Many projects in the society have failed to take off because they are imposed on local communities. They are characterized by “top-down approach”. There is usually the assumption by professionals that they know best the needs of the communities. Generally, there is a thinly veiled contempt of how the ordinary people live and manage their affairs. There is the assumption that traditional practices and approaches are a threat to development and development can only occur by removing “such obstacles”. Closely associated with this view, is the assumption that western ideas, concepts, innovations or institutions are a panacea to development. Unfortunately, these assumptions tend to have a self-fulfilling prophecy. First, local communities are not involved, not consulted in the implementation of projects, and they end up rejecting the project (s), either because they may not have understood very well the benefit associated with the project (s) or they may simply reject out of spite. The professionals then conclude that the local people are stupid, lazy or tradition-bound; how can they reject that which is intended to benefit them? Ordinary people have a tendency to behave in the way they feel they are being perceived by professionals. It is therefore critical that local communities are involved in planning and implementation of projects that are intended for their benefit. An important approach to follow in the process of community involvement is to make extensive use of local leaders as frontline workers or para-professionals. Local leaders, as insiders in their own cultures, have a greater capacity to interpret the community’s norms, beliefs and values than professionals, and also, they can act as legitimizers of any developmental projects that are being introduced. Indeed, local leaders, should be perceived as change agents. Often, their working style is active and partisan, and they have a greater ability to empathize with their own people than outside professionals. This empathy arises because, as insiders in their own communities, the local leaders have a deeper insight into the life of the community in which they live. They have the capacity to serve as acceptable models or become a significant example to their people. They are motivated by their personal satisfaction they receive helping their own people. It is worth noting, however, that adequate training will need to be provided for the local leaders if they are to act as effective para-professionals. This is necessary because local leaders need to be educated and convinced of the soundness of the intended project in case they end up questioning the professionals’ basic assumptions or resending professional methods either explicitly or implicitly.
New Era Reporter
2018-07-27 09:23:26 10 months ago