Lessons Learnt, Ivy Gordon presented at the Knowledge Sharing Forum Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business Trinidad June 2015
I start today’s presentation with a series of slides that I will run through quite quickly just to give you a clear back ground of where I am from and the work our group has done over the years.
2. Our place in Jamaica
1700 feet above sea level, 33% unemployment of working age people
Population is 2982 with slightly more women than men where the majority relies directly or indirectly on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods. Most of this farming takes place on small holdings of five hectares or less and it located on hillsides 50% of these slopes are more than 20 degrees, and it is a watersheds area.
45miles from the capital, Kingston and 15 miles from local towns
Clay based soil which is the basis of the land slide threat
3. The association, a group I have belonged to since moving to Jamaica with my husband in 1994. (Key points on slide)
4. So we are going to move quickly to the action pictures, Contours; to help retain the top soil
5. Alternative energy installation for sustainability, that is for our radio and as a subsidy for any agro processing as the cost of electricity in Jamaica is expensive.
6, 7& 8.Water harvesting from the roofs, this required some roof replacements for those in the worst condition, tree planting of more than thirty acres most of which have been fruit trees to increase income over time, many of the trees have been breadfruit.
Control of water runoff and more water harvesting this time from the spring head in to a central location for ease of community access. Please note that these last three slides and the next two are mitigation or if you prefer adaptation measures and form the basis of our increased self reliance.
9 & 10.These slides show more water control techniques and us learning how to build gabion walls and then using those same skills to create a major intervention in the valley. I want to point out here that GEF SPG supported the training in our community in 2008 and then in 2012 we got support from elsewhere to use the invested community capacity to build a major wall built for less than 2/3 of market price.
11. The community radio has been hugely important in the raising of awareness.
We were trained extensively on how to run a radio, how to make programmes and then we used those skills to inform our community, using drama, interviews and original radio programming designed specifically for communities facing agriculture and climate related problems like ours.
12 &13 these two slides show you our efforts at value added products, strawberries are highly perishable, added to that ours are organic and as such only medium in size so we make a high quality conserve with the berries and sell them at fairs and shows. For the breadfruit this is part of a bigger food security push, it is dried and milled, the first stage of value adding and then we make mixes, muffin and porridge for ease of use and another layer of adding value. The porridge goes into the school feeding programme and the muffins for those who choose gluten free.
Let us consider now the importance of value added products to a community group like ours.
- We use our good name that we have built up over the years to give credence to our products
- We use our group name to provide selling opportunities for the goods as we are not producing at a level to supply a supermarket yet
- The association take a small percentage of the sales price to help sustain itself and the individual member, or the suppler gets the balance
- The participating members increase their income and hence improves their standard of living
- We work collectively for economies of scale.
So it is good for the association and its members,
Just to recap, each member of our association is a volunteer; the association provides opportunities for its members and then charges a small percentage from group activities to sustain it.
14. This brings us to the meat of the matter, the four things I want you to remember about this presentation, the four things I think are key to running and maintaining a successful NGO, community group or CSO.
- First is strategic planning.
This requires asking yourself and your group members, what is it we hope to achieve, what is our biggest problem, how can this be overcome? If we follow this path what will the consequence be? This Planning can be called internal audit, we call ours self assessment and we conduct an exercise to ask ourselves the most important questions every two years.
An example of us using strategy is; in 2006 we were asked if we wanted a community radio and the youth of the community said yes. The radio was duly given by UNESCO the following year, the consequences; how to run it, how to fund it, what to use the radio for? What would be our special purpose, what would make our radio different from the twenty-one others available in Jamaica?
The answers: extensive training and capacity building for the team that would run the radio and operate the air time session, volunteerism, offering our own service first to help others to volunteer too. A clear explanation as to the need to volunteer and a pathway lay out toward earning a stipend and alternative energy to bring energy cost into an affordable range.
Finally the result, a community empowered through specialized radio programming dealing with problems faced most specifically by those living in our village and surrounding communities and a group of young people who have learned to give service and enhanced their own capacity in the use of all forms of media. Most of these young people have been able to use the experience to gain employment elsewhere, some in main stream media and it is heartening to say that some still continue to give service in Jeffrey Town.
