2010-03-04

Roles of outsiders in community development
– from benefactor to partner

By M. Nagahata (i-i-network)

Who are the main actors?

In most of so-called “community development” projects, there are various organizations or institutions either governmental or non-governmental that are involved in the process of project activities. They might be donors who provide financial support to the activities, planners who design the project activities, research organizations who conduct studies or surveys for project planning, implementing agencies responsible for executing all the project activities, or consulting farms who provide technical support or advices. Despite the differences of origins, roles, or characteristics of those organizations or institutions, all of them can be considered as “outsiders” for the community people. In short, there are two categories of actors in community development projects, community people themselves and outsiders. Then, the question is “which part is the main actors that should play major roles in community development?”

In order to find the answer, let us start with thinking about the history of local communities. In your place, which existed first, local communities or national government? Definitely, local communities have been existing for much longer time than the national government does throughout the world. The national government system that holds sovereign power throughout a country was just established in recent centuries, whereas from the very beginning of its history, human being required something like local communities where they interact together and help each other for their survival, production, and re-production. They have been managed natural resources surrounding them for long time to secure their own daily life. For agricultural or other productive activities, human being also have required mutual help such as working together in rice fields for planting or harvesting paddy. In order to raise children, to repair houses, or to maintain rural infrastructure, community people have had to help each other through forming groups. And the local communities have been a core of people’s identity or the sense of belongings as they have shared values, norms, histories, and landscapes. All of the above facts prove that for most of the local communities, the people had been living without governmental support for long time before the modernization came into their life.

Then, apart from its historical background, if you look into the present situation of the local communities, you will be able to find out various cases that the local people took initiatives to solve their problems and to improve their life. Just for examples in Indonesia, there is a village named Ijobalit in Lombok Island of West Nusa Tenggara Province where the local community people have been struggling for irrigating their dry land by constructing small dam and canals. Their effort started in 1960s with the initiative of a local community leader, and has continued for more than 30 years. At first, they used very “primitive” skills and materials such as putting coconut shells into the river to stop the stream. Their efforts failed many times, but they did not stop it. At last, a child of the initiated leader who studied civil engineering in a university took over the effort, and he collaborated with local constructing companies and also the government institutions to utilize machines, labors and the funds for construction. Now, around 370 ha of dry land once abandoned is irrigated and become agricultural field.

In another village called Toli-Toli located in a coastal area of South East Sulawesi Province, a team of seven youths in the village was formed in 2000 to preserve and recover the coastal area around them. For more than 20 years, the fishermen of the surrounding communities had been using bombs (dynamites) and drugs for caching fish. The coastal communities also cut down the mangrove forests nearby them and took away the coral for their houses and other daily needs. As a result of the destruction of natural environment, the catch of fish gradually decreased, and erosion of the coast started. The seven youths of the village were worried about such situation, and started discussing among them. They started trying to make the community members aware of negative impact of fishery using bombs and drugs, introducing fish culture in a simple manner, and planting mangrove trees in the coastal area. At first, the other villagers considered the team seven as “funny young people”, but gradually their ideas and practices were accepted by the community. Then, the local government contacted with the team and provided opportunity for having training on marine coastal resource management. Finally, the village government established Zoning regulation of the marine and coastal area surrounding the village, and the villagers started some activities for conservation and rehabilitation of the natural environment such as planting mangrove, stopping using bombs and drugs in fishery, and patrolling the coastal area for stopping such fishery activities by the other communities.

In both of the cases introduced above, and also in many other villages not only in Indonesia but also in your countries, there are initiatives of community members to overcome their problems. They started without any outside supports, and continued their effort for long time. If you witness such examples of community people’s continuous efforts, you will not be able to say “community participation to a project”. On the contrary, we should say that we, the outsiders, can participate in the community’s long history of struggling for their better life. And of course, from the perspective of sustainability of any activities, it is far better that the community people themselves initiate something than the outsiders bring some actions from outside.

What are the reasons for outsiders to come in?
If the main actors in community development are the community people themselves, what are the reasons for the outsiders to come into communities? To think about the answers, then, let us analyze the matter by using the following matrix.

Various knowledge or skills can be categorized into the boxes (A to D) above. What are they? Please think about it.

A (What both outsiders and community people know):
 Geographical characteristics of the area
 Population and number of households
 Major industries or economic activities of the community
 Formal leader and structure of village administration
 Internal resources available

B (What outsiders do not know but community people know):
 Traditional leadership and decision making system
 Norms, values, and regulations of the village
 History and myths of the community
 Traditional medical plants (herbs) and their utilization
 Cultural events, rituals, mutual helping groups

C (What outsiders know but community people do not know):
 Modern technology
 Government policy
 International trend or market
 Outside resources available
 Interesting cases of the other communities

D (Either outsiders or community people do not know):
 Natural disaster
 Climate change
 Resources un-utilized
 Future of the community

There may be more points that you can raise. Anyway, by using the above matrix, how can you explain the reasons why the outsiders need to be involved in community?



