Friday, April 28, 2006

A SALT in Lyon

Since end of 2003, I have had the chance to be involved with the City-AIDS project and the CIFAL Lyon and Atlanta. Most of you may remember that City-AIDS was one of the reasons why the AIDS Competence programme was developed; because UNITAR wanted to address the HIV/AIDS issue with Local Authorities and Cities, we proposed an approach which was inspired from the lessons Jean-Louis and some of us learned through Local Responses experiences.

City-AIDS is still alive and the AIDS Competence Process constitutes the backbone of the programme. We had a first Knowledge Fair in Lyon in Oct 2003; another one was organized by CIFAL Atlanta in June 2005. And we are now progressing slowly with two additional Knowledge Fairs in May: one in Lyon and the second in Atlanta. 20 cities in Lyon and 30 in Atlanta.

CIFAL are independent organizations (NGO-like), but they still require technical support from either UNITAR or UNAIDS (or both), with regard to the methodological content of programmes and Knowledge Fairs. The two first Knowledge Fairs were prepared through distance coaching for Self-Assessments of the Cities. It was then decided to establish the first Facilitation Team in Lyon in order to help CIFAL Lyon to move forward without the close support of UNITAR or UNAIDS.

I spent the three first days of that week to organize and give some technical support to 5 volunteers which will work together in creating this first SALT. Some of them (2) have already practiced the approach as they were part of the first self assessment in Lyon, also participated in field community visits in Lyon surroundings during Knowledge Fairs and facilitators training (in December 2005). The 3 others have been exposed to the approach; most of them have impressive background in social sciences and have been involved in various community participatory works. All are very committed to the development of the approach throughout their own work and in support of CIFAL initiatives. The 5 members are working in NGOs and social institutions dealing with HIV/AIDS people in the region.

This short training went very well and while we could not perform a field visit because of calendar limitation (in France, you need to take appointment to meet with HIV/AIDS communities), I think all of them have caught the essence of their role. They will participate in the upcoming City-AIDS workshop during the second week of May. They also commit to start AIDS Competence process within their respective organizations.

This is a very positive move. Now, 3 things need to happen:

First, CIFAL Lyon must position itself as an "umbrella organization" which can support the team, not only for the work related to Cities, but also as entity which facilitates the development of AIDS Competence in the various institutions and associations the team can reach. And I think they can do a lot!

Second, I hope to be able to grow and learn with them. I will do my best to support them during the first steps and try to organize more intensive learning processes so that it can benefit to CIFAL, cities and beyond. Their respective experience is already an important asset on which we can count on.

Third, I would like to link them with the Constellation. I will immediately propose one of them to be nominated as Coach. Their respective organizations are quite flexible and they could be mobilized easily. The Canadian person is perfectly bilingual; others are too, but I am not sure they can easily facilitate a SALT visit or a Self-Assessment in English. I also think that the exchanges with other "contexts" will boost their energy and bring a lot to the NGOs they are working with.

These are my hopes and expectations. Many positive signs have appeared today again, showing that we are in the right track. Let's prepare ourselves for the next steps.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Different social systems, governments and cultures can be a limitation to create your own ways of working

Yesterday the Secretariat Office in Chiang Mai, Thailand, had the opportunity to welcome a visiting group from the HomeAIDS Organization from China which Ian recommended.

Together we visited the Ta Wangtan Community in Saraphi District and Pimjai's Community Health Project in Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai. We learned from the communities, but also learned a lot from each other. One thing that I got out of the discussions with the HomeAIDS group is a better understanding of the different social system, government and culture in Thailand and in China. The Chinese were amazed to hear that many communities in Thailand build up their own group to work together independently without any support from the government. In China, everything has to be done under the government control. This illustrates how the social system, government and culture can be a limitatin to the development of local responses even if you have the capacities to do so many good things.

To strengthen local responses we need the freedom to create and show our competence through our ways of working.

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