Thursday, March 27, 2008

Communicating with the Community

Dear Colleagues

Community Centric Sustainable Development (CCSD) is easier said than done ... and having real communication capability is one of the key elements needed to make CCSD successful.

Good communication requires trust ... and trust must be earned. Building trust takes time.

Outsiders need to listen more than they talk ... and they need to learn from listening.

And learning should get reflected in how outsiders become engaged with community programs.

For its part, a community needs to communicate in an honest manner. Nothing is going to be gained from telling outsiders what they want to hear, when this does not reflect reality. It may be a polite and nice thing to do ... but it confuses and will usually get the wrong result.

Many thematic initiatives of the international relief and development community reflect priorities defined in Washington, London, Paris and the other bases for bilateral and multilateral organizations. These priorities may or may not be congruent with the priorities of any particular community ... and the results will never be optimized in these circumstances.

Communication can be enhanced when there is a way for important data to be put "on the record" and the progress tracked using these data. A community centric system of social benefit accountancy can provide this framework, and its use can provide valuable feedback to donors so that they see how appropriate assistance generates substantial social value ... while inappropriate assistance is merely a value destruction exercise.

It should also be observed that easy communications are not always the best communications ... it takes time and it takes experience to be able to find all the people who should be involved with communication. In some cases the community may be very open ... in other places communication is much more quiet and more private.

But communication is critical.


Peter Burgess

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