LDCN’s Approach to Community Development
LDCN’s approach to community development has evolved over the 8 years we have been working in the community of Nguineia, Mozambique and is rooted in the idea of embodying and demonstrating change through shared experiences and collaborative learning. Too often development projects are disconnected from the lived reality of people and communities and thus fail to bring about the deep and meaningful change necessary to provoke a real shift towards a more sustainable and flourishing future for all. As such, LDCN believes it is important to be rooted in community, to build relationships and to have a long term perspective and approach towards fostering community development. Working off this foundation, LDCN’s approach to development and project design is based on 3 core considerations: locally relevant, ecologically sustainable and economically viable. The culmination and intersection of these three core considerations in turn has led us to developing the LDCN Community Innovation Center and Demonstration Fields.
Often times development projects are designed, developed and implemented in a way that is disconnected from the reality of a local community. LDCN believes that a successful and sustainable project is one that is rooted in community and seeks to build feedback loops through meaningful engagement with the local community. Rather than seeing community members as passive participants in the development process, LDCN views community members as active and autonomous agents for change. We thus seek to build empowering and authentic relationships with community members and seek to not only identify challenges but more importantly local assets and skills that can be harnessed for meaningful solutions. Finally, LDCN also seeks to develop and use applied technology and methods that are accessible, appropriate and effective in the local context.
Rather than seeing the environment and natural resources in a purely utilitarian way, a key pillar of LDCN’s approach to development is to promote ecologically sustainability. For LDCN, this means looking for ways to not only conserve natural resources but also to rehabilitate local environments and use generative practices in our everyday living. Conserving and replenishing natural resources and the local environment does not have to be a trade-off and with proper design we can simultaneous help foster abundance and restore local environments while creating opportunities for more ecologically minded growth. To this end, LDCN uses agroecological and permaculture practices whenever possible in our living, building and agriculture activities. We are also actively engaged in planting trees and demonstrating meaningful agroforestry practices.
The long term and sustained continuity of a projects activities is connected with the availability of economic resources. A key component of LDCN’s approach to development is identifying projects that are not only cost effective but also build in meaningful pathways towards greater economic independence (for both the local community and LDCN as an organization) and self-generative funding mechanisms. In particular this means moving towards a more balanced development model which also generates funding from within project activities. This more social entrepreneurship and model looks to build a more circular local economy, to develop individual livelihood opportunities, to foster greater access to markets through urban-rural linkages, to promote horizontal integration and cooperative economic models, and finally to provide value added vertical integration of local production.
LDCN Community Innovation Center and Demonstration Fields
At the heart of our approach is our Community Innovation Center and Demonstration Fields. LDCN believes that change and development is a conscious choice rather than something that is passively done to or for someone. Change and development takes place in the dynamic relationship and intersection between both people and the environment. Building off this belief that change is simultaneously a deeply personal as well as collective process, LDCN views its role as demonstrating opportunities and fostering opportunities for people to makes choices and become their own agents of change.
Our Community Innovation Center and Demonstration Fields is the culmination of this idea and our approach to community development. It is a space where we can engage and interact with the community; it is a space where we can develop and test new ideas; it is a space where we can learn together with community members and develop meaningful feedback loops; and perhaps most importantly it is a space where we can embody and demonstate our values. It is from this common point of departure that together with community members we can explore how to expanding and deepen our support and impact at a broader community and regional level.