Co-Designing in Zambia : A Fellow Reflects
Daniel Vera, a Melton Fellow from Chile, shares insights and impacts from his experience at the Practical Impact Alliance's "Co-Design Summit 2017”, which is an event organized by MIT’s D-Lab. He, together with Melton Fellow Karla Araya, represented the Melton Foundation at the summit.
I recently returned from a one-week, immersive, hands-on design experience focused on learning the co-creative design process, but most importantly it addresses local challenges and promotes an innovative ecosystem in the community. This year, the community chosen was Naboye, part of the Kafue district of Zambia.
The summit gathered a very diverse set of participants to achieve these goals. There were professionals from different fields (but all very much interested in local development!) coming from different parts of the world. Plus, the group was reinforced by a lovely and enthusiastic group of Zambian innovators and entrepreneurs; and of course, also by leaders of the local community of Naboye.
I was part of the group “Improving Educational Outcomes” team. Before I arrived, we were informed that according to the residents, the challenges for the educational system included student absenteeism, lack of student engagement, and limited numbers of teachers. Our goal was to humbly address some of these issues and contribute to its improvement. This ambitious objective required us to work very intensely during the event (almost 12 hours per day!) to come up with some kind of proposal.
With the constant and pro-active participation of local inhabitants of the community, our diagnosis identified that “the problem” had a different origin. At the moment, not all members of the Noboye Village are motivated to send their children to school, and many are kept at home to support their family chores, business or farms; while many others engage in negative behaviors like drinking at local bars. Although some parents enforce active participation in school, still many more do not, either because they do not value education, are financially insecure, and/or are engaging in negative behaviors themselves.
Additionally, the prevailing belief in the community is that “people should mind their own business” and that the actions of one family, parent or child have no impact on the others and the community at large. Additionally, most community members are afraid to speak out against negative behaviors or even for positive behaviors, for fear of being ignored, shunned or harmed.
While there exist formal leadership structures, we believed they could be enhanced by the empowerment of community role models – including the teachers, health workers, church leaders, farmers, concerned parents, change agents and others – who wish to improve the well-being of children in order to promote full education attendance in both community and government schools.
In this scenario, my team, with the help of local leaders of the community-designed “Citsanzo Development Program”, which is a Community Role Model Development Program to empower and equip a diverse team of informal role models in the community who can be more effective in promoting the well-being of all the children in Naboye. In addition, they will collaborate to develop ongoing positive actions and community engagement strategies, engaging the formal leadership in in opportunities to improve school attendance in the community.
During the last day of the event, we had the opportunity to present this proposal to the community and it was very much well received! For this reason, and even after the event, my team has been working to accomplish what is probably the biggest challenge: making sure the program can be implemented by the local community, hopefully with the collaboration of international organizations such as World Vision. We are optimistic we’ll be able to accomplish this goal!
The Melton Foundation is a founding member of MIT D-Lab’s Practical Impact Alliance (PIA). Find out more about our partner here.