BOOK SERIES: SENIOR MOMENTS ARE FOREVER

April 30, 2020

22nd Moment: Working in Post-Crisis Socio-Economic Rehabilitation

 Corruption in social assistance programs: And you think that all programs in crisis and post-crisis situations always help the victims? News accounts of corruption are not without basis. So we are not alone in this COVID-19 pandemic. 
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Post-tsunami project: I was assigned for two years to fishing areas hit by the tsunami in Sri Lanka. Project and government staff would buy fishing boats for distribution to affected fishermen. They would distribute the boats randomly, even to those who have not even been to the sea. When the real fishermen-victims complain they would take their names and ask for more money from their donors or government. The money that they received is used to pay-off the non-fishermen recipients in order to retake their boats (that they will not use anyway) and give them to the fishermen-complainants. Then they would submit reports of mission accomplished to their donors or government complete with colored photographs of handover etc. 
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Meanwhile the money intended to purchase new boats is lost in the technicalities or shifted to the pockets of the project staff. Sometimes the donor or government do not know what is happening, sometimes, however, the donors or government know but do not bother to check – they just condemn what happened, after the project.
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Change has come: We got blamed for introducing change! While implementing a post-crisis project in Mindanao I had to be in the field often for monitoring. Visiting a project in Palawan my project staff and I came at a time when the chairman of the MNLF state revolutionary committee, was busy with their project on halal bakery. Upon seeing me he blurted “what have you done to me brother Rudy? Before I was handling guns now, I am mixing flours!!!!”
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Before I was assigned for a project in the South Pacific, I thought that Polynesians, Melanesians and Micronesians are all Indonesians - until I realized that they are all people of the Pacific Ocean.
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Lost in translation: Our national project coordinator in Sri Lanka was excellent in both Tamil and Sinhalese language. In village workshops he had to translate my lecture and presentations into local dialects for the mixed participants. After I talk for about a minute, he would translate into around five minutes. Then he would turn to me to tell me “Ok Rudy”. Then I must recall where I stopped my lecture because I usually lost my memory after 5 minutes.
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Handling people under social unrest: The problem of social unrest in indigenous communities brought about by large multinational companies is true all over the world. My workshop on community-based training in Papua province in Indonesia was turned into a gripe workshop when the participants started discussing their problems brought about by a transnational mining firm in the island. The social issues had resulted into the Free Papua Movement, and with constant armed clashes with the military it caused a big headache to Jakarta. To isolate my project from the political issue I had to repeatedly explain to the participants that community-based training was not designed as a solution to their social problem!
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Participatory approach: There are two kinds of participatory planning: passive and active. Passive means only answering questions; Active is when the target groups participate in the project design, development of the tools, methodology and the project’s delivery system. Passive is perpetuation of colonial mentality. Active creates ownership and ensures sustainability. Most self-proclaimed experts cannot distinguish between the two.
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Hypocrisy in development work: Most project donors seldom, or do not trust the Poor. They dictate what their target groups must do. When the projects do not produce results, they blame their target beneficiaries for everything: lack of absorptive capacity, lack of interest, lack of initiatives, laziness etc. etc. etc. But when the beneficiaries develop and utilize their own methodology and succeed in their projects the donors or their implementing agencies will claim the honor and the success, reporting that the beneficiaries followed their agency’s approach!
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Learning from a misapplication of community-driven approach: In one of our projects in a Muslim village for the MILF we followed a community-driven approach where the community brainstorm on their project ideas, validate and prioritize them before project designing and preparation of project proposal. The target group decided on Goat Raising and thinking that they need a better concept than just Goat Raising we recommended goat fattening where they can easily make money in 3-4 months. After training the group put up a coral with a shelter for the animals. 
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After one month the group reported 3 animal deaths. We discussed the issue and we found out that it was the first time that an organized goat raising project was being implemented in the village, and, further, they were not prepared to go into a more advanced fattening enterprise. 


We reverted to backyard goat raising project!

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