Work Plan
The Environmental Colours of Microfinance
Appendix: Tips for Working Effectively With A Community

The extent and quality of community participation in an EA will be largely determined by the way in which the EA team interacts with the community. Care must be taken to select the best arrangements for community involvement. The major challenge is to establish a rapport with the local community as a first step in building trust. The following are some things to keep in mind when working at the community level:

  • Learn as much as possible about the community and its physical characteristics before your first visit.
  • Establish the credibility of the EA and the assessment team as quickly as possible, preferably well before the assessment begins. A preliminary site visit can be useful in introducing the EA team to the community. It is a essential to work through a local NGO or other established community organisation. Liaising with respected community members or informal leaders can also help develop rapport with a community.
  • Plan to involve the community in the EA from the beginning. If this is not possible, include them at the earliest opportunity.
  • Make sure communities are comfortable with all members of the environmental assessment team. Lack of acceptance of female evaluators or representatives of other ethnic groups may jeopardise the EA. Also, avoid using government agents whose departments have uncertain relationships with local people. In many countries there is considerable antagonism between local communities and government workers such as forest rangers and health officers.
  • Conduct all EAs in the language of the community and respect local customs and practices throughout the EA.
  • Pay attention to such practical matters as when and where meetings are held. This is particularly important to ensure the participation of women and other marginal groups. Meetings should not held solely at the convenience of the EA team. The EA team must make itself available to the community, even if this means working at night or on weekends.
  • Identify appropriate channels for conveying information to a community and always explain clearly what you expect to accomplish and specify when, why and how (Bojanic et al 1995:36).
  • Do not publicly challenge cultural traditions deemed to be problematic. There is a time and place for discussing sensitive matters. Consult with community and cultural leaders on how to initiate such discussions. The goal is not to attack traditional beliefs, but to find out how they can work to the project's advantage.
  • Avoid situations in which certain community members dominate discussions or the EA process.
  • Maximise opportunities to constructively involve community members in the assessment process. The identification of local skills which may help in implementing preventive measures must be a part of the environmental assessment's terms of reference. When community participation is genuine, community members such as local trades-people can be involved in formulating appropriate mitigation measures.
  • Record meetings in a manner acceptable to the community. Find out whether tape recorders and video cameras are considered intrusive.
  • Take note of absolutely everything people suggest, even if you disagree with it (Bojanic et al. 1995: 36). People will be more open to the recommendations of the team if they feel they are being heard and taken seriously.
  • When participating in a community analysis, avoid expressing the team's view. Provide appropriate opportunities for the team to express its opinions (Bojanic et al. 1995: 36).
  • Participate in the analysis by asking exploratory questions. Aim to enrich the discussion, not direct it.

Source: Bojanic et al. 1995: 36
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Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org
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