Communitarian Approach to Reconstruction: Challenges and Opportunities

I have always had a knack for issues that have direct or indirect  bearings on the lives of common people and the societies they live in. My academic qualification on Conflict, Peace and Development Studies coupled with my  professional engagement as  a faculty at Department of Conflict Peace and Development, Tribhuwan University furthers my interest on social science research.  I have closely followed the constitution writing process upon which the peace process hinges in Nepal through my research on the topic “ External Influence in Constitution Making Process of Nepal”. The recent earthquake that shook Nepal and the way I saw and heard of Nepali youths voluntarily coming up to help the victims by providing immediate have left  me spellbound.

Here, through this piece of write up for edgeryders I share my personal analysis on  how and why the role of communities stands out to be the most important one for reconstruction and long term development in the  aftermath of  earthquake in Nepal. And  it would like to invite you to put your ideas and feedback on how to you perceive the revival of ‘community’ feeling among Nepalese after the earthquake and what can we do to make that feeling intact for addressing future needs and challenges.

Communitarian Approaches to Reconstruction; Why does it matter?

Post-disaster reconstruction is a complex process and requires the involvement of multiple actors, needs a significant amount of resources, and a wide array of skills. But many a times when it comes to managing such  situation, involvement of humanitarian organizations alone is not sufficient for effective relief. The engagement of local communities is vital in meeting the needs and requirements of the affected people mostly because communities in post-disaster situation are in need of wide spectrum of necessities  which can be matched with the diversity of expertise ranging from managing supplies, to crisis mapping ,  fundraising and reconstruction among other that local communities can posses.  A community driven approach to disaster management therefore is a vision to have a shared future collectively. When community members engage themselves in the reconstruction initiatives, it not just gives them a sense of ownership but also helps to prioritize the tasks to be done during reconstruction. But priorities can still go wrong  if there is heavy involvement of international organizations  who are are unaware of local needs. The classic example in the case of Nepal is that although there has been heavy presence of international agencies for the purpose of rescue but their achievement was meager compared to the local actors. For example it was reported the the aircraft’s that were sent for rescue and relief operation in Nepal by countries like India and America did very less task in comparison to Nepal Army choppers. In addition to this, Nepal’s case also becomes problematic for the international community due to geopolitical reality.  For instance,  reports have been rife on media that the external actors that came in Nepal to assist in the constitution making were ultimately found to be meddling too much in the internal affairs of Nepal and thus ultimately divided the Nepali society along social, political and ethnic line.    Failure to take these factors into consideration seriously may delay the reconstruction work and can often backfire on the benevolent approach undertaken by the international community as well. So the best possible way out to deal with the cases where both culture and geopolitical sensitivities are very high is that the donors should work in tandem with local communities and align their priorities with the official policy of the state.

The Emergence of ‘new island of civility’ in post-quake Nepal

The April 25th earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 and the subsequent aftershocks has caused much damage to Nepal. With thousands of lives lost, millions of worth properties destroyed, and infrastructures and cultural heritages of historical and importance ravaged, Nepalese are still struggling to deal with consequences of the disaster. However, given the scale of the damage, the reconstruction works have become an uphill battle mainly because we lack adequate resources. There might be a certain group of people who think that the country which has already been in tatters due to decade long Maoist conflict and the subsequent political turmoil will further divulge in a situation of hopelessness.  However, there are enough grounds for us to defy this claim primarily because despite all these losses, pains, and tragic outcomes, people at large believed that the societal resiliency that has been observed could be the strength that can truly help to reconstruct Nepal. For instance the database of 220 initiatives that we developed to connect alternative leaders via online platform and the report based on it  (that will be released shortly) shows an upsurge in the community-led initiatives for post- disaster management. Therefore this ‘togetherness’ should be seen as an opportunity to rebuild more resilient Nepal in the future. In fact it was fascinating to see the upsurge of new community organizations and individuals voluntarily taking the lead role to rebuild Nepal while the political parties were still in deep slumber and have no idea as what is to be done and how.

