Somali families in Hillview: assessing needs, setting priorities, building consensus
This research report provides an interesting example of participatory tools and approaches applied in the context of a developed country. Responding to local tensions within the Somali community and also the wider community in Lewiston Maine, USA, researchers from Clark University's Department for International Development decided to conduct a pilot participatory needs assessment of 60 Somali households resident in Hillview, a large public housing unit in Lewiston. The overall objective was to enable Hillview Somalis to bring together their different clan, gender, age, class and educational diversities to build unity and to speak with one voice about their needs. In conclusion, the report suggests that participatory approaches were useful, and that three process goals were achieved: good local support, meaningful and probing discussions, and local ownership. In addition, five products were also created: the assessment of achieved consensus, a community action plan, an action committee with strong backing from the community, support and involvement from a local NGO focusing on Somali community services, and partnerships between different stakeholders. Overall, the needs assessment worked because it combined all the ingredients for creating sustainable actionùinclusiveness, public group processes, transparent ranking, listening to others, visual data gathering techniques, building consensus rather than voting, creating a community action plan, organising information, mobilising resources, and building partnerships. As the report concludes, these are æthe qualities that will enable the Hillview Somali community to continue listening to each other as well as to become the managers of their own community.