'العربية / al-ʿarabīyah
Without Raising Expectations
by Phil Bartle, PhD
Take a pro-active approach against wrong assumptions
After you have prepared yourself, and obtained clearance from the authorities, it is time to encourage the community to take action.
You begin this by calling for a public meeting with all members of the community. This starts the "awareness raising" phase of the cycle.
You may find a tendency for only some persons to show interest in attending a meeting. Maybe men will come and assume women should not. Your job is to ensure that women attend.
The same with other people who need to be encouraged: the youth, the disabled, the ethnic minorities, the shy people, the religious minorities, the illiterates, the very poor, and the marginalized.
When you start talking about community problems, and asking what their priority problems are, there will be a tendency to assume that you are there to solve their problems for them. You must counteract this assumption and explain that they have to solve their own problems; you can only assist and guide them, not do it for them.
Similarly, they may assume that you will provide resources. Quickly and firmly squash that assumption, explaining that they must identify and provide their own resources; you can only assist and guide them in doing so.
You are there to provide management training and encouragement; you are not there to provide money, pipes or roofing material.
You can not expect people to avoid making assumptions. They will.
You must actively and publicly contradict those assumptions that will falsely raise their expectation (that you provide resources).If you do not, then you will find destructive disappointment later that will undo all the work you have done. People will claim that you promised them resources but that you failed to keep your promise.
So if you want to raise awareness, then awareness about what?
Remember that your goals differ from the goals of the community.
They may want a water supply, clinic, school or road.
You want the community to become strong and self reliant, reducing poverty, increasing gender balance, improving governance. The awareness you want to raise is that, no matter how poor the community is, it has the potential to solve its problems, to become stronger.All it needs is the willingness to do so, and the management training that you can provide.
Providing accurate information is important (avoid raising false expectations).
If you copy text from this site, please acknowledge the author(s)