Why do I feel like we keep learning the same lessons on enageing with communities and we dont change? why cant we change?

Reply on DGroups | 21 comments

Feb. 20, 2022, 9:20 a.m.

[Hidden email]

Hi EveryoneThis has been a very interesting conversation. But how are projects designed? Do we truly engage with the people whose lives our projects impact? For the most part projects are designed in our offices because we feel we know "their" problems.
 Unfortunately, very often we reinforce behaviors that promote inequality because we don't understand fully, if at all, the cultural underpinning of observed behaviors or tendencies of a people we plan to change or influence. Ethnocentrism tend to affect our judgment and we struggle to balance our idiosyncracies with the reality of the people. 
We seldom consult the people in determining interventions and prioritizing their needs. Even when we do, it's simply for their buy-in. Very often we conduct needs assessment but reports of such endeavors are kept in our offices and never discussed with the people. In practice, we sometimes discount the people as being responsible for their own development even when we theorize and sermonize about it.
Finally, a critical look at our budgets reveals who indeed is the benefactor. Yes, we've unwittingly become benefactors as though development is philanthropy. We budget for trainings, procurement, overhead including salaries and per diem that improve our welfare. We conduct studies and surveys which results are hardly used to improve program quality. We push for burn rate but the same energy do not apply to program quality issues. We invest in big and new automobiles...not that we don't need them but what's the opportunity cost? Poverty won't go away soon until we all- donors, implementing partners, NGOs, INGOs, development and humanitarian professionals- determine to radically depart from our current approach to programming.
I'm certainly enjoying the different perspectives and looking forward to reading from you all.
Best
Uche

Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

On Sun, Feb 20, 2022 at 8:06 AM, Pascale Verly<[Hidden email]<div class="original_message_link">Original message
> wrote:
I have been following this thread for almost one week now and truly enjoying the comments and suggestions.

If we engage with a community with the concept of " to help," We will only identify what's not working and try to fix it using our cultural approach and biases. 

Instead, go with the approach of " let us learn from each other." With a learning approach, You open yourself to a mutually beneficial experience. 

Unfortunately, NGOs create proposals/projects to capture donors' interest, and whoever puts the best pitch forward gets awarded a contract/grant. There is nothing wrong with that; it is simply a different way of earning a living or sustaining an NGO. But be honest and allow the community to understand your interest ( you are not there to help), advance your career/organization and take the time to understand what's in it for them. 

On Wed, Feb 16, 2022 at 8:38 PM Hassan Olow via Dgroups <[Hidden email]> wrote:

Dear All,
An interesting thread of thought and something that can easily be said of any context, having Kenya in mind here. Besides, even when you get to really make progress in how interventions are designed, sometimes you tend to get more or less similar recommendations from evaluations. Could there also be a problem with how evaluations are done or how findings are interpreted to come with those recommendations?
Best regards,Hassan
On Wednesday, February 16, 2022, 12:36:33 AM GMT+3, Samia Qumri <[Hidden email]> wrote:

I guess this is one of the best groups that’s flourishing my email 👏🙂 I’m loving the convo the threads and thought-provoking ideas that nudges my brain cells
Thanks everyoneSamia

Sent from my iPad*SQ

On 15 Feb 2022, at 19:04, Rosie Jackson <[Hidden email]> wrote:

Hello All, 
((PING)) Sign me up for a conversation on better engagement! (or is it inclusion now, or participation, or accountability, or localisation?). Broadly agree with all said above, including that we go round and round and round.  
We might start our discussion by mapping the 'conversations' on engagement because 'it' is usefully discussed, challenged and dissected in many parts of the development and humanitarian discourse and often to a very practical level. We talk at length about the constraints of silos to effective solutions. Surely, join up on better understanding engagement is a critical foundation to both doing no harm as well as maximising effectiveness and efficiency (<- what will change the game). I think it IS about power and resource sharing but it's also about letting go, coming to terms with utilising systems and platforms we dont understand, and creating a consumer choice, etc etc
I'm working with CDAC Network at the moment and as a network we've been focused on how digital communication, particularly peer to peer communication, has the potential to accelerate accountability (or not). @Zehra Rizvi I've not seen Polis, but there are a lot of comms and feedback mechanisms that are available and under utilised, kuja kuja is another one, loop also provide a low tech and consumer driven platform.  When it comes to impact, there's some low hanging fruit in more consistent join up between communication, community engagement and cash and markets - particularly when trust in, and speed, uptake and interpretation of two way communication and dialogue is critical to impact. To be continued....
IN. 
Rosie 

On Saturday, February 12, 2022, Deborah <[Hidden email]> wrote:

Hi @Paula Gil, @Simon Levine, @Zehra Rizvi, @Sarah Ward, I'm only peripherally involved in markets & aid, but I've been reading this thread with fascination as community engagement is very much in my wheelhouse. The points you all made resonate deeply with my own work, across development as well as aid. There's something about the culture of international programming which shuts out and/or mechanises & distorts how it operates, and how people work, at the local level. I've seen this happen regardless of whether it's 'national' or 'international' staff doing the work - and, in my experience, regardless of what they think as individuals in their free time. I've seen it happen a lot in the governments we've worked with too (this has been more in the development side of our work.) But not so much with 'national' NGOs, which I've found interesting.
Without a doubt, power relations and their historical legacy is at the core, leading to programming that is disconnected from community realities, distorted accountability which looks to donors rather than community members, MEL frameworks that fail to reflect community ideas of program 'success', etc etc. But the way it plays out is also so contextual. I'm very interested in how this can become a broader discussion of aid & programming culture, without losing that detailed, contextual nuance.
All of this to say, I'd love be involved in any forthcoming discussion if you'll have a non-aid&markets-focussed participant.
Cheers, Deborah

On Sat, Feb 12, 2022 at 2:36 AM Sarah J Ward <[Hidden email]> wrote:

Hi MiC'ers
1. And this is why these kinds of forum matter....because when something is important or hard or frustrating in our work, we can share and support each other and have it rise to the top.
@Paula Gil  and @Simon Levine  let's see if we can get some folks talking and maybe even connect around one of  the many virtual market & humanitarian events in the coming months? Any thoughts? @Andreas Kiaby?