It might be easy for you to say that we (the outsiders) should come into a community because we know much more than the community people know. In this way, you are explaining the reasons for the outsiders’ intervention to communities by an arrow (a) above. It may be right that the outsiders are necessary in community development because there is some knowledge or skill that community people do not know. However, on the other hand, it is also true that there is some other knowledge and skill that the outsiders do not know but community people know. So, we can explain that one of the purposes of outsiders’ involvement is we (outsiders) want to learn new knowledge or skills from the communities (arrow b above). Then, if we connect the arrow (a) and (b) above, it can become clear that the outsiders’ knowledge (skills) and the community people’s knowledge (skills) can be combined to create new knowledge.

Moreover, if we look into the category D of the matrix, there is something that either outsiders or community do not know, that is “hidden resource”, or “un-discovered” “un-utilized” resource. The arrow (c) describes that there is a possibility that those hidden resources or un-discovered resources can be found out and will be utilized through collaboration among the community people and outsiders.

Another reason why the outsiders are involved
From the viewpoint of outsiders, there may be another reason for them to be involved in a community. Let us take an example of community-based forest management activity.

Imagine that there is a community inside mountain area, and their daily life is heavily depends on forest resources around them. They cultivate the slopes to grow corns and vegetables, harvest various wild plants, collect firewood, drink water from a spring, and use herbal medicine. All of those resources come from the forest. However, because of population pressure and also needs for cash income, the villagers started cutting trees in the forest to sell firewood and to expand their agricultural lands. As a result, forest degradation started, and the community people now suffer from shortage of water, frequent land slide, and soil erosion.

Now, the community people want to recover the forest by planting trees and stopping over-utilization of the forest resources. The question here is: WHAT ARE THE GOOD POINTS that the community people recover and conserve the forest?

The answers may be;

Protect soil erosion / secure water source / stop land slide / increase productivity of the land/ improve economic condition / prevent natural disaster / stop migration to cities / weaken green house effect, etc.

Among the above mentioned answers (there may be much more), you can categorize the good points according to “who are the beneficiary”.

Good for the community itself / good for the local government / good for the city people / good for the national government / good for other countries / good for all the people in the world.

From this point of view, you can conclude that definitely there are good points for the outsiders if the community people recover and conserve the forest. Here, “THEIR ISSUE becomes OUR ISSUE”. Yes, in any of community development activities, we can say that there are good points for the outsiders, not only for the community itself, and therefore, we (outsiders) want to come to the community.

It is not easy to be involved

From the above explanation, you may clearly understand that the community people should be the main actors in community development, and there are various reasons why the outsiders need to be involved in the process of community development. Then, the question is how the outsiders can participate in community development. If you look into various examples of community development projects in your country, you may agree that it is not easy for the outsiders to be involved in by making the community people main actors. In many community development projects, villagers are just asked to participate in seminars or activities that the outsiders designed, and they did not become active to initiate anything, and at last the project activities stopped when the outside assistance ended.

The major reason for those occurrences is that “outsiders bring the core things from outside the community”. Those core things can be; basic concept, problem analysis, equipments and facilities, expertise, knowledge or technology, or just monetary assistance. Imagine that in your own community, an outsider comes in and tells you that “we analyzed your situation and found out the issue. This is the solution. The fund and other resources for the project is available. So please work with us”. How do you feel? Do you reject the offer? If the person looks senior or superior, or seems to have more knowledge than you, or definitely richer than you, do you dare to refuse what he / she tells to you?

You may say that “as an outsider, I have not push any concepts or projects to the community people, I always try to hear from them and be based on their needs”. Yes, you may be right. However, are you sure that the community people truly took initiative to start something and they will continue their activities without outsiders help? Have you experienced to come into a community without bringing any projects or funds? If the answer is no, it is worth trying the following methodology in your field.

Building partnership with the community
At first, when you as an outsider intend to start an activity with a community, what will you do? You may be instructed by your boss or funding agency to have a formal meeting with the village leaders. At the meeting, what will you discuss with the villagers? How will you explain your purpose to come into the village?

If you are already given a ready-made project with fixed objectives and activities, it might be easy for you to explain your purposes. However, are you sure that the project objectives and activities fixed before your interaction with the villagers are really based on the problems or needs of the community? Moreover, even if those objectives and activities are truly good for the villagers, do you think that the community members will easily realize your idea and take initiatives to participate in the project?

Here is a principle of “learning” that emerged from long time experience of human history. “If you hear it, you will forget it. If you see it, you will remember it. If you do it, you will understand it. And if you FIND IT, you will use it.” It is true that if a person feels “I by myself discovered it”, he / she wants to do some action by using that knowledge or skills newly acquired by himself / herself. On the contrary, if a person is just “taught” something by another person, he / she will not be so much interested and will not take initiative.

