A couple of blogs back, we talked about the five stages or phases of the community development process. The first stage is the community, with whom we’re working, becoming more aware of and identifying or “pinpointing” its priority problems. Of course the community knows it has problems. However, it may be that the whole community doesn’t know all the problems. There are sectors within the community that are many times silent or hidden and problems that may or may not be common knowledge to all.
For example, a women’s group in a particular community might see a priority problem related to a task that is commonly assigned to them such as nutrition of the family. Whereas a men’s group in the same community might be more focused on income or off-farm labor. These problems are probably interrelated and maybe even correlated but they are different in terms of priority and visibility for particular segments of the community.
Our goal in this first phase is to get the community to bring their issues out, and we have several tools that we use to accomplish this:
- Community mapping. Ask the community to draw a map or build a model of their community. Ask them to think about a “bird’s eye” view of what their community looks like and get them to visualize this in a drawing or model. It could be a situational (e.g. as the community exists today) or a vision map (e.g. what they want their community to look like in the future).
- Appreciative Inquiry. Instead of starting off talking about problems in a community, start with discussions of the good things or the things they appreciate about their community. What are some things they are proud of when they think of their community? What are some significant good things that have happened in the history of their community? What makes their community special?
- Historical timelines and trends. Another method of getting a community to discuss their good things and bad things is to have them share historical events that have occurred in their community. When did it start? What are the major events of the community and when did they happen? We could vary it a bit and ask them, based on the history and timeline they come up with, what do they think will happen in the future in their community?
These are only a few of the tools and exercises we would conduct with a community in the first phase of the development process. Maybe you have some favorite tools from some of the above or have some other tools that you would use in the initial discovery process.
We would love to hear your ideas in the comment section below.