COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT OF DEVELOPMENT: HOW CAN WE MAKE IT HAPPEN?
As we are now approaching 25 years of independence as a nation, it is time to assess our successes and failures in our own development not only on the national level, but on the community and individual level as well.
In fact, already in 1994, evaluation of the state of rural development led the national government to the conclusion that it had failed "to deliver goods and services to the people". This was the reason for the constitutional reforms known as The Provincial and Local Level Government Reforms, which were passed by national government in 1996 and (check date) officially implemented as of October 1997.
The key principles of the reforms are self-reliance and bottom-up planning as opposed to reliance on government (handouts) and other top-down political, administrative and implementational structures to determine our future and achieve our aims in life. In fact, the right of rural communities to self-determination was fixed with the introduction of the ' 5-year Ward Development Plan' strategy. It has become one of the important duties of each elected Ward Councilor to formulate long-term aims and goals for the development of the Ward area, thereby in fact empowering each Ward to formulate its Councilor's duty statement as development facilitator, and every community to write its own history.
The key concepts identified of the Reforms accurately address real problem areas and real needs for change, in order to increase opportunities for rural communities to improve their quality of life. However, how can we increase the communities' capacity to actually successfully make use of the opportunities provided? To achieve this, it is not sufficient to reform the administrative, political and legislative systems that serve us. We must also reform our own attitudes of mind which prevent us from achieving our own aims.
OBSTACLE #1 : CARGO CULT MENTALITY
Cargo cult mentality is an inherited attitude. This means that we are often not aware that we are a carrier of this obstacle to our own development. When we speak about 'cargo cult' mentality in relation to human or social development we are talking about attitudes of mind that lead us to assume that we are not in control of our own destiny; that our lives are not shaped by ourselves but by others or other forces outside of ourselves. These attitudes cause us to feel helpless to improve our own life, and to rely on persons and forces outside of ourselves to give us what we want from life. Over time these attitudes develop into a mentality of denying responsibility for our own lives.
People with a cargo cult mentality usually believe that, by performing particular rituals, the aims that they wish to achieve will simply come true without further effort on the part of the 'wisher'. It is not required from the 'wisher' to investigate and understand the nature of the aims that he has set for himself. He is not responsible for achieving his aims himself; the external force - whatever it may be - will do this for him. His only task is to work out the correct ritual. Unfortunately, developing and improving life doesn't work that way. All development in life mean growth in some way or another. And to grow means to change. If we want to improve our life it means we want to change ourselves - for the better. To change ourselves always means that we agree to accept the challenge of the unknown, and the struggle towards the light that we see shining in the distance. In order to embark on a path of change, we must have the heart to deeply desire something, and the courage to fight for it. These qualities are a must for you as the development facilitator, and for your community and the development implementor.
Cargo cult mentality and development mentality represent two totally different approaches toward life. In cargo cult mentality, we refuse to accept responsibility for achieving our own aims in life and improving ourselves. Cargo cult mentality is negative and destructive because it undermines motivation, active participation and commitment to working towards a long-term development or life improvement aim in order to achieve it.
In the development mentality we believe that each human being has the potential, or power, within himself and herself to set aims and achieve goals in life. A person with development mentality acknowledges full responsibility for his or her own future. We own our own future, its successes and its failures. We wish to learn from our successes and failures in life in order to understand ourselves better. We fully authorise ourselves to take decisions and real action toward improving ourselves and our quality of life. We take responsibility for our own attitude of mind. By doing so we motivate, empower and commit ourselves to a constructive approach toward ourselves instead of a destructive one. In doing so, we are nurturing a positive attitude towards our self, our community, and our life that, over time, will enable us to develop our competencies in many areas of life, and a mentality of real independence and self-reliance.
God, a religious mission, the government, foreign aid donors and NGOs, logging and mining companies, politicians - is there a cargo cult in your community ? Don't allow your development project to become the next cargo cult.
SUGGESTION #1 : DON'T BECOME A CARGO CULT
OBSTACLE #2 : PASIN GREEDY, PASIN LES na Kisim Nating Samting
There are very few people in the world who would say 'no' to a free gift. It is tempting to apply for a project simply because it is available, not because it is what you really need.
For example: We realise that we have a health problem in our community, and that our problem appears to be related to our use of water. A water supply project is available through the Health Department, so we apply for a water supply project because it is on offer. However, in fact our real problem is caused by poor sanitation habits, and a water tank will not solve our problem. What we really need is a pit latrine system. Or our problem is in fact that the relationship between water and good health is not properly understood in our community. So even the latrine system will not solve our health problem. What we need is a health education awareness programme to show us how to change our behaviour. Only then will we be able to improve our poor health. Nevertheless, we apply for the water supply project on offer and receive a water tank but it is a disappointment: while at times it is a convenience for some families to have extra water at hand, and the children enjoy playing with the taps, we are still feeling sick and unhealthy most of the time.