This new mass composed of self-directed citizenry is different from their conventional counterparts who were largely confined to politicized mass mobilization and have no sense of altruism. What is more interesting though is that the rise of this new ‘island of civility’ in the wake of crisis has brought a new kind of ‘people’s activism’  which is uniting Nepali society despite various artificially created differences based-on caste, class, and ethnicity in the past by the political parties, the civil society and to some extent donors as well. The community based disaster responders are apolitical in nature and are found to have been adopting secular approach while dealing with the problems.

These lots can certainly be trusted to rebuild Nepal through the way in which they took up the task of reaching out to the victims be it in the case of  supplying immediate relief materials  or raising money from friends and families far and distant. The origin of this new sense of voluntarism among the Nepalese shows that they largely value the society they belong to, thus projecting a sense of organic ‘community resilience’. Through this new strength of community engagement, one can certainly come up with ‘alternative approaches of development’ in its true sense of the term.  We could come across ample reasons to believe that if this collective strength of the common people is harnessed properly Nepal will not be far away in addressing various problems ranging from development to democracy building that it faces today.

The Challenges

Every post-disaster situation is unique and differs from one place to another and therefore it is important to understand the local context vis-à-vis culture, geography, society, political behavior, and economy to develop appropriate recovery and reconstruction strategy. One of the major challenges for any country that has undergone disaster faces while adopting post disaster recovery and reconstruction is how to transform immediate relief efforts into long-term developmental goals. Engagement with communities through various actors, most notably with local people would certainly ensure sustainability of the efforts undertaken and fine tune developmental goals objectively. Equally important would be as how to take both public-private partnership and international community’s efforts on board for the purpose of rebuilding. Amidst all the task of recovery and reconstruction what is also important is to strike a balance between local dynamics of culture and power relationship on which the societies are built, community spirit remains intact and people’s aspirations are fulfilled in time.

Having said all these, however, the extant state of affairs certainly raises some fundamental questions such as:

First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

 
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language of needs?

Thanks for the thoughtful post, @meenabhatta.

Makes me think perhaps it’s useful to look at international agents at three levels: donors (say individual donors to the Red Cross in Haiti), managers (Red Cross head of departments and generally big deciders), and doers (people on the ground). So when international agents touch the ground and are less helpful than they could, which of the three elements could do better, and how? (It looks like people on the ground need help from their managers, and managers need some gentle oversight from donors.)

In any case, international agents should end up improving their action. What does it look like? Should they be doing less, more, different? Earlier, later? How? It may boil down to a matter of respect. Respect for the situation’s complexity and for the people’s agency. The devil is of course in the details.

On another post, someone mentioned how a political party of young people just left their political action to the side, used their own organisation, and got going. They found challenges in “shared prioritisation” which in some circumstances slowed them down. I don’t know how they’ll be doing the “after quake” work.

To that post, I suggested it might be useful to use some “language of needs”. A language would be something neutral for all participants. It would allow those in need to express their needs in that language, and those able to help to say what they might contribute. The neutrality of such a language might help clarify the need for respect and make it operational. (Maybe.)

I have personally used such a language in a theoretical (so far) situation, in which state actors would be overwhelmed and there would be a need for those standing up (mostly locals, but with different agendas until the moment the crisis hits) to organise themselves around whatever needs appear (or are clearly visible in the short and medium term) as a result of the crisis. http://www.resiliencemaps.org links to “pandemic in the macaronesia”.

In short, imagine we look at what’s on the ground, and local leaders say something like this. We’ve scanned our needs:

  1. at the individual level, and there's enough water indefinitely because we have a clear river, we need shelter for the monsoon and later for winter for 450 families, and (say) 27 of us need insulin etc;
  2. at the group level, we need a number of solar phone chargers and a way to move stuff across this valley;
  3. at the organisation level, we need (say) Red Cross and MSF to coordinate among themselves because up until now they have duplicated their supplies and not brought some things that were needed.

