Thursday, February 4, 2010

Of Ownership and Action Points - checking in from Cape Town

Haiti is slowly creeping off the main pages and tv screens, which should finally allow HRI and affiliates to get back to the business of running lifesaving workshops with the generous emergency funding and widely distributing ground-breaking reports. Since you are asking, Ed the reasonably paid consultant is already in port au prince and is opimistically reporting that our affiliates who did not have a presence in Haiti before the earthquake will be established in no time (Ed’s current skype status message: “follow the money”).

Meanwhile, it’s workshop season and I have been travelling again, this time to attend a conference in Cape Town organized by a consortium of HRI affiliates and the UN to discuss about continued assistance to a number of Zimbabwean, Somali and Mozambican refugees, displaced by the xenophobic violence in 2008 with a separate component related to new ways to support people living with HIV (why not combine two meetings and save transport money - HRI & UN are all about cost efficiency) .

this time of the year, Cape Town is an ideal location for such important workshops and I have had many a constructive discussion in the wine estate rented for this purpose (at a discount price reserved by the estate for non-profit organizations, part of their CSR strategy), enjoying the mock French landscape and the gardens discretely manicured by an army of servants.

There were many items on the agenda so we all broke down in “sub-groups” and started developing “sub-outcomes”. In my sub-group, the most difficult question was figuring out which households are very vulnerable and which are merely vulnerable, so that only the very vulnerable get the blanket and the kitchen pot – the merely vulnerable have to make do with food items alone. As a sub-group, we agreed that figuring the difference between very vulnerable displaced persons and merely vulnerable ones will require many more meetings (to follow up on the list of identified action points), a few assessment missions to the camps, interviews and a consultant from Sweden.

Sure, i hear you say, the costs of figuring out the difference is much higher than giving blankets and kitchen pots to everybody, but that is not the point.HRI is into sustainable stuff, plus whatever "lessons" we learn in this excercise will greatly benefit similar situations elsewhere - Haiti, say.

A Washington DC based consultant, hired by HRI for a reasonable fee, was taking notes and will follow up with a report compiling he various sub-groups’ findings complete with recommendations.

Among the 400 or so participants was also one representative of the displaced people, a woman called Tengetile who was taking turns attending all the different sub-groups and eventually departed with several flip-chart papers in original. Her job is to ensure there is “ownership”.

Among the many recommendations that were put forward by the participants, one of them enjoyed unanimous support: given the need to make the displaced persons aware of their rights, it was proposed that HRI will develop a radio spot, to go with the acclaimed “edutainment” program already implemented by one of our implementing partners.

Tengetile the displaced woman said that she knows nobody in the camps who listened to the radio - something to do with different languages and another thing about them working long hours or something. HRI research clearly shows that radio is the number 1 medium for communication in Africa, and this is just another proof that thorough research may produce counter-intuitive results. It was allowed that Tengetile's misleading statement may to do with the fact that maybe there are not enough radios in the township, obviously because in their vulnerable despair, the displaced people have sold them. Immediately, one of the reasonably paid consultants proposed, under action points, that 5000 or so radios be fairly procured and distribute to all displaced households, so that our educational radio spots better “penetrate” the displaced community. Radios are pretty cheap  and the communication subgroup has already put forward a slogan for the campaign, already focus-group-discussed during one of the sessions, ready to go:

“Empower yourself – only by being aware of your rights, can you help create an enabling environment for your community”

Meanwhile, the displaced-person component of the meeting is completed and today we have a day off to prepare for the HIV/ AIDS sessions that start tomorrow. During the wine tasting this morning I was told that Jabulani, the person living with HIV/AIDS has already arrived so if nothing else, at least we are sure to have “ownership” over whatever we decide as of tomorrow.

Here’s to that.

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