Looking for signs of transformation

How can I know if transformation is happening? What signs should I look for?

I work long days in the villages and communities, and what motivates me is the hope that my work can bring about change in the lives of the children, families and communities that I have grown to love in the villages of Sikka, in Indonesia.

This year we tried something different in our Area Development Programme (ADP). We wanted to find ways of getting the community more involved in the planning and management of their own development, so that they can have more ownership over the plans.

"I was deeply encouraged by this reflection meeting, because I saw village leaders and local government taking responsibility for their future development."


This year, we decided to conduct a reflection with the community, partners and children, to ask them to give their recommendations on what we should include in our ADP Annual Operating Plan (AOP) for next year. This activity was attended by the representatives of Sikka District Government, village leaders, health workers, community health volunteers, farmer groups, Citizens Voice and Action (CVA) facilitators, children group facilitators, and children from 20 villages. To make it easy for children to join in we did the reflection on a school holiday.

I was deeply encouraged by this reflection meeting, because I saw village leaders and local government taking responsibility for their future development. I think this is a sign of transformation, when people take responsibility for their futures.

During the meeting, village leaders, district government officials, and even children, were very active in identifying issues, discussing and trying to understand the issues, and suggesting possible solutions. The children were great! They actively joined in the discussions and then presented their own ideas to the meeting, in front of all the leaders. They were impressively confident, and talked about some of the social problems that hold their village back, like Moke (an alcoholic traditional beverages that commercially available for all ages in Sikka) and cigarettes.These are the signs of transformation that I saw: that all parties in a village are starting to think, and to take responsibility for the development of their villages. It wasn't always like this.

"Through the assistance of WVI, I can be brave to talk in public.”

I am the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Coordinator at Sikka ADP, so I was responsible for setting up the reflections, and I was also a facilitator. I started with making detailed plans for the reflection meetings, and wrote them into a Term of Reference (ToR), which I developed together with the ADP staff. Our team then talked to the sub-district and village leaders and worked with them to send out the invitation and set up the meetings.

One of the causes of poverty is that the community pay a little attention to what is happening around them; they accept malnutrition, child mortality and lack of education as normal. Even if they recognize that these things are wrong, they feel they have no power to change their situation. I think through this reflection with their community, they have begun to become more aware of the problems that restrict the development of their villages and they have become more confident is sharing their ideas.

I was just an Elementary School graduate so it was hard for me to talk in front of many people. Through the assistance of WVI, I can be brave to talk in public.” Said Mrs. Ermiana, a community health volunteer from Waihawa Village.

These reflections went well, and the staff did a great job of facilitating the discussions. There were some challenges though:

Firstly, most of the recommendations that came from the partners and community were things that had already been done before. They were recommending activities that they were already familiar with. This is ok, because these ideas are relevant, but on the other hand, it can also show that they have limited knowledge of other options that are available. The challenge as the facilitator is how to stimulate them so that they can explore the real issues more deeply, and help them to look for solutions ‘outside the box’.

Secondly, some of the recommendations from the community were very focused on physical assets. For example, in response to the problem of children not being educated, the community suggested they should have more books. This is a great suggestion, but it won’t solve the problem. So then our role is to have a deeper discussion about how the underlying causes can be solved. In this example, we talked about where the books would be stored, who would be responsible, where could children go to read books in safety and comfort, and more importantly, how to stimulate a desire to read and lean within the children themselves. This is the kind of conversation we need to have with communities if we are going to see sustainable change. We can’t just hand out book because they ask for books.

So I believe I am seeing the beginnings of transformation happening in these villages. I believe because I can see the signs: the community is taking more responsibility for their own development. They don’t just list out their problems, but they spend time and energy trying to understand the causes of those problems. They come up with solutions that make sense in their situation. Children are also taking responsibility for their own development and are becoming confident to give their opinion, even in front of the elders and leaders. The next thing to do is to support the community to do the things they have recommended. Perhaps this will lead to more and better plans, and plans that bring them hope?

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