Therefore, in any community development activities, it is very much important that the community people themselves find out their own issue and search for the solution. The outsiders can only facilitate the process of issue analysis by the community people. Again, the main actors are the community people and the outsiders are the ones who accompany with them as partners.

Indeed, “to build partnership with the community” is an important key for outsiders to start any community-based activities. If you become a teacher or an expert for the community people, they will just listen to you and will not be able to “find out by themselves”. But if you can be a partner for them, there will be a possibility that the community people will take initiatives to do something.

Then, what should be done if you want to be a partner for the community people? Please try to list up the activities that you can do for partnership building as many as possible. You may have meeting with various community members (men, women, leaders, youths, elders, with various occupations, etc.). You may also participate in various occasions, activities, or events that the community people hold by themselves. You may also have informal interviews or dialogues with the community members while you are walking through the community.

There is an interesting word in Indonesian language that translated from English words “partnership building”. The word is “Pertemanan”. Teman in Indonesian language means friend. “Per” and “an” are the prefix and suffix that indicate some actions to realize the root word. So, “Pertemanan” means “becoming friends”. Our Indonesian friends who are involved in community development translated the word “partnership building” into “becoming friends”. It is a very much suitable wording, don’t you think so? We need to become friends for the community people who can accompany with them at an equal status (not a teacher or instructor who bring something down from outside).

Finding FACTS and making hypothesis
After or while doing partnership building with the community, what an outsider have to do is “finding out and analyzing the real issue of the community”. There must be various “needs” or “problems” felt by the community people. There might be some problems felt by an individual but the other community members do not feel they are the problems. There might be some other problems that the community members feel “it is a problem” but they have been waiting for solutions from outside without taking any initiatives by themselves. Here, we need to find out real issue of the community that the majority of them feel it is a problem and they are willingly taking actions for solution.

In order to find out such an issue, what should be done? Of course, we need to know the reality of the community. So, in order to know the real situation of the community, what can be done? There are various ways to do so both outside and inside the community. Let us list up.


Collecting statistical data / checking documents related with the community / hearing from local administration / interviewing with those who know the community

Observation / hearing or interview / meeting / survey (using questionnaire or other means)
Among the above ways, “direct observation in the community” is a simple but effective way to know the reality of the community. By just walking through the community, you can acquire various kinds of information on various matters, such as natural, demographic, geographical, economic, social, cultural, religious, or even historical situation of the community. In the observation, you have to utilize your five senses, not only seeing, but hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching.

After acquiring various types of information through observation, what is the next step? You have to make hypothesis about the community. The hypothesis should be sentences that describe either present condition of the community, past and future of the community, or the problems faced by the community. Here, it is very important that the hypothesis should be based on the FACT that you found through the observation. For example, among the below things acquired by observation, which is the FACT?

a) We have seen many cows and goats in the households.

b) Most of the community people raise livestock.
c) One of the main sources of income of the community is livestock rearing.
It is clear that the sentence a) is a fact that you witnessed. But the sentence b) is just your impression after walking through the community. And the sentence c) is an assumption or hypothesis about the situation of the community. Here, it is the most important for you to be based on the FACT. So, please do not confuse your impression or even assumption with the FACT that you have to be based on.
After making hypothesis about the community, what should be done? Of course, you need to clarify or testify the hypothesis. In order to do it, you again have to collect information through observation, interview, or other means. Here, at this stage, having dialogue or interview with the community people will be an effective and necessary way to find out the real issue of the community. Again, it is very important that you have to find out FACT through the interview. So, among the following questions, which one is the question asking the FACT?
a) Do you like raising livestock?
b) Is livestock rearing your major source of income?
c) How many livestock do you have? When did you sold last time? How much price could you sell it?
Definitely, the question c) is the right question to ask FACTS. The question a) is just asking his / her preference or feeling. And the question b) seems to ask fact, but actually, it is a question to ask “thinking” or “perception” of the respondent. In the question b), the respondent will think whether livestock rearing is his (her) major source of income, and he (she) will define the meaning of “major source of income” by himself (herself), and will give the answer. Thus, the answer thoroughly depends on his / her own perception about “major source of income”.
In fact, at many interviews, we tend to ask the respondents’ perception, not the real FACT. And as a result, in many cases, community development projects are based on only the perception of the people, not the real FACTS. That means such projects are not based on real issue of the communities, and there is not much possibility that such projects will become sustainable ones.

Analyzing the information and pointing out the issue
After collecting facts through observation, interview, and other means, you need to point out the issue of the community. It requires a process of analysis for finding out the issue. The followings are some tips or hints for analyzing the facts.