We ignore maintenance of the tank because it has not solved our problem. In fact the tank has now become a problem itself. Certain individuals, who want to maintain the tank for their private use, begin to dismantle parts of it.
Our community now has a bad record with the Health Inspector, and with the donor who provided the community funding assistance for the project, for not looking after the new resource provided to us. When our community goes back to the Health Department to apply for another health project, we are rejected in favour of another community with a good track record in managing its resources.
When we pursue inappropriate ends, the result is a negative experience instead of a positive one. Instead of the satisfaction and self-confidence that comes from successfully achieving our aims, our undertaking becomes a frustration and a disappointment. Moreover, our dream of improvement becomes a new source of conflict between community members. Instead of improving our quality of life, we have worsened it.
We have destroyed the dream of a better future, the confidence in our ability to achieve it, and the trust we had in others to guide us. It will be difficult for these people to motivate themselves for a second try. This is spiritual damage which is difficult to repair.
In development, the attitudes of greed, of getting something for nothing, and choosing what appears to be the easy way out of a problem may cause us to pursue the wrong ends to achieve our aims. Instead of solving our old problems, we create new ones.
SUGGESTION #2: THE IMPORTANCE OF IDENTIFYING REAL NEEDS AND REALISTIC AIMS
OBSTACLE #3 : PASIN JEALOUS na Bagarapim Wok
Pasin jealous is a widespread pastime in many communities in our country. Pasin jealous means that we occupy ourselves not with constructive and productive thinking about how we could improve ourselves, but with destructive plans as to how we can destroy the success and reputation of others (individual or groups) who have managed to improve themselves through their own efforts.
Pasin jealous prevents every long-term and permanent improvement to our community or private life. It usually ends up leaving us spiritually and materially even poorer than we were in the first place because the material resources and positive attitude that we invested in achieving our aim have been destroyed. Before engaging in pasin jealous behaviour, remember : For positive change to take place , there must always be one person, (or group) to provide the example for others to follow. Every human being learns from example. This is the principle of all learning and teaching.
If you won't allow another person or group to advance, then you will never learn anything new in your life. You will never improve your life and you will never get ahead in any way. So if pasin jealous is a popular activity in your community, you had better forget altogether about development .
SUGGESTION # 3: THE IMPORTANCE OF INVOLVING EVERYBODY
PASIN JEALOUS na Bagarapim Wok occurs when an individual or a group feels excluded from some benefit or advantage that they believe others are enjoying. It may concern a material benefit (access to money or resources) or a social benefit (increased status and power). Those who perceive themselves to be disadvantaged either feel that they are not sharing in the benefits and glory of a successful undertaking, or fear that the success of others will in some way bring disadvantage to themselves.
Prevention is the best cure for pasin jealous. Prevent arousing feelings of jealousy the from the start of a new community undertaking by inviting everybody to participate and by encouraging everybody to become actively involved.
Nowadays we frequently hear the terms 'participation' and 'involvement' being used by the government, donor organisations and NGOs alike when discussing rural development and the implementation of projects in at the local level. In fact, 'community participation' and 'community involvement' have become the catch phrases of the 1990s. In fact these terms are confusing and misleading: How can a community not be involved and participate in its own future ?
What these catch phrases really mean to say is: Does this community get beyond the stage of wishful thinking and mauswara nating? How does this community translate its desire to change, into actions? How actively does this community pursue its own development ? How does this community demonstrate its commitment to improving itself ? How does this community manage to put its ideals into practice ? So we are in fact talking about a community managing its own affairs.
In order to manage affairs as a community, everyone in the community must feel that he/she is involved and partaking in the experience, whatever it may be. Participation means participating in the benefits and responsibilities, decision-making processes and duties, privileges and obligations of an undertaking. When all the individuals of a community accept full responsibility for the outcome of an undertaking, and all individuals involve themselves actively in all aspects of a project, we say that the community is 'owning' the project. This means that the community accepts that it is responsible for the (possible) future success of the project, but also for its (possible) failure.
Of course it is impossible for each individual to participate as an individual. Individual participation needs to be structured by means of appointed representatives of the major social groupings in the community. In Melanesian societies, community members' interests are best represented by a structure comprised of adult male ( ), adult female ( ) and youth ( Y ) representatives. This is because the major divisions of labour and of social responsibility and authority in a rural community are largely based on gender and age.
It is not a good idea to structure community involvement along political lines (clan groups, business groups or other competitive factions) as this tends invariably to politicise the character of a community development project meant to be social and non-competitive, and to benefit the community as a whole. However, it is of naturally very important that the socially and politically correct adult males, adult females and youths are selected to the committee to represent their group's interests in the undertaking.