Ideally, everyone (locals in need, same-country helpers, international helpers) would be able to work with that information, reducing misinformation (including perception gaps), and fostering a sense of objectivity and people-need centeredness.

I realise SCIM (the language put forward in ResilienceMaps, of which the previous paragraph is an example) is heavily focused on “vital infrastructure”. There are also emotional needs (PTSD), cultural issues (though “language” may fall under “communication infrastructure”?), and other issues. But maybe the notion of a “language of needs” might help?

If felt to be so, is there such a language already? Could a light template be designed? Or maybe it’s just a matter of linking initiatives like what you’ve described with the 220 initiatives turned into a database of mutually seeing people? (It does feel like a most interesting approach. Particularly if the less-connected have proxies who help them enter the conversation as fully as possible.)

I feel we’re all learning from what works and from further reflection. Thank you.

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Expand to include relief organization feedback, and other points

Your last point: “Red Cross and MSF to coordinate among themselves because up until now they have duplicated their supplies and not brought some things that were needed”

…made me think that one could also supply the victims with the means to give feedback to the organizations in some form.

Sorta like a “How am I driving? Call…” sticker on a car. If people take awkward pictures to document the necessity of victims, then one may just as well rate the other side. Of course the devil is in the details here as well, and you want to watch out for unintended consequences. But imagine following arrangement: the victims get something like a deck of poker-cards that are machine readable on the back (e.g. QR-code), and have different easily understandable feedback options facing away from the picture taker - towards the relief receivers. One could also say you have to take at minimum two from the “could be better deck” and two from the “this was really helpful deck”.

I now found the 69p FluSCIM article. I’ll see if I get around to writing some critique of that into the pdf and send it to you. I remember my last attempt was not very clear. Nudge me in a while if I did not come back to you with that.

I wonder if there’d be any smart way of declining (some) relief work in favor of a more substantial sustainable development package. My gut feel is: probably there isn’t. Relief is relief and it is not a situation where you want to start bartering. If you would - it is likely you run into all sorts of negative unintended consequences. There’s enough of those in the plain relief work already I’m afraid. I just wonder if this did receive much thought yet, and where I could read up on this. The challenge one faces switching from relief to reconstruction and resiliency is perhaps related to that.

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Keeping the spirit alive

My impression is that community is an important ingredient to “keeping the spirit alive”. One very effective way of building relationships (community) and long lasting emotional involvement is to expose groups of people to emotional stress* (team building exercises).

So once you have your database of initiatives up and running I would suggest to consider these things:

  1. “Round robin day or week” Where one or two people from one initiative volunteer for one of the others. This will strengthen cohesion, and info flow between the groups and also open up new perspectives.

  2. “You can do it too! day” Sometimes volunteer workers can inadvertently distance themselves from their regular peer group because they are involved so much with relief and reconstruction. This often has many negative knock-on effects later on - and perhaps just as important - misses the opportunity to bring someone fresh aboard (especially if the group consists predominantly out of “veterans of the first hour”). Feelings of guilt and shame may also present an obstacle, especially if there is no convenient occasion to bring this into a conversation.

Ideally you can combine these two as the host organization has to break in someone from another background anyway. That way the “new guy” would not feel out of place, but sees that there is no “magic” involved anywhere. Perhaps you can get something like a school day off for people participating**.

*You don’t want to traumatize everyone in absolutely depressing and frustrating situations though. The subjective stress level is very variable - so it might be a good idea to start building it up gradually and not push people further than one should.

**In Germany we had this, where you essentially go and work for a day with the money going into some aid project. In your case you could involve the people directly of course.

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agility

I wonder if a very light subset of what wikispeed.com folks use to create superfast high-mpg cars with one-week iterations (car is a set of modules with contracts between them, etc) could be used.

Specifically, the “pair programming” in software, which dates back to apprientship: each task is carried out by the oldhand and the newbie together, so no need for documentation and the newbie learns by doing. For scrum practitioners (wikispeed is scrum for hardware), it’s this: “if you’re the only one able to do your job, we’ll fire you”. In SCIM/resiliencemaps.org terms, this means we need to watch out for the team need of “people replacement” (in case I fall with the flu, who does the flu statistics?).

