In August this year, I completed an enumeration of the entire Naggo Head, in Portmore, St. Catherine, Jamaica. I had been working in the community for about two years, implementing an urban disaster risk reduction project on behalf of Habitat for Humanity and funded by USAID. The Building Resilience And Capacities against Emerging Disasters (BRACED) project focused on behaviour changes at the community and policy level.
We embraced a participatory methodology of learning and teaching and involvement. 470+ of the 500 households participated in the recently concluded enumeration. Some were unable to participate because work schedule didn’t allow. Few refused to participate. We collected biographic, demographic data on the household, and data on medical history, health seeking behaviours, sources of income; income brackets; sanitation etc. There was very personal information that people were prepared to give because they understood the WHY!!!!
Two Community Enumerators Collecting Data From Respondent
What made this possible? We engaged in robust sensitisation. We had a plan. It was quite participatory:
1. We began with a visioning exercise, “Re-imagine Naggo Head.” Members of the community shared what for them were the changes they’ll like to see in the people, the place and in governance and what needs to change for those changes to take place. Those were documented. Then we did the problem tree, where citizens discussed the root causes, the problems resulting, and the solutions for those problems.
2. We trained Community Advocates. These advocates were from the community and were trained to advocate for the redevelopment of the community. They would be the ambassadors of change and would communicate it in the language of their friends. They got the word out that the enumeration was coming and the implications for redevelopment.
3. We trained the advocates to collect the data with tablets. They became the enumerators. The training helped us with being able to tweak the framing of questions and placement of questions.
Community people work with you when they understand what you are trying to do. They are not political puppets. In fact, in my experience the political puppets are the ones in suit and tie, speaking Queen’s English & turning up their noses at those who can’t understand their pompous verbiage. People voicing concerns about provisions in the regulations for NIDS is not an opposition to the principle of same. Community development and any Development for that matter requires data. Data must inform policy, government spending and development priorities etc. It will be folly to oppose a data driven economy. It is disrespectful of electors to treat them as if their voice doesn’t matter. You may not believe that but HOW WE DO THINGS EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATE THAT MESSAGE!!!!
Therefore, we must have safeguards that protect people’s privacy, which is a right; ensure that there is wide consultation that encourages participation and fosters democracy; engage in accessible public education (that is education that is tailored to suit the community and is equitable) and guard against criminalising people.
There are approaches that those pushing the implementation of NIDS to meet aggressive timelines of lender can learn to gain trust and buy in. Lenders and Donors are generally concerned about their agenda in a very neo-imperialist way. Governments must learn how to be sophisticated in approach and balance lender’s agenda with the people’s best interests and doing so in a way that shows respect to the voice of the people. There are benefits that the government can realise by embracing a participatory methodology for NIDS. It not only get them the data they want but it leaves communities more empowered to make decisions towards their own redevelopment.