Learnings & challenges
The broad principles for encouraging community involvement in community toilet projects are similar to the strategies that are required for most other community development projects
Identify and consult local leaders to assess their interest, and to gain their support
Obtain wider ranging consent for the project
Make particular efforts to hear the voices of the people who the project is supposed to impact most
Encourage feedback about the project
Give people the information and tools they need to be informed and be involved
Some of the key learnings about mobilizing communities for this project were:
Keep an open mind about who should take part in the project: On simple example, often sanitation projects are given to women’s groups. In Sammaan, some of our most effective managers are actually men. The most important thing is for managers to have the four characteristics mentioned in the Finding managers section.
Users can be hard to mobilize: Being a user of a community toilet facility is not in itself a strong characteristic that unites people. In places where the number of users is relatively high, mobilization may be a bit easier. But in places where the number is low, or the user group is spread throughout the community, identifying users and encouraging them to voice their opinions requires special effort.
People will often say they don’t have time: A common refrain we hear before meetings is that participants don’t have time to sit in the meeting, irrespective of the time of day we set these meetings. If people are in a rush to leave, then they won’t pay attention to what is being communicated in the meeting. It’s important for engagement strategies to either be very time efficient, or to be innovative/attention grabbing.
A lot of the work in community engagement is facilitation and helping people build the habit of sitting down together and talking to one another – Part of the work is communicating content to community members and hearing their views. Another large part of setting up a management system in communities, is to facilitate communication between different stakeholders in the community (i.e. within managers, between managers and standing committee etc.) This type of communication in itself is a habit that needs to be taught and takes time to form.
Since urban communities are comprised of many different groups, conflicts will likely arise:Even if your team is only responsible for looking after the community toilet work, be prepared that these background conflicts will enter into your sphere of work.
Learnings from community engagement in Project Sammaan