March 5, 2012 by David Aday
We are greeted warmly—always and sincerely. This year, the people of Chaguite seem a little less surpised that we have, in fact, returned. It is gratifying to find our friends expressing and reflecting ideas of partnership more than appreciation. There certainly is nothing wrong with being appreciated—but to be trusted as a partner, to be invited into frank and open discussions about needs, hopes, and possibilities: this is the heart of our efforts. Alex Ferraro (’12; 3rd year with the project; 4th trip to Cuje) is a keen and sensitive observer, and she noticed the difference. Others of us sense something similar. At an arranged meeting with local community leaders (“CPCs”), we hear residents tell us that they value the fact that we are working WITH them; that we want to help implement projects that reflect their knowledge, their local wisdom. They are not parroting our model; they are describing the experiences they’ve had with us—and with others. We talk about a small cistern that the mayor’s office has installed at the schools throughout Totagalpa—and at the school in Chaguite. People came; they installed gutters; put in a pipe to direct the flow of rainwater into the cistern. There is no pipe leading from the cistern (promised in November), and there is no way to extract the water. The cistern is too small to use for a hoped-for garden project. No one consulted with community members. They appreciate this effort. They are want to partner with us.
March 5, 2012 by David Aday
3/1/12. 6:00 a.m. Next stop, Miami; then to Managua; then to Ocotal (ETA 7pm). The MANOS advance team will travel the last leg via the Pan American Highway, hoping to stop off in Paraiso, just north of Estelli, for dinner before settling into Ocotal in preparation for the team’s arrival on Saturday. No team has been better prepared or better organized. The 5-year plan is written and vetted, team members understand and embrace the concept of partnership, and everything is in order. I am blown away by the initiative and self-reliance of this team. They have their s*** (stuff) together. The newest team members are represented on the A team by Kristin Giordono. She and the other “newbies” are tuned in, ready to follow, prepared to step up and to step in. I expect great things for this week.
January 11, 2012 by David Aday
We returned from our seventh annual project week in the Dominican Republic on Saturday, January 7th, 2012. We had met our quota of hugs on Friday night; we had expressed appreciation to the cadre of fellow travelers and professionals. We looked at one another with comfortable and knowing smiles. What needed saying could wait. We lived it; talking about it would be nice but not entirely necessary. But I can never leave well enough alone.
First, to the entire SOMOS team: No team before you has been better prepared, has come to the week’s work as grounded, has worked as hard to understand what we know and what we don’t know in order to advance an agreed-upon model and method. For the first time, we were able to converse fluently in the language of the approach, and that allowed efficiency and coherence across a dizzying variety of events, questions, concerns, and issues.
We lived the mission.
I recall with mixed emotions a moment several years ago when issues arose during our time in the Dominican Republic and were met with confusion and uncertainty. Experienced members of the team sought to move towards resolution by referring to the project’s “model.” Newer – and some more critically thoughtful – team members were uncertain what constituted the model and how that provided any basis for resolution. We have come a long way from there.
Taylor Hurst and Kevin Salinas served us well as co-leaders, allowing space and offering encouragement for others to step up to organize, manage, and lead diverse and complicated pieces of our collective efforts. Among those who stepped forward from early in the semester are Joanna Weeks and Lindsay Schleifer. Alternately encouraging, chiding, insisting, and leading by example, Jo and Lindsay championed the motto: Get it done. They were – and are – brilliant.
Amalhyn Shek, quiet, dedicated, wise; she understands the approach in her bones. With no notice whatever, she can and does step into any situation to provide insight and guidance. She grounds us all, not succumbing to momentary flights of self-congratulation or giving in to the frequent frustrations or discouragement.
Rebecca Silverstein is our fountain of energy, determination, joy—and new ideas. She persisted in her pursuit of Engineers Without Borders with little or no encouragement from me. I thought it was premature. I worried that we would find ourselves doing the bidding of that NGO rather than engaging the community in bottom up efforts to understand the problem and to find viable solutions. Her precociousness and persistence made possible discussions with the community and others about short, intermediate, and longer-term strategies that were convincing if not compelling.
Jeff Rhodes and Kaveh Sadeghian shared an adventure that I would wish for each of you. It was an adventure of discovery that was more routinely a part of our experiences in the early years of the project—venturing into unknown areas to meet and learn directly from residents who showed and told us things that we did not know, had not heard previously. They saw back reaches of the river and cañada that we had not seen before—or had not seen for some time. They saw the country home of the Dominican Republic’s president’s wife. They met people whose family have owned property in the community for 200 years and who may be willing to allow the community to use the property for a center. And they learned basics of GIS mapping from my able and experienced colleague, Carrie Dolan.
