Recap of the Summer and Trip to Esfuerzo

In my previous post, I described the four protocols written before the trip to guide our field research in Esfuerzo de Paraíso, Dominican Republic. The JdV Inclusivity, Road, Electrification, and Health protocols each had goals and outlined methods to achieve them. In this post, I will describe how the trip went and how we were able to accomplish the goals we set out, even when things didn’t go as planned.

When we arrived in the community on August 10th, people were very disenchanted with the ability of the Junta de Vecinos (JdV) to complete projects and promises. Only a couple months ago, the community felt very confident in the JdV’s ability to communicate within itself and to non-members, petition the local government for better access to resources, and initiate new projects to improve health in Esfuerzo. Now, because a few of the highest-ranking members moved away, there was a significant hole in the JdV’s social infrastructure and communicative pathways – people had relied so heavily on the high-ranking members to do most of the work that without them, the JdV couldn’t effectively operate.

This poor communication weakened the collective capacity of the JdV, and some community members tried to pursue electrification through their own means and worked together to buy a transformer. While this was an impressive movement, they didn’t follow the correct legal pathways because the JdV and local government were not involved. So, my team and I spent most of the week conducting social network analysis interviews and organizing community meetings to facilitate the reorganization and fortification of the JdV and its communication networks. We interviewed every JdV member on who they speak to about JdV projects, then created sna maps showing how poorly connected some members were and how devastated the network would be if a few vital members was removed.

sna1

The current JdV SNA map

sna2

The same map if 3 vital members are removed (for example, if 1 moves away and 2 have a busy week)

Seeing these maps, the JdV members committed to making a greater effort to communicate with each other, because communication is the first step to accomplishing their goals. They made a group chat on WhatsApp and added us to it. As simple as this might sound, it could become an incredible leap forward in the JdV’s communication.

Another idea to improve effectiveness was creating a women’s group in the community which would handle similar responsibilities to the JdV’s. This idea came up at a health meeting which also produced ideas for projects, like working more with an ngo called InfoTep which provides many health skills courses.

Tangential to our efforts to improve communication in the JdV, were the electrification and road projects. I briefly mentioned how electrification was attempted improperly, and now the JdV will work with those involved in this project to pursue electrification in a professional, legal, and sustainable way. For the road, we went to the Ayuntamiento and spoke with the Vice-Mayor of Santo Domingo Norte (SDN) who apologized for some of the offices consistently ignoring and avoiding the JdV members from Esfuerzo. Next Tuesday, they will return without us to continue to push for the construction of a main road in Esfuerzo with the Head Engineer of Public Works in SDN.

Lastly, I worked on updating the community map that I’ve been making for the past several months. There were several changes to be made about who lives where, which buildings were houses or businesses, and more. I also was able to compile a list of where all JdV members live and who their neighbors are. Hopefully, I will be able to complete this resident list in the near future.

map_updates

This summer was extremely productive in updating SOMOS’s grasp of community-based participatory research theory, exploring future uses of OpenStreetMap and quantitatively-based flood risk mapping, bolstering the JdV’s ability to accomplish its goals, and outlining future projects that we can work with Esfuerzo to fulfill.

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