This 30 minute video explores the complexities of poverty from the perspectives of poor people themselves. It reveals that although the experiences of poor people vary widely by location and situation, there are significant commonalties in the way poor people describe their lives: sense of powerlessness and voicelessness; precariousness of their livelihoods and lack of security; isolation, humiliation, and lack of connections to resources and opportunities; and gender inequality. The result is a 'domino effect' of disadvantages and inequalities, all of which make it difficult for poor people to escape the hold of poverty. The video introduces viewers to people who are challenging these obstacles, and initiatives that are helping to empower the poor, make their lives more secure, and give them access to greater opportunities. Some of the examples depicted in the video is NIDAN, an Indian NGO empowering women to get micro credit loans to set up their own businesses; the 1997 Universal Primary Education reform in Uganda, now giving access to education to all children in the country; a research project in India giving poor people access to IT; community-based health care in favelas in Brazil; Medica, an NGO-run centre for therapy for women subject to domestic violence in Bosnia; womenÆs police stations in Brazil faciltating women to report sensitive crimes such as rape and domestic violence; the work of a community organisation in the poor community Sacadura Cebral, Brazil, influencing government to improve public services and housing.
Improving forestry education through participatory curriculum development: a case study from Vietnam
This journal article presents a case study of the Social Forestry Support Programme in Vietnam, in which Participatory Curriculum Development (PCD) plays a fundamental part. Beginning with stakeholder identification and analysis, PCD provides an overall framework for educational development. Recognising constraints associated with the process, the paper describes strategies aimed at capacity building, management of stakeholder involvement and planning and evaluation. As different stakeholders learn to learn together through discourse and interaction, the chances of sustainable outcomes from the PCD process should be improved. The dynamic and flexible nature of PCD suggests that there is considerable potential for its adaptation and application in a range of different contexts.
A guide to learning agroforestry: a framework for developing agroforestry curricula in Southeast Asia
This guidebook, produced by the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) and the Southeast Asian Network for Agroforestry Education (SEANAFE), aims to provide the foundation for guiding agroforestry learning in Southeast Asia. It is meant to serve as a tool for educational institutions to address the rapidly changing area of integrated natural resource management. The guide is the result of a collaborative process where members of SEANAFE have drawn on their experiences from agroforestry education and curriculum development as well as agroforestry research and development. It is oriented towards the following: À Providing a general guide about the curriculum development process À Presenting an overview of the contents that should be in focus in agroforestry education À Emphasising that practical exercises are essential for attaining agroforestry education objectives The guide is divided into two parts, the first of which focuses on participatory curriculum development and teaching methods. The second part develops a framework for agroforestry curricula. This includes a look at concepts and principles, at systems, practices and technologies, at institutions and policies related to agroforestry and lastly at advancing agroforestry practices. Since this guide is generic, further elaboration and local adaptation is needed regarding contents and especially regarding the practical exercises. It should be complemented with local information and materials.
This book provides practical guidelines for using participatory approaches for planning social development programmes, particularly in the areas of health and education. It explores how information can be used to develop equal partnerships between professionals and the people who are intended to benefit from the programme. It discusses the importance of generating information, encouraging active participation and the subsequent empowerment of local people to give them the confidence needed to make decisions that affect their own lives - the book explores how information is obtained and used. Topics covered include why information is important for planning and empowerment choosing appropriate methods and techniques, carrying out a participatory needs assessment, and investigating particular samples of participatory planning. Drawings, tables and photographs are used to illustrate examples of planning techniques and a list of further reading is included with a select bibliography.
This blog originally appeared on the Institute of Development Studies website.
Do we really need debiasing, yet another word? Yes, unless anyone can improve on it, because we need a word to describe a rigorous discipline we development professionals need for grounded realism. This has been coming on me slowly. But now explorations and ‘aha!’ moments in India have accumulated and combined into an epiphany. For me, things will never be the same again. Let me explain.
The biases of rural development tourism
The biases of rural development tourism are old news. These are biases in brief rural visits from urban centres. They were a collective discovery and articulation at IDS in the early 1980s. They have now receded into the mists of history and been largely forgotten. Few in later generations of development professionals have heard of them. But with rapid change, they are now more relevant than ever.
The biases are spatial (main tarmac road, roadside, accessible from an urban centre…) , project (special villages and places where there are projects, good things to show, contacts…..), person (males, elite, adults, government and NGO staff….), seasonal (during the dry season, not the rains…), professional (questions and curiosity limited to specialised professional mindsets and interests) and diplomatic (being tactful, not inquiring about sensitive subjects) and (an addition since the 1980s) security (confined to places considered safe, and limited to those accessible in daylight….).
The biases interlock and reinforce each other to exclude those people who are most remote, powerless, vulnerable, poor, stigmatised, discriminated against – those whom the SDGs are not to leave behind. With the intensifying capital trap – being stuck in a capital city or urban centre by meetings, emails, visitors, demands for accountability, reporting, and the like – the biases combine now more wickedly than ever.
And there is a new distorting influence to add: competitive campaigns. This is high profile campaigns in which districts and organisations compete to achieve, and to be seen to have achieved, more than others. This last bias is striking with the Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin in India, the impressively massive and hugely ambitious campaign driven by political commitment and priority which seeks to make rural India open defecation free by 2 October 2019.
Systemically, with almost every brief rural visit, there is a special reason for where the visitor is taken, who is met, what is said and what is shown. This is most brazen with atypical model communities such as the Millennium villages in African countries. It is also manifest in visits to successful projects, or where the Government or an NGO works or has contacts, somewhere easily accessible and so on. This leads to a scattered archipelago of islands of special cases and contacts that are seen, studied, quoted, and then quoted again and again back and forth by visitors, with the authority of their personal experience of rural, or for that matter urban, reality.