I have already explained about making jam from the strawberries, we also package seasonings that we grow, nutmeg, pimento, the cocoa used to make tea, dry sorrel and much more simply because farming is our business and adding value is the strategy we use to improve livelihoods.
We also use strategy- careful thinking and planning to ensure that each funded project we do leaves infrastructure for the organization, infrastructure for the community and increased capacity for a group of people. So that our main plan to improve the overall quality of live for all in our community is achieved little by little. A word of caution here, when you get offers of help, or development aid, or a study, make sure it fits into your plan, that it meets some or at least one of your stated objectives and that the donor or facilitator is of good repute. We have found to our cost that some people are using our development process for their own personal aims, usually for educational pursuits and we have not been afforded the opportunity to see what they write about us, to see if their story is true. Remember if you have to motivate and mobilize to achieve specific results there must be residual benefit to your group or community.
Next we look at integrity
Once you have decided on a course of action you must be open and honest about what you do and how you do it, even in the face of criticism. It is worth while remembering people will judge you by their standards; if they are dishonest they will assume you are. This is why it is imperative that everything is in the open so that your conscience can be clear and there is evidence of your honesty.
Write a constitution for your group or get one from somewhere like the friendly society so that a clear structure is in place and everyone can know the rules and when elections are to be held.
Don’t take all of the paying jobs for yourself and your family share the spoils if there are any; we tend to reward our most faithful volunteers first and then other community members after that.
With regard to projects, do all that is necessary to meet deliverables,
Take pictures of everything and make good notes so that you can create a clear and concise narrative of what you have done. Label and date your pictures and keep registers of meeting attendees and training sessions.
Jeffrey Town has won many awards because we have done good work, sure, but here’s the thing, if we didn’t have the evidence, the paper trail and the infrastructure there would be nothing to back up our story.
Completion letters are part of the integrity process and you should display them in a public place for your members to see.
Keep your members informed. Above all keep your word, to the funding agencies, to your members and to yourself.
This leads us to inclusiveness.
It seems a simple thing to say, but everyone has use, everyone can contribute something and if you are the leader you must find creative ways to allow everyone to make a useful contribution. Don’t allow someone’s lack of academic qualifications prevent you from making them a leader in your organization, support them with a great secretary and an even better treasurer and include young people to ensure sustainability of your membership and women must be allowed to lead as well as follow. Let everyone have their say at meetings especially when reviewing plans and ideas, you will be surprised at some of the insight of others and some things the least likely may suggest.
I have told you already of the 33% unemployment in our community and I was surprised to see women take up laboring work on the check dams and gabion walls simply because they wanted the opportunity to earn their own money. Being employed at the time I had overlooked the pressing need for financial independence, so I urge you to find a space for everyone, everyone can make a contribution.
This brings us to the last key word and that is determination.
Development, the running of a successful NGO or community group is not easy, it is time consuming, may be physically hard work and is often financially challenging until sustainability measures are in place. Your leader must be the most determined among you, must be able to share the vision with you and to others. Determination is not about numbers; often the few will get better results than the many. Some of you may have heard of our group before today. I want to tell you that in 2005 only five of us were attending meetings but we continued. At 2011 AGM we were 72, and last month we were 12, but we continue, the more successful we become the more there seems to be to do, and yet few still come to meetings.
15. We are now embarked on a huge CDB project to increase resilience across the whole community and have employed a team to carry out that work. We are nominated by our peers, we were ask to represent at the ACP HOUSE (African Caribbean &Pacific) in Brussels as DRR champions for the Caribbean and we continue to win awards. We have achieved these results by adhering to these key words and of course by the grace of God. Strategic Planning, Integrity, Inclusiveness, Determination. Today I have shared with you the steel behind the Jeffrey Town farmer’s model for development, the common goal, the common need, the determination to make thing betters and the key components to have your fellow members work and share with you; integrity, inclusiveness using the best strategy possible to achieve a better life.
16. Thank you.