I must say I appreciated the theme of this week’s readings being on accountability and governance in communication for development – as opposed to the long and sordid history of straight IC4D we studied last week.
I think an overall lesson I take from this area of activity in development is that when the local culture is better understood by the foreign actor – understanding that comes from many years of imbedded living, communicating, learning and action – and the local partners trust the foreigners, those are the circumstances under which effective change on the ground takes place. Most western models have foreign actors in development parachute in to an environment for a few months or a few years, and powerful connections and relationships are lost, or are not made.
I witnessed this in Mauritania. One of the more successful NGOs in Nouakchott had been established in the early 1990’s and of the two full-time managing Americans who worked there, one had been in place for more than 20 years, the other for more than 10. They did regularly have volunteers for less than a year who came in to do various kinds of work, but the deep relationships from the time the leadership had invested built a foundation of trust, respect, and accountability that made their initiatives and programs far more successful. Because they, too, had become very real stakeholders in the community, the community trusted them more.