nagaland. Fifty two youth and at-risk community participants, including injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, sex workers and positive people from 20 organisations across the 2 states joined the workshop. Participants were trained in use of various creative and interactive tools to support community-led dialogue and networking; advocacy around risk and vulnerability issues; and community mobilisation to support sustainable change.
Phase II of the project will involve building a cross-community knowledge sharing, advocacy and mobilisation platform. This platform is expected to bring together a few hundred young people, community members and key stakeholders (e.g., government, health, law enforcement, academics, NGOs, CBOs, networks, general population) from across the 2 states for a 2-day festive, community-led event. The Knowledge FAN event will use creative tools to showcase issues and support dialogue around them; promote cross-community, community-to-community and community-to-stakeholder dialogue; and begin a process of sustainable networking around issues. The event is scheduled to be held in Imphal, Manipur on March 9 and 10, 2010 (tentative dates). The festival is open to all!
In preparation for this first-of-its-kind festival in the north east participants from several NGOs, CBO, networks and youth and community groups are feverishly planning and preparing. "what issues should we to share?"; "how should we share them so we can generate dialogue within communities and with stakeholders?"; "what creative tools could we use?"; "what stakeholders should we invite?"; "what should the venue look like?"; "what food should we serve?"; "how do we manage time?" and so on. A core group of youth and community members have formed an event planning committee which meets at regular intervals to plan and take stock of progress! There is much excitement around the upcoming Knowledge FAN event!
To view a copy of the report from the workshop please click here:

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Comment by Ash Pachauri on February 20, 2010 at 12:23pm
Dear Laurence, Rituu, Bobby and Madiang,

Thank you so much for your comments and responses to my posting about the Knowledge FAN initiative.

Knowledge FAN is a community-led knowledge initiative, which engages young people and communities at-risk of HIV in the process of exchanging local knowledge about HIV, health and human rights. The key goals of the project include building capacities of youth and communities to recognise their issues and share them in order to promote dialogue and sustainable networking within and across communities and key stakeholder groups. The project, therefore, focuses on 1) engagement of a wide web of partner (and participating) organisations; capacity building; and establishing a knowledge exchange, dialogue and networking platform (which also builds in a critical capacity strenthening element).

Rituu, thank you for your questions regarding sustainability. We have tried to ensure the sustainability of the project and its activities by integrating a few key aspects with the design of Knowledge FAN. 1) This project specifically integrates several - i.e., 26 direct partner and participating organisations from across the 2 states of Manipur and Nagaland; 2) The project has linked itself with other key national programmatic partners (e.g., NACO and UN partners), organisations and initiatives, including NACO's link worker scheme as well as its media campaign with youth in the north east (e.g., members of participating organisations represent the link worker programme and NACO's north east ongoing media campaign; 3) The project has deliberately been flexible to allow application of its knowledge sharing tools to individual projects, activities and their needs. To ensure this community, project staff and management have been closely involved with capacity building and other elements of Knowledge FAN. Knowledge sharing tools have, therefore, been understood and tailored to suit individual project requirements.

As expected, we found the community groups, including the MSM, sex worker, IDU and positive participants a little shy and reticent in the beginning (more so also because of the cross-community presence). The placement of sessions in the workshop agenda attempted to break the ice by 1) placing the story-telling activity at the start of the workshop and 2) encouraging participants to use creative tools for story-telling. The use of creative tools encouraged expressiveness (which may have been somewhat limited if we had used verbal dialogue, especially in the start of the workshop) and sharing which allowed participants to identify with several cross-community issues.

In fact, a very powerful story was shared by the MSM group. The MSM group used scene plays to highlight multiple contexts of stigma and discrimination confronted by the community. One scene depicted how a counsellor and attendant at an Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC) laughed at an MSM client -- ridiculing and humiliating him -- and turning him away without serving him when he was so desparately in need. The story went on to depict the pain and the struggle faced by the MSM client including the challenges he faced after being turned away and perils faced in mustering the courage to even approach the ICTC in the first place. The strong performances and visual representation of the MSM's life made this an extremely MOVING one.