Maybe one oldhand for several newbies, in certain circumstances. It helps the whole network scale, even if it does take more time at the very beginning.

This of course means that relief folks should be trained in the mindset beforehand, so it becomes second nature once the crisis starts. And it should be very simple. A motto, an unforgettable example of how some memorable hero did it, tales around the fire - whatever it takes.

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Here’s my philosphy on that in very broad strokes

https://edgeryders.eu/en/comment/17783#comment-17783

Regarding agile, scrum and wikispeed: there sure is something to be said for it. I’ve listened in on some of the sessions, it was pretty neat to be able to do that alone.

However these methods are also catching some flak. Not all applies the same in all situation though… perhaps it makes sense to start reading the comments.

https://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/why-agile-and-especially-scrum-are-terrible/

Perhaps OT, helis and sortition

I’d be interested in where I can find more about the different performance of the helicopters in relief work. Depending on what the details were, it is sometimes possible to infer something about the bigger picture. If you have any leads, I’d be interested to look that up.

The other thing is perhaps interesting to you given your background. There is this guy in my town who has some pretty strong notions on constitutions in a democratic society.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oN5tdMSXWV8

This is not intended as a way to “fix your constitution” of course, but more as a brain tickler. I found it quite useful in “shaking up some concepts” I had. It may kick lose a thought or two that have an indirect bearing on the topic you nicely described above. Here’s some more context to this: https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/etienne-chouard/

To be honest I find it really hard to comment on the relief vs reconstruction issue. I like to think I tend to focus on reconstruction and resilience - but at the same time I am sitting here in my armchair burning through one kWh after the other. So who am I to comment on such matters?

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whirlybird’s eye view?

@meenabhatta I browsed around a little and thought you might want to do a little debriefing with this gentleman (nepal based heli pilot):

http://www.pprune.org/8976323-post2842.html

I would assume he can give pretty good insights into a couple of things that could be done better, as he must have seen a lot. But who asks the bus driver, eh?

He could probably also recommend a couple of good sources from the armed forces he apparently cooperated with and hold in high regard.

Great leaders

I personally think that the key for the three issues that Meenabhatta presents, lies in the leaders.

First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

Some leaders must remain after this “momentum”, and they will be mostly the ones who keep the spirit alive and think and act beyond the reconstruction.

Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

It seems quite obvious that the current Nepali maximum leaders will not be a motivation for the International communities to keep making efforts for Nepal, once the situation gets back to “normal” (if we can even call it normal). We need then other people, reliables ones, who call for regular aid from the International community and give reports and accurate information in exchange, in order to maintain the credibility and enthusiasm.

Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

If we get to “produce” great leader, yes, they will be able to do so.

And why do I use the word “produce”? I propose to select a limited number of those people who are showing to have the skills and, mostly, the willingness and attitude for being a leader. And then teach them, create an especial (ad-hoc) education program that turns these “amateur” leaders into “proffesional”, greatest ones. Based on the know-how of the International and local experts, and also well advised by locals to use the most understandable language, we can create a kind of master degree to become a leader.

  1. So, first, what kind of attitudes, skills and characters should we consider for making the previous selection of the leaders? (preferably locals)

Some such as

  • Honesty

  • Communication. For this, sense of humor is more important that it may seem to be (“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” - Oscar Wilde)

  • Confidence

  • Commitment

  • Positive Attitude

  • Ability to Inspire

  • Creativity

  • Ability to Delegate

  • Etc.

Of course the previous experiences in leadership will be valued.