1) Focusing on natural resources

In any of the local communities especially in rural areas, most of the livelihood of those communities is very much depending upon natural resources surrounding them. If it is an agricultural community, the people require land, water, and forest resources for their productive activities. In a fishermen community, it is necessary to check the sea, lakes, or the rivers. There might be some other natural resources such as sand, rock, or grasses that can be utilized for producing something. In the issue analysis, you may focus on those natural resources, and check how the community people manage and utilize those resources.
2) Focusing on physical infrastructure
In the communities, various infrastructural facilities are playing important roles for the everyday life of their members. Roads, irrigation canals, bridges, water supply and drainage, or electricity are the infrastructures necessary for productive and other daily activities for the community people. Buildings such as schools, hospitals, or markets are also important physical infrastructure for the community members. Some of those infrastructure were constructed and maintained by the outsiders (mainly by government institutions), but there are many cases that the community people themselves are actively involved in managing those infrastructure facilities.

3) Focusing on cultural matters
It can be said that not only physical conditions, but also cultural or traditional matters (events or rituals) are also important factors for the life of community people. There are various cultural occasions the community people gather, do something collectively, enjoy together, and as a result create sense of belongings among them. Thus, it is worth analyzing such cultural or traditional events or rituals to understand “un-visible” factors that make community people live together.

4) Analyzing through human aspects
More or less, all the items above are usually maintained or managed by community people themselves. In the process of issue analysis, it is required to check how the community people maintain, utilize, or manage the above factors. You can find out various groups or organizations involved in the management. There might be regulations or norms that control the management. There will be some decision making system in such groups or organizations.

If you look into human aspects of the community, it is also required to check the “diversity” of the community. In a community, there might be some minority groups such as ethnic / religious minority, economically backward families, disabled persons, or others. There should be gender un-equality in various aspects within the community. And as a result of such diversities, there might be some conflicts among them.

In addition, it is also necessary to analyze various stakeholders involved in the process of maintenance, utilization, or management. As stakeholders, there might be outside groups such as NGOs, private companies, government institutions, or academicians, etc. It is required to check the relations between community and outsiders.

5) Settling into macro context
In the process of issue analysis, the most important point is to put the real situation (facts of the community) into a larger framework (macro context) of the society. In the modernized world with growing trend of globalization, not a single community can exist without interaction to the outside world. Local or national government policies, national or international economic conditions, and various groups or individuals outside have been influencing the life of community people. Information acquired by the community members through mass media or IT also has great impact on community people’s behavior and thinking.
And the most importantly, you need to put all the factors mentioned above into “time trend” of the world. Natural resource management, physical infrastructure maintenance, various organizations and regulations, diversity of the community, various

stakeholders, and interaction and influence of outside world……….. All those aspects / factors need to be reviewed from the perspective of time trend. What was it in the past? What are the changes in resent years? What will be in the future? By putting all the factors into the macro context (inside – outside & past – future), finally, you may be able to find out the real issue of the community. It is the issue that most of the community people feel important for their life, consider urgent to be solved, and can find out any collective actions to solve it.
Sharing the issue and stimulating community actions
After finding out real issue of the community, you as an outsider have to share it with the community people. Of course, if you have already involved the community members in the whole process of collecting facts and analyzing issue from the beginning, the community people may have already realized the issue. Otherwise, if the outsiders alone collected the facts and analyzed the issue, then they need to share it with the community people.

In that case, the outsiders should make the community people realize the issue and stimulate them to take actions for tackling it. They may have formal meetings with the community people for sharing the issue. They may also have more informal way such as having dialogue or conversation with some of the community members. In either occasion, it is very important that the outsiders should use simple and easily-understood words when they explain the issue to the community members. You may use analogies, concrete examples, case studies, or experiments so that even the community people without formal education can easily understand. It is also important to find out suitable words or expressions of the issue so that the heart of each community member will be touched and his / her mind will be moved to do something.

In order to stimulate the actions of the community after sharing the issue, it is also very important that throughout the process of issue analysis and sharing, the outsiders should find out some key persons who will take initiatives for tackling the issue. Of course, if the issue found by outsiders is really understood by the community people, there must be someone who are moved so much and start feeling urgent to do something for tackling the issue. The role of outsiders in this point is to find out the right persons and encourage them to start some actions. Even if there is only one person who has been deeply touched by the presentation of real issue of the community, it will definitely become a core force for the community to do something for overcoming the issue and seeking for better future.

Lastly, when the community people start doing something for tackling the issue, an approach called “Jimotogaku” can be a good way to find out and utilize existing local resources for sustainable community-based actions. It is a unique approach based on field experience of Japanese communities where community people find out “hidden” local resources and create new actions with the help of outsiders’ perspectives. If you like to know the details, please refer to the back number of this Newsletter “Community Facilitation and Mediation” (Vol.8, March 2009).




1 件のコメント:

匿名 さんのコメント...

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