The Advocacy Project is an organization that seeks to support local grassroots human rights endeavors around the world. They do this by sponsoring “Peace Fellows” who for a short time work as interns for AVP’s international partner organizations. The goals of these interns depend on the communities they are supporting, but primarily they are meant to help the organization scale up and raise the visibility of the work the local members are already doing.
I became an Peace Fellow in the summer between my two years of graduate work in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. The Advocacy Project model appealed to me because it seemed to avoid the problematic patterns all too common in “Aide” from the “West” to “Less developed countries.”
The AP avoided the “patron recipient” patterns by…
- Acknowledging that local communities themselves are the most likely to accurately identify their challenges and come up with specifically appropriate solutions.
- Focusing on visibility with the understanding that if an idea is a good one, it will have resonance once it can be heard above the din. This visibility needs to be both local (in order to create stakeholder buy-in) and global (in order to increase the possibility of international funding).
- Emphasizing self-advocacy by supporting communities as they reflect on the medium and messaging most appropriate for their specific situation. That may be a local newsletter or a internationally accessible website.
- Training local experts. Whatever work a fellow does must be sustainable beyond the three to four months they are there. That means working side by side with a local partners and equipping them with the resources and skills they need to continue the work.
- Utilizing graduate students (like myself) who have some skills and connections to offer, but so much more to learn about taking academic theory and testing it in the noisy, messy, authentic chaos of the real world.
The theories of “post-development” show that we are beginning to understand development will not, cannot, should not look the same the world over, that we all have something to teach one another about healthy, thriving communities.
That “charitable giving” must be a practice in reciprocity as we consider what we have to offer and what we can receive from community partnership networks throughout our global society.
Over the next week, I will repost and reflect on blogs I wrote during this time. I am grateful to all my Kenyan teachers and friends, particularly the youth of Kibera. I have not forgotten your generosity, your stories, or your lessons: Kenya ni moja.
- How citizen media can help ensure peaceful elections in Kenya in 2012-13 (talkstreet6.wordpress.com)
- Youth Advocacy Institute: Day 1 (ceezana10.wordpress.com)