The importance of engaging target beneficiaries in community development programs

On the 30th of December 2015, LIN’s monthly NPO Morning Coffee returned to the subject of Community Development with a focus on “The participation of beneficiaries in the design and implementation of community development projects”. The guest speakers were Mr. Pham Thanh Van, Founder and Director of the AIDS Program, and Mrs. Truong Nguyen Bao Tran, Deputy Director of the Research Center – Counseling Social Work & Community Development (SDRC).

Mr, Pham Thanh Van addressed the importance of beneficiary participation in the design and implementation of community development projects. And while Mr. Van is quite senior to most of the participants, both in age and experience, his approach to explaining community development concepts was easily understood. The key point that was made by Mr. Van is that too often programs are designed for a beneficiary rather than with a beneficiary, which explains why many social programs do not realize their potential.

Upon convincing the network of the need for beneficiary participation, Mr. Van suggested a simple approach for NPOs to engage beneficiaries into their community development activities. The approach focused on clear communications, respectful interactions between NPOs and their beneficiaries and handover of the project to beneficiaries. Beneficiaries can and should be empowered by NPOs to design, operate and manage programs that address their needs. The 10-step ladder that Mr. Van used to explain his approach offered a useful tool to evaluate the level of involvement of beneficiaries into an NPO’s project. According to Mr. Van, the sustainability of a project depends on the capacity and willingness of the local people to continue to operate the project, or an improved version of it, on their own.

During the second half of the morning NPO Coffee Talk, Mrs. Truong Nguyen Bao Tran shared her experience running a project to train social workers in 2011. In this example, SDRC encouraged the social workers at the grassroots level to work together with SDRC project staff to develop the training materials for the program.

Since it would be the social workers who would use the training materials, they would need to understand how to make it suitable for themselves. And, as expected, the social workers provided useful feedback to SDRC on the proposed content. The result was a successful project that received positive feedback and compliments from key stakeholders. Mrs. Tran echoed Mr. Van’s earlier comments about the importance of beneficiary participation and she encouraged everyone to should apply the 10-step ladder of beneficiary involvement in order to understand the communities they are serving.

During the discussion, participants asked questions and exchanged valuable experience in engaging beneficiaries in community development programs

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