Guest Post by Benedicte Gyllensten (Team Peru Summer 2012), Community Social Change Workshop, April 2013

I spent two months as a part of Team Peru last summer, working on a photo project in the small village of Pampacorral. I wanted to take part in the Community Social Change workshop because I thought it would be a great opportunity to reflect upon my experience in Peru in relation to community development. As we were discussing the Sacred Valley context and the different communities, I could picture it all in my head. I could see the colorful weaving products, the smiling kids with red cheeks and even the llamas and alpacas. Having the experience in Peru was definitely a big bonus for me, and it made the workshop more interesting and understandable. At the same time I think the things we discussed can be applied all over the world, including in our own backyards.

I really enjoyed critically examining the concept of community development over the weekend. Community is everywhere, and while we tend to discuss it as if it was a set entity, community is so much more than that. Our discussion about coffee on Saturday morning made me realize how many communities I am a part of; my “friends from high school” community at home, my family, Oslo, Norway, the MIIS community, the community of people that love coffee and so on. Community is about having something in common. In the development context, it is useful to define communities as set collections of people, but when we do this, we fail to recognize the many different communities within this community.

I am not always comfortable with the idea that I can enter a community I am not a part of to “create” social change. What this workshop made me realize is that there are many ways to become part of a community. I might not speak the same language or believe in the same religion, but I might have other things in common with the community. I think it is important to look for similarities rather than differences when trying to create a common ground. That way we can understand each other better and together create social change.