By Kim Chham
Isn’t it amazing how there are thousands and thousands of NGOs around the world trying to solve issues of poverty, education, gender equality, peace and conflicts; and we are still drowning in these issues still, everyday?
Disclaimer: I am in no mean implying that all these issues are in the responsibility of NGOs alone to solve. I think that every single individual in this world has the responsibility to contribute to shape our society, although some of us have a lot less privilege and power to do so.
I’d just say, I think we have a lot of potential to work a lot more efficiently and effectively than we have been. And I am going to say that, one of the biggest reasons why we haven’t reached those potentials is because there is a lack of collaboration in the humanitarian field, as well as peacebuilding field.
Coming from Cambodia, a country that has had so many NGOs coming from outside to work on these different issues, I have been grateful but frustrated that many of these organizations are not working as well as they can be to reach their goals. In addition, while doing that, there have been more harms caused in some places than before the NGOs’ involvement. And again, I haven’t seen nearly enough collaboration between these organizations – some of whom have been working on the exact same issues for years. One truth to admit is, many NGOs have been surviving on funding and there is a limited pool of where that comes from. Thus, there is a competition to reach the money, which can sometime drive the ways NGOs operate and sometime away from the actual goals of their projects or missions. While we are on this topic, I might as well tell you another frustration of mine. Most of these NGOs (in my encounters) are led and managed by people who are not from the local communities. I honestly am thankful for their kind hearts, but they often don’t understand the issues as well as locals. Thus, solutions don’t solve the roots of problems they are facing.
But then I encountered CASP on Wednesday. A group who have been working to address their local issues of violence in Salinas, in a style that I have been looking for. They are about collaboration and local initiatives. Their key in making their work successful is the focus on common community values over all their differences. They do embrace their differences. They utilize the different skills each person and organization has to help each other in their work. In another word, they utilize the strengths of each stakeholder to combat violence; and they do it together.
As simple as it sounds, it’s hard for groups of people to find those common values. What I learned from CASP is, once you have found those common values and focus on them, political or any other ideologies won’t be able to stop you from uniting with your community. However, we have to keep in mind that those values have to be inclusive of all members of the community. It’s easier said than done. But once we find that, there is a strong force that will drive community trough some of the most challenging things, together. We all want to belong in a community and we love those who are close to us. So I think it’s very smart and simple to use that potential of togetherness that we all have to build peace in our communities.
One of the takeaways from this program that I’ll take home with me is: Find those common values and focus on that!