2017 PIA Co-Design Summit: Fonseca, Colombia Community Update

July 11, 2018

What happens after a Co-Design Summit ends?

In June, I traveled to Fonseca, Colombia to conduct a follow-up evaluation of the 2017 PIA Co-Design Summit (CDS) and to answer this crucial question. Over the course of two weeks, I followed up with community members from Conejo and staff members from both World Vision Colombia and C-Innova. In all, I conducted 24 interviews and site visits to uncover the answers to some central questions: Looking back, what was the most valuable part of the Co-Design Summit experience? What were the most significant changes that had taken place in the community? And what lessons can we learn for future PIA Co-Design Summits?

Key Community Takeaways

The most significant part of the experience for community members was connecting with people from other cultures.

One of the participants I interviewed said, “I had never been in a summit with foreigners. The mix was beautiful...learning from them, listening to their language. It’s amazing to understand someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you...we were very united, like one family.” Another said, “The most valuable thing we did in the summit was get to know people from other places.” Overall, nearly 70% of participants highlighted cross-cultural connection as the most valuable part of the summit.

75% of community participants have continued working on at least one Co-Design Summit project.

Community members have stayed involved in a variety of ways, from meeting regularly (“We are ready, we’ve met many times to figure out what we need,”) to pushing for continued progress (“I’m very aware of what has happened in the education group...I go to the school to ask the principal about advancements.”) Interestingly, not all participants continued working on the same project they worked on at the summit; about 25% of the group rallied around a different team’s project.

Community members expressed a strong desire for continued activity and support

While the participants from Conejo have taken steps to move the projects forward on their own, they called on the larger PIA CDS community to join them. “Let’s keep moving forward, until the end,” one respondent said. “[We hope that] you support us.” They also were interested in participating in similar workshops in the future: one participant said, “Keep bringing activities,” and another metioned, “We hope that you bring another summit [and] more trainings.”

Project Snapshots

I also had the opportunity to follow up in depth with three PIA CDS projects.

EDUCATION: The Education team began with the goal of bringing a teacher to Las Colonias, a rural, mountainous community above Conejo that had been without a teacher for four years. Following the PIA CDS, the team engaged a volunteer teacher and advocated for the government to send a teacher to the school. In June, the government appointed a teacher, who is now working with 9 children in the school. Conejo celebrated this victory, but several additional challenges lay ahead: children are not receiving the government-provided snack that they are entitled to and there is not yet transportation to school, meaning some students must walk two hours to arrive.

FRUTEJO: The Frutejo group, working on finding ways to use crops that would otherwise be lost, continues to generate a great deal of interest among community members. They have formed a women’s association and have experimented with different juices and jams, but have not begun selling products. There are some questions about the market for the product. Despite the high levels of interest, this project suffers from lack of strong leadership due to other community responsibilities.

AGUAJIRA: The water filter project “Aguajira” has also made progress since the summit. Community members are working towards forming a water association to manage the community filter and have planned to build a kiosk around it. They have found a tentative location where the filter can be installed; however, it is not central to the area of the community that needs it most, which may hinder community members from accessing clean water. World Vision Colombia continues to work with community members around this issue.

Lessons Around Project Continuity

My conversations led to three key lessons for future Co-Design Summits:

Have a strong, detailed plan at the end of the summit

  • The Education project has made significant progress, and much of that is because of the plan that was in place before the summit ended. Multiple organizations committed resources, community members agreed to move it forward, and there was clarity around roles and responsibilities. This clear plan empowered community members and organizations to move forward and achieve the goal of bringing a teacher to Las Colonias.

Match projects with organizational goals for longer term support

  • When organizations’ initiatives and programming are directly aligned with the CDS projects, they are more likely to champion projects. World Vision Colombia’s support of Frutejo, Aguajira, and the Education project falls within its mission as an organization, and this alignment has been instrumental in the projects’ continuation. Strong institutional support ensures that projects keep moving forward and shows community members that there are other people and organizations invested in the ideas.

Empower communities to feel ownership of their projects

  • When communities feel ownership over a project, they work hard to ensure it moves forward. When community members don’t feel ownership, responsibility gets passed around and little progress is made. The Education project has a strong team of community leaders who know their goals, feel empowered to take action, and share equally in advancing the project.

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Tricia Johnson

Tricia Johnson holds a Masters of Public Administration in Development Practice from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She has lived and worked in Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras specializing in youth development, leadership, environmental conservation, and monitoring and evaluation. Before returning to D-Lab as a consultant for the follow up evaluation for the PIA Co-Design Summit, Tricia was an IDIN Fellow in 2016, at IDDS Educación and IDDS Cookstoves.