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Community development cannot be truly effective or sustainable unless it is locally driven and locally supported. We support, inform, educate and enhance the work already being done by local communities and grassroots organizations. The partnerships jointly created with local organizations are critical to facilitate development initiatives within a community.
In order to ensure that our development approach is appropriate and will be supported by a community, FCDE carries out extensive community assessments prior to initiating a new site. FCDE determines where it can be most useful in advancing a community’s development efforts by using internally developed site assessment tools and creating a multi-national team that includes at least one representative from the host country. FCDE’s model is most successful in locales with a range of CBOs (community-based organizations) and GROs (grassroots organizations) that have reached an intermediate stage of development and that work in multiple sectors and whose communities have a demonstrated interest and willingness to work with our program.
In each community, FCDE establishes a local office and staff - the FCDE site team. Once trained in the FCDE approach, the site team begins outreach to the local NGO/CBO/GRO community. FCDE draws upon community-based participatory research (CBPR) as a community-led strategy of revealing and prioritizing concerns, values, and issues. Its emphasis on mutual learning and reciprocal benefit, use of community theories, and ingrained equitable participation, makes CBPR an effective tool in giving a voice to marginalized populations, women, and traditionally silenced communities. Town and village gatherings, workshops, focus groups, and individual meetings are held to assess and commence formal partnerships with 15 – 25 organizations working in FCDE’s target areas.
We initially work with our newly established partners to better understand their organizational needs, current programmatic activities, and to develop internal and external strategies for organizational capacity building. The FCDE site team uses best practices such as institutional self-assessments, meetings with staff and beneficiaries, community focus groups, and direct observation in a process that allows each CBO to identify where FCDE could best provide support.
After a foundation is established, the site team designs activities tailored to the self-identified needs and goals of the partner organizations. Listening to the priorities, staff create an engagement plan customized for not only individual and organizational needs but also those of the entire community. Specific work plans differ depending on needs, but are typically built around a core of skill-building workshops, preparation for the support and integration of FCDE interns, and regularly scheduled collaborative meetings with key personnel for continued program development and monitoring. The site team will also identify external resources, such as short-term contractors or program-related materials, which will help enhance programmatic development. Hiring local professionals as the FCDE site team enables a peer-based approach that has been found to be more effective in transferring skill sets, identifying obstacles and supporting sustainability and accountability. Meaningful community participation at all stages is fundamental: drawing upon local knowledge, strengthening ownership, building trust and rapport between staff and the community, and, finally, integrating the goals of the community with that of the organization.
Green LW, George M, Daniel M et al (2003). Guidelines for participatory research in health promotion. In Minkler, M., Wallerstien, N. eds Community Based Particpatory Research for Health. San Francisco, Ca. Jossey Bass Publishers. Pp.419-428.