Carrie, MPH and experienced international development professional, added measurably (pun intended) to our efforts and prospects in data collection. She will play a crucial role in helping us to transform conceptual visions into operational and empirically defined outcomes. If she wasn’t before, I think she’s hooked, and I appreciate more than I can say the opportunities that she brings to the future of the project.
Kaveh took on a role that is not typical for one so accomplished in leadership. He spent less time on this trip articulating a vision for the future, helping to shape policy and practice—and more time collecting and counting money. He stepped in where the project had an acute need: collecting money from 23 people to pay daily for bus transportation to and from the community and for groceries used by women at the school to prepare our lunches. It is a thankless and nettlesome task, and he did it with efficiency, effectiveness—and grace. It is a tribute to his dedication—to the project and to leadership.
Jeff and August Anderson proved to be exceptional additions to our base of language skills. I heard rave reviews from medical providers about both—their fluency and their graciousness in working as translators both in and beyond the clinic. Both share another quality that has enormous value for the project: incisiveness. Each demonstrated the ability to understand quickly and precisely complicated matters, and to work from that perceptiveness towards solutions that both resolved problems and advanced core pieces of our model and method.
Mel Alim, alternately serious, methodical, and whimsical, is a steady source of energy and compassion—ready always to laugh at herself and remind us all not to take ourselves too seriously. She is learning the hard and abstract concepts and methods of organizing, becoming a trained observer of process. She will make very significant contributions to our implementation efforts in the coming months and years.
Melanie Rogers was ready at a moment’s notice to contribute language skills and thoughtful questions about what we’re doing and why. Whenever I looked, Melanie was busy: engaged completely in whatever work needed to be done and, always, looking out for the needs of others.
We missed Galley Saleh and Bruce Pfirrmann. We thought about them and know that they were cheering us on. We will torture them endlessly with the stories that need to be told, assuring them and ourselves that we never really were apart and that our work together goes on, not missing a single beat.
Thank you all.
January 11, 2012 by David Aday
With apologies to my SOMOS and DASV colleagues, I begin this post with an excerpt from a letter I wrote to the team when we returned. There is a theme that I want to elaborate, and I hope to deliver on a promise to recognize the exceptional work done by SOMOS team members.
We struggled this year again, and we will struggle for years into the future with enacting partnership. What must we expect of ourselves? What can/must we expect from our partners? At a critical moment of confusion, there were suggestions that we should, automatically, defer—because we are “outsiders.” I beg to differ. We are partners. I’ve said before that we will never have an “insider’s” understanding of the lived experiences and culture of the community and its residents. But that’s not the goal; the goal is to understand as fully and empirically as we can what we need to know to be effective partners. Should we act on the suggestion of some in the community that a “wrap up” meeting is important at the end of the week? Or, should we defer to those who worry that they have no resources, that we have the resources and therefore we should get on with helping? Recognizing the difficulties and the inconveniences, we asked the community to come together for one hour on a holiday that was filled with other obligations. Seems like a small enough matter, but it was a noticeable step forward. We will struggle with decisions like these for years to come, in part from our good intentions to help and to respect. We must be careful not to allow our good intentions to overwhelm our guiding principles, in this case that partnership means commitment and effort on both sides.
Do not confuse this point of view with “tough love.” There is nothing accusatory about the idea of partnership. And this is not the usual notion of exchange: “I’ll do this if you’ll do that.” In some ways it is even simpler: “I can do this only if you will do that.” We worry continuously about “top down” strategies, about imposing our solutions on their problems—and it is right to do that. Those concerns sometimes can be paralyzing—not least because they mobilize dichotomies, almost always, false dichotomies. They reflect imagined objectivities that simplify and reduce—and distort.
In the usual objectivist way of understanding, there is no community mandate, no one most important problem, no singular preferred strategy. Rather, there are shared and shifting understandings about concerns and solutions. There are moments when there is sufficient presence among residents that the community appears to speak with some singular voice. Don’t be deceived: the singularity can be disaggregated by any number of variable forces. And, this is crucial: Recognize that our work has helped to shape that moment. When we speak of “community building,” we do so in part because our efforts to understand also shape what constitutes community and what constitutes understanding.