Visiting these islands is better than not visiting at all. But it results not in representative ground truth but in a take-off through repetition into sustainably biased myth. The expanses of sea between the scattered islands are overlooked, unvisited and unexplored, but are many times larger, and more typical, than the islands. Even those who demand representative rigour in statistics are themselves through such visits systemically vulnerable to grossly unrepresentative views of reality. And all this is accentuated when there are competitive target-driven campaigns.
How to offset bias
We need a systematic, timely and cost-effective approach offsetting the biases and for finding and exploring the seas between the islands. Here is what, again and again, I have found works astonishingly well, and far better than one might suppose.
- Ring fence a day. Take a day’s leave if necessary. Do not have any government or NGO person with you – just a driver, perhaps a colleague, and (in my case usually) an interpreter.
- Hire an unmarked vehicle.
- Drive out from your urban centre in any direction for 15-20km.
- Turn off left or right and drive for 5-10km.
- Turn left or right again and stop anywhere, perhaps a poor or typical village or other settlement.
- Wander around on foot, meet people, explain who you are and your interests, notice and ask about things, be friendly and interested, ask what people would like to show you, seek out those we might not meet – women, children disabled, low status, living on the fringes, key informants like teachers, local representatives, masons, health workers and so on.
- Tea shops can be brilliant. Go to a tea shop and chat. A male bias can be expected, but discussions can be immediately frank and revealing. You can carry out quick order-of-magnitude surveys based on people’s knowledge of different villages and other questions.
- Follow up on offers to show you things, or take you to see people or things.
- Go to several contrasting places during the day.
Discover the unexpected
Using this approach here is a tiny sample of what I have stumbled on in India. All happened to be in States or Districts that had been declared open defecation free (ODF). Except for one that was affluent and exceptional being on a main road, all were very far from ODF.
- A community of 40 Dalits in government-constructed housing with no toilets. In one was a pregnant woman with both legs paralysed who had to pull herself with her hands and crawl to a road and cross it to defecate. The only toilet in the whole community was just being completed, having been constructed by a woman entirely from her family resources.
- A mason who boasted that he had demolished over a hundred twin pit toilets (the cheaper and more sustainable type favoured by Government) and replaced them with more expensive and less sustainable septic tanks. This was good for his income but bad for the owners of the toilets.
- A village where a number of toilets each bore a painted statement that the government incentive money of Rs 12,000 had been spent on their construction. All were raised up because of seasonal flooding. They had walls but neither roof nor door nor pit! One was used for urination and stank.
- In a relatively affluent roadside village, beautifully decorated toilets. A mason said the absolute minimum for a toilet was Rs 80,000. A woman with no toilet said she could not afford this. She had to practise OD. The mason had never constructed a twin pit toilet which should cost less than the Government incentive of Rs 12,000. No way was a septic tank an option for the poor woman.
- A village with 175 households, 35 defunct toilets built by an earlier programme, and about 14 septic tanks entirely paid for and built by their owners. In this village it emerged from conversations with the village head, then with a group of men and then separately with a group of women, that they knew nothing or had barely heard about the SBM-G campaign, then near the end of its fourth year. No one had ever come to the village to tell them about the campaign. They had never heard of twin-pit toilets.
The point of these is not to denigrate the programme but to illustrate how the vast sea can differ from the scattered archipelago normally visited.
A challenge to all development professionals
So let me invite all, yes all, development professionals who see this to look in the mirror and be wary of visits which systemically reinforce misperceptions and generate and sustain myths. Ring fence days for you to ground truth through de-biasing. It is fulfilling, informative, fascinating and fun, to explore, to meet people casually, to wander, observe, ask, listen and gain new insights. Every single de-biasing visit I have done has made me wonder – will it happen again? Will I learn anything new this time? Will there be aha moments? Or will this be a wasted day? And every time, every single time, I have been startled and provoked by unexpected revelations. This has always happened. The insights have been intense and memorable, and the implications for policy, practice and research significant. The use of time has been extraordinarily cost-effective.
So let me challenge all fellow professionals who are engaged with rural or urban development – in government organisations, NGOs, training and research institutes, academics, the media, and funding agencies – all who have the scope to do so – to de-bias. Let me challenge all who can to encourage or require others in their organisations to do likewise. Escape the cognitive trap and help your colleagues to escape theirs. Be a devil. Straight away ring-fence a de-biasing day for yourself. Be systematically rigorous. De-bias, enjoy and tell others what you did and what you learnt.
Inspired to take up the challenge? For a useful reminder, download and print A systematic approach to debiasing, instructions from Robert Chambers
Community report: a participatory approach to assessing the impact of ICT access on quality of life in KwaZulu-Natal
This report is based on the experience and findings of a group of 113 people who took part in a two-year participatory research project. This was known as the Community-Based Learning, Information & Communication Technologies (ICTs) and Quality of Life (CLIQ) project. The aim of the project was to find out if ICTs can have an impact on people’s quality of life.
Participants came from four poorer communities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Through their local telecentres, CLIQ provided free computer training and use and alongside this, participants discussed their quality of life and their life goals at different stages of the fieldwork. Some telecentres were not operating as well as others and some people were not able to participate as fully as others. The CLIQ research showed that when people use computers, they can improve their lives.
Training is important and should be linked to the needs of people who should be supported in their use of computers to help them reach their goals. For this to succeed it is essential that they have good access to computers that work.
The report is in memory of Nonhlanhla Gema.