Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, User, WFinch
I’m sure most of us heard this question (Are you listening?) from our parents at some point while growing up. Let’s not get into details here, but overall why were they asking, although I’m not a parent myself (yet) I think it is obvious they were expecting a sign indicating that we got the point, that in the future we will take into account their views on the matter. I’m sure we all saw their proud faces once they realized we DID listen, we put their advice into action. It is funny how things like this can be scaled up into our work environment, and on this case I particularly refer to community involvement during the early design stages of a project, during the execution, and feedback from these consultations.
During the preparation of the Water Supply and Sanitation Infrastructure Improvement Program (GY-L1040) in Guyana, which will tackle pressing issues linked to the poor quality of water supply and sanitation services in Georgetown and other areas along the coast of Guyana, I had the opportunity to participate in several community consultation meetings. We visited all the beneficiary communities to hear them out, tell them about the project, speak about the possible environmental and social issues and other risks related to the project, and let me say it was quite rewarding.
I must be honest, at the beginning I was quite fearful the sessions becoming a forum for endless and bitter complaints about the poor services provided by the utility or even worst, becoming the war field of political views, but it was far from that. Persons were quite excited and happy that the quality of water supply and sanitation was to improve significantly in their communities in the short term, having a major impact in their quality of life. While at some locations the attendance was not impressive, there wasn’t any dull moment, the communities voiced their past experiences and concerns, and believe me they did it loud and clear.
But what caught my attention during all this, and the reason for these lines and my remembrance of my mother saying: “are you listening?” was a person saying: “I think you all call in the community for these meetings just because you have to, but nothing is done after”. After hearing this, everybody jumped to answer this claim, the utility representatives, the consultant, and I felt compelled to reassure her of the inputs being taken into account. We all brought in examples of community concerns raised in other projects and how it was taken into account in the design or implementation of the project.
I’m sure the readers of this blog also have at least one example to relate on this regard. There are many actions implemented as a result of public consultations. For example, during the initial consultation process for one Program, stakeholders raised concerns about their limited involvement in the execution of the projects. Considering this, during the execution of the program monthly meetings were organized to provide a forum for stakeholders’ involvement throughout the execution of the project! These meetings continue to be held, and stakeholders have expressed their satisfaction!
As we continue to work to include more voices in our projects, let us share our experiences. We do listen!
This post was originally published by Volvamos a la fuente.