Without a community’s active participation, a toolkit, a need-specific program, or intervention is simply an idea without any foundation for succeeding. Communities provide organizations with critical information on whether the intervention is effective and how it is affecting them. Through this information, organizations are able to tailor any interventions to better suit the community’s needs. Still, it takes people and time to implement interventions and to make sure that they are continuously maintained and improved upon. As a result, communities must have the intent and willingness to put in effort as this will help them persevere when they run into any difficulties in the future.
After all, the ultimate goal of any intervention is to empower the community.
Recognizing the problem the intervention aims to solve, internalizing the reasons behind it, and attaching collective value to the intervention are key components to ensure a successful implementation of any need-specific program. For instance, in every sphere of social life there are listeners and speakers present. However, not every listener knows how to listen effectively nor how to cope with compassion fatigue, second-hand trauma etc. In one of our previous posts, we discussed the importance of Listeners in our communities and the challenges they face and why developing a toolkit was crucial for supporting the mental health of our Listeners.
However, making the toolkit was only the first step. Currently, Amal is developing training sessions for individuals who are branded as Listeners and for any other community members to improve their listening skills, to be aware of resources and signs of compassion fatigue, among many other things.
“This Listener project is made up of “helping yourself” and [being] “able to help others and become [even] more capable. Just like any other job/position, we expect a set of qualities […]. So, by developing a project of this nature that is promoting active listening and strengthening the informal networks that we’re embedded in, we are helping both the listener and speaker.”
– Christine Menendez, Amal Centre’s coordinator.
Just like Menendez said, we’re all a part of – informal and formal – networks, and these networks fluctuate and evolve.
Because of the strong emphasis on the community’s role in Amal’s intervention, or other community-driven interventions, the differences across and between communities needs to be accounted for. This Listener project, which is funded by Concordia’ SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation, has another product in the works: a needs-assessment template specifically designed to address listening issues and challenges that are present in a given community.
The template is being developed in tandem to the training sessions. Part of the aim of the training sessions is to understand obstacles present in communities that prevent effective listening from taking place – which will be incorporated in developing the needs-assessment template.
Is it taboo subjects?
Is it generational gaps?
Is it the lack of a safe space?
Is it preconceived notions regarding gender norms, violence, race etc.?
Is it the prevalence of gaslighting?
This relates back to the interplay between communities and organizers developing or implementing interventions: organizers need to be clear about what they aim to achieve and why it’s relevant to that specific community; and communities need to be able to trust the organization to be able to provide honest feedback and answers.
Because in the end, we want communities to take the reins and be able to do these workshops themselves based on what their respective needs are.
About the author:
Sara Eldabaa is a Montréal native of Egyptian heritage who has lived her whole life in Montréal. She recently completed her Bachelor’s in psychology from McGill, and she is currently pursuing a degree in journalism at Concordia. She’s interested in the human condition and learning about people’s stories, especially those belonging to people who have been deliberately ignored or silenced.