2. Here is the link to the "Sharing to Survive" paper and webinar that triggered this/me :-)
I am sure they will post a recording soon .

https://www.fsnnetwork.org/event/sharing-survive-role-social-networks-during-yemen-crisis

and here is the full report

https://www.fsnnetwork.org/sites/default/files/2022-01/Sharing%20to%20Survive%20Full%20Report.pdf

Onward!Sarah

Sarah J Ward (she/her)
Livelihoods and Economic Recovery in Crisis
[Hidden email]
skype: sarahjward
+1 518 929 6975
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-ward-5280196

   
On Fri, Feb 11, 2022, 10:22 AM [Hidden email] <[Hidden email]> wrote:

Hi Sarah and all.
I really agree with you that we do not always capitalize many of the already working facts including strengthening social cohesions.
Does someone has the report? Or my the recording of the webinar. I really missed it.
Mohamed Beegsi| Save the Children | Advisor- Food Security and Livelihoods
Scintilia’s Hub, Plot 773 Cadastral Zone – Wuye District, Abuja, Nigeria
Website: nigeria.savethechildren.net
Mobile Line: +234 (0) 9035616661| Toll Free Line: 0800 22 55 724
Email: [Hidden email]
Skype: beegse
Twitter: @savechildrenNG
Instagram: @savechildrenNG
Facebook: Save the Children Nigeria 

-----Original Message-----
From: [Hidden email] <[Hidden email]> On Behalf Of Sarah J Ward
Sent: Thursday, 10 February 2022 5:21 pm
To: Markets in Crises <[Hidden email]>
Subject: [mic] Why do I feel like we keep learning the same lessons on enageing with communities and we dont change? why cant we change?

CAUTION: **This email originated from outside Save the Children. Do not click links or open attachments unless you recognize the sender and know the content is safe**.

Hi MiC'ers,

I just attended a webinar called "Sharing to Survive: The Role of Social Networks during the Yemen Crisis" with a bunch of VERY smart people, and it made me question myself, as well as having me smack myself in the forehead over and over. for those of you who know me, you can hear a bit of a rant coming on....:-)

The basic premise was that, new research in Yemen was showing the key nature of social networks to support resilience in this protracted crisis - and how the humanitarian community was not supporting/working in tandem with/and even sometimes undermining this critical structure of social networks and community support. Now, I have been working with folks in Yemen for many years now...in fact, I have been hearing the very top-line "recommendations" that this research brings out for years. AND WE STILL ARE NOT DOING THIS.  And in fact, if I asked any one of you working in humanitarians work now, you would see these recommendations and say "yes, that's what we should do, I always work to design and implement my projects with these tenants in place..." and yet we keep having this research come out saying we are not doing it?! Where is our block? Our disconnect? Are we doing it wrong? Do I try to work via community structures and then, when I am met with too many blockages, barriers and problems - I adapt and change to the point where I am no longer doing it? I am honestly asking us, why is it so hard for us to get this right? I personally have been having this struggle for years...how about you? What's stopping you? How can we move the needle on this (we did markets in crisis, we did "market-aware", we did cash, what about this?)

Let me know - what are you learning? and if you have time, I highly recommend watching the webinar and reading the report.

Be well,
Sarah Ward

--
|
|  Deborah Cummins  DIRECTOR    Tel: + 61 (0)457 277 039 - BridgingPeoples.com       Working Better Locally.  |
<[Hidden email]<div>

Feb. 20, 2022, 7:05 a.m.

Pascale Verly

I have been following this thread for almost one week now and truly
enjoying the comments and suggestions.

If we engage with a community with the concept of "* to help," *We will
only identify what's not working and try to fix it using our cultural
approach and biases.

Instead, go with the approach o*f " let us learn from each other." *With a
learning approach, You open yourself to a mutually beneficial experience.

Unfortunately, NGOs create proposals/projects to capture donors' interest,
and whoever puts the best pitch forward gets awarded a contract/grant.
There is nothing wrong with that; it is simply a different way of earning a
living or sustaining an NGO. But be honest and allow the community to
understand your interest ( you are not there to help), advance your
career/organization and t*ake the time to understand what's in it for them.*

On Wed, Feb 16, 2022 at 8:38 PM Hassan Olow via Dgroups <
[Hidden email]

Feb. 18, 2022, 12:05 p.m.

James Shepherd-Barron

Might be a good start to hold those who commissioned MEALs to account for
how many of the recommendations were implemented, say, one year on? And if
not, why not? It would be great if THAT were included in the ToR. (LOVE the
'Pre-Copernican' reference btw, Simon)

*James Shepherd-Barron MIH, PhD (hc)*
*Disaster Management Consultant* (*in case you're wondering, this means I
advise Governments, UN Agencies, International NGOs and the private sector
on the modelling and management of international disaster risk*)

I am also an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University and CEO of The* Aid
Workers Union*, the support service for independent aid professionals (
https://www.aidworkersunion.org)

Mobile: +44 7785 70 34 90
Skype: james.s-b
Twitter: @jshepherdbarron
https://www.aidworkersunion.org <https: www.aidessentials.org="">

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Feb. 18, 2022, 11:43 a.m.

[Hidden email]

Dear Micers
The discussion here is very interesting.
Simon's observations are so on point and brings out the tension between
keeping learning within the larger context and needing to account for the
specific which is what evaluations are often focused on. the larger context
learning should therefore be captured in a different process, which in my
opinion is missing in "project" based interventions.
Happy to hear what this larger perspective learning could look like and if
there are programs that are doing this.

Great learning
Githaiga

Feb. 18, 2022, 11:04 a.m.