  1. And what to teach them?

A) Personal values and skills. Subjects like:

- Personal Self-Confidence

- Enthusiasm - Inspiration

- Self-Control

- The habit of saving

- Gratitude

- Doing more than getting paid for

- The gap between Ideal and Reality

- The 80% model (Pareto principle)

- Pleasing personality

- Accurate thinking

- Concentration

- Cooperation

- Tolerance

- The Golden Rule: what you give, you will get (call it the law of Cause and Effect, or just karma, if you prefer)

- Desire (success always begins with strong desire)

- Faith

- Autosuggestion (how to convince your own subconscious mind that you are capable to do what you are intending to do — never forget that everything is potentially possible)

- Imagination / creativity (“Many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”)

- Intuition (how to get the knowledge/wisdom without having to be processed by the mind, meditation is a great tool for this)

- Organized planning

- Decision

“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

- Persistence

- The power of the Master Mind. This is concept introduced by Napoleon Hill in his famous book “Think and Grow Rich”. The Master Mind Alliance is the union of two or more powerful, complementary minds, that are able to reach much greater results than a single mind (something like what we are doing in edgeryders)

B) Some necessary disciplines

- Team management

- Project and time management

- Psychology

- Emotional Intelligence and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming)

- Coaching and mentorship

- Metaphysics

C) More specialized knowledge, such us:

  • Social/politic sciences

  • Economics

  • International protocol

  • Laws

  • National and international geography

  • National and international History

  • Health

  • Etc.


A) are the core values that every “good” leader should assimilate into his/her character and consequently convey to the people, even unconsciously.

B) are some disciplines that I consider very valuable for a leader.

C) consist in more specialized knowledge that the leader will require once she/he start taking over of posts of greater responsibility.

I suggest also that the selected leaders are regularly monitored by edgeryders and untimately by UN, in order to:

  • Make sure they are performing in the expected way.

  • Assist them psychologically and spiritually, something necessary when the people face new situations and tasks, especially for positions of big responsibility. It is not rare in those cases that the person experiences stress, anxiety and other potential deseases.

  • Advise them in terms of protocol, clothing, etc.

  • Keep a constant education, whenever it is necessary — mostly the list C)

It is proved along the History that the greatest Human achievements have usually a common factor: a great leader.

Just to mention two: Leonidas I king of Sparta (epically portrayed in the famous film “300”) and, in a more pacific and advisable way, Mothama Gandhi.

Therefore, taking advantage of the unconventional current situation in Nepal, let’s “produce” great leaders from people with the proper character, then support and monitor them in a regular basis, and we can reach amazing -till now unimaginable- results.

First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

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Polar opposites?

Wow - I think we have a little different take on some things. But it is cool to read a very different perspective for a change. I can imagine we could be discussing for a looong time around a nice campfire. :slight_smile:

I do agree with this part “[…] and we can reach amazing -till now unimaginable- results.” But I’d want to warn you that such things can go either way.

I have a question regarding the number of leaders though. You say you’d want to select some - but why can’t we just educate A LOT? Perhaps not straight away, but over time. If leaders are helpful - why would we want to limit this help? You don’t have to answer the question - I’d already be happy if you think/meditate on it for a bit.

Lastly, I feel compelled to say I am at least skeptical with regard to “[…] — never forget that everything is potentially possible”.

I think you’re new here, right? Welcome aboard! Funny that we ran into each other straight away. :wink:

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Hello Trythis (I apologize, I don’t know your name - Matt, what about showing the name in the profile page? ^_^)

Thanks so much for the welcome!!

Well, I did not specify a number of leaders to be trained, it depends on the available resources. Maybe the United Nations can provide us a lot of resources for this enterprise, though we must always be aware of the values harbored by the selected trainees, as we would not like to repeat the History in Nepal, would we?

And about what you mention: I feel compelled to say I am at least skeptical with regard to “[…] — never forget that everything is potentially possible”.

This is a very deep subject that escapes from the guidelines of this conversation, but thanks to the experiments in quantum physics carried during the last years, it is well known now that this world that we experience as physical is nothing but an infinite amount of energy vibrating at a certain frequency (mater is low frequency), and that energy that we experience in front of us -our reality- is dependant of the energy we are broadcasting from our minds, like a radio station, amplified by the feelings (from our hearts).