Does this belie the confidence we’ve put in community-building, in community-capacity, in community-based, participatory development? Not at all. No one said that this would be easy or that we would find and deploy the silver bullet. It is rather to caution against reductionist understandings and simplistic solutions. Partnering means sharing some vision of problems, goals, objectives, and strategies. We are engaged less in discovery than in construction. We ask questions, systematically, thoughtfully, and repeatedly, because we want answers to shape our understandings. In the process, our questions shape shared understandings among those who answer. It is the first step in partnership.
And so to the kudos: . . . . . next blog post!
January 11, 2012 by David Aday
Señor Wallace asks us to meet him at the school (where we hold the clinic) at 8:00 a.m. so that we can travel to the government office. He asks us to prepare a report of our work over the past seven years so that we can make clear to the officials that we are committed to improving health in Paraiso; that we are serious about long-term and sustainable change. (These are my words, not his. He says more simply: Write about the work you’ve done here so the officials will know.) It’s a short turnaround: pull together a summary of seven years of work with limited access to internet (and, thus, to files and data) and no immediate access to a printer. We believe that this could be a watershed moment and dive in willingly.
By Wednesday night at 10:00, we have a printed report, complete with data on the cañada, a Google Earth map with marked coordinates showing data points, and a concise summary of our project goals and strategies. We are eager to meet with government representatives even though we have seen before the limited impact that such meetings can have. Three years ago, a small contingent of SOMOS representatives accompanied Señor Wallace to the Mayor’s Office to express our concern about a bridge crossing the cañada. A resident of Paraiso had fallen when the bridge collapsed, and he was hurt seriously. We hoped to reinforce Señor Wallace’s plea for government repair. The meeting included high drama as the mayor insisted with various department heads that the repairs be made immediately. Months passed without result.
We are uncertain of our destination or our mode of transportation. We are told simply to be ready to travel from the school at 8:00 a.m. Concerned that we might not arrive by 8:00 a.m. (our bus transport is not entirely predictable), we called Wallace to get more details. He tells us that it will be fine; we should come to the school as soon as possible. We arrived at 8:30 to find Señor Pinto waiting. At 9:30 we call Wallace to check on details; there is no answer. At 10:30, we agree with Señor Pinto that we should walk from the school to the nearest bus stop and take a public bus from there to the meeting. We have walked perhaps a block when Pinto receives a call from Wallace: He will be there soon. He has arranged a police pickup truck to transport us. The truck arrived at 11:15; it’s a double cab with two officers occupying the front seats and enough room for three small people in the back seat. There are six of us representing SOMOS, Señors Pinto and Wallace, and a representative from a nearby junta who has come to express her support of our efforts. Señor Pinto, four students, our embedded photo journalist, and I climb into the pickup bed for a rough and sometimes unnerving ride to uptown Santo Domingo. There are curious looks from those we pass, seeming sometimes to say “Why are all those gringos going to jail?”
We had imagined that we were going to the Mayor’s office or to some executive branch related to that office. We were wrong. We arrive at about noon and unfold ourselves from the pickup bed in front of the Instituto Nacional De Recursos Hidráulicos—roughly, the national water resources institute. We didn’t have an appointment, but we wished to see the director. It was clear from the outset that Señor Pinto has been here before. It also was clear that we were not going to meet with the director. There were exchanges between the front door receptionist and Señor Wallace; armed security officers stood close and attentively by. We were asked to move back, ideally outside, while discussions continued. A friendly middle-aged man appeared and took charge of the discussions—and ultimately led us outside to talk on the walkway. There were ambiguous references to his office – “too small to accommodate such a large group” – and we found ourselves gathered in a circle some 20 yards from the entrance to the building.
The man is an engineer, perhaps a project director for the Institute, and he knows already what we want. He is polite, somewhat solicitous, but no, we cannot simply get equipment to dredge—even if Pinto knows how to use the equipment and has dredged before. Señor Julio understands the problems and concerns, but the equipment is in “the exterior” working on other projects. He will arrange for an Institute engineer to come to the community next week. If this engineer agrees that dredging would provide a reasonable short-term solution, the community will be able to use the equipment when it returns from the exterior. Clearly, Señor Pinto is not satisfied and we try to community off-stage with him to see if there are other efforts to make. I ask Kevin to say to the Señor Julio that we have been working in the community for seven years and that our clinical efforts will not succeed if people continue to become infected by the flood waters. We deliver our written report with some attempted ceremony, and Julio regards it briefly (earnestly?) for a short time.