Simon Levine

I agree, Hassan, there is a huge problem with how evaluations are done. I don’t blame evaluators – they are given impossible terms of reference, frequently asking them to evaluate a project from 6 different perspectives (e.g. DAC criteria of impact, relevance, coherence, etc) and then of course adding gender, and all in about 25 days’ work! Small wonder that they don’t ask for their TOR to be made even more complicated by asking the more important questions. As a result, how many evaluations ever talk to people in a project area who were not direct “beneficiaries”? Or talk to people about anything about their lives except the project activities? And how many evaluations are ever commissioned a year later (or better, 2-3 years later) to see what impact they really had on people’s lives?

Evaluations are seen more as an accountability function than about learning, so they usually focus on process. Which is also important. But what we can learn from any intervention (project, policy change, etc.) is almost endless, and learning has to be prioritised. Aid actors are always aid-centric, they (we?) live in a pre-Copernican world where the universe revolves around their project. So we prioritise learning about ‘our’ projects, and we don’t prioritise learning about people’s lives and how ‘our’ projects fit into them. How then can we expect evaluators to tell us anything about how well a project supported people’s own social networks? Many of them do try to, I know, but the TOR steer them away from spending time on this.

Regards to all!

SImon

Feb. 17, 2022, 1:35 a.m.

Hassan Olow

Dear All,
An interesting thread of thought and something that can easily be said of any context, having Kenya in mind here. Besides, even when you get to really make progress in how interventions are designed, sometimes you tend to get more or less similar recommendations from evaluations. Could there also be a problem with how evaluations are done or how findings are interpreted to come with those recommendations?
Best regards,Hassan
On Wednesday, February 16, 2022, 12:36:33 AM GMT+3, Samia Qumri <[Hidden email]<div class="original_message_link">Original message
> wrote:

I guess this is one of the best groups that’s flourishing my email 👏🙂 I’m loving the convo the threads and thought-provoking ideas that nudges my brain cells
Thanks everyoneSamia

Sent from my iPad*SQ

On 15 Feb 2022, at 19:04, Rosie Jackson <[Hidden email]> wrote:

Hello All, 
((PING)) Sign me up for a conversation on better engagement! (or is it inclusion now, or participation, or accountability, or localisation?). Broadly agree with all said above, including that we go round and round and round.  
We might start our discussion by mapping the 'conversations' on engagement because 'it' is usefully discussed, challenged and dissected in many parts of the development and humanitarian discourse and often to a very practical level. We talk at length about the constraints of silos to effective solutions. Surely, join up on better understanding engagement is a critical foundation to both doing no harm as well as maximising effectiveness and efficiency (<- what will change the game). I think it IS about power and resource sharing but it's also about letting go, coming to terms with utilising systems and platforms we dont understand, and creating a consumer choice, etc etc
I'm working with CDAC Network at the moment and as a network we've been focused on how digital communication, particularly peer to peer communication, has the potential to accelerate accountability (or not). @Zehra Rizvi I've not seen Polis, but there are a lot of comms and feedback mechanisms that are available and under utilised, kuja kuja is another one, loop also provide a low tech and consumer driven platform.  When it comes to impact, there's some low hanging fruit in more consistent join up between communication, community engagement and cash and markets - particularly when trust in, and speed, uptake and interpretation of two way communication and dialogue is critical to impact. To be continued....
IN. 
Rosie 

On Saturday, February 12, 2022, Deborah <[Hidden email]> wrote:

Hi @Paula Gil, @Simon Levine, @Zehra Rizvi, @Sarah Ward, I'm only peripherally involved in markets & aid, but I've been reading this thread with fascination as community engagement is very much in my wheelhouse. The points you all made resonate deeply with my own work, across development as well as aid. There's something about the culture of international programming which shuts out and/or mechanises & distorts how it operates, and how people work, at the local level. I've seen this happen regardless of whether it's 'national' or 'international' staff doing the work - and, in my experience, regardless of what they think as individuals in their free time. I've seen it happen a lot in the governments we've worked with too (this has been more in the development side of our work.) But not so much with 'national' NGOs, which I've found interesting.
Without a doubt, power relations and their historical legacy is at the core, leading to programming that is disconnected from community realities, distorted accountability which looks to donors rather than community members, MEL frameworks that fail to reflect community ideas of program 'success', etc etc. But the way it plays out is also so contextual. I'm very interested in how this can become a broader discussion of aid & programming culture, without losing that detailed, contextual nuance.
All of this to say, I'd love be involved in any forthcoming discussion if you'll have a non-aid&markets-focussed participant.
Cheers, Deborah

On Sat, Feb 12, 2022 at 2:36 AM Sarah J Ward <[Hidden email]> wrote:

Hi MiC'ers
1. And this is why these kinds of forum matter....because when something is important or hard or frustrating in our work, we can share and support each other and have it rise to the top.
@Paula Gil  and @Simon Levine  let's see if we can get some folks talking and maybe even connect around one of  the many virtual market & humanitarian events in the coming months? Any thoughts? @Andreas Kiaby?

2. Here is the link to the "Sharing to Survive" paper and webinar that triggered this/me :-)
I am sure they will post a recording soon .

https://www.fsnnetwork.org/event/sharing-survive-role-social-networks-during-yemen-crisis

and here is the full report

https://www.fsnnetwork.org/sites/default/files/2022-01/Sharing%20to%20Survive%20Full%20Report.pdf

Onward!Sarah

Sarah J Ward (she/her)
Livelihoods and Economic Recovery in Crisis
[Hidden email]
skype: sarahjward
+1 518 929 6975
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-ward-5280196

   
On Fri, Feb 11, 2022, 10:22 AM [Hidden email] <[Hidden email]> wrote:

Hi Sarah and all.
I really agree with you that we do not always capitalize many of the already working facts including strengthening social cohesions.
Does someone has the report? Or my the recording of the webinar. I really missed it.
Mohamed Beegsi| Save the Children | Advisor- Food Security and Livelihoods
Scintilia’s Hub, Plot 773 Cadastral Zone – Wuye District, Abuja, Nigeria
Website: nigeria.savethechildren.net
Mobile Line: +234 (0) 9035616661| Toll Free Line: 0800 22 55 724
Email: [Hidden email]
Skype: beegse
Twitter: @savechildrenNG
Instagram: @savechildrenNG
Facebook: Save the Children Nigeria 

-----Original Message-----
From: [Hidden email] <[Hidden email]> On Behalf Of Sarah J Ward
Sent: Thursday, 10 February 2022 5:21 pm
To: Markets in Crises <[Hidden email]>
Subject: [mic] Why do I feel like we keep learning the same lessons on enageing with communities and we dont change? why cant we change?

