Community conversation (CC) is an interactive process which brings together members of the community, village or kebele and encourages them to think, discuss and explore the main causes and underlying issues behind their health problems. Community conversation is based on the recognition that people have the knowledge, capability and resources that can bring about positive health outcomes individually and collectively, once the community perceives ownership of a health problem. A community conversation is generally a good starting point for your work in the community if you want to bring about a sense of cohesion and togetherness.
One of the main tools of community mobilisation is community conversation. It gives a chance for community members to listen to each other attentively, and speak out with regard to what they think is best. It also helps all the people taking part to feel included in the process of decision making about health issues. The community members taking part in the group discussion process feel empowered, and they should become able to revise their values and consider their cultural and traditional practices.
The process of community conversation gives community members ownership of their problems, which in turn makes them able to think and find solutions for the significant health issues in their community (Figure 20.2). The general objective of community conversation is to make the community take the initiative to identify, discuss and solve the major health problems using local resources.
Community conversation helps to create an environment which is conducive for governmental and non-governmental organisations to work in an integrated way. It also helps to minimise discrepancies between community members, and to confront any negative attitudes among community members.
Box 20.1 summarises the key principles.
Box 20.1 Key principles of community conversations
- Respecting the values, beliefs, culture and traditions of the community.
- Giving particular attention to gender issues, in order to increase women's participation and empower women.
- Create smooth relations.
- Respecting differences, building trust and solving conflicts, as well as clarifying misconceptions.
- Helping the community to accept that it has a potency to identify issues which need to be resolved, and the capacity to find solutions.
- Enabling members to take ownership of their own health.
Your friend Abeba, who is working in the nearby town of Debre Zeit, wrote to you asking what community conversation (CC) was, and what its advantages are. How would you reply to her?
You would explain to her that CC means community conversation. It is an interactive process which brings members of the community together, and engages them to discuss and explore the causes of their health problems. You might also mention that CCs are intended to be respectful of differences, and that they pay particular attention to enabling women to be heard.