Friday, August 7, 2009

Changing Change?

If a solution is rendered, there is no guarantee it will be adopted or even work within a community. Each person is a unique individual set against the backdrop of their communities cultural, political, economic, social, and ecological circumstances. Some individuals may jump at the thought of new ideas, others may not. Take the BSF for example. No two households had an identical perception or usage behaviours. The BSF is something new to the community - never before has such an object existed. For households to use it effectively a new set of behaviours (complementary or opposed) needs to be shared with each individual in the house hold. The old behaviour of not filtering water needs to be replaced with a new behaviour and all its little pieces. Some of the little pieces of the old behaviour and the new behaviour (such as water storage behaviours or sanitation behaviours) may already work well with the new intervention (ie safe storage behaviours) or work against it (ie not washing hands).

Projects may take a patriarchal point of view, one of 'helping' a community. If the community is not actively involved at all levels there is great potential for the project to fall apart. If a community doesn't actively desire change in one way or another are solutions being forced in a way of "we know more, it's our obligation to free the masses from their ignorance?". Or is it more "We have something new to share that might help, let's share?" - is there a distinction at the end of the day?

Can there be change without an expressed desire from an individual or community to change? In that case shouldn't technology be left behind while we embark on a journey of looking towards why current behaviours exist and why we want to change them? Should we look at changing the way we drive change? But even if we are working towards behaviour change is it really any different from a technological approach? There is still manipulation - we want people to act in a way similar to us. Perhaps the new behaviour will lead to a safer and more productive life (on our terms), but is it right to force change on individuals when we as a culture still have so much to learn? Is it the role of development to bring water to the thirsty, teach the thirsty how to get water, show the thirsty why they should demand clean water, or demand that the thirsty do water our way? Is it something else entirely?

Many development workers seem to have a vested interest in the project and not the cause - whatever their motivation is they seem to benefit from their work. NGO competition? Why do multiple NGOs grab funds from donors in a competitive way for the sake of putting their way forward? Other NGOs start up a project and even though all signs point to "DANGER" they trod forward without a worry - not even looking for the signs in some cases, ignoring them in others. Funds are still requested for the sake of driving "change" put into a broken system with little accountability and the donors smile. Perhaps a sly smile emerges on the implementer’s face as well. "We have expertise in this area, so therefore the community must need our help" aka "our solution fits any problem because we know how to run it!" aka "to a hammer maker everyone problem looks like a nail" Many projects require behaviour change to be succesfull. Not just behaviour change projects. Again, the often looked at BSF - without some change in behaviour the BSF becomes very dysfunctional. Yet if a community's project is focused on an intervention, where success is contingent on behaviour change, why is it implemented before looking at behaviour? Why are communities not driving their own projects ALL THE TIME? (should communities be playing a minor or non existant role, in this two thousand and ninth year AD?)

One thing I know for sure: the first thing that needs to change is the way many people look at creating change. I have heard a lot about "behaviour change" - to me it is apparent that before we can even look at changing the behaviours of others we need to look at our own behaviour and think long and hard about who really needs to change first.

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