Adapting CLD Processes for Covid19 and Beyond
Wednesday, May 20th at 10:30 am – 12:00 pm (EST)
Facilitators: John Coonrod (MCLD) and Nelly Mecklenburg (ISE)
On May 20, 2020 The Movement for Community-Led Development (MCLD) organized a second call to continue the collective brainstorming around how to adapt programming to address the challenges posed by Covid-19. The focus of the session was to build on the reflections from the April 21 call and discuss the programming adaptations to prepare both for the next 6-10 weeks and over the long term to face other crises.
Reflections from April 21st Call
Diana Delgadillo,The Hunger Project Mexico summarized the salient points from the April 21 call and the draft reflections paper that was circulated. The April 21 discussion had introduced and explored four key barriers to programming posed by COVID19 challenges: limited access, inability to convene, disrupted procurement/service delivery, shifting priorities/time obligations. Participants had spoken of the need for social solidarity in the time of physical distancing and to collaboratively work with governments and each other. They also admitted how despite having faced a slew of challenges in our work, we were unprepared for a disruption of such a scale, pointing to the need for better crisis-preparedness within CLD work. Talking of her own takeaways from April 21, Diana reiterated that this is the time for proving and improving self-reliance in communities.
Where are We Now?
Since the beginning of the pandemic and the last meeting, MCLD has taken a number of steps based on the suggestions of its members and country chapters. The website has a dedicated page for Covid 19 response and resources and an online mechanism has been created to share innovations taking place in communities during this time. Country chapters have also mobilised extensively to create Covid Task Forces and to work with their national governments to ensure that the voices of the communities are part of the response.
The meeting saw a series of polls where participants shared the status of programming and lockdowns in their communities.
Reflecting on the poll, participants discussed what activities community leaders/ representatives have been able to continue, and what activities will remain on hold. Pascal Djohosso, MCLD Regional Director for West Africa described the need for clear lines of communication during a time of confusion. In Benin, the team decided to adapt their usual programming to work on COVID response with the national committee led by the Ministry of Health. Pascal noted the responsibility and ability of MCLD to help ensure strategies involved communities in responding to COVID. He noted that working with communities for awareness generation about the pandemic and its possible impacts remains a vital role for organizations as in isolated and rural towns, people do not yet believe in the reality of the pandemic, endangering their communities.
Arthur Nkosi, from CorpsAfrica in Malawi, explained how some of the community meetings which are central to programming have been able to continue despite physical distancing orders, while others are halted due to lack of resources and protective equipment. Road maintenance and social work were both deemed essential despite the lockdown and have been able to continue. Arthur echoed the importance of ensuring government coordination and working with the national response team. Corps Africa is planning to continue this work to connect donors, private philanthropy, government, churches, and civil society groups using various media channels. Diana Delgadillo noted that in Mexico contactless communication has been at two levels: between Board members of the cooperatives in Chiapas to discuss and create plans, and with the rest of the women to communicate agreements. This has also served as communications training.
Following this initial discussion, participants went into breakout groups to discuss possible near and longer-term adaptations across each of the four barriers to CLD programming.
Each group addressed the following questions:
- Have you adapted your regular programming (to address this barrier) during the last 6-8
- What do you see happening over the next 6-10 weeks? Will restrictions be eased? How will this affect the barrier – will it lessen it or not? What new challenges will it introduce?
- What do you think you could resume doing or start over the next 6-10 weeks period if restrictions are easing? What about if they are not? What can you not resume doing?
- What are you doing to prepare for the next 6-10 weeks period? What would people need to feel safe to resume work and to address this barrier? What else do you need to prepare to resume programming components?
- What could you do to mitigate this barrier/ be more prepared for this barrier long-term?
- Access: The group noted that an inability to travel to communities and program countries has far reaching implications for program implementation and monitoring. A specific challenge is the accessibility of bandwidth devices in rural communities which allow work and programming to be conducted remotely. As CBOs are having difficulty gathering to discuss and plan how they would like to mobilize in response to their situations, programming must rely on leaders with cell phones. The breakout group discussed near and long term adaptations including establishing community-based economies and marketplaces so people don’t have to travel as far, building in more activities to address secondary impacts such as increased child marriage and violence against women and children, and transitioning to provide more of the emotional and financial support while community leaders take on more of the implementation roles.
