Community

UNDERSTANDING THE COMMUNITY

We have already defined what a community is (see Chapter 1). We can understand the power dynamics inside the community through regular communication with people from the community. In Afghanistan, powerful people tend to be religious leaders, former armed commanders and social managers like the malik or wakel guzar. Those who have ties with illicit networks, government officials and foreigners are also usually considered powerful members in their communities. Being rich and being able to use the human resources present in a community is a good indicator of power. Powerful and influential members of the community are usually very easy to identify. CBM focal points, who work in their own districts, can easily identify the local powerbrokers.

HOW TO DEAL WITH ELITES? CBM prefers to keep the most powerful members of the community (like commanders) out of CBM. It is however advisable to avoid any unnecessary conflict with them since they can be helpful, especially in cases where there are problems with the implementer.

Having the right skills is paramount for dealing with local elites; you should present yourself as a religious person (in Afghanistan) who is trustworthy and has knowledge and understanding of the community. Having excellent communication skills is also essential. Your connection and influence on the government should also be explicit. When considering a new community to approach, an introduction from a friend working in the government can be very helpful. Treat all the members of the community equally, favoring only some members can arise suspicion and misunderstanding from other members. Also a clear strategy for dealing with elites should be possibly defined and put into practice.

HOW TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE COMMUNITY IS MORE OPEN FOR WOMEN AND YOUTH? First you should ask what do they think about active women and youth as local monitors. The importance of having women and youth in CBM was explained in Chapter 3 (See Case Studies on Elite Capture & Gender). And it should be very well argued with stories from history or the Holy Quran. It should also be clear from the outset that the program would not disrespect women and youth. It also depends who you approach for recruiting local monitors: approaching a female shura or a youth organization can ensure more support of women and youth.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BUILD A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH THE COMMUNITY? It really depends on who is approaching the community and on her/his age, social position, on explanations provided and many other factors. If it is the right person, one meeting can be enough. It also depends on the village: whether it is located close to the city or in a remote area, whether it is under Taliban influence, etc.

HOW TO GAIN LEGITIMACY? You should be a Muslim, respected, it should be clear that you will not harass women, be clear and transparent about your objectives, committed to the cause and always act responsibly.

Local Monitors Meeting, Khulm, Balkh March 15 2012 | Photo by Huma Gupta

Local Monitors Meeting, Khulm, Balkh
March 15 2012 | Photo by Huma Gupta

GAINING ACCESS

Certain people and institutions can facilitate your access to the community. These are influential men in the provincial council, religious leaders, local teachers, ex-armed people that are not currently in power, traders, those that are used to urban culture, and those who are civic-minded and active in their communities. However, there are also people who can obstruct access to the community like corrupt officials, corrupt influential men, religious leaders with extremist tendencies or armed groups. Also security can hamper your efforts in gaining access to the community where both you and those who you are trying to reach can be put at risk.

CONTACTING ELITES & LEADERS

There are no real barriers for getting in touch with local elites as long as you have a clear agenda and issues to discuss. However, you should never ONLY contact elites, since they can use information you give them and look for ways to benefit from this knowledge. IDENTIFYING CORRUPT COMMUNITY MEMBERS: Corrupt people inside the community can also be easily identified through regular communication and meetings with the community. When you mobilize the community, the community may complain and mention corrupt community members. Moreover, the focal point and engineer’s visits to the sites will lead to their identification. Sometimes, the construction company will point to the corrupt members of the community.
2-Elite-Capture
AVOIDING ELITE CAPTURE

There are many benefits to working with elites. They can quickly mobilize the community in order to facilitate monitoring. They can spread the message about the program among people.They know the community and its actors well. Local elites also understand the local situation, barriers, gaps and problems present in the community. Sometimes if you are accepted and supported by the elites, the whole community will automatically treat you in the same manner. In general, involving the elite can lead to a more efficient program where resources can be spent more efficiently. However, there are also negative aspects in working with elites (See Chapter 3 case study on Elite Capture).