It appears that we’ve had our audience, taken our shot, whatever its value may be—but Kevin discerns that Pinto is not quite done. Through a quick and hushed conversation among SOMOS team members, we decide to explore another effort to see the director before we leave. Kevin asks Pinto if we should return to the office to ask again to see the director. Señor Wallace, seasoned veteran of Dominican politics, thinks better of it and, in short order, becomes insistent that we’ve done what can be done. He says that he believes that Julio will send the engineer; with somewhat less enthusiasm, Pinto agrees.
Again, stay tuned.
January 11, 2012 by David Aday
In a post dated July 29, 2008, I posed that question after reading about a non-profit organization that was reportedly bringing electrical power and other basic necessities to communities in Africa. I wondered out loud whether all of the effort to research, build partnerships, and develop collaborative community efforts is necessary for successful social change. The news article seemed to suggest that an alternative approach works just fine: figure out what you think is the problem; get a couple hundred thousand dollars; and get on about remaking a part of the world.
More than three years later, I remain as unconvinced by the alternative as I was when I wrote the blog post. We have yet to implement a project that provides clean or cleaner drinking water or one that improves nutrition, or any effort to reduce the impacts of flooding of toxic water. Just last week, and after some very anxious and somewhat contentious moments, we arrived at agreements that may provide some temporary relief from flooding in one small community in the Dominican Republic. It will be some time yet before that strategy (making available a row boat to allow safe passage across a road during seasonal floods) is fully in place—and some time longer before we are able to evaluate its effectiveness and its effects on local social structure and culture. We know these things:
- it reflects both careful assessment of alternative strategies and local wisdom
- it relies on and helps to build the community’s capabilities for working together
- it fosters infrastructure that will be foundational for subsequent efforts
- it is part of a larger, integrated, and more holistic effort to solve flooding and other problems that undermine health in the community
Redux answer: Yes.
January 11, 2012 by David Aday
January 3, 2012. We are visited by a delegation from the Santo Domingo Norte’s Mayor’s Office. The medical doctor who directs “community outreach medical services” for the local government has come with photographers to document and herald the work of our clinic. She has brought along a municipal flag and asks that we all gather for pictures, with the promise that our work will be reported in local news stories. We are ambivalent, wishing for support from the local government in some more pragmatic form: help with transportation; collaboration in the form of access to immunization services; discussions of access for local residents to government clinics that might help us to provide more continuity of care. One of our docs is a Dominican-American and she is less generous in her assessment. It’s an election year, she notes—and how dare they?
Our old friend Señor Wallace is along, as always looking for ways to promote positive change. He serves as president of the presidents of approximately 1,000 junta de vecinos (neighborhood associations) in Santo Domingo Norte. He gets a small salary from the Mayor’s Office, and he works hard to represent the efforts of local juntas. He attended our first “block” meeting and has seen the outline of our five-year plan for Esfuerzo. He tells us that he will bring an engineer in the afternoon to discuss the cañada and what can be done to alleviate flooding. He is eager to promote the ideas we have for dredging and for longer-term solutions.
Señor Wallace and the engineer arrive in the mid-afternoon, along with an old friend whom we have not seen for several years. The friend is “Pinto,” an engineer himself who lived formerly in Esfuerzo and who, at one time, served as secretary-treasurer of the junta. That junta was unseated somewhat unceremoniously several years ago amid rumors of financial malfeasance. We learned about the incident as it was happening and played a small part in trying to help manage the transition to a new junta. Still, those of us who were involved at the time were uncertain of the allegations and remained strongly and positively impressed by Señor Pinto’s commitment to the community and its improvement.
Señor Pinto is convinced that the immediate solution to the problem of flooding is dredging. The other engineer, from a local government office, is less certain but acknowledges that dredging could be a temporary (four-to-six year) fix. He is enthusiastic about our plan to support temporary solutions while we help to advance longer term strategies, perhaps involving Engineers Without Borders or other non-government organizations. Señor Pinto wants access to government equipment that he could operate to do the dredging. He has news articles that provide evidence that the government has the necessary equipment, and he has copies of correspondence in which he has formally requested access to the equipment. He wants us to accompany him and Señor Wallace to the appropriate national government office to demand access, and we agree. We are to meet at eight o’clock in the morning to travel to the office in uptown Santo Domingo.