CAUTION: **This email originated from outside Save the Children. Do not click links or open attachments unless you recognize the sender and know the content is safe**.

Hi MiC'ers,

I just attended a webinar called "Sharing to Survive: The Role of Social Networks during the Yemen Crisis" with a bunch of VERY smart people, and it made me question myself, as well as having me smack myself in the forehead over and over. for those of you who know me, you can hear a bit of a rant coming on....:-)

The basic premise was that, new research in Yemen was showing the key nature of social networks to support resilience in this protracted crisis - and how the humanitarian community was not supporting/working in tandem with/and even sometimes undermining this critical structure of social networks and community support. Now, I have been working with folks in Yemen for many years now...in fact, I have been hearing the very top-line "recommendations" that this research brings out for years. AND WE STILL ARE NOT DOING THIS.  And in fact, if I asked any one of you working in humanitarians work now, you would see these recommendations and say "yes, that's what we should do, I always work to design and implement my projects with these tenants in place..." and yet we keep having this research come out saying we are not doing it?! Where is our block? Our disconnect? Are we doing it wrong? Do I try to work via community structures and then, when I am met with too many blockages, barriers and problems - I adapt and change to the point where I am no longer doing it? I am honestly asking us, why is it so hard for us to get this right? I personally have been having this struggle for years...how about you? What's stopping you? How can we move the needle on this (we did markets in crisis, we did "market-aware", we did cash, what about this?)

Let me know - what are you learning? and if you have time, I highly recommend watching the webinar and reading the report.

Be well,
Sarah Ward

--
|
|  Deborah Cummins  DIRECTOR    Tel: + 61 (0)457 277 039 - BridgingPeoples.com       Working Better Locally.  |
<[Hidden email]<div>

Feb. 15, 2022, 9:34 p.m.

Samia Qumri

I guess this is one of the best groups that’s flourishing my email 👏🙂
I’m loving the convo the threads and thought-provoking ideas that nudges my brain cells

Thanks everyone
Samia

Sent from my iPad*SQ

Feb. 15, 2022, 5:01 p.m.

Rosie Jackson

Hello All,

((PING)) Sign me up for a conversation on better engagement! (or is it
inclusion now, or participation, or accountability, or localisation?).
Broadly agree with all said above, including that we go round and round and
round.

We might start our discussion by mapping the 'conversations' on engagement
because 'it' is usefully discussed, challenged and dissected in many parts
of the development and humanitarian discourse and often to a very practical
level. We talk at length about the constraints of silos to effective
solutions. Surely, join up on better understanding engagement is a
critical foundation to both doing no harm as well as maximising
effectiveness and efficiency (<- what will change the game). I think it IS
about power and resource sharing but it's also about letting go, coming to
terms with utilising systems and platforms we dont understand, and creating
a consumer choice, etc etc

I'm working with CDAC Network at the moment and as a network we've been
focused on how digital communication, particularly peer to peer
communication, has the potential to accelerate accountability (or not). @Zehra
Rizvi <[Hidden email]> I've not seen Polis, but there are a lot of
comms and feedback mechanisms that are available and under utilised, kuja
kuja <https: en="" www.kujakuja.com="">is another one, loop
<https: enabling-feedback="" www.talktoloop.org="">also provide a low tech and
consumer driven platform. When it comes to impact, there's some low
hanging fruit in more consistent join up between communication, community
engagement and cash and markets - particularly when trust in, and speed,
uptake and interpretation of two way communication and dialogue is critical
to impact. To be continued....

IN.

Rosie

Feb. 15, 2022, 5:01 p.m.

Zehra Rizvi

Ping also ☺

So many great convo threads that it’s been hard to keep up and respond to
each properly (and lol Simon…you KNOW I have a thing about international
aid workers but….thanks for keeping me honest on it. It’s also WAY more
fun when we disagree—love having my mind changed about something or just
to approach it differently---which I am still deciding and thinking on
what you have written to see how I feel about it ☺).

Thanks, Rosie, for the additional links and tools. Letting go---so hard
for people to do. But as you say…quite key.

@Deborah I am sitting and wondering about this: Without a doubt, power
relations and their historical legacy is at the core, leading to
programming that is disconnected from community realities, distorted
accountability which looks to donors rather than community members, MEL
frameworks that fail to reflect community ideas of program 'success', etc
etc. But the way it plays out is also so contextual. I'm very interested
in how this can become a broader discussion of aid & programming culture,
without losing that detailed, contextual nuance. Good question at the
end. My gut reaction says, nope. Can’t do it without losing the detailed
contextual nuance…but….maybe we can (still doubtful but I’m generally an
optimistic and hopeful person). So if we can’t…where does that leave us?
That for me is something to explore.

So—for this convo that we’re all super interested to have….who is at the
table? who is giving access to the table? Who is centered in the convo
and whomever that is---are they represented even? It’s not an easy convo
to set up. @Paula Gil let me know if you need any help.

Z

Feb. 15, 2022, 5:01 p.m.

