Our scoping process to select partner communities takes several months and is informed by a blend of government data, partner information and field visits. Our work in Malawi, which is densely populated, is typically at a scale of 30-50 village, these are government assigned “regions”. In Sri Lanka, however, we tend to work at a scale of a single village.
How do we select our partner communities?
Strategic needs assessment
After extensive scoping and community consultation, our projects start with a needs assessment and planning that identifies community strengths, aspirations, challenges and opportunities. It is important to us that this process is led by community members themselves. That is why we spend days training community mobilizers to run what we call a “Vision Workshop”. The mobilizers are required to reflect the diversity of villages in the area e.g. age, sex, ability. The workshop is based on an “asset based approach to development” , which in essence, emphasises the use of community assets and strengths to tackle locally determined challenges. This contrasts with a focus on lacks and deficits, coupled with external prescriptions of what should be done.
Once an extensive inventory of local strengths and assets has been completed, and local challenges have been prioritised, we co-create action plans. This typically involves a 6-12 timeframe and our main involvement is in ensuring that the local project teams receive the appropriate training, investment and access to resources that they need to achieve their goals. While we stress a focus on local skills and resources, the reality is that our partner communities often need a hand to establish their projects. This can involve seed funding for a community bank, a grant for machinery or specialized training programs.
Our local staff work alongside community project teams to support the achievement of their action plans. This is achieved through routine visits and facilitating connections with key stakeholders that are relevant to their action plans. As our aim is to foster self-reliance, our project visits and direct involvement reduces over time, allowing local project teams to take the lead.