If you are thinking of starting a new project which will involve/affect the local community, it is important to seek the opinions of whoever will be affected. This applies especially if such a project has not been done before. Members of the community will be able to give you invaluable location specific information and advice about how the project will be received by the community as a whole. As in any country, not everyone consulted will be helpful/interested but it is still an important part of any community based project.
Advantages of consulting the community
- Provides important location specific information.
- Wins the trust and approval of the community involved.
- Enables local people to understand and appreciate your work.
- Rewarding way to get to know the community, their ideas, wants and needs.
- Ensures that the project will benefit the local community and is not just something that you wanted to do.
Things to remember
- Everything you do has an impact
Every action has consequences. Itís important to be close enough to the community so that they will let you know if youíre doing the wrong thing.
Language can be a problem and if you don't speak the native language you will have to seek the help of people who can. It may even be worth hiring a translator.
It is also vital to be patient. In developing countries life generally tends to move at a slower pace and as a result things such as community consultation where you are seeking the opinions of a lot of people can take longer than expected. It is also important to take time to get to know the people and for them to become familiar with who you are and what you're doing. Only then will they be prepared to give their honest opinions and advice.
- Listen to people and be prepared to change plans accordingly
People will become frustrated and disillusioned if you don't listen to them. Sometimes community consultation is done for the sake of it (so that it can be mentioned in the project write up etc.) which leads to resentment and bad feeling. If local people tell you their ideas/feelings about a planned project you should listen and be prepared to make radical changes.
Community consultation can be tedious work, but if approached in the right way it is an interesting and rewarding way of getting to know the local community.
Community consultation can be a very time consuming process, but it is also very important in ensuring the validity and success of a project; local people know their needs and surroundings better than anyone else.
Written by: Sarah. Contact us for any suggestions or further information.