Bobby, thank you so much for all your wishes and encouragement. Since the workshop, project staff, communities and youth have been in active and regular dialogue to share ways in which they would like apply various tools to promote cross-community and stakeholder dialogue during the upcoming Knowledge FAN event. They have been investing a great deal of time and energy to identify the specific messages their stories will carry with them. They have come up with possible advocacy messages through 1) active dialogue with peers and 2) a process of prioritisation (of messages) through exchange at the cross-project level. Through these processes youth, communities and partners have been able to develop draft plans for the kind of issues and messages they would like to share and the range of tools they would like to apply to share their messages. They are also in the process of working through time-allocation to various isssues and messages. For example, they are considering adopting theatre as a tool to share a story on IDU harrassment by law enforcement agencies followed by face-to-face dialogue between community representatives and law enforcement officials through a panel discussion. They are also exploring setting up interactive stall displays hosted by various participating organisations; music; art; photography; community-made film screening; dance and so on. Madiang, a number of the young communities you had trained in Imphal are part of Knowledge FAN and are showcasing, advocating and documenting the entire event. Some of the messages youth and communities have chosen to share, include "communities though often divided by "isms" (e.g., tribalism) must unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS" and "youth must be enlightened about drugs and disease".

Through the processes undertaken during the various phases of Knowledge FAN, the capacities of youth, communites and projects will be built in use of some tools (and processes) for knowledge sharing and a platform for dialogue and networking would have been born. It is hoped that in the period which will follow, youth-, community- and local-leadership will take forward the processes begun through Knowledge FAN.

Laurence, thank you so much for sharing about the knowledge fairs and the link to Knowledge Assets on acknowledgement and recognition. The similarities are incredible! I hope in the future Knowledge FAN will pave the way for sharing and learning across the similar knowledge rich environments and contexts.

Thank you all for your support, guidance and encouragement!
Comment by OLUOCH-MADIANG' on February 20, 2010 at 8:32am
I love the fact Ash, that you are employing a multiplicity of approaches and that you involve as many stakeholders as possible. Inclusion is a great and primary aspect to consider in such community development work. The last time I was in Imphal, we worked with the IDUs...will they be part of the young audience targeted? Good luck and have fun...thanks for sharing!
Comment by bobby ramakant on February 19, 2010 at 2:37pm
Dear Ash,
so good to read this update from you! All my compliments for the great interaction you all could generate. I was particularly impressed by one of your key questions to organize events:
"how should we share them so we can generate dialogue within communities and with stakeholders?"

it will be great if you may share responses to this question - when you get time, so that we all can benefit and make such events more fruitful, interactive, participatory and people-centric.

take good care, and congratulations again for successful event,
Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on February 19, 2010 at 2:16pm
Dear Ash,

Excellent. Wish I was there!

Ash, please can you elaborate more on FAN for members new to CHP.

How easy was it to engage MSM in the workshop? Its been a challenge to mobilise them in the Northeast.I assume after phase II the participant NGOs will continue to facilitate the communities. What are the ways to ensure sustainability of the approach at community level?

Would you like to share an inspiring story from the workshop?

Comment by Laurence Gilliot on February 19, 2010 at 9:20am
Dear Ash,

Thanks a lot for sharing about this event. We can definitely learn a lot from you with regards to story telling. In the report, I read about this interesting exercise:

"The first session involved a practical story telling exercise. Participants were asked to break into smaller groups by typology. Participants were asked to brainstorm about key HIV, health and rights issues faced by their communities. They were asked to select one real issue with cross-learning potential (i.e., potential for learning when shared with other participants) to be shared within the larger group. Participants were asked to identify a creative tool (e.g., music, theatre, art) to tell their stories.

Participants returned to the larger group and presented their stories. All presentations were structured to begin with an introduction, followed by practical demonstration of issues using creative story telling techniques. Presentations concluded with a statement of one key message the group intended to convey and to whom.

Ex: Group 1 used drama to highlight the issue of IDU harassment by law enforcement authorities.[...] The presentation underscored the importance of mobilising communities and stakeholders, especially law enforcing agencies to overcome highly prevalent IDU-related stigma in the North East."

I like the fact that you encourage them to use any creative tool to tell their story. Also that they identify the common message from their individual stories.

During Knowledge Fairs we go through similar processes. Small groups come together, share their experiences and try to identify common principles. Here is an example is the Knowledge Assets on Acknowledgement and recognition

Thanks, Ash!

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