Vaidehi Krishnan

Sarah, Simon and team –

Sarah, trust you to kick off an engaging debate. 😊 Thank you for raising this and for sending along the link to the Yemen report. I missed the webinar and am keen to catch it. Simon – great question on what types of programs show promise in supporting social connections/solidarity etc. To add to what Mary noted in her example on the FBAs, I’ve provided another example below.

Before we get into that, as a follow-up to Alex’s post, I do want to ask people on this listserv on what are “other” ways you all think we can have an interactive, two-way discussion/debate on issues like this that matter? Webinars and research reports are a starting point, yes. But to be honest how many of us have the time to read these or listen to a webinar recording if we couldn’t make it to the actual event? (Case in point, the example I draw on below is a case study report and a webinar from late Jan. But clearly, we would have benefited from posting the event details or some takeaways on this forum.

------------
In NE Nigeria, we found that a combination of two interventions -- market-based livelihoods support (in this case a promotional buy-one, get-one free hybrid poultry offer for women) and mobilizing these women poultry owners into VSLAs helped strengthen and diversify women’s social networks; and had a whole host of other empowerment benefits for women.

Each of these interventions appears to have contributed to the social and empowerment benefits that women reported on this program.

1. For example, we found that the shared livelihood (poultry) provided a common topic/ thing to discuss and a starting point to build a relationship, especially for women who did not know each other in the past.
2. The weekly VSLA meetings provided a great platform for women to begin exchanging their experiences/challenges of the common poultry-livelihood. And this continued exchange soon turned into emotional advice, guidance and increased trust, bonds and solidarity among women. What did this solidarity look like on the ground? Well, for women, “simply being there for each other” meant that they felt invested in each other’s success. Women began teaching each other livelihood skills; and in some cases, also connected their fellow VSLA members to their own family and relatives in other parts of Nigeria, to start a small business etc.
3. The program’s “buy-one, get-one free” approach also meant that women expressed a sense of pride and ownership over the poultry. That is, they were not the “beneficiary” of a humanitarian intervention but rather felt like they were a part of the poultry market chain. This certainly helped increase women’s self-esteem, the drive to continue to engage in this livelihood. Program teams noted that women began demanding for quality goods and services from poultry market actors.

The report is here: https://www.fsnnetwork.org/resource/rapid-resilience-learning-brief-role-markets-strengthening-social-resilience-capacities
The webinar recording is here: https://www.fsnnetwork.org/event/how-livelihoods-support-bolstered-social-sources-resilience

Two reflections --
First, for those of us that have implemented VSLAs, NONE of the social benefits I have described above will come as a surprise. A global evidence review of women’s self-help groups (and savings groups) finds that for women, participation in these types of groups helps strengthen both economic (cash/savings/loans) and noneconomic/social resources like their social networks, confidence, self-efficacy, agency etc. (https://www.fsnnetwork.org/resource/building-resilience-through-self-help-groups-evidence-review).

That said, in the case of NE Nigeria, it was not just the VSLAs, the livelihood component and the approach where women invested some of their own money into the poultry) all made a difference. And interestingly even though NE Nigeria is a fragile conflict-affected context, that did not seem to have stopped the teams from implementing this type of program. Admittedly, they piloted in a slightly more stable location (Maiduguri) before expanding to rural, hard-to-reach locations.

Second, if you are implementing livelihood/market-interventions, your program may already be having numerous social benefits (beyond just the economic benefits that you programmed for and/or are intending to measure). The lives of our participants are multidimensional. The project/program we implement is simply one acet of this.

So (and paraphrasing Simon’s words) focusing our learning efforts on what lies beyond our program outputs is a first step in understanding how our programs may also be supporting (or not) social systems; what about our interventions is contributing to these etc. One starting point is to ask a lot of open-ended “why” questions (my personal favourite)! And asking participants specifically about the “noneconomic” benefits is another way towards some startling discoveries.

------------
Best
Vai

--
VAIDEHI KRISHNAN
Researcher
She/Her/Hers
MERCY CORPS
email: [Hidden email] <mailto:[Hidden email]> | skype vaidehi.krishnan, location marker - France
Powered by the belief that a better world is possible.
Join us at mercycorps.org <https: www.mercycorps.org=""> | Facebook <https: facebook.com="" mercycorps=""> | Twitter <https: mercycorps="" twitter.com="">

Feb. 12, 2022, 7:31 a.m.

Deborah

Hi @Paula Gil <[Hidden email]>, @Simon Levine
<[Hidden email]>, @Zehra
Rizvi, @Sarah Ward <[Hidden email]>, I'm only peripherally involved
in markets & aid, but I've been reading this thread with fascination
as community engagement is very much in my wheelhouse. The points you all
made resonate deeply with my own work, across development as well as aid.
There's something about the culture of international programming which
shuts out and/or mechanises & distorts how it operates, and how people
work, at the local level. I've seen this happen regardless of whether it's
'national' or 'international' staff doing the work - and, in my experience,
regardless of what they think as individuals in their free time. I've seen
it happen a lot in the governments we've worked with too (this has been
more in the development side of our work.) But not so much with 'national'
NGOs, which I've found interesting.

Without a doubt, power relations and their historical legacy is at the
core, leading to programming that is disconnected from community realities,
distorted accountability which looks to donors rather than community
members, MEL frameworks that fail to reflect community ideas of program
'success', etc etc. But the way it plays out is also so contextual. I'm
very interested in how this can become a broader discussion of aid &
programming culture, without losing that detailed, contextual nuance.

All of this to say, I'd love be involved in any forthcoming discussion if
you'll have a non-aid&markets-focussed participant.

Cheers, Deborah

Feb. 11, 2022, 9:27 p.m.