The power of corrupt local elites can be limited with the support of the community, since a united community can gain in power that individuals lack. Sometimes corrupt people can change their behavior if somebody shows them new directions and provides them some examples of good practices. Sometimes they can be also exposed to the governor, community and media. However, the risks and dangers involved in exposing corrupt members should be carefully considered before taking any action.

Elites can also represent entry points for women and youth mobilization. You should explain the importance and role of women in society to elites, that they are also citizens who should participate in the improvement of their society. However, male elites can be avoided by approaching the female elite. Youth should be presented as the future of Afghanistan, the valuable experience they may gain and demonstrate, especially to elders, that they are useful and productive members in their societies. However, not only specific members should be empowered but the whole community. You should raise awareness about community rights and responsibilities and raise awareness about corruption and its negative consequences and encourage them to fight against corruption. Therefore it is essential to not limit the communication to Community Development Council (CDC) shuras and keep regular meetings to inform the communities.

ORGANIZING A COMMUNITY MEETING

Example of a Community Meeting in a Mosque, Balkh 2011 | Photo Courtesy of Jamil Alipoor

Example of a Community Meeting in a Mosque, Balkh
2011 | Photo Courtesy of Jamil Alipoor

OBJECTIVES OF COMMUNITY MEETING
The objective of holding a community meeting is to 1) raise awareness about community-based monitoring of infrastructure projects, 2) present Integrity Watch’s Community Based Monitoring (CBM) program and 3) stir interest among community to volunteer as local monitors. Also explain that the meeting will be photographed and maybe filmed for documentation purposes.

LOCATION OF MEETING
The location of the meeting is critical. This is because shura meetings are often held in Mosques. Women however, may or may not have access to mosque meeting rooms and thus, the selection of the space can limit community involvement. Other more accessible and inclusive locations to consider are the CDC shura meeting room, government offices, a schoolroom, or the Head of Shura’s office.

WHO SHOULD CONDUCT THE MEETING?
The Program Officer in charge of the province should conduct the meeting. However, if the PO cannot be there due to special circumstances (e.g. illness, travel), then the Focal Point, Quality Control Engineer (QCE) or any other Integrity Watch employee can conduct this meeting.

WHAT TO BRING TO THE MEETING?
40-50 Community Based Monitoring BROCHURES.

Step 4 in CBM Process: Community Meeting

Step 4 in CBM Process: Community Meeting

SAMPLE MEETING AGENDA
1 – INTRODUCE INTEGRITY WATCH & TAKE QUESTIONS [10-15 minutes]. Answer all the questions from the community. It is important to answer all questions accurately and to the community’s satisfaction in order to build trust. Often people do not trust NGOs, so building trust is very important for the success of the CBM project.

2 – DISCUSS CORRUPTION ISSUES AND FIGHTING CORRUPTION. Emphasize how fighting corruption is a very important task for every community and citizen. Talk about the principles of transparency, the common good and integrity in Islam. Discuss how it is the duty of all citizens to oversee projects built for a community or in the public interest.

3 – INTRODUCE THE CBM PROGRAM. Explain how monitoring can help improve the quality of these projects. Explain monitoring successes and challenges. Give examples of other projects being monitored in the province. Take Questions.

4 – EXPLAIN THE RIGHT TO MONITOR. Explain the legal basis for the right to monitor for every Afghan citizen. Pass out brochures on the Right to Monitor and other human rights, based on the Afghan constitution and international conventions. Emphasize the moral duty to exercise the right to monitor.

5 – COMMUNITY INTEREST IN MONITORING. Ask people whether they think monitoring will be useful for them. If they agree and are interested in the CBM program, proceed.

