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Community Development in Brazil

LINC was recently in Horizontina, Brazil to support start-up of the Sowing Futures program, including conducting staff and partner training on participatory processes and community ownership of local development decision-making. With Sowing Futures, Global Communities, along with the John Deere Foundation and the John Deere Brazil Foundation, are working in partnership to catalyze meaningful change for communities in need. The training workshops covered the key elements and values of participatory community development, how to conduct a stakeholder analysis, and the skills and attitudes needed for community facilitators. LINC also helped the program to define its approach and process for engaging members of poor, vulnerable communities in the development process.

One of the interesting factors of introducing donor-funded, community-driven development in this part of Brazil is the general lack of previous experience with donor programming there. In many locations where LINC works on community-driven development, the communities and the local government have years of history with donors and international NGOs. On the one hand, this often means that the stakeholders have realistic expectations and have some initial skills and abilities for organizing as they enter the program. On the other, they may have had a bad experience with a program decreasing their interest in participation with a new program, or they may be building unrealistic expectations of permanent donor support. Our experience in Horizontina showed a group of very curious, sometimes wary, but generally enthusiastic stakeholders willing to give this process a try. But our challenge was to communicate, much more carefully and completely, the process, the benefits, and the requirements of participatory programming.

The workshops were a great success and a true learning experience for the participants, program staff, and LINC as well. One of the highlights was on the third and final day of the Community Facilitation Skills workshop, when one of the participants was very excited to tell us all about a meeting she had attended the previous evening. It was a semi-regular meeting with a youth group that sometimes is a bit disorganized and where only a few of the attendees tend to dominate discussions. She tried out some of the tools and techniques that she had been learning to that point of our workshop, and the meeting had much more energy and participation than ever before.

Without a doubt, the workshops were valuable. We learned how to engage communities made up of individuals with different cultural and social norms and needs …

The dynamics of the workshops engaged the participants actively and made the topics very real …

I’m already using these skills in my work with all types of groups and teams.

LINC facilitated a series of workshops with program staff, partners, and community volunteers on participatory processes, power dynamics, facilitation skills, and constituent-driven planning