Listen, Empower, Transform. Part II: Empower
Updated: Nov 27, 2019
This blog will talk about empowerment and tips for empowering local communities to achieve long-term, sustainable solutions for conservation and community well-being.
Empowerment means giving the individual or community the ability to develop solutions to their own problems by providing access to information and resources. This is hard to do for many organizations because we believe that providing the right solution is a way of showing our worth to the community. However, it is counter to your final goal to implement a solution based on a series of flawed assumptions about the socio-political landscape.
Instead, lean in and listen. Give them the tools and resources they need to succeed and be a mentor and councilor when they need your help. Find a way to stay involved and don't stop yourself from providing input. Just make sure the input is coming from a genuine desire to make their decision-making process better.
So how can you do this and still feel engaged? Here are 3 tips to get you started:
1. Provide information - If you are a conservation organization, chances are you have a ton of information/data that would benefit the community in addressing their challenges. Start with what you know and have community meetings with local champions. Caution! Make sure that the information you are providing is clear and excludes all jargon. Meet community members where they are and find out how they digest complex information. Perhaps you need to take a field trip to different sites and do some good storytelling combined with visual aids.
2. Get out the driver seat - If your goal is truly to empower the community to make the best decisions for people and nature then you can't control the process. For grant purposes you may restrict the timeline, but how they get from point A to point B is up to them. You can be a co-pilot or in the back seat, but you must give decision making power to the community. Help them understand the importance of the decision they are making and that you will be an active partner in their process. If they ask for help, help them! Otherwise, sit back and practice those listening skills we taught you in part 1 of this blog series. We all need more practice listening. :-)
3. Don't take credit - Wouldn't a community member love to read a newspaper article about all the great work an organization is doing and it doesn't mention all the hard work the community did to arrive at the solution? Of course not! Make an effort to highlight the work the community accomplished and don't take their idea as your own. Don't take credit for having "helped" them arrive at the answer. You didn't do it, they did. This is a an opportunity to celebrate and showcase a model for how empowering local communities can achieve unexpected and sustainable results for conservation. Invite a community member to co-present with you on community and conservation solutions. Providing access to these spaces is another great way to empower community members.
Empowerment is an important consideration when Lacy Consulting Services works with our clients. We talk a lot about the timeline of the project and inject opportunities for empowerment whenever possible. We also help identify community values, beliefs, and experiences. Clients are happier with the end product when they realize they have built trust with the community and gained new, empowered allies.