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Coming Together To Learn Together

As part of the European Union project ‘Engaged Citizens, Responsive City’ (ECRC), PRIA has been hosting cluster level meetings for members of settlement improvement committees (SICs). The purpose of the program is to facilitate the exchange of experiences amongst SIC members with a long-term goal of building a city-level support federation.

At cluster-level events, SIC members share stories with one another about their situation before and after the formation of the SIC. Some common themes that emerged were the benefits of working as a collective and the importance of strong leadership within the settlement. Cluster level trainings are beginning to provide a platform for SIC leaders to exchange practical information . They are also an opportunity for SIC members to learns ways of working collectively and to learn new techniques that they can apply to resolve their problems. It also encourages SIC leaders to think beyond their own settlement and see themselves as part of a greater community.

For facilitators of social change, facilitating a productive dialogue in such meetings is not without challenges. For example, some participants try to impose their own decisions on the group and neglect the effect this has on other members. Some SIC members want all members to participate in the decision-making process, but those community members who are shy do not speak up in front of the group. Likewise, some settlement members prefer to operate without a leader, as they favour non-hierarchical, individual action. Occasionally, miscommunication between the group’s leaders can result in bickering. Moreover, some SICs rely too much on PRIA to advocate on their behalf. PRIA’s goal is for SICs to advocate for themselves. Interpersonal challenges that arise during training provide an opportunity for members to work through conflict in a professional manner, while also learning skills, such as communication and patience.

Despite occasional conflict, community members value these opportunities to share their successes with SIC members from other settlements. SIC members are proud of the successes they have achieved. For example, a member of Koli settlement shared with the group, “by organising we have gained strength because we are sitting together, working together, talking about developing the settlement. So now we are gaining access to many facilities." A member of Bairwa settlement said, “Earlier we were disunited and doing individual efforts, but no one took us seriously. Since the SIC was formed, work has been happening, cleaning has been happening, lights have been installed and drains and a plinth have been constructed." A member of Fakira Kheda settlement said the attitude of the Ward Councillor towards the community was initially not positive. The community was hesitant to talk to the Ward Councillor, or any Municipal Corporation official. However after the SIC was formed, active SIC members gained leadership skills and confidence to talk comfortably with the Ward Councillor. Because of this, the community saw a change in the Ward Councillor’s attitude.

Sharing of such experiences resonated with many SIC members and spurred a discussion about the importance of active leadership and community strength. SIC leaders found solidarity in one another’s experiences. They wished for greater cooperation between all settlements. If settlements have common issues, then why can't a citywide network of SICs work together to resolve the problem?

Through cluster level meetings, SIC members are working out interpersonal challenges, connecting with other SICs from around the city, sharing skills and information -- and learning to work together to bring about change.

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