I visited Iringa over the weekend and one of the highlights of my visit was a workshop with the community. The workshop had been put together by the head teacher of Ukombozi school, Mr Martin Yesaya, and Mr Yusuf Ssessanga who has been volunteering as the coordinator for the emerging Living Lab.
Most of the participants were the parents and teachers of Ukombozi and Mkimbizi schools. In addition, there were church leaders, representatives of local NGO’s, Tumaini University and school district office. As many participants were not comfortable with English and I was the only one not fully comfortable with Swahili, the workshop happened in Swahili.
Martin and Yusuf facilitated the workshop with my support. We did a simple warm-up exercise first to get the creativity flowing, and that created a lot of smiles. After that the participant listed in small groups the problems and challenge could identify in the community, and all together they came up with 19 problems:
- Price inflation
- Transportation, especially for students to get to schools
- Leadership is not good, leaders are not good
- Lack of creativity, especially towards income creation
- Sexual harassment
- Poor infrastructure
- Drug addiction, alcohol, marijuana
- Disabled are not getting education
- Climate change
- Quality of education
- Lack of health care
- Lack of quality teachers
- Lack of laboratories in schools
The next phase was thinking about knowledge needs in the community, which knowledge and learning would help people to address these issues, as well as what knowledge resources and other resources are available in the community. The groups used this information to identify opportunities for action, possible projects and initiatives which could be started immediately.
All the opportunities were listed on the wall, and the participants voted on which initiatives they would be willing to work for. The four opportunities which received the most votes addressed HIV/AIDS, orphans, drugs and entrepreneurship skills. These were given back to the groups for some more detailed planning, and in the end an action plan for each project was presented by the group.
The groups exchanged phone numbers in the end, and I have heard the groups have already been meeting. We agreed that when we go back in a month’s time, they will present on the progress and we can together see what should be done next.
It was great to see the commitment of the community. One of the church leaders present commented on how he had not realised before, that his congregation could actually take ownership this way and participate in defining what needs to be done. He had thought he should always provide the ideas and initiatives for them. So to support the leaders and champions in the community, next time we plan to do also a bit of facilitation training to enable them to run similar workshops and ideation processes on their own in the community.
Great start for Iringa Living Lab!