In that way, we are literally (co)-creating our reality with our thoughts, followed, of course, first by words and then by acts.

This is a very short -quite mingy and confused- explanation, but I would not like to miss the subject of this thread. I can explain you more about it if you would like.

In short, if we would like to see a new reality, we must first firmly believe it is actually possible, and then work in that way until it is eventually reached.

Imagine one century ago somebody telling it is possible to walk on the moon, or to see and talk with other people who live in other part the world, just with a handheld device. Well, somebody believed in those ideas, that finally, with the help of other believers, were become true.

So, if we are dreaming with seeing a different Nepal, the very first step is believing it is possible, otherwise I would rather sit down, stare at the beautiful mountains and do nothing but relax.

There is a quote coming also from Napoleon Hill… “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

OT so I’ll keep it short

Re energy: I recommend looking at Do the Math. If you have the time, the popular articles are pretty much all worth a read (although they don’t tell the whole story). If you want more “authority”: http://www.withouthotair.com/ .

Re “infinite” energy, vibrations, and QM: I recommend http://physics.stackexchange.com/ , or if you are so inclined this might be interesting for you.

Re beliefs influencing “the real world”: We can talk about that around the campfire. :slight_smile:

Re Napoleon Hill: I’d counter with Schopenhauer. At minimum.

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Thank you guys for taking out some time to put in you thoughts here. I am really overwhelmed to read the comments.

The way community-led initiatives emerged in Nepal after the earthquake is really a thing to look up to for a country like Nepal which is having a crisis of a strong civil society base for quite a long time and perhaps the very reason why we are unable to get the constitution drafted on time  despite the extension of so many deadlines. @esteban rightly said, above its the leadership that matters a lot be it for reaching a political consensus  or be  it for post-disaster management. And probably this could be an area for donors to renew their role of  grooming the ‘new civil society’ base that have emerged recently after the earthquake. @LucasG i agree with the levels of donors you talked about and in Nepal we have had more of manager types of donors. Most of the times the donors are so much city centered that they tend to measure the success of their project based on the number of people they have reach in the urban areas and other areas which are easily accessible. They don’t take that extra burden of reaching our the ones in remote areas. 

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how to enhance the accountability of donors??

Yes and since we have had an international community that has lost is charm in Nepal apparently for reasons like their too much involvement int he constitution writing process (by involving in some of the contentious  issues of identity, ethnicity how can they rebuild the trust  and work towards reconstruction and rehabilitation after the earthquake? Any inputs? 

When you say “international community” - you mean other high level organizations (that are supposed to represent their populace), right? I am not informed on the (probably important) details on why what went wrong - but I’ll risk a general statement:

Most of the time the “average Jane/Joe” on the street has very little interest to meddle in far away countries internal matters (unless they were pushed by the media). However the high level organizations supposedly representing them strangely enough often develop strong notions about how things are to be managed in far away places. If these organizations are based in democratic countries, one should generally be able to bridle them a little by simply asking for proof that they are acting as faithful representatives of their constituents opinions…

Do you have links that work as a “primer one what went wrong the last time”?

Need of holistic approach maybe?

Interesting issue and wanted to be part of ongoing discussion. Much appreciation    for the effort @meenabhatta.

Response to author’s question:

Q.1. First:  how to keep the existing community spirit alive and mobilize it for the purpose of reconstruction activities;

A. 1. Creating environment of “TRUST”. Resort to the right based partnership approach with local community in reconstruction activities. Empowerment along with reconstruction.

Q.2. Second, how best can international community help to reconstruct Nepal and maintain community resiliency at the same time;

A.2. International community should;

-Focus on long term reconstruction approach and also focus on human resource aspect.

-Need assessment and must partnership with locals before finalizing plans.

-Financial assistance is an obvious area where international community is indispensable.

-Bring to Nepal best practices and knowledge, expertise etc.

-International community need to practice what they preach.

Q.3. Third and perhaps the most important one is can these groups of ‘island of civility’ be trusted enough to take up broader responsibilities in shaping Nepal’s political future and civil society?

