Since 2011 WPF has provided ongoing accompaniment to cooperatives and community organizations, whose purpose has been to support the ability of local populations to reflect on and resolve their own problems.
But the power imbalance inherent with the presence of an international development organization is an enormous challenge to having an open and frank discussion of available options by the “beneficiaries”. Instead attention tends to focus on the perceived interests of the aid agency. Without a specific methodology that addresses this reality, and ongoing reflection on this disparity, local understandings will go unexpressed or unheard, and the solutions proposed will be unrecognized reflections of the development agency perspective.
But there are also power imbalances inherent in any community, present long before the arrival of the development agency, which are largely responsible for the existing economic and social institutional arrangements. Those arrangements benefit some sectors while leaving others excluded. That institutional framework, built up over decades if not centuries, has a corresponding mental framework which functions unconsciously in the form of unquestioned beliefs and perspectives in support of the status quo and against change.
Resolving community problems often involves recognizing those unquestioned institutional and mental frameworks, and incorporating new voices in the community reflection, especially the perspectives of women and youth.
But specific methodologies are needed to create an environment where these sectors feel the freedom to think and express themselves autonomously without fear of reprisals by those sectors who do hold economic and social power. This also requires a recognition of the need to change on the part of both the accompanied and the accompaniers, It is only in dialogue with the accompanied that accompaniers learn how to best play their role.