6 – PROJECT SELECTION. Present the list of ongoing projects in their community. Discuss the viable project options (e.g. more than $30,000, either building/WatSan/irrigation/transport. non-CDC project). In some rural communities, there tends to be only one viable project, or at most, 2 or 3 viable projects. In this case, ask the community which project is the most important for them. Then, they should formally choose which one they want to monitor. Once the project is approved and selected by the community, there should be a formal written acknowledgment and commitment saying that the community supports the monitoring process. The letter should be signed or fingerprinted by all participants.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs) DURING MEETING

We don’t have power, how can we fight corruption?

Possible Answer: “Every Afghan citizen has power and legal rights based on the Afghan constitution and laws, but we need to use them. It is every citizen’s responsibility to fight corruption and it is possible.” Share success stories from CBM.

Afghanistan is a corrupt state and it is impossible to fight the corruption here, how can CBM change that?

Possible Answer: “It is only possible to fight corruption if we watch corrupt people and don’t give them the opportunity to cheat us. CBM will allow us to watch the implementers, to make sure they implement the project correctly, according to the work plan and technical specifications.”

Do you pay money?

Possible Answer: “No, we only pay for transportation expenses and phone credit cards. This is social work; it is work for the country to stop corruption. We ask you to volunteer your time because we want to work with committed individuals who are monitoring because they are concerned about the quality of the projects that will benefit their community. The payment is the pride you will earn in improving a project that might have failed without your intervention.”

EXPLAIN CBM IN AN EASY WAY

We redesigned our brochure to be more accessible to community members.

LOCAL MONITOR ELECTION PROCESS

Step 5 in CBM Process: Local Monitor Election

Step 5 in CBM Process: Local Monitor Election

EXPLAIN THE ROLE OF MONITORS & CRITERIA FOR BECOMING A LOCAL MONITOR.

1 – PASS OUT BROCHURES ABOUT LOCAL MONITOR’S ROLE AND CRITERIA
Make sure that you explain that the local monitors are key to the success of the monitoring. If the person they chose does not really fit these criteria, then it is likely that the community won’t fully benefit from the CBM program (See Chapter 2 for criteria of Local Monitors).

2 – THE LOCAL MONITORS’ NOMINATION SHOULD BE CONDUCTED WITH A LARGE CROWD IN PUBLIC.

3 – SINCE 2 LOCAL MONITORS ARE REQUIRED TO MONITOR EACH PROJECT, ASK THE ATTENDEES IF THEY WANT TO NOMINATE SOMEONE OR IF SOMEONE WANTS TO VOLUNTEER TO BECOME A LOCAL MONITOR.

4 – ENCOURAGE THEM TO NOMINATE FEMALE CANDIDATES, e.g. teachers, a husband-wife couple, older women. you can also ask the women’s shura separately to nominate female local monitors. iwa has a very low rate of female local monitors, and it is our responsibility to increase this number.

3 – ALSO ENCOURAGE THEM TO NOMINATE DIVERSE CANDIDATES, e.g. youth, farmers, journalists, shopkeepers.

4 – IT IS BEST TO FIND CANDIDATES NOT ONLY FROM WITHIN THE MEETING, BUT ALSO AMONG THE COMMUNITY.

5 – EACH MONITOR NOMINATED OR VOLUNTEERING SHOULD EXPLAIN THE REASON WHY THEY WOULD LIKE TO BECOME LOCAL MONITORS AND THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF MONITORING.

6 – GIVE THE COMMUNITY SOME TIME TO COME UP WITH CANDIDATES AND IF NEEDED, COME BACK AFTER A FEW DAYS FOR THE FINAL NOMINATION/ELECTION.

Community Members Discussing and Electing Local Monitors, Balkh 2010 | Photo Courtesy of Ahmadi Mukhtar

Community Members Discussing and Electing Local Monitors, Balkh
2010 | Photo Courtesy of Ahmadi Mukhtar

7 – DURING THE ELECTION, IT IS POSSIBLE FOR THE MEMBERS WHO ARE PRESENT TO RAISE THEIR HAND AND VOTE FOR A LOCAL MONITOR (IF THERE ARE SEVERAL NOMINEES). They could also vote by writing or placing their thumbprint on a piece of paper to select one or two candidates from the available choices.