A.3. It looks promising but it’s too early to decide. With right mentorship and development it is very much possible for the groups to be next face of Nepal’s politics and CSOs.

I would like to identify some of the issues that might be interesting in the ongoing debate of reconstruction. I am making my comments being based on issues raised broadly in public domain and which needs to be addressed if we are seeking more than Band-Aid approach in Nepal in relation to post disaster reconstruction.

#Question of Transparency/Accountability:

The government of Nepal does not have credible history of accountability, the question relating to accountability of government in fund mobilization has often been in question. During the post-quake phase, the accountability of government in terms fundraising and mobilization has be subjected to severe skepticism from world community.

In the current context not only government but transparency of financial aspect of NGOs and INGOs has been issue of discussion. Please refer to: http://myrepublica.com/t20/item/22748-commentary-ingos-show-us-your-numbers.html

We have also witnessed claims and counter claims from CSOs and the government relating to post quake relief activities. CSOs have also alleged government of not cooperating and even playing obstructive role in post-earthquake relief activities. Please refer to:  http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/earthquake-relief-nepal-could-be-better-if-civil-society-s-hands-weren-t-tied

The broader concerns of reconstruction, Communitarian Approach and other opportunities can only be materialized being based on principle of accountability and transparency. Accountability and transparency of stakeholder involved.

#Post-Disaster need of Nepal is not an ad-hoc need

Nepal is and always have been prone to natural disaster including but not limited to earthquake, landslide, flooding etc. The post disaster reconstruction this time should include capacity building aspect of locals as well. Let’s construct the human side as well i.e. working towards generating specialized human resources {pool of specialized human resources} in disaster management, crisis management, search and rescue, academic, analyst, economist, scientist etc.

We need expert in these area with contextual knowledge. When we focus on re-construction, we need to focus on this side as well. So, when disaster hits us next time, at least we have specialized people who knows how to lead the volunteers and those who want to help. This will make the effort more effective.

We need post disaster specialist in various domain as Nepal is susceptible to natural disaster.

#Pre-emptive steps in maintenance and assessment

The reconstruction approach should (mutually) promote the idea of pre-emptive maintenance and assessment of buildings. Particular attention is desirable in case of cultural heritage. One of the very pervasive practice of government of Nepal is absence of regular monitoring and maintenance. This is applicable in case of cultural heritage, roads, bridges, government including (including embassies abroad).

So the reconstruction aspect should also alarm government and general public about need and benefits of timely assessment, maintenance and observation of buildings, Sites etc.

#Nepalese youth and social media

The period of earthquake and days aftermath showed us how intriguingly Nepalese youth are involved and active in social media including twitter, Facebook, etc. We should actively use this platform to inform the users regarding the reconstruction and issues associated with it.

This live in age where information is power and social media is platform for sharing information. The reconstruction program must use social media to share stories, update information and generate public opinion.

The “crowd funding” using Facebook as promotional platform and trend on twitter #GoHomeIndianMedia shows how much powerful social media can be in creating and sharing opinion.

Social media mobilization must be part of reconstruction as information platform.

#Need of Co-ordination and synchronization of effort.

The support and helping hands extended to Nepal was unprecedented, however one might argue that it lacked co-ordination and efforts were not synchronized in appropriate manner. There has been news reports of disaster site with overabundance of relief material and some places being unseen and unheard of.

The mobilization of resources, need assessment, equitable distribution relief has issue of concern and this must be seen as important variable in reconstruction process.

#Youth leadership and glimpse of hope

During the post-earthquake phase Nepalese youth has shown immense hope with the leadership and volunteering spirit. There has been various notable group of individual, youth led organization that have demonstrated that the next generation of youth more than capable of leadership. With appropriate mentoring and appreciation this youth who are helping Nepal to rise can lead the country.

We need to focus on next generation leaders and need to start mentoring them.

Will come back with more input.

