Community Council in Simon Rodriguez, Cumaná, Venenzuela
In an open air and poorly lit weekly community meeting, neighbours collected agreements on how to improve their shanty town.
Every week members of Simon Rodriguez community gather in the central area of their small village to discuss community issues.
Other than reading the basic Dotmocracy step-by-step instructions in Spanish, there was almost no preamble. Every one in the community was familiar with each other and their situation.
The question "How can we improve our community?" was printed in Spanish in large text and posted near the light.
|The community is a self constructed shanty town with an unofficial entrance off a small highway in Cumaná. Everyone knows each other well as there is a strong culture of community and discussion.
The meeting took place in a central open space under a single light bulb. Instructions and idea sheets were passed around before the meeting started. After some brief introductory remarks one neighbour volunteered to read the instructions aloud. She briefly passed the reading duty to another and then back again.
The question "How can we improve our community?" was printed in large text and posted near the light. Although the instructions had been read and distributed, most people were still a bit confused about the process. A community leader quickly explained to write one idea per a sheet and to pass it onÂ? for recording opinions. Once people started to write ideas and pass the sheets it became clear and quickly everyone was writing and dotting.
A few days after the meeting, a small group of community leaders (possibly just Robert Ducallin), formulated a list of 14 priorities from the dotted ideas:
- SUVI Substitute shanty shacks for concrete homes (a government sponsored program)
- Line the drainage canal with cement.
- Build a community centre.
- Build a sports court.
- Work in teams.
- Union of the neighbours.
- Sewage system.
- Legalize the Communal Council.
- Potable water services.
- Neighbourhood security.
- Fix the street and sidewalk.
- Improve the garbage service.
This list matches well with the results of the dotmocracy, although because most sheets included two or more ideas, prioritization was not clear.Â?
That said, there were some specific ideas mentioned in the sheets but not included in their prioritized list:
...fixing the streets and sidewalk (although asphalt probably covers this idea).
...fix the lights (potentially covered under electricity although not clearly).
...a soup kitchen.
...work without selfishness (potentially covered under Work in teams and Union of neighbours).
...self construction without distinction of class because all of us who live here need houses (this is contract to SUVI which only build houses for about the 10 poorest families in the community.
...construction of a multiple house (?).
...urbanization (this is a complete overhaul of the community compared to the limited upgrades and shack replaced of the SUVI program).
Overall it was clear that people were thinking of general municipal service upgrades that they had probably discussed many times before. There was probably at least one person suggesting specific ideas for people to write, assuming that repetition would help ensure these ideas got high priority.
It was disappointing not to see any innovative or low budget ideas: maybe if they had more time and instigation. It is not too surprising there were no disagreements since all ideas were honestly aiming to improve the community and none were controversial. It was inspiring to see the popular ideas of uniting the community, teamwork and avoiding selfishness.
When working with a poor community for the first time, be prepared to donate all required materials including cardboard clipboards, blanks idea sheets and pens.
Make sure the pens work ahead of time.
For first time demonstrations with limited time choose a simple question that does not require much preamble and everyone can quickly think of an answer. A general question about common problems or ideas for improvement seems to work well.
A demonstration with a few volunteers and pre-filled idea sheets works better than reading distributing instructions or reading them aloud.
You will probably need to reinforce that each sheet should only have one idea.
Confirm with the meeting coordinator that 5 minutes at the end will be used to celebrate the top ideas.
Photograph each completed sheet for your own archives.
They would probably appreciate a folder or binder to put the completed sheets into.
You may want to consider hole punching the sheets ahead of time to make it easy to quickly store in a binder at the end of the process.