Thumbprints and Signatures from Community Members  2012 | Photo Courtesy of Jamil Alipoor

Thumbprints and Signatures from Community Members
2012 | Photo Courtesy of Jamil Alipoor

MANAGING COMMUNITY EXPECTATIONS

One of the hardest tasks in conducting community-based mobilization is how to manage the expectations of the community.

If the community’s expectations are TOO LOW, they will not have any faith in the value of the program and maintain a negative or cynical attitude towards your work.

If however, the community’s expectations are TOO HIGH, they may expect the program to radically improve and change their way of life. They will expect each and every project to be improved and may start making additional demands from you about fixing other problems in their district.

In terms of monitoring, we should not promise the community that if problems are found in their project, of it is suspended that we will be able to solve all their problems. The objective of CBM is to solve problems at the local level, between the community and the implementer. If the implementer does not agree, Integrity Watch can present their concerns at the monthly Provincial Monitoring Board (PMB) meeting. But, taking a project to the ministry at the national level is extremely time-consuming, requires a lot of persistence and may still not yield any results. Thus, it is important to let the community know that participating in a CBM program will generally lead to an improvement to the quality of their infrastructure projects, but this is NOT GUARANTEED.

Managing expectations is an art of balancing keeping the community motivated and preventing the community from becoming angry and disillusioned with governmental and civil society actors.

Another challenge is that sometimes community members can ask for assistance in getting funding from donors or the government. Since CBM works with community volunteers, it is advisable NOT TO PROMISE ANY FINANCIAL COMPENSATION, since participating in CBM is not paid-work and should not provide financial benefits to individuals participating. Generally speaking, LESS MONEY means LESS OPPORTUNITIES FOR CORRUPTION.

DEALING WITH CIVIL SOCIETY FATIGUE

Community Members Listen Skeptically about Community Based Monitoring, Jalalabad, Nangerhar April 10 2012 | Photo by Huma Gupta

Community Members Listen Skeptically about Community Based Monitoring, Jalalabad, Nangerhar
April 10 2012 | Photo by Huma Gupta

Countries like Afghanistan, which have seen a rapid influx of aid money, aid workers, new NGOs and civil society organizations, tend to be so overwhelmed with different agendas, new NGO terminology, surveyors and new promises that communities can experience FATIGUE with all civil society work. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that the place where you work may already have seen and perhaps been disappointed by other programs and initiatives. You must try to plan your activities well, be inspiring and counter people’s pessimism.

Plan your community work carefully so that it does not take a lot of people’s time and is engaging for people so that they do not lose interest. An encouraging and supportive environment is essential. Having committed people who believe in the cause and are not only career-oriented is also helpful. Dealing with new people can be also refreshing, and including participatory activies helps keep people interest. Professionalism is also very important. Therefore, gatherings, meetings, and discussions should be held on schedule.

Inspire! You have to be clear about the benefits that monitoring can bring. Tie it to patriotic values: it is your country, it is for your people and you should do something about it. Try to instill ownership: it is your school, bridge, road or dam. Make them think about the actual situation and how it can be different and better in the future: new bridges allowing access to previously inaccessible areas, education for children in schools that will last for decades, access to hospitals, etc. Explain also the benefits that monitoring brings at a personal level in terms of networking, community recognition, new experiences and building up their resume.

How to deal with general pessimism? Speaking up in front of the communities about monitoring and sharing success stories is a good way for preventing phrases such as ‘it’s impossible, they are too powerful’. Every Afghan citizen has power and legal rights based on the Afghan constitution and laws, but she/he needs to use them. It is every citizen’s responsibility to fight corruption and it is possible. People usually think that fighting corruption is impossible and CBM may have little or no effect on it. Try to tell people that they should participate and see if monitoring will benefit their community. If they feel it is not effective, they can always stop participating. THE RESULTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.


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