Guest Post by Kate DiMercurio, Community Social Change Workshop, April 2013

Over the course of the semester, I worked with a group to write a case study of the Andean Alliance’s work with the Wiñay Warmy weaving group in Choquecancha. We were tasked with learning about the project, the primary stakeholders, what was working, what wasn’t, and what changes could potentially be made to improve the project. Over the last weekend, our Community Social Change class met to discuss 6 different case studies focused around the work of the AASD and other NGOs working in the area.  The experience was incredibly useful for me to contextualize my understanding of the process of community social change.  I was also very surprised by how much the AASD was able to accomplish over the period of a few years, and how much they had learned and grown as an organization in that time.  In all of their projects, they are always putting the interests of the community first.  This organization truly lives by the value of “do no harm,” and I greatly admire that, because it is a value which is lacking in so many other non-profits working in the area.

The main concept I took away from this weekend workshop was the idea that sometimes development and community social change should focus more on the process rather than simply the outcomes. Lasting and sustainable change happens slowly, we can’t rush the process, and this is an important lesson to keep in mind as so many “western” development organizations place so much emphasis on efficiency and getting things done quickly. Get in and get out. But that kind of mindset can do much more harm than good, and leave communities facing the greater issues of dependency. If we allow ourselves to truly listen to and work with the members of these developing communities, the outcomes can inherently be much more sustainable and have a greater impact. The AASD still faces many challenges in being able to do the work they wish to do, but they are on the right path, and they have the support of the MIIS community behind them.