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A close friend of mine, who worked in a reputed Non Government Organization (NGO), had to visit one of the rural villages in Nepal. The objectives of the visit were to do an assessment of the village, build relation with different people and identify possible issues in which his organization could work on. While meeting with different community members, especially youth, he said he would come to the village with a project at per their need. However, no project ever got initiated because his organization didn’t find the ideas he brought from the village feasible. It might have meant very less to him because it was his organization’s decision to not work. After few years, he went to the same village with a new project in his mind. To his surprise, the community, once a very welcoming, didn’t heed to his presence, let alone discussing about the idea he brought. In his perplexity, he returned back to his office. This time it was his failure in fulfilling the objectives of the visit which was to introduce an idea in the community and initiate the idea by bringing community to his confidence. With his deep self-reflection, he came to realize that his promise, which was not kept beforehand, was haunting him. He had already lost the trust of the community. Further he investigated and realized that an expectation was set in the villagers. He talked to a friend of his, Raja, who belonged to the same community and had facilitated the assessment of the village. Raja said after my friend’s visit had created a different environment in the village. Many of the people felt for the first time in their life someone had showed interest to uplift them from their problems. However, after it was decided that there won’t be any program for their village, everyone was disheartened. They expected and their excitement went in vain. After that many other organizations also visited them with amazing works which could have indeed transformed the village. But the community resisted and as Raja said there was never an environment to trust any of the organization thenceforth.

My friend, finally, realized what he had done. Although he had not physically did any harm to the village, he had shaken up the whole foundation of NGO’s ethics i.e. do no harm policy. Under this policy is one that is rarely practiced by many which is NOT TO SET EXPECTATION in the places they visit. A community is complex and it is likely to have many issues to be addressed. And it is also apparent to hear many of the issues when we do the assessment of the community. But in this process, we often forget that the organization we represent have limitations too, in terms of its thematic working area or the amount of resources that it has. Until and unless it is sure that the idea, which even the community themselves come up with, would be implemented, any expectation that comes on shore need to be grounded. Till the time of confirmation, the possible beneficiaries i.e. community members, have to be made aware that they should not rely completely on the organization and there is always a possibility for any program not to be executed. I would also recommend that even when the expectations do not come on the surface, the community members still need to be made aware of the uncertainty in implementation of the idea.

Personally, I believe, this is one of the very reasons for many organizations, especially NGOs, to lose credibility from the communities. Hence, an orientation is highly recommended for the field staffs, early-on before they get immersed in the community, on how to lower down the expectations of the community members. Even in the failure of implementing ideas, the relation with the community would still remain cordially. ;evolusun 

Position: Founder - Saathi Ko Ghar and School Relation & Placement Coordinator - Teach For Nepal

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