Patience in community development!

Do we really do patience well in the developing world? Eradicating extreme poverty requires resources, institutional change at macro and micro levels and time. This is good thinking! You don’t have to agree with me. I may be right though! Maybe you need to do a little thinking yourself to make sense of today’s gist.

In most developing countries patience really is a virtue and seems to be a fundamental difficulty for professionals working in the help sector who were raised in developed countries.

Development is not like rocket science, where the calculations and the resources amount, effectively, to a rocket launching and later landing. For every solution in the help sector, more issues are usually created. It is our role as social workers to identify and mitigate these issues before they happen, where possible. And the only way to have any sense of these risks is to be patient, to research, to listen.

It seems that many people in the help sector embrace the idea of changing the world or at least a small part of it without recognition of the thousands of years it took most developed communities to reach their current positions. Even when solutions to issues are apparent, such as medication for health problems, learning materials for needy children, food on the tables for the less privileged, keeping the communities clean to avoid harmful diseases and exposing the Nigerian child to such crazy environment ! There is a need to understand that communities may not be ready for this response, we need to move at their pace coupled with the truth that to achieve this we need sacrifice and resources. These issues are compounded by power structures of who will operate projects and how these will impact current hierarchical structures, but that is totally a different gist.

However, we should also acknowledge that we likely will not make a huge impact on poverty, good governance, etc. unless we use shorter time-frames which will achieve meeting the basics needs of our community to focus on the bigger picture decades down the line.

Let’s not forget that many developing communities place community above outputs. We can have all the process Indicators we want and explain to beneficiaries how we will improve their lives, but we have to understand time operates differently depending on the kind of community.

Relationships can be more important in Nigeria communities than material wealth and so time is understood differently. A meeting to secure a hundred thousand naira grant can wait for months while somebody provide a needy neighbour’s child with his or her tuition fee, with a meal or help to look after their neighbour’s baby while they work to provide for their family. That is a present concern and one with clear, tangible ramifications that can help somebody they care about. Perhaps there is a lesson in this for us all!

Urgency is always going to be an issue as NGOs are understaffed, overworked and being pulled in multiple directions by the needs and wants of all the stakeholders ! But the gist here is rather than complaining about how bad a community is, why don’t we find out how we can be a part of building a better community …..


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