In ending this chapter on process, it is appropriate to underscore the importance of taking a reflective, self-critical stance and of challenging our assumptions. At every stage, we need to interrogate our assumptions that a particular approach to community-led work is most appropriate.
For example, we might assume that the best approach involves the whole community. But in a case where there is low social cohesion in the community and only a youth group are interested in taking action to support vulnerable children, it might make more sense to enable action by that smaller group rather than try to force engagement of the whole community. Over time, and once they start to see positive results, more and more people may participate in the action on behalf of children.
On an ongoing basis, we should reflect on what has gone well and what could be done better, using the learning to improve our own approach and actions.
Conversely, we might assume that it is easier to support small group led actions such as those by a youth group than it is to develop a whole-community action. Yet this assumption might be questionable in particular contexts. Supporting only one sub-group could create social divisions and feelings of jealousy within the community. In some contexts, it might be more practical to develop an action that involves the whole community than it is to support various sub-groups, who may have a history of competition and of each feeling more marginalized than the others.
As both examples illustrate, we need to avoid clinging to our assumptions and to learn together with the community which approach seems most practical and a good fit for the context.
We should maintain a self-critical stance that guards against imposing any one approach and provides adequate space for community problem-solving. On an ongoing basis, we should reflect on what has gone well and what could be done better, using the learning to improve our own approach and actions. As discussed in the chapters that follow, this reflective approach is highly valuable for community people, too, and is part of the foundation of a community-led approach.
A reflective, self-critical approach is essential also for the longer-term process of institutionalizing the changes needed in order to support community-led work. This shift applies not only to individuals but also to agencies and organizations at all levels of the humanitarian enterprise. Although the process of organizational change within NGOs is beyond the scope of this Guide, it warrants concerted attention as it could help to scale up the use of community-led approaches and increase the level of NGO accountability to local people.