January 11, 2012 by David Aday
January 2, 2012. It takes some time to set up the clinic, arrange the tables and meds in the pharmacy, and get ready for our first clinic session. With Dr. Mark Ryan and a team of pharmacy professionals leading the effort, we are ready to see our first patients by a little after 9 am.
The field research team heads for Esfuerzo, proceeding house-to-house to extend invitations and deliver summaries of the project proposals. By 12:30, I’m anticipating the trudge back up the hill to the school—and I’ve accepted that this will be the first of two trips today. As always, the cooking is done by local residents at the school. We provide money to buy the groceries; they shop and cook. And, as predictably, the food is tasty: rice and beans, chicken, plantains. At 2:30 we are getting anxious about finishing lunch and getting back to Esfuerzo in time for the scheduled 3:30 meeting. We know better, of course, but our time orientation is powerful.
We are at the meeting site, a flat spot in the middle of a road by 3pm. We move through the area “reminding” people of the meeting time and encouraging them to come out. They assure us that they are coming. It is a classic “Catch 22.” In the Dominican Republic village of Esfuerzo, as is true in so many places around the world, “Nobody comes until everybody is there.” Residents don’t like to come to meetings until others have arrived because they know that “others” usually don’t arrive on time. Our challenge is to get some to come out so that others will follow. We make another pass or two through the area and then go to the local colmado (small local store) to borrow plastic chairs. We hope that setting up chairs will signal that the meeting is going to start. By 4pm, a few people have arrived; we offer small plastic cups with soda, and we begin the meeting around 4:15—not bad for a 3:30 schedule.
Led by Kevin Salinas, Taylor Hurst, and Joanna Weeks, residents and SOMOS team members reviewed project ideas to alleviate problems of flooding, contaminated water, and trash. (We even have a flip chart, though the telescoping easel will prove to be as disappointing as it is low-tech.) There were moments when the discussions were intense and animated—especially when residents expressed frustration with the inaction of the junta de vecino. There was widely shared and intense agreement that flooding from the cañada is the most urgent problem; that the community should form a commission (“committee”) to organize efforts to get the government to fix the problem. There is enthusiasm for the idea of a “community shelter,” a structure where household goods could be stored, community events could be held, and the roof could be used for rain water catchment.
January 11, 2012 by David Aday
December 31, 2011. Standing no more than a mile from the first hospital in the new world and “America’s first cathedral” (at least as seen from the historical perspective of Europeans and their descendants), and looking across the river to the reputed site of the Cristobal Colon’s remains, a small group of SOMOS and DASV travelers welcomed the new year: a very small bottle of Dominican rum; Coca Cola made with sugar cane, 180-degree view of fireworks. It’s a balmy 76 degrees and we’ve completed the counting and sorting of medications for the week’s medical clinic. SOMOS students have headed for the waterfront and a New Year’s celebration with a little more spark. Dominican families, international travelers, and street beggars of every description fill the plaza with lights, flashes, sparklers, music, laughter, joy—and need. Santo Domingo is a noisy culture: joyous, boisterous, and musical; the night is exemplary. Musical and vocal streams are punctuated with car alarms, barking dogs, the exhaust noise of passing motorcycles.
January 1, 2012. We visited the community today to introduce new team members, including our four newest SOMOSeros. We greeted old friends in Esfuerzo and began making arrangements for the first of a series of planned “block” meetings. We connected with representatives of the first “block” to discuss the schedule, and then move back and forth through the community to “construct” meeting times with all of the block groups. It’s a process of discovery and promotion. People are responsive to our invitations—perhaps they are even a little enthusiastic. Our experiences tell us that we nonetheless will need to invite, encourage – perhaps wheedle a bit – to get people to the meeting. There are good reasons: to date, we have been in their homes many times, asking questions, expressing our concerns and goals—but, to date, our community-based efforts have been focused on learning rather than doing. We are determined to know before we do, and it would be surprising if residents are not becoming frustrated. From their point of view, it must seem that we’ve asked the same or similar questions many times over. For us, the questions and answers have been refined over time, and we are approaching nuanced understanding that appreciates the complexities of the community and the lived experiences of residents.
The sun is searing, the trade winds provide at least periodic relief, and the smiling and welcoming faces urge us forward in our efforts.
