1. Methodology used to respond to violent conflict.
2. Refusal to pay Sitting Allowances.
1. Methodology used to respond to violent conflict:
When a citizen reporter or other informant reports on a violent conflict in a local community, TCSC staff responds as quickly as possible, frequently the following morning. Normally their first activity after investigating the details of the conflict is to hold a listening session where both sides plus neutral people can speak and listen. Usually there are 30 to 200+ people in a session. Frequently emotions are high and the facilitators need to be calm and unbiased letting everyone have a turn to speak. It is amazing how effective this is in lower the temperature of the conflict. Often people will say, “This is the first time anyone has listened to us.”
From the conversation at the listening session, the facilitators decide what would be the best method of intervention. Usually if it is deadly conflict, HROC workshops are proposed. In other cases AVP workshop on solving problems non-violently occur. Often both HROC and AVP workshops are conducted in the community.
When a certain amount of intervention is done in a community, there is often one or more community dialogues. These are similar to listening sessions, but the “heat” has now cooled down and the discussion focuses more on how the community can resolve it problems creatively and non-violently. Many of the participants in the prior workshops attend the dialogue together with government and security officers when possible.
Further involvement may include training some community members to be transformative mediators so that they are available and trained to mediate local disputes. In addition in some cases people are trained in Non-Violent Campaigns for Social Change to address underlying cultural, social, or political issues.
To work properly all this work must be done by neutral people who do not favor one side or the other. When one side has participated in deadly conflict, this is a often difficulty for the facilitators. Another aspect is in all interactions to have mixed teams, both in gender and tribe. Another aspect is to continue working in a community for long stretches of time. TCSC has been involved in the conflict on Mt. Elgon since 2007. This has included the development of a Peace Centre in the community where the violence originated in 2006.
2. Refusal to pay Sitting Allowances
Most non-government organizations pay “sitting allowances” for people who attend their meetings, workshops, seminars, and other activities. This practice has destroyed any community and civic feeling to voluntarily improve the local community. People are paid to be involved in learning opportunities for the benefit of themselves and their community. Sometimes this pay is significant. No wonder people want to attend and give glowing reports of how good the workshops were.
This payment is called by many names; “transport” or “travel” (even though people are only walking from nearby), per diem, stipend, “chai” (which means “tea” in Swahili and is a euphemism for “a bribe”), “kitu kidogo” (something little) and sitting allowance.
It is TCSC’s policy not to pay any “sitting allowances”. In this we are at total odds with the prevailing custom of the other NGOs and the expectations of the people here. People come to the workshops expecting to be paid. There have been cases when a person leaves the workshops when he/she learns that there will be no remuneration for attendance. This means that the people were coming for the pay and not for the learning. AVP, HROC and other workshops are voluntary and that is critical to their success. If people were paid it would be an inducement that renders them no longer “voluntary”. Do those other NGOs who pay sitting allowances think that their activities are so unproductive that no one will come unless they are paid?
TCSC has learned to tell people beforehand that they will not be paid. Sometimes people show up and expect to be paid and then leave when they realize that they will receive nothing but a good meal. Eating together is part of the reconciliation process because in the local cultures only friends eat together.
There have been many testimonies from people who came expecting to be paid yet decided to stay (at least for the first day) and by the end realized that what they got was more valuable than being paid.
Here are the reasons for not paying sitting allowances:
- The workshop would no longer be voluntary, but would have an inducement. In a poor country this inducement can be more important than the content of the workshop.
- If sitting allowances were given, could we trust the positive evaluations we receive and the motivations for requests for more workshops? Is it for the workshop content or the funds that they offer?
- When compensation is given people compete to get in. The recruiters (and these can be pastors or government officials, or former participants) try to fill the workshop with their relatives and friends.
- In some cases, when participants are selected and a sitting allowance is given, the recruiters demand some or all of the allowance for themselves.
- Giving out small amounts of money is a real hassle and destroys the end of the workshop as people jostle to be paid quickly so they can leave.
- Who really pays? It is not the organization (at least in TCSC’s case) since there is a set amount of funds available and when they are finished, there is no more. If TCSC gave the usual sitting allowance TCSC would only be able to offer five workshops while it is able to do six workshops without the allowance. So 100 participants would be paid using funds that could instead have provided the workshop for another 20 participants. Those 20 would-be participants are the ones who would be paying.
- When participants are paid it implies that they are in a victim role and TCSC and its facilitators are the rescuers. We want people’s attitudes to change and not being paid to attend is the first attitude that needs to be changed. This then becomes the first step out of the victim role.
- The NGO custom of paying sitting allowances has destroyed civil responsibility since the culture now says that a person won’t do anything for the community unless he or she is paid. In the end the paying of the allowance retards community responsibility. People now wait until there are substantial funds available, usually from foreign NGOs or the government before they will participate in an activity.
TCSC’s refusal to pay sitting allowances creates problems. NGOs have spoiled the environment and TCSC is trying to change that environment.