Back in December 2013 Sarah Parfitt wrote on our blog about a community in Bahir Dar we have been working with since 2010. Their community organisation had prioritised house building – this would provide better accommodation and also the rents would fund future improvements to the lives of the poorest in the community.
We found the funding but then as we were about to commence building hit upon a problem – a small but influential section of the community, active in the community mosque objected, saying the land the community organisation had chosen to build on belonged to the mosque. The mosque committee did not object to the building, the local government were supportive and stated the land did not belong to the mosque.
We could have forced the building through but this would have potentially risked causing a split in the community. We were working with the community to enable them to work closer together not force them further apart! Through discussion with the community leaders we decided to talk with the young people and the local government to find a compromise.
Listening and learning – not a particularly sophisticated strategy but one that requires patience, empathy and a willingness to be creative and flexible. Dialogue can also open up new space and possibilities and the more we talked with the local government the more we found them to be supportive. They have now offered new land adjacent to the community on which to build the houses and also stated they will ask central government for additional funds to build more houses.
The Baring Foundation who were providing the funds to build the houses supported our approach and showed tremendous understanding and patience throughout the process. So, a win-win situation and new trust and respect won with the young people from the mosque. It’s what partnership is all about.