As I wrote in my last blog, most of the work of HealthNet TPO (HNTPO) takes place in the field. To be more precise: it takes place in the communities of people that lead their daily life in the villages in the rolling hills of Burundi. In Burundi society is structured along various community structures: each province is divided into communes that are again divided in collines (hills). On the commune and colline level HNTPO tries to strengthen community structures by actively sitting down with elected community members to discuss their main problems. These community member networks consist of men, women, young people, old people, Christians, Muslims, clergy etc. Every person in the community is covered and one can identify his or herself with the representatives.
Mid December our engaged field staff in Muyinga took my colleagues and me to the far North East of Burundi to demonstrate the work done so far. And it was impressive I have to say! They did a wonderful job. Since June they have been making an inventory of the main social and health issues the communities are facing. The list of issues emerged out of many long and – I can imagine - not easy discussions. When we were sitting with them on little benches in the forest outside a small village, the elected community members talked about all kinds of health issues with us and each other. It was a very open and lively conversation in which the members expressed their opinions on family planning, on domestic violence, education for their children, hygiene, health care etc. Especially family planning - the number of children per household - was an issue. Every person agreed on the fact that they should reduce the number of children per family, but on hów to realise this was no agreement yet. However, the fact that they sit together and have open debates on quite sensitive and even private issues, is a big achievement.
From a Knowledge Management perspective my responsibility these days was most of all to capture our work in images and short films. Often we only put our work in written reports but it’s valuable not only to show the outside world our impact, but also to show each other as colleagues the different intervention activities that can be used to strengthen community systems. A picture is worth a 1000 words, images have communicative power. It was good to travel to Muyinga and capture the Community Systems Strengthening (CSS) work in images. We can be proud of this work and should show it, distribute it and demonstrate it more to our colleagues in this sector and other parts of the world, so that they can learn from it and find inspiration. Reports alone won’t do it (anymore) I believe. I hope that for example this weblog, but also our website can be a starting point within our organization to ‘show more structurally what we do’. In the near future we will probably work with a worldwide interconnected Knowledge Management system in which images, testimonies of our target groups, interviews and demonstration films will be more dominant than the written reports. In Amsterdam my colleagues are developing such a system now and if it’s up to the new African internet raised generation I can imagine it won’t take long before they use it in Central and East Africa as well.
With kind regards,
Marieke van der Vliet
Marieke van der Vliet - Knowledge Management Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region at HealthNet TPO
Background: Marieke has a background in International Relations (University of Groningen) and Development Studies (CIDIN, Nijmegen). Before she started within HealthNet TPO, she worked for the Dutch NGOs Maatwerk bij Terugkeer as a Programme Officer and for VluchtelingenWerk Nederland as an International Officer.
Currently Marieke is stationed in Bujumbura, Burundi, to coordinate a PSO funded Knowledge Management project that covers the HealthNet TPO programmes in Burundi, the DR Congo and South Sudan.