Writing the Protocols to Guide Our Field Research in Esfuerzo

I had trouble posting this while I was in the Dominican Republic, so I had to wait until we got back to post this blog. The final summary will be coming soon!

We wrote four trip research protocols to guide our time and efforts in Esfuerzo this summer. A protocol is a document containing discussion questions or research questions that we aim to ask to community members while in-country. The protocols serve as a guide to keep us on track with our conversations and contain information on what the goals of our partnership with the community are. Protocols are both tangible instructions on what we need to say and do in the short-term and an important reminder to keep in mind long-term goals. These four summer protocols were written to focus on four major projects that we have seen in the community.

First, the Junta de Vecinos (The ‘JdV’ is the local group of elected officials similar to  a homeowners association which can petition the local government for access to resources) Inclusivity protocol, is designed to help SOMOS understand the relationship between the local representatives of the Esfuerzo and the rest of the community. The short-term goal for this protocol is to alert current JdV members to the lack of inclusivity and participation and understand how the JdV chooses the projects it works on and whether this is an inclusive process. In the past, the JdV has not been successful at including the entirety of the community in its actions. Therefore, the another goal of this protocol is to increase participation of community members in JdV/community meetings and activities, and work to ensure that projects are chosen in an inclusive manner. Lastly, the long-term goal of this protocol is to achieve a JdV that is composed of community members who represent every part of the Esfuerzo and achieve widespread community participation, thereby allowing the JdV to have a better idea of health concerns faced by the whole community and be better able to address these health issues. Ultimately, the main goal of SOMOS is to improve health outcomes in Esfuerzo by increasing community capacity.

For each protocol, we have specific methods to achieve the goals. For the JdV protocol, the first of these methods is calling JdV members to stay up-to-date on community events and gather other relevant information. The second method is to organize community meetings and talk about inclusivity and communication. The last method is to facilitate discussion and encourage JdV members to brainstorm ideas to increase community participation. By bringing up inclusivity multiple times, we hope to get the JdV members thinking about it, and discussing between themselves and with us ways to increase inclusivity and participation. Discussion will lead to action, and the JdV should begin working to increase community inclusion.

Second, the Road protocol is designed to help the JdV petition the local government to pave the main road in the community. The short-term goal for this protocol is to stay up to date with the community regarding the progress of the road project. The community visited the local government building several times because the mayor had promised to build this road for Esfuerzo. Despite these efforts, construction of the road has not begun. We hope to assist the community in pushing for the road project to be completed; this will likely involve accompanying the JdV members when they go to meet with the local government (we have done this before). The long term goal of this project relates back to SOMOS’ focus on health: the road project will improve community health by limiting the impact of flooding and respiratory problems. Like the JDV Inclusivity protocol, we will do community calls again for this. Another method is interviewing JdV members individually and organizing group meetings about visiting the government and reasons why they are not able to go more often.

Third, the Electrification protocol is intended to improve access to electricity and fortify community capacity while the road project waits to start. Goals for this protocol are to better understand the circumstances of the community and to encourage sustainable solutions to electrification. Recently, a community member not in the JdV was able to organize part of the community and collect money to purchase a transformer and cable to improve access to electricity. We hope to engage more with this member and facilitate better communication between his area of the community and the rest of the community. We will try to organize a community meeting with both parties present.

Fourth, the Health protocol is intended to identify health projects in which  the community is interested. The ultimate goal for this protocol is to reinforce a structure for identifying health issues and completing health projects. We believe that identifying a felt health need in the community will help form  a structure in Esfuerzo for identifying health concerns and organizing health initiatives. A health structure would encourage collaboration between community members and research efforts in Paraiso to ensure ethical practices, and that felt needs in Esfuerzo are being met. This would encourage a stronger network of people advocating for improved health outcomes. In the past, SOMOS has collaborated with the community to enforce a trash collection project.  As of now, SOMOS is looking to collaborate with the JdV to form a new health project, called the Committee of Health, based off of felt needs in the community.

In conclusion, these four protocols will complement each other in assisting SOMOS to achieve specific and feasible outcomes on our summer trip. By highlighting JdV inclusivity, the road project, electrification, and health, we remind the community that these are issues they want to address. Having set protocols with specific methods helps the SOMOS team stay on task when in-country and helps us frame our questions and actions within the larger goals of SOMOS as an applied research organization which facilitates the development of community capacity to improve local health.