[Hidden email]

Hello everyone,

Alex, Jeeyon, and Maha here–three of the authors of the Sharing to Survive report. We are ecstatic to see the report and webinar (the recordings will be posted today!) has inspired such a great conversation. Thanks, Sarah, for your thoughtful reflections that kicked this off.
A few of you have shared thoughts about measuring informal support networks during M&E efforts and evaluations. We are with you on the need for more guidance on how our M&E efforts can better account for social connections and informal support networks. Conflict, climate change, and COVID-19 are testing the limits of social networks, but our monitoring systems are not capturing how programs affect people’s networks. At Mercy Corps, we’re planning to develop a practical guidance note for measuring program impact on informal support networks. We’d love to consult as many of you as possible as part of the development of this piece. Stay tuned for more on that.
Honing in on what’s been discussed so far, the big question emerging in this discussion seems to be “How can (and perhaps, Should?) the aid community engage social networks and informal local initiatives, without centering ourselves and causing inadvertent harm?”
We might pose the question in a slightly different way - what is the cost of NOT engaging or thinking about these informal initiatives? There are plenty of examples where our failure to account for and work through informal initiatives have led to social exclusion, fueled social tensions, and undermined local initiatives. I’m recalling an infamous Cash for Work program in South Sudan which undermined voluntary community groups that worked on dyke construction ahead of the rainy seasons. The CfW program had inadvertently disrupted the voluntary nature of the community groups, leaving the dykes unbuilt, resulting in increased flooding. From a Do No Harm perspective, we clearly need to be much more intentional about our engagement. And given the critical role that informal initiatives play in allowing households to cope and survive, shouldn’t we try to invest in these initiatives as a core resilience capacity? We’re first to admit that there is a lot more work to be done to get this right, but the cost of not trying seems too great to ignore. Certainly, we’ll need to be careful about the local power and conflict dynamics - as many of you flagged. We know that social connectedness can be just as much about exclusion as it is about inclusion. So, the question is what will it take? Are there any examples we can learn from (to Simon’s point and Andrea’s helpful response)? What checks and balances should accompany such efforts? How can we support each other to take the next steps on this?

Our research in South Sudan and Yemen also shows that our current targeting and opaque community engagement processes often cause disruptions to social networks and informal support systems. Resulting disruptions to local support systems may ultimately undermine program impact and reverse development gains in the longer term. So, what are the practical steps that we can take to improve community engagement strategies so as to avert this kind of harm? At Mercy Corps, we’ve been thinking about things like visibility that explicitly conveys targeting criteria, and regular “drop-in” hours during which community members can approach program representatives to seek clarifications are important first steps. But in the longer term, should we be thinking about a more fundamental overhaul to targeting? Perhaps piloting new approaches to community-based targeting that allocate far greater authority to communities to allocate aid on their own terms? What would this look like in practice? What needs to happen to get the ball rolling in this direction?

Again, we are really excited about this discussion. This is exactly the kind of reflection we were hoping to accelerate with our report. Over the coming weeks, we’re hoping to facilitate some collaborative learning sessions where we can reflect on examples of what works when it comes to engaging with social networks and local initiatives, what lessons we can take from these examples, and how they can inform future learning/guidance opportunities. It looks like Sarah, Paula, Andrea and Simon are pushing in the same direction. We’d welcome the chance to team up with you and others in this group, to get something on the books ASAP. In the meantime, we’d love to keep discussing with all of you here on the D Group!

Feb. 11, 2022, 9:26 p.m.

Sasha Muench

Thanks Sarah for posting great questions and others for jumping into a deep
conversation. I agree this is one of the most crucial issues to address
right now.

Reflecting on my own experience as someone who has been committed to
systems-based work for 15 years, I find at the start of any initiative I am
100% committed to facilitating locally led change but as the process
unfolds it is easy to get frustrated when individuals and systems aren’t
changing in the direction and pace I think they should and the desire to
intervene more directly gets stronger. And social capital can also work
both ways. I have seen initiatives fail because the participants couldn’t
overcome the entrenched local power dynamics keeping them down. As an
outsider, we can see how systems (both market and social) *should* work but
we have to recognize the limitations of our abilities as temporary players
to influence them.

This is just to acknowledge it is a thorny problem but I agree we have to
get better. I think better program design is an important element and there
are lessons we can learn from other parts of our industry, such as the Movement
for Community-led Development <https: mcld.org="">. I also think we need
tools and accountability mechanisms to check our social impact during
implementation. And we need to think about the bigger issues of changing
the status quo within our industry.

I don’t have any answers but I definitely am interested in brainstorming
more. @Sarah Ward <[Hidden email]>, @Paula Gil <[Hidden email]>
, and @Simon Levine <[Hidden email]> let me know how I can help.

Best regards,

Sasha Muench

Independent Consultant

[Hidden email]

skype: sashmuench

+1-503-913-3004

Feb. 11, 2022, 4:36 p.m.

Sarah J Ward

Hi MiC'ers

1. And this is why these kinds of forum matter....because when something is
important or hard or frustrating in our work, we can share and support each
other and have it rise to the top.

@Paula Gil <[Hidden email]> and @Simon Levine <[Hidden email]>
let's see if we can get some folks talking and maybe even connect around
one of the many virtual market & humanitarian events in the coming months?
Any thoughts? @Andreas Kiaby <[Hidden email]>?

2. Here is the link to the "Sharing to Survive" paper and webinar that
triggered this/me :-)

I am sure they will post a recording soon .

https://www.fsnnetwork.org/event/sharing-survive-role-social-networks-during-yemen-crisis

and here is the full report

https://www.fsnnetwork.org/sites/default/files/2022-01/Sharing%20to%20Survive%20Full%20Report.pdf

Onward!
Sarah

Sarah J Ward (she/her)
Livelihoods and Economic Recovery in Crisis
[Hidden email]
skype: sarahjward
+1 518 929 6975
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-ward-5280196

On Fri, Feb 11, 2022, 10:22 AM [Hidden email] <
[Hidden email]

Feb. 11, 2022, 3:14 p.m.

