Theoretical Background

MANOS is a community development initiative that implements a sociological model of development in a rural community in Nicaragua. Essentially its main goal is to strengthen the community’s capacity to identify and target community-wide health problems, so that the resources MANOS brings actually address community problems and leverage community-driven solutions.

I give this as background because some of the tenets of MANOS are helpful for thinking about broader problems in international development.  For example, MANOS prizes inclusivity of all community members. This is crucial for ensuring that projects are community-led; if people feel that their voices are heard, they will have ownership over a project and be invested in its efficacy and sustainability. Think about this in your own life—if you’re working on a group project and no one asks for your opinion, nor listens when you try to speak up, how invested will you be in the success of the project? You probably won’t care, because it’s not your own. And you would probably feel resentful toward the other group members, and make a point not to engage in another project with them. This is the concept of marginalization at its core, and is the experience of so many people in developing countries.

I thought about this when considering this project. How do you connect three vastly different aspects of development? –and three vastly different kinds of actors who generally don’t interact? If I were to develop a tool to connect these different actors, how would I go about ensuring that everyone is committed to its efficacy and sustainability? Applying the MANOS concept here, if you want to involve vastly different kinds of people in a project, then ask and listen first.

I wanted this project to be built around that concept. Listening to the real experiences of development practitioners, policymakers, and researchers and integrating that into a practical solution.