December 29, 2011 by David Aday
For six years now, we have traveled to Paraiso, Dominican Republic to host a week-long medical clinic, to conduct community field research, and to build partnerships for improving health and health care. Each year, we have traveled with an assortment of medical professionals who have been led from the beginning by Dr. Mark Ryan (’96). And, each year we have conducted basic ethnographic studies to identify and describe the community and to mark its social, cultural, and geographic boundaries. Over that period, we have collected data to describe water contamination and water flow within a flood control canal (cañada). We have described patterns of food consumption, sources of income, household composition, and access to electrical power and plumbing facilities.
We have come to understand that Paraiso is not a single community but rather a place name that encompasses distinct barrios, and that fact is crucially important for our work. We have conducted house-to-house interviews during the winter project trips and during the summers when funded undergraduate researchers returned for more intensive and extensive field studies. We have examined patterns of local leadership and interpersonal relationships using social network analysis (SNA).
For now, our community efforts focus on only one of the several barrios. Our community partnership strategy requires the capacity for collective action, and it is likely that effective collective action begins most easily with some shared sense of locality. It was a difficult decision: which barrio, and how to explain to the remaining barrios that we would be spending a disproportionate time in only one? In truth, we agonized over the decision – and finally chose Esfuerzo. Cut off from the rest of Paraiso by a flood plain and a bridge that crosses the cañada, Esfuerzo is the most recently “settled” of the sub-communities. (The land, in fact, is regarded as uninhabitable by the Dominican government. Most of those who live there technically are “squatting.”) Those who live in this community are regarded by some in other barrios as outsiders, not really part of Paraiso.
Our medical clinic continues to operate within an elementary school in Altos (one of the barrios that comprise Paraiso), and now there are two sessions each year. Through an agreement with H.O.M.B.R.E, a medical outreach project at VCU School of Medicine, Dr. Mark brings medical students to the community each summer to operate a clinic for two weeks. Our winter trip, which commences on December 31st, will include an unusually impressive entourage. In addition to the undergraduate students (and me) who comprise the SOMOS team, the following medical professionals and contributors include:
- Alix Pandolfino, PharmD
- Elisa Silverstein, M.D. (Rebecca Silverstein’s mother; Rebecca is a second year SOMOS student)
- Kristen Agura, Physician’s Assistant
- Matt Harrington, M.D., one of the founders of what we now call SOMOS
- Tamarah Rodriguez, M.D., born and educated in the Dominican Republic and soon to have yet another professional degree – from William and Mary
- Jim Donecker, 4th year medical student and former co-leader of SOMOS
- Treván Rankin, 4th year medical student
- Danielle Navalta, pharmacy student
- Nellie Jafari, pharmacy student
- Palak Patel, pharmacy student
- Bethany Morehouse, 4th year medical student
- Carrie Dolan , MPH., W&M professional faculty
- Jess Lucia, W&M alum and photo journalist
- Mark Ryan, M.D., Medical Director and co-founder of what now is called SOMOS
- David Aday, Ph.D., Academic Director, SOMOS
The SOMOS crew includes students with extensive experience, including Kevin Salinas, co-leader, summer researcher, and 4th year returning student; Joanna Weeks, who began her SOMOS experience even before graduating from high school, joining brother John for summer research experience and returning last summer for two months of summer research; and Amalhyn Shek, who is returning and has summer research experience. Other experienced SOMOS students include Taylor Hurst (co-leader), Rebecca Silverstein, Lindsay Schleifer, and Kaveh Sardeghian. Our newest members are August Anderson, Jeff Rhode, Mel Alim, and Melanie Rogers.
And here is the step forward: We bring with us a carefully developed draft for a five-year plan, focused on the health care priorities identified in house-to-house interviews, two community meetings, and a series of “block group” meetings. We have proposals for short-term projects that will bring some relief from problems of contaminated water, flooding, and hazardous waste and trash burning. And, we have some longer-term proposals that are grander in scale but promise more potent results. There are many variables to consider as we move forward, but none is as important as our effort to ensure with each step that community residents are engaged; that we are moving with them in directions that they have chosen; and that they share with us the responsibility for every aspect of this collective effort.
We have worked carefully and thoughtfully to come to this moment. We will need to employ everything that we’ve learned about community, organization, and participatory development to enact strategies that authentically invite participation, methods that genuinely are inclusive rather than exclusive, and a vision of the power of diversity for meeting basic human needs.