The purpose of this and the other posts this week is not to diminish the work that the JCI chapters and the JCI members do but to get us to enter into new projects with our eyes open. It is perfectly alright to do a project because it makes the chapter visible in the local community, creates team spirit in the chapter and develops the knowledge and competences of the members – or simply because it is fun. My thesis is that a project which stays within the framwork of the Active Citizenship principles will result in at least one of those things but with a much larger effect and, because it is sustainable, make a significant difference. I hope that these articles will inspire and help the JCI local chapters think their projects through so they are aware of what they want to get out of their projects and thereby insuring maximum impact.
At the Danish National Conference 2012 the national Nothing But Nets team initiated a calendar project. Within five weeks from the congres, a calendar was presented with pictures of 12 members wearing only mosquito nets. The calendar project was a succes resulting in a donation of around 300 mosquito nets for the organisation Nothing But Nets and great exposure in and outside of JCI and our work against malaria nationally and internationally.
And the crowd goes wild…or?
I have been Jeg har discussing the project’s ”Active Citizenshipness” with several members of JCI Denmark. Is it Active Citizenship to make a calendar with the purpose of collecting money for a project which influences people living in communities thousands of kilometers from Denmark? The discussion is a little complicated and if the calendar project can be deemed “non-AC”, what about all our other Nothing But Nets projects? As a former national Nothing But Nets Director (2012) the fight against malaria and the MDGs[i] are close to my heart and I am so proud of the work that we did last year, both locally and nationally to reach our ambitious goals.
I think that it is worth a try to apply the principles of the Active Citizenship Framework to the Nothing But Nets projects – the framework from the Impact Training. It is not necessary to know these principles beforehand to understand the rest of this post.
Local challenges and sustainable