Fall 2019 Visits

This Fall we’ve laid out an ambitious plan to visit most of our network Member organizations. Between Jamie, Murray and Daniella, we will be in Laos, Nepal, Philippines, DR Congo, Lesotho and Malawi all before Christmas.

Our goal is to provide further training, as well as to fine tune our reporting and communication practices. In some cases we are meeting with new prospective network members. These are generally people or organizations we know who are practicing ABCD and would like to benefit from the training and resourcing that we offer.

As a point of interest, we’ve begun work with Internally Displaced People (IDP’s) in the Congo interior. The old ABCD adage that “nobody has nothing” will be tested to the extreme. The belief is that by beginning with what they have (social networks, local knowledge, access to resources, leadership skills, etc) these IDP populations will be better equipped to manage their vulnerability and eventually transition home.

Stay tuned on social media. We look forward to sharing some of the success stories built on nothing but local assets and the grace of God.

Canadian High School Students Learn ‘ABCD’ Principles

Did you know that British Columbia’s new kindergarten – grade 12 curriculum includes a course on Social Justice?  Oh how I wish we had courses like that when I was a teenager. In fact, research shows that this next generation has a resounding focus on empathy, especially on marginalized people groups.

Each course in this new curriculum has “Big Ideas” that the course is centred around.  In the case of Social Justice, this includes:

  1. Social justice issues are interconnected
  2. Individual worldviews shape and inform our understanding of social justice issues.
  3. The causes of social injustice are complex and have lasting impacts on society.
  4. Social justice initiatives can transform individuals and systems.

I used “Big Idea” #4 in our unit on globalization and went through principles of Asset-Based Community-Driven (ABCD) development.  We talked about how communities are invited into a process of realizing their skills, resources and vision to reach their own development objectives.  We walked through basic principles of ABCD, and ended off with case studies highlighting stories of transformation. Beautiful conversation on topics such as dependency, aid and culture brewed out of these lessons that I am certain will stay with these students as they go on into the world.  

For their final exam, students were asked to pick a Social Justice initiative they felt best demonstrated how individuals and systems can be transformed from any of the units we discussed as a class over the course of this semester.  Here are a few excerpts from their reflections-

“Not every country is perfect and therefore requires the people to 1. find the qualities of their community 2. brainstorm ideas that utilize those qualities to benefit a certain problem, 3. Carrying out that action plan to the end, and 4. evaluating what worked and what needs to change with the plan in order for the problem to be solved.  These community-based movements can inspire individuals to contribute to the cause and convince their governments that the issue is worth fighting for.”

“In developing countries, sometimes community is all they have, with lack of government involvement, or corruption, coming all together is all they have left as a choice.  We can all benefit from communities coming to work together, we are all in this together and should be demonstrating support and initiatives within our community.”

“The best way to transform a community for the better is to help support, and listen to members of that community.  Whether the community is big or small, they can make a big difference.”

“(ABCD) involves evaluating the current situation and finding qualities of the community that can be used in developing change within the community.  These influence factors such as sense of community, security, health, economy or even government. As soon as these communities confront their own issues, they begin to take pride in their home.  They are working towards breaking a system of reliance and dependency on other people and taking action for themselves.”

Sure these high school students’ reflections may seem idealistic and eutopic; but, isn’t that what fuels innovation for change? Isn’t that how we shift the power?  Personally, I can’t wait to see what is possible when people work together, giving what assets they have to offer to make transformation across the globe.

Something from Nothing

There is garbage everywhere on the streets of Mont-Ngafula, an extremely poor neighbourhood in Kinshasa, the capital city of the DR Congo. Known for its high crime rate and impassable roads, the neighborhood has been in decline for decades. 

But something is changing in Mont-Ngafula.

Toss Mukwa is a Congolese development worker who believes that every community, no matter how poor, has something to offer, to make a positive difference for their own people. When he first looked at Mont-Ngafula, he wasn’t sure where the help would come from. He was aware that the government had given up on the community long ago, and that foreign aid would probably never reach its streets. 

When Toss entered Mont-Ngafula, he encountered a small group of mostly unemployed youth within the local church. As he got to know the youth, who were between the ages of 16 and 26, Toss was impressed with their social awareness. As he began to share with them the ideas of asset-based community-driven development, he found that these youth already had a vision for their community.

Stimulated by Toss’s ideas, the young people began with a humble plan to clean up the streets. As they picked up garbage, they stopped to educate households about waste disposal. Buoyed by their success, their contingent grew to about 60 young people.

Their next project in Mont-Ngafula was to map the community (including all 460 homes) and then to repair two of the streets that were damaged by erosion and had become unusable by vehicles. Using the map to outline their plan, they again went door-to-door, explaining their work to the residents. Soon, other community members offered to join them, or to contribute financially to their cause. 

Before long, the number of young people engaged in the project grew to more than 100. With that level of support, the group then decided to take on one of the most significant issues facing the poor of Mont-Ngafula – access to health care. They approached local health clinics with a number of creative ideas to provide care for the people. They set up credit systems and group medicine purchases, and even provided the clinics with professional services like cleaning, electrical, and plumbing, in exchange for credit toward medical treatments.

Eventually, with Toss as their guide, the group in Mont-Ngafula formed a community association, and even established a small office supported by their members. 

Today, the initiative in Mont-Ngafula continues to grow and impact the people of the neighbourhood. To date, the project has still received no outside funding and stands strong as an example of the potential of asset-based community-driven development. 

As the people of Mont-Ngafula continue to share their vision and their assets, whether material, spiritual, or financial, a kind of social capital is created within the community, which will become the foundation for long-term sustainable development. 

As 5N2 continues to invest in workers like Toss Mukwa and projects like the Mont-Ngafula youth initiative, there is so much potential for transformational impact in other poor communities throughout Congo. We look forward to casting the net wider through our training and partnerships.