Strategies for community mobilisation

Much research has been done on good practice in community mobilisation and the evidence for effective strategies tends to come from these studies and experiences. They show that community mobilisation can change attitudes, norms, practices and individual behaviours (Pact Tanzania, 2006). Figure 11.2 shows a community mobilisation process in which a demonstration of effective handwashing practice is taking place.

Figure 11.2 Community demonstration of critical moments of handwashing.

Community mobilisation is not a task for one person working on their own. It needs a team of people each with different roles who work collaboratively with the community. The team needs to include technical support staff and people with skills in project management as well as the key facilitators who have the main role of liaising with the community.

Developing a strategy for community mobilisation to address a particular problem requires:

  • knowing your community and understanding the local situation
  • identifying the purpose for mobilising the community – this requires understanding of the community’s goals
  • assessing the issues and identifying possible projects – this needs skills to assess the problems and align them to the purpose of the community mobilisation
  • obtaining wide community support – it is essential to build good relationships with individuals and groups within the community; it is very important that the facilitator has excellent communication skills
  • prioritising projects and developing implementation plans
  • pooling of available resources, including labour
  • gathering and reflecting on feedback from the community
  • refining and improving activities, based on the findings and feedback from the community.

The key steps of knowing your community and prioritising projects are described in more detail in the following sections.

Knowing your community

To mobilise your local community effectively, you need know about its social organisation, economy, problems and politics. This information can be obtained from many sources, both formal and informal, and might include (Pact Tanzania, 2006):

  • political and administrative structure
  • demographic features and population characteristics (e.g. number of people in different age groups, gender balance)
  • economic activities (e.g. employment, market days)
  • social stratification and economic status of households
  • organisations, their functions and activities
  • leadership pattern and its influence
  • languages and cultural traditions
  • health, sanitation and nutrition levels
  • education levels.

Through stakeholder mapping (as described Study Session 4) you will begin to understand the nature of your community as a social system. Think about how the different elements of the community such as the children, women, youth and local organisations are connected to each other. You will soon realise that a community is not merely a collection of individuals but a system that involves a lot of intricate links and relationships between those individuals. People enter and leave the community, by birth, death and migration, so it is constantly changing and yet it continues to exist.

Getting to know your community is not something that can be achieved quickly. You will need time to develop relationships with the community members. For successful community mobilisation you need to know what will motivate people to become involved and this requires understanding of their interests and concerns.

Stakeholder mapping will also help to identify the key stakeholders in WASH and especially those who are the existing leaders within the community. Working with existing leaders is much more likely to be successful because other community members will be influenced by them and follow their lead (Mercy Corps, 2013).

Prioritisation of projects

Part of the process when trying to mobilise a community is to work with them to identify and prioritise possible projects, as shown in Figure 11.3. There are several approaches for project prioritisation.

Figure 11.3 A prioritisation meeting.

Your WASH project prioritisation procedure might follow these steps:

  • Organise a meeting with community representatives and try to build consensus on priorities. This is most likely to be feasible in smaller urban communities.
  • Facilitate the formation of community action groups (CAGs). These are small groups tasked with managing individual projects and should involve those best placed to help with project implementation.
  • Ensure discussions include the pros and cons of various options, based on criteria that have been agreed by the community.
  • If community members realise that more information is needed to make a decision, the CAG can agree on how to collect the required information and arrange another meeting for further reviewing priorities before project selection.
  • Keep the larger community informed about the schedule, process and actions taken by the CAG, using appropriate communication channels such as community notice boards or local radio announcements.
  • Organise a community vote or some alternative way to obtain acknowledged agreement, so that you ensure the project is acceptable to the community.

Last modified: Friday, 12 August 2016, 6:03 PM