[Hidden email]

Hi Sarah and all.
I really agree with you that we do not always capitalize many of the already working facts including strengthening social cohesions.
Does someone has the report? Or my the recording of the webinar. I really missed it.
Mohamed Beegsi| Save the Children | Advisor- Food Security and Livelihoods
Scintilia’s Hub, Plot 773 Cadastral Zone – Wuye District, Abuja, Nigeria
Website: nigeria.savethechildren.net
Mobile Line: +234 (0) 9035616661| Toll Free Line: 0800 22 55 724
Email: [Hidden email]
Skype: beegse
Twitter: @savechildrenNG
Instagram: @savechildrenNG
Facebook: Save the Children Nigeria 

Feb. 11, 2022, 11:55 a.m.

Simon Levine

@Paula Gil

Consider yourself pinged.

I’m not 100% sure, yet, if the ‘solution’ you propose is the right one, but I think it puts the conversation in the right area, and that is a very, very good place to start.

S

Feb. 11, 2022, 11:55 a.m.

Andreas Kiaby

Hi all,

I love this list and the opportunity to learn from all you smart,
passionate people - it gives me hope for a better humanitarian system in
the future. I've been following MiC on the sidelines, but in my new job as
the lead for DanChurchAid's humanitarian response, I think I need your help
and ideas more than ever.

The Yemen report reference some of the work done by Local2Global (Colbert,
Carstensen), and for those of you unfamiliar with this initiative - and the
programmatic approach of sclr - I suggest you have a look here: sclr |
local2global <https: sclr="" www.local2global.info=""> Our experience with this
is incredible, and what we hear from Palestine to the highlands of Myanmar
is that this approach strengthens social relations, trust and community
empowerment in quite incredible ways. One way is the "safe to fail
approach" - which specifically plan for how to remain committed to "letting
go of power" even when things go wrong, instead of falling back to pulling
in the reins and reimpose control over aid resources.

I'm also attaching two pieces of "listening" (research may be an
overstatement) on how communities in conflict areas cope and survive - we
initially used the word resilience - but that really got challenged as
"glossing over" the just plain old grit that got people through neverending
shocks and stresses.

I love the idea of having assessment and MEAL more sensitive to "the
social", which really feeds into a growing call amongst our partners and
colleagues to have a much more indigenous and local approach to assessing
needs and evaluating success/outcomes. I would love to hear from those of
you who have had success with more community-defined needs assessment and
outcome monitoring beyond just the way that say a coping index can be
prioritised and ranked by community members.

Cheers,

*Andreas Kiaby*

Team leader (Operations & Humanitarian Response)

Meldahlsgade 3, 3. & 4. sal

1613 København V / DK-1613 Copenhagen V

www.noedhjaelp.dk / www.danchurchaid.org

[Hidden email]

Phone: +45 33 15 28 00

Mobile:+45 50 60 40 68

[image: Logo_MailSignatur_Midlertidigt_382x80]

Den fre. 11. feb. 2022 kl. 10.34 skrev Simon Levine <[Hidden email]>:

> Zehra, you know I never disagree with you, except that this time… there
> is one thing that I think you have got wrong. Or at least, not quite right.
> “There is no incentive for *international* hum actors to do so” (*your*
> emphasis on international).
>
>
>
> Well, yes, this is true. *But* my experience has not always been that
> international individuals (ie people working in a foreign country) or
> international orgs are necessarily worse in this attitude than national
> individuals (ie people in their own country) or national orgs. Patronising
> and paternalistic attitudes, especially towards rural people but to the
> poor in general, are not the sole preserve of internationals, sadly.
> (Including in my own country, of course.)
>
>
>
> I agree with most of what you say, but I think that the problem goes
> deeper than you make it. And the diagnosis matters, because it affects the
> solution. Changing the balance of power in aid (as in everything else) is
> hugely important, yes; and changing the way in which international support
> is given to countries is a huge part of that. But changes in attitudes and
> changes in the balance of power need to go much deeper than simply
> replacing international actors with people from their own country aka
> ‘nationals’, even if that is also something that needs to happen.
>
>
>
> Right, got that off my chest, I can get back to agreeing with whatever you
> say, now!
>
>
>
> S
>
>
>
>
>
>

Feb. 11, 2022, 9:32 a.m.

Paula Gil

Jumping into this conversation because I truly think it matters.

For me this stems from our faulty understanding of capital and how we are meant to build it.
We seem to be well equipped both culturally and technically to understand gaps in economic capital and our humanitarian business model is designed to cover that. We wrongly understand it as: you have less financial resources than me, I will bring resources to cover that gap.
I think we forget that social capital is also capital. It can’t be built in the same way we build economic capital (I would argue our way of building economic capital also needs to consider local values, etc). There are good examples on how to do this in social capital theory.
What I would like to see is us being well equipped to do wholistic capital assessments in humanitarian settings and develop systemic interventions that contribute to build that.
I would like to put forward the idea that our own way of chopping up the design of programs contribute to the disregard for social capital. Even doing market assessments for single products, or sectors doesn’t really contribute to an understanding of the whole. Looking at the wicked problems the people we aim to serve face from a systemic perspective forces us to look at the flows in the system and those flows tend to be in many instances social capital transfers. Digital channels either accelerate, block or change the flows.
So… we don’t have to change the whole political set up of the humanitarian sector to fix this (even though @Zehra you well know im ready for that)… what if we started a quiet but persistent revolution of using systemic thinking in our program design, where people themselves map their system and the desired version of it? This would practically open up the doors to indigenous values and practices and a model for aid that is truly connected to building on value chains that exist instead of replacing or crushing because we work against the gaps we think exist based on our own bias?

If anyone would be interested in exploring how to do this ping me and I will convene us all.

Have a lovely day

Paula

Feb. 11, 2022, 9:31 a.m.

Simon Levine

Zehra, you know I never disagree with you, except that this time… there is one thing that I think you have got wrong. Or at least, not quite right. “There is no incentive for international hum actors to do so” (your emphasis on international).

