World Renew longs for community transformation. Transformation happens when communities learn to develop, implement, and sustain their own solutions to problems. World Renew partners with organizations around the world to provide support as communities do this hard work. When a community is involved in assessing their own capacity for change, the odds of transformation are strengthened.
Transformation takes time and, before that precious commodity is spent, assessing a community’s strengths and needs is imperative. Sometimes community assessments look like full-scale scientific surveys and a lot of time is spent collecting, tabulating, and presenting data. In Haiti, World Renew and its partner the Christian Reformed Church of Haiti (ECRH) discovered that with just a few hours and a handful of beans, a community can look at and develop consensus about its own needs and abilities to address them.
Last year, as part of an organization-wide effort to test a new community assessment framework called the Community Capacity Indicator, World Renew asked a sample of partners and communities to engage in pilot testing the framework. 5 particular areas of strength, or capacity, would be assessed:
- Sustainable Community Ownership
- Effective and Participatory Community Organizations
- Equity and Equality for Vulnerable Groups in the Community
- Program Quality and Results
- Spiritual Formation.
World Renew Haiti agreed to host community meetings in 10 different areas of Thomassique and Belladere. They organized meetings in which members of the community were given a series of questions — and a handful of beans. As the group heard the questions, each member responded by putting their bean by a word at their table: YES, NO, and NOT YET. This visual representation of their agreement or disagreement on a particular issue led to a dynamic debate. Participants challenged each other’s answers, clarified positions, shared information that helped others understand parts of the situation they might not know.
This lively discussion required the development of consensus among community members with different opinions and views on how community issues should be understood and addressed. As they identified strengths and weaknesses — their community’s capacity — they were able to create step-by-step plans of action to be accomplished by the community in collaboration with ECRH and World Renew.
This community involvement, also called capacity building, requires regular check-ins to monitor progress and the prospect of achieving those in a short time makes this crucial part of community planning possible. World Renew Haiti reports that the involved communities were very satisfied that they were able to assess and plan for their communities in a short time. Amazing things can be accomplished by the regular investment of a few hours and a handful beans!
World Renew Haiti