(Although what I'm counting on is that it makes you a little bit skilled in identifying consistent patterns in problems, so pinpointing solutions becomes easier.... please let it be so!!)
Anyway, so ummmm....yeah "development projects" probably never go according to plan. Even the most well designed plan will need to be tweaked at best (and completely overhauled at worst) during a pilot stage, which is where this project is at present. I knew I needed to be prepared, but oh my god!! I spent all that time racking my brains regarding what to do, writing out that proposal, and now it all needs changing!!
Here is what happened. Our team went into the community a week or so ago. The last time we had been there, we had interacted mainly with the "menfolk" who seemed rather enthusiastic. Unfortunately, this time round, most of the men were off drinking, some were away at work, and others kind of lounging around apathetically.
Great. Smashing start.
No but it was great! Perhaps because I have a warped sense of what's exciting, and perhaps because a challenge is always welcome. But seriously, what was good was that this time we got the women. Yes! With the men away, the women ventured into the arena and started interacting with our team. It was the women that were asking questions, the women that were discussing their economic activities, the women that were providing information about their specific problems, that unless considered, would limit their participation.
So the point is not that we were facing a problem, but that we were facing a completely different demographic than the one we were designing the project for, so we'll need a big revision of the project.
In particular these are the new constraints and conditions my collaborator at the NGO outlined in his email:
# 1. Women: Very interested but family-based constraints
"....The women showed a lot of interest in having an enterprise in the basti – but were very clear that they could not leave to go very far, for either training or work. A couple of them are already doing tailoring so we have some base skillsets to work with, but all have kids to take care of who cant be left alone for long".
# 2. Men: Under-employed but experienced in the job market
"Most guys there are out working on daily wages as construction workers or unskilled labour earning anywhere between 200-350 a day. The problem is that they don’t get work for the entire month which means inconsistent monthly earnings .."
# 3. Teenage kids: Target Jobs? Schooling? Vocational training?
"Most kids (14-18) we interacted with don’t go to school and also work on daily wages. A most touching story was this really bright 14 year old guy ... he has lost his father and mom works [as domestic help] in houses. He is currently employed in a liquor store serving alcohol all day earning 1500 a month.... What won’t work is expecting these kids to give up earning options and come for a 2 year training at our institute….so we need to setup a training centre at the slum – or a mobile training unit of sorts….and train these people through evening and weekend classes ... "
Bottomline: An independent pilot project allows you to fail, learn, and then succeed.
I wrote back about some ideas I had and I'll outline them in my next post. The upshot though is that we're still not sure how to tweak our initial "micro-enterprise set up/scale up" project that we had envisioned for income enhancement and make it fit these net sets of conditions. And we're not even sure if tweaking is the right way to go, or if we should be heading down a whole different route?
Fortunately for us, our NGO has enough resources that it can independently budget a small project within this community. This means that we don't have to create a proposal, set it in stone, and then create a completely different proposal for every change we make. Initially we had wanted the government to fund us, but we decided that our goal should be to do a pilot project first, figure out exactly what the problems are, how to surmount them, and the apply to the government (or other large funding sources) for money that allows us to scale up this project, and apply it to other communities.
So we're lucky in this case to have (1) some money to experiment with (2) a community that is supportive of our efforts and (3) commitment to learning by trial-and-error without getting discouraged.
It's a great team, so let's see what project innovations and outcomes occur!