Depending on the type of undertaking, it may be practical to subdivide the representation of youth into male youth ( Y ) and female youth ( Y ) . If the project involves more than one geographical or populated area (for example the community comprises one main village and three hamlets), it is important that each area is represented in the committee structure.
BASIC STRUCTURE (MODEL) FOR A COMMUNITY PROJECT COMMITTEE:
OBSTACLE #4 : MISMANAGEMENT Pasin Faulim Mani na Wok
One of the major reasons why community projects fail due to mismanagement is that men do not allow women to participate as equal partners in development. This attitude is foolish and self-defeating. Because women carry the burden of providing all of the daily basic needs of the family, women are the ones to benefit most from any little improvement that will ease their heavy workload. Therefore women, as a social group, are more highly motivated for every development, however modest, that will bring improvement to the quality of life in the community. Women, not men, are the carriers of development in the family and in the community. When given the opportunity, women pursue basic improvements more aggressively than men, and perform whatever tasks are required faster and with more continuity than men.
Another important reason is that it is not made clear to the whole community who is responsible for what. When there is a lack of structure, a new project becomes the breeding ground for confusion. When you have no overview of what you are doing, there is confusion and it is very easy to lose your way. It is also easy for anybody to make misuse of a confused situation.
Structure in any process or undertaking is easy to establish by keeping regular and accurate written documentation of events as they occur. Unfortunately, the life style in most rural communities does not provide much opportunity to practice and improve reading and writing (literacy) skills on a regular basis. This is why keeping written records is a difficult assignment for most rural communities and is rarely done.
When the management of money is confused, it is only one step away from becoming misused. When we misuse community funds for our own personal purposes and are caught out, we say that we only 'borrowed' the money. This concept of 'borrowing' community funds for personal use is widespread in our country. It is called misappropriation and is a criminal offense punishable by law. It is the main cause of financial problems in community development project implementation. Our rural life style does not require regular practice of the mathematical skills we learned in school. Money management is a discipline that demands mathematical and literacy skills, a good memory and the ability to keep accurate records over time, as well as an honest character. When these abilities are not present, mismanagement of funds follows not far behind, whether as a consequence of honest confusion, or by the deliberate intent of some individuals to cheat on the rest.
SUGGESTION #4 : EQUAL PARTICIPATION IN DEVELOPMENT
SUGGESTION #5: THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING RECORDS
In Melanesian societies we create our own history orally. In telling stories, we pass on what must be remembered by word of mouth from one generation to the next. Stories are repeated generation upon generation, so that memories and knowledge are kept alive. The shape of our world is reestablished and reconfirmed each time the story is retold, and the story is not meant to change over time, regardless of whom the storyteller is or how many times the story is told.
While oral history focuses on the past and on bringing the past into the present, a development process is a growth process and is forward-looking. A development process focuses on the present, and on bringing the present forward into the future. In development we are not concerned with repeating an event that has taken place in the past , or maintaining a situation that already exists. Our purpose is to open up new roads to allow for growth in some area of our life that we wish to improve.
In creating the history of our own development process, we are continually updating it with new facts, new events and new experiences. This means that, if our development process is truly a process of growth, our story changes each time we tell it, and develops as a reflection of the change taking place within ourselves and in our life style.
If we want to be able to look back, follow, understand and learn from our journey along the development path over time it is necessary to capture our experiences on paper in writing. Rest assured that there will be times when we need to retraces our footsteps in order to set ourselves back on track.
THE POSITIVE CIRCLE - When we understand why we are doing something, we become motivated to do it. When we are motivated to do something, we participate actively in it. By actively participating in something, we will understand it better, and the more motivated we will become.
EXAMPLE OF A BASIC COMMUNITY SURVEY (QUESTIONAIRE)
Build your project on facts, figures and a first-hand understanding of your community's circumstances and not on wishful thinking and second-hand information. This particular survey was designed to support a water supply project in a coastal village. Certain questions and response options presented here may need to be adapted to suit other types of projects and other cultural-geographical communities. Remember the purpose of a survey is to acquire as much and as accurate information as possible.
EXAMPLE OF A WELL- INTEGRATED COMMUNITY WATER SUPPLY PROJECT
The following structure for implementing a community water supply project shows that this community has identified its needs as:
In this project design, the community also acknowledges that their project consists of three distinct phases (Preparatory, Construction and Management), each with different activities and responsibilities (duty statements) for the Project Committee.
EXAMPLE OF A WATER SUPPLY PROJECT MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE
This community's committee structure incorporates adult male, adult female youth male and youth female leadership for each of its 5 geographical (demographical) sections. It also provides a simple chart with the population spread for easy reference. Such information is very useful , for example when estimating the volume of daily water needs of a (sub)community, or when organising community labour to carry out project work:
EXAMPLE OF A COMMITTEE DUTY STATEMENT FOR A 2-PHASE WATER SUPPLY PROJECT
....... to be continued