(This is the third part in a series of posts around a single story and event. The previous part is here)
“In 2010, millions of Kwacha worth of funds went missing from a Water and Sanitation project in Malawi.”…
…“The police had been informed, arrests made, lawyers hired, legal proceedings set in place, and District officers quickly shuffled into new positions to fill in the gaps.
I found myself in the situation where the main people I had worked with for the past 6 months were no longer working at the district, and without any transition of knowledge and information having been done with the new staff.”…
The first redeeming factor in the whole situation was that something had been done. Even if it had taken a long time, some action had been taken towards justice and accountability. There’s hope that the system isn’t completely broken.
Then in thinking about what the outcome of these events meant for the continuation of the work I was involved in, I realized that what I had accomplished was a lot more than just working with two individuals who were now gone.
I had been there in the district for 6 months, sitting in offices with many different district staff, having meetings with district leadership and helping anyone and everyone with small tasks and advice.
An article edited here, a conversation about accountability mechanisms there, a computer glitch fixed there, a ceremonial function attended, a lunch at someone’s home, conversations about someone’s family past and future. I was pretty involved with the district and almost considered another member of the staff. My interactions were far from limited to my past two direct counterparts, and the things I was helping them work on. I had developed strong relationships with so many of the people, including the staff that were shuffled into the empty positions and their supervisors.
Not only had I built strong relationships, but my understanding of the workings of the Malawian local government system had been steadily increasing as well. I had a much better idea of the processes, the hierarchies, how to get things done, and who to talk to about what. The relevant leadership in the district were already aware of and strongly supportive of the initiatives that had been started, and the tangible outputs that had been completed with previous staff were still around.
I had already gone through the hardest part of figuring out what and how to move things forward, learnt from a lot of mistakes and wrong approaches, and now I had to apply only the relevant steps and principles with the newly responsible staff. People who also happened to be extremely motivated and hard-working.
I’m still only at one level of understanding of the workings of the local government in Malawi, and about the best way to approach the type of change we’re trying to achieve, and I still don’t know if the outcomes of the work will be as expected. But I can safely say that I have made some meaningful impact on the district water and health departments here.
This post only describes one way that I’ve been working in Malawi and what I’ve accomplished. If you believe in this way of learning and working on issues in developing countries, please make a donation to EWB at this page…https://perspectives.ewb.ca/jordandaniow