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Learning For Change: #PRIALearningWeek

We successfully concluded our most recent Learning Week at the PRIA head office between 4 and 8 October 2016 -- five days of building knowledge, learning new skills and having fun while learning! It is the spirit of “Learning for Change”, that underpins #PRIALearningWeek, our Half-Yearly Planning and Review Meetings attended by the entire PRIA team of ~70 (senior management, programme staff, consultants and support staff). 

When we at PRIA talk about participation and democracy, values at the core of our organisational credo, we are seeking models for meaningful change. For us, change is a function of self-belief: learning how to collectively identify problems and find solutions, knowing that the bridge between marginalisation and equity can be built through organising and group action. In organisational practice, this translates into sharing knowledge and building skills in communities and institutions and, equally importantly, among ourselves as agents of change. As facilitators, we consistently strive to locate our shortcomings in knowledge and skills, and address them through learning and training, thereby building organisational capacity for change.

The purpose, as always, of learning together was to look back at and analyse what we had done, and build foundations for what we need to do. We learnt through:

• troubleshooting and skill-building sessions on social media, Microsoft Excel for data analysis and effective presentation and writing
• seminars with outside experts on our thematic areas of work, namely WASH, inclusive urban services and the safety, security and dignity of women and girls
• intensive deliverable-oriented, team discussions

This time around, there was something more on the agenda: on February 6, 2017, PRIA completes 35 years as an organisation. Therefore, we also discussed the all-important matter of how we will commemorate three-and-a-half decades of work in institutional strengthening, community mobilisation, local government accountability and multi-sectoral engagement to ‘make democracy work for all.’

Learning in the thematic sessions, applied to the specifics of our field sites, helped us outline changed ways of working to increase impact.

In Water and Sanitation initiatives, we would need to:

• increase our engagement with local stakeholders
• include more civil society organisations that could facilitate broadcasting of information (e.g., community radio stations),
• focus on capacity-building for community-based participatory research

In inclusive urban services, we would like to:

• set up measurable indicators to assess city performance
• collect disaggregated data from field locations
• establish partnerships with implementing agencies
• build information on the government programmes specific to the three cities where the Engaged Citizens, Responsive Cities project is currently being undertaken
• make an effort to understand the local context and power dynamics in these cities

In ensuring safety and dignity for women and girls, we need to:

• build capacities on gender through gender orientation and sensitivity training
• partnerships with women counselling centres, SHGs, and universities
• PRIA gender team to visit each field location to suggest more and effective ways of gauging, negotiating and encouraging women’s participation

We learnt new ways of thinking, new ways of acting and new skills. We need to use this new knowledge and skills in our work. Encouraging all of us to “try something new,” Rajesh Tandon, President, PRIA, reminded us that while there is risk in this, “only when we put our knowledge into action, repeatedly, do we gain confidence in our learnings.”

#PRIALearning Week concluded with our commitment to learning by embracing one change individually in our practice and ways of working. And when others notice our changed behaviour, we have truly embedded our learning for change.

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