- Convening: In many places, the focus is still on containing the spread of the virus. Even in places where governments are loosening restrictions, that may feel premature. Or people don’t understand the disease, or what easing of restrictions really means. The economic and livelihood pressures also make people eager to resume normal activities. Therefore, organizations are still putting focus on relaying accurate information from trusted sources in local languages so that people can take the virus seriously. In some places (including parts of Nigeria), initiatives to mobilize communities to sew masks or to distribute hand sanitizers are just beginning. Thinking towards the near and longer-term, participants discussed that their organizations have considered how to reprioritize activities, how to support not just income but livelihood regeneration (as ways of operating and doing business will be different for a long time still), and how to build information dissemination into programming, so that people know what is real, official information.
- Procurement/Service delivery: This group discussed the need to hold leaders and government accountable for where response resources are going, and how this will need to be part of future strategies for re-adjusting post COVID. This is especially key after an emergency situation as people can take advantage of the confusion by misappropriating resources. One way to do this is ensuring local government keeps track of who has been designated as vulnerable and then tracking the resources provided to ensure that those people recieve it. The group also questioned how business communities will be affected as restrictions start to ease in local regions. They discussed hoping to resume or expand work to map resources and programming to fill gaps. Some have started doing this over Zoom but connectivity issues remain.
- Time/ Shifting priorities: Economic impacts of COVID will be huge and one that CLD programming will have to meet. In Mexico, they are expecting 10 million more people to be put into poverty. However, a focus on economic and livelihood resilience needs to be integrated with responses to other issues that Covid has highlighted. A number of participants raised concerns about nutritional security, and an imperative to make households more economically and nutritionally resilient, including through gardens and other self-sustaining activities. Participants also raised violence against women, closing civic space, lack of social cohesion and stigma as issues that are exacerbated by the pandemic and will have to be addressed more by programming. For example, one participant brought up her work with female community leaders who are beginning to mobilize to encourage economic growth, integrating the goals of female empowerment and economic stability. The group also noted the need for a collaborative platform (MCLD) and pointed out that working collaboratively with agencies develops strong resources to educate on best practices.
Strengthening CLD in the face of future crises
Drawing on the draft reflection paper circulated, two overarching questions were introduced: 1) should crisis preparedness be a more integral part of CLD programming, and 2) what does this experience suggest about how to make CLD even more community led, with more roles and functions in the hands of communities. A poll from the first call had revealed that almost 80% of participants or the communities they work in had faced similar barriers from other crises. Given that there may be waves of COVID, and there are other disasters (whether due to annual flooding, typhoons, conflict, etc.) that have similar effects, the group discussed what they were learning now to help CLD programming be more prepared than before?
Teshome Lemma suggested that CLD may need to help communities and local businesses transition to digitalization (including through mobile money etc.), and adopt Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR), which was used for other common disasters.Diana Delgadillo reminded the group that even in considering these questions, we need to listen to and follow communities to preserve local leadership in action.”Organizations’ role is to accompany and catalyze the solutions designed by communities,” she noted. Ann Wahinya from Kenya highlighted the importance of future programming that prepares communities to respond to emergencies, reflecting on how communities with no money put aside were being completely devastated by COVID. She noted the need for collaboration with the government, as without a partnership the government sometimes works against communities.
Guillermo Sardi from Venezuela discussed the importance of bringing health prevention and climate change responses more deeply into CLD programming. He noted that it should be a process of plural discussion and dialogue. “As organizations we need to continuously learn from the people we work with, but we can also function as bridges of valuable information and success stories of other parts of the world, such as the ones we have been discussing in these meetings.” John Maton agreed that the Covid 19 pandemic is likely not the last global crisis we will face and it would be useful to adopt disaster management into regular programming. He noted that the government in Nigeria is grossly unprepared for what is happening, much less nonprofit actors who are faced with large demands from these communities.”Preparing communities and people to respond would be a better approach,” he suggested.
Jude Nwachukwu from Liberia, described his team’s community-centered approach to create awareness and guidance on COVID-19 and his plans to “train response teams, district leaders and volunteers to combat the pandemic with local partners.” The importance of awareness generation was stressed by other participants from different countries in Africa where people are yet to understand the magnitude of the pandemic and the risk that it poses.
Next steps and how to collaborate
The meeting concluded by hearing from participants about how they would want to pursue these conversations. Following up on the poll earlier in the call, participants expressed a desire to continue with monthly calls and breakout groups, as well as exploring an ongoing working group to provide tools and on-going analysis. Participants were reminded to submit feedback on the draft reflections paper that had been circulated by May 24th [https://mcld.org/covid-reflections/] and continuing to input ways CLD is responding to COVID at https://mcld.org/share-innovations/. Based on feedback from participants, another monthly call will be organized in June.