From the beginning, all the way to the final execution of our project, ethics and community engagement have played an important part of our work. This summer after winning the New Challenge price of $2500, Jillian and I traveled to Caldas, Colombia, to work with victims from the Colombian armed conflict in a community called Pácora.
While we were preparing for the execution of the project in Pácora, I decided to read about steps that are taken when working on community projects. I identified several principles of community engagement found on this website, http://sustainingcommunity.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/ethics-and-community-engagement/ which are:
Careful planning and preparation
Inclusion and demographic diversity
Collaboration and shared purpose
Oral History and Ethics
Openness and learning
Transparency and trust
Impact and action
Sustained engagement and participatory culture
Other principles of community engagement:
4. Respect & honesty
7. Mutual obligation
I will show how some of these principles were incorporated throughout the implementation of our Voces Colectivas project.
Jillian and I have always said that our greatest accomplishment for our Voces Colectiva project was that we planned and design our project one-year prior. The first principle of community engagement is always careful planning and preparation, which should be “through adequate and inclusive planning, ensure that the design, organization, and convening of the process serve both a clearly defined purpose and the needs of the participants.” https://sustainingcommunity.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/ethics-and-community-engagement/
In preparation for the International Field Program Colombia, Jillian and I enrolled in “Rural and Regional Development in the Americas” at the New School, where we studied the economic history of Colombia’s coffee region and also learned about Colombia’s armed conflict, which has been ongoing for more than 50 years. Our greatest learning experience, however, was our time spent living in Colombia and working with people who have lived these realities.
In 2013, Jillian and I traveled to Colombia as part of the International Field Program. In collaboration with students from La Universidad Autónoma de Manizales, the IFP group developed plans that were going to take place in four municipalities of the department of Caldas, which were Supía, La Merced, Rio Sucio and Pácora. In Pácora and La Merced, the IFP group found that it is not uncommon for neighbors to still be divided by the conflict, which first arrived at their doorsteps nearly 14 years ago and remained active until roughly 5 years ago. Those that have experienced forced displacement or have been victims of the violence face unique challenges within these towns. Working with community members in Pácora, Jillian found that victims’ associations were formed to better help them advocate for themselves and to ensure government representation but within these groups there is a lack of cohesion and collective identity; people see themselves as individuals and not as members of a community.