Well, yes, this is true. But my experience has not always been that international individuals (ie people working in a foreign country) or international orgs are necessarily worse in this attitude than national individuals (ie people in their own country) or national orgs. Patronising and paternalistic attitudes, especially towards rural people but to the poor in general, are not the sole preserve of internationals, sadly. (Including in my own country, of course.)

I agree with most of what you say, but I think that the problem goes deeper than you make it. And the diagnosis matters, because it affects the solution. Changing the balance of power in aid (as in everything else) is hugely important, yes; and changing the way in which international support is given to countries is a huge part of that. But changes in attitudes and changes in the balance of power need to go much deeper than simply replacing international actors with people from their own country aka ‘nationals’, even if that is also something that needs to happen.

Right, got that off my chest, I can get back to agreeing with whatever you say, now!

S

Feb. 10, 2022, 8:37 p.m.

Zehra Rizvi

Because changing the status quo requires us to really shift power and god
forbid we do that.

I really do think it’s that simple. There is no incentive for
international hum actors to do so.

I too was on a webinar just now on public trust and AI (went in rolling
my eyes) and it was really fascinating actually. They shared this tool to
gather information from large groups ‘in their own words’. The actual
blurb for the tool is: Polis is a real-time system for gathering,
analyzing and understanding what large groups of people think in their
own words, enabled by advanced statistics and machine learning.

Sounds maybe too good to be true. I’ve got my eyes on it---if anyone has
used this, let us know how it went?

One perhaps practical thing we could be doing is elevating social
networks in our M&E. Making their strengthening part of outcomes? I
remember doing a piece of research, MANY years ago now when I was at the
women’s refugee commission leading their livelihoods work and we did
elevate the role of social capital at least when looking at displaced
adolescent girls and the role this played. It’s maybe also too fluffy for
hum actors to get their heads around the concept? But again…it’s SO
CRITICAL.

The other thing is…let’s ask the question differently where we are not
centering ourselves (ie; what can WE be doing? Maybe do nothing is the
answer). My pet peeve is that we see community structures and then we
want to pile onto it. Or scale it. Im not sure that’s the way to go (I’m
pretty sure it’s not). The ad hoc-edness at times of community
structures/civil society is what is pretty amazing about them. They can
be there for one purpose and then disband or move onto something else. We
can cause harm by messing with them as well. What can we do instead to
have environments where they can be enabled (and this is perhaps not
something humanitarians should be doing but rather the govts/local
municipalities/other groups in power can be/should be doing. Yes…even in
Yemen).

Thanks for bringing this up. I have not done an unstructured off the cuff
response in a long time but it’s something I think about as well and the
hum part of me wants to sit back and not disturb community groups and the
social protection side of me wants to advocate with powers that be to
ensure the space is there for these groups to engage and flourish).

Zehra

On 2/10/22, 11:22, "marketsincrises@dgroups.org"
<marketsincrises@dgroups.org<div class="original_message_link">Original message
> wrote:

Hi MiC'ers,

I just attended a webinar called "Sharing to Survive: The Role of Social
Networks during the Yemen Crisis" with a bunch of VERY smart people, and
it made me question myself, as well as having me smack myself in the
forehead over and over. for those of you who know me, you can hear a bit
of a rant coming on....:-)

The basic premise was that, new research in Yemen was showing the key
nature of social networks to support resilience in this protracted crisis
- and how the humanitarian community was not supporting/working in tandem
with/and even sometimes undermining this critical structure of social
networks and community support. Now, I have been working with folks in
Yemen for many years now...in fact, I have been hearing the very top-line
"recommendations" that this research brings out for years. AND WE STILL
ARE NOT DOING THIS. And in fact, if I asked any one of you working in
humanitarians work now, you would see these recommendations and say "yes,
that's what we should do, I always work to design and implement my
projects with these tenants in place..." and yet we keep having this
research come out saying we are not doing it?! Where is our block? Our
disconnect? Are we doing it wrong? Do I try to work via community
structures and then, when I am met with too many blockages, barriers and
problems - I adapt and change to the point where I am no longer doing it?
I am honestly asking us, why is it so hard for us to get this right? I
personally have been having this struggle for years...how about you?
What's stopping you? How can we move the needle on this (we did markets
in crisis, we did "market-aware", we did cash, what about this?)

Let me know - what are you learning? and if you have time, I highly
recommend watching the webinar and reading the report.

Be well,

Sarah Ward
<[Hidden email]<div>

Feb. 10, 2022, 4:20 p.m.

Sarah J Ward

Hi MiC'ers,

I just attended a webinar called "Sharing to Survive: The Role of Social Networks during the Yemen Crisis" with a bunch of VERY smart people, and it made me question myself, as well as having me smack myself in the forehead over and over. for those of you who know me, you can hear a bit of a rant coming on....:-)

The basic premise was that, new research in Yemen was showing the key nature of social networks to support resilience in this protracted crisis - and how the humanitarian community was not supporting/working in tandem with/and even sometimes undermining this critical structure of social networks and community support. Now, I have been working with folks in Yemen for many years now...in fact, I have been hearing the very top-line "recommendations" that this research brings out for years. AND WE STILL ARE NOT DOING THIS. And in fact, if I asked any one of you working in humanitarians work now, you would see these recommendations and say "yes, that's what we should do, I always work to design and implement my projects with these tenants in place..." and yet we keep having this research come out saying we are not doing it?! Where is our block? Our disconnect? Are we doing it wrong? Do I try to work via community structures and then, when I am met with too many blockages, barriers and problems - I adapt and change to the point where I am no longer doing it? I am honestly asking us, why is it so hard for us to get this right? I personally have been having this struggle for years...how about you? What's stopping you? How can we move the needle on this (we did markets in crisis, we did "market-aware", we did cash, what about this?)

Let me know - what are you learning? and if you have time, I highly recommend watching the webinar and reading the report.

Be well,
Sarah Ward