Regards,

Barun

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@barun_ghimire thank you for joining us and sharing your valuable inputs. And yes, as you said, it is high time for us to start mentoring the new group of public sphere that emerged after the earthquake so that such voluntarily sprung youth base just don’t dwindle away…:slight_smile:

Some more thoughts??

After the massive earthquake that grappled our nation the next challenge that lies ahead is the reconstruction.  The ongoing need assessment has pointed out the requirement of Rs 666 billion for the recovery drive. For this entire reconstruction process the government has also revised the budget ceiling of foreign aid and is in a spree of convincing donors to assist for reconstruction. See.

The government of Nepal has recently decided to set up a reconstruction body to rebuild the damaged infrastructures. For that a donor’s meet is being held on 25th June 2015 before the actual reconstruction process is rolled out.  In this meet, donors and the government bodies are coming to a face to face dialogue after probably more than a decade. The government intends to use the platform to explain the world how it plans to rebuild the country and for the donors who have been doling out funds worth billions in the name of post-disaster management the meeting will certainly be an opportunity to restate their long-running concerns.

There  is no doubt that any post-disaster effort to restore affected communities needs to employ a broad inclusive approach but what we also need is a holistic technical guidance, for not just bringing together the different sectors but  also for addressing the process and the physical products of reconstruction activities – the ‘software’ along with the ‘hardware.’  The challenge for us is now the implementation part – see.

Amidst all this, larger issues and concerns lie ahead of us and these needs some serious attention:

  1. What would be the best modalities for the international community to help rebuild Nepal (monetary support vs. technical assistance / training communitarians to rebuild their communities)?
  2. Should they provide support through I/NGOs (which they have always done and which has gained much criticism over the period of time) as in the rescue and relief phase or through the government budgetary process or maybe we should think of investing via the alternative leaders? And,
  3. What can be done to build trust between these three entities in the changing scenario – the international community, the government and the alternative leaders?
  4. For Nepal, whatever may be the problem –the political, economic or social– institutionalization has always stood as a major hurdle. So how do we build strong and accountable institutions?

Trust builds up gradually

I think Meena asks exactly the right questions. Without trust, community-driven initiatives will not be supported by INGOs or government and will not play a significant role in reconstructions, even though they could do many tasks more efficiently. And currently, there is no such trust.

So how does trust develop? When I buy things online, I have to pay before I get anything, so obviously I need to trust the seller and look for a trustable seller. If there are not enough signs of trustability (like prior experiences by others), I would start with a small “test” order and if that goes well, do the real order.

And like such interpersonal trust, trust between organizations can build up from past collaborations. These collaborations would start small like a “test”, then gradually become larger, until finally the (I)NGO donor organizations each have some initiatives led by alternative leaders to whom they can entrust substantial amounts of resources. This trust building would need some “success assessment” done by the donor organizations, but especially the guts to start trusting these “crazy” uninstitutionalized grassroots activities to get things done. The first round of trust might only be enough for 1 Lakh NPR … but for a start, that would be just fine.

Once the large organizations have to start coordinating lots of small grants, @Alberto’s point about the coordination costs becomes valid though. Maybe this trustbuilding (4 rounds with grants from 1000 USD to 100 000 USD) could be outsourced to an organization specializing in connecting communities with institutions … wink

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Randomized trial

I am out of my depth here. I do not really have much to say about building institutions in general, though I have dome some highly specific institution design in the past. A small contribution: it would be incredibly forward thinking if alternative leaders were given freedom to operate on a few villages, so that different approaches to relief could be prototyped. Even better would be to mount a randomized trial assessment on it. Take 10 villages, with broadly similar characteristics and randomly assign 5 of them to structured NGO and the other 5 to alternative leaders (whatever that means). Then go back in two years and compare the two groups. I know, it’s just a fantasy.

It is a long shot for many reasons, one of which is capacity. Grassroots communities are extremely smart and productive, but they tend to be small, and alternative leaders tend to be few and overwhelmed. Supposing government and other institutional actors threw the door wide open, how many alternative leaders would be ready to step in?

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