Participate Now! designs and evaluates projects by following the four key steps in our approach to Collaborative and Entrepreneurial Development. This method is cyclical in that we are continually building upon each initiative and expanding our networks of impact.
Step 1: Listen and Learn
We ask questions and listen in order to understand the needs of the community and then learn how to get those needs met.
Taking the time to ask the questions is a critical part of gaining participant acceptance and dedication. Living in the community gives us genuine insight into the lives and challenges of our clients and establishes trust and credibility. Participate Now! works to support projects that are derived by the participants, operate within cultural context of the local community, and build on the existing economic and social infrastructure. Towards this end, we build marketable skills that can be utilized within the local community.
Step 2: Create and Plan
We communicate, share, and explore ideas, which evolve into the definition of a project and a clear, yet flexible plan of action.
Once participants have identified their needs, we help them achieve their goals on their own. Project proposals are drawn up by participants and include realistic timelines, the identification of relevant milestone achievements along the way, and clear, meaningful measures of impact. Since we are continually exchanging points of view and learning, all projects remain flexible. Participate Now! supports small- scale projects where a small amount of money is a catalyst for change. Our focus is on building participants’ skills rather than encouraging long-term reliance on donor funding.
Step 3: Collaborate
We collaborate on many levels through peer mentorship and the building of linkages within the community and with external stakeholders.
The coming together of community members is vital to the successful communication, design, and implementation of a project. Peer-to-peer mentorship is an integral part of all projects and is a powerful way to gain understanding and respect. Ensuring respect and dignity is imperative and, in many ways, valued far more than financial gain. In order to share what we learn and to learn from others, we also promote collaboration with the larger community, village elders, local advisors, and donors. We build a lateral network by finding and cooperating with sister organizations, large and small, that carry out complementary projects.
Step 4: Document and Share Results
We assess and continue to learn from our projects through frequent, in-person visits and the documenting and sharing of results with all collaborators.
Regular follow-up is critical and is primarily conducted by the participants themselves as a mentorship activity. When assessing outcomes, we begin by asking participants, “what did you learn?” and “what will you do now?” A Western frame of reference is fundamentally different from one in Africa and there are vastly different perspectives within African society, so it is important for everyone to be open to revising assumptions, asking questions, and ultimately learning how best to improve livelihoods. Documentation through short written reports and photo-documentation are tangible ways participants reflect on accomplishments and analyze challenges/obstacles.
The assessment does not signal the end. Rather, through a cyclical process projects are not merely sustained, but rather their linkages grow stronger, their networks expand wider, and their scope and impact extend into the future propelled by the momentum and dedication of the participants.