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Organising Communities for Social Action

PRIA conducted a Training of Trainers (ToT) on community organising for 34 programme staff at State Institute of Health and Family Welfare (SIHFW), Jaipur from 16 to 19 May 2016.

The objective of the training was to deepen understanding on the characteristics of community organisations, factors that enable and hinder effective community organising, and power relations in communities, helping staff develop skills on community organising methods and tools. With enhanced learning, programme staff are now better equipped to plan for and apply various strategies, methods and tools of community organising in their respective projects. The four-day learning programme involved both classroom lectures and group discussions, and field visits to practice the different methods and tools learnt.

In order to engage in organising communities, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the purpose and types of community organisation and the key characteristics of effective community organisation. Discussions helped the participants trace the contextual relevance of the concept and to understand the framework of community organisation. The exercise also helped the participants evolve benchmarks and indicators to identify and work as effective facilitators in organisations and groups, in order to help them evaluate and review their efforts, so that human development initiatives become a more ‘achievable goal’.

The rich experiences of field interventions being undertaken by the participants in their field areas added to their understanding through the discussions. Participants developed a common understanding of community organisation, understood as a process by which a community identifies its needs or objectives, finds resources (internal and external), takes relevant action and develops effective co-operative and collaborative attitudes and practices within the community. Some popular teaching methods for community organisation, like street theatre, use of art as a medium and collage making to understand various power relations in the community, were learnt. At the end of each day, group members spoke with each other to get feedback on key points, such as results based on plans, sharing of individual and collective feelings, methods of intervention, and lessons learned.

Having discussed the purpose and characteristics of community organisation, it became important to expose the participants to a real-life situation. The facilitators went to the field with a pre-informed set of tasks, where two groups conducted social mapping as their intervention strategy and two groups worked with youth groups based on popular methods of learning which included art, street theatre and collage making. The field visits helped learners practice the various methods and tools learnt in the classroom and functionally understand the nuances and effectiveness of the tools.

It is also extremely important to reflect on the processes being learnt and the field experience. Keeping in mind the term ‘community organisation’ has a wide range of connotations as a practice discipline, a lecture-cum-discussion session helped learners connect theory and practice based on the previous day’s field intervention. This was key to correlating community level organising, social action and service integration. These self and group analytical processes was a value addition for each trainee, helping them share several common processes with different emphases in ideology, knowledge base, methods, skills, experiences and process-oriented outcome.

On the last two days participants were divided into groups (according to their current project engagements) to reaffirm, relook and respond to planned strategies and action plans, with a view to strengthening team goals and processes. This was crucial to orient their work in organising communities with the concepts, methods and tools learnt in the training sessions.

Knowledge generated from this training will certainly help PRIA program staff become more efficient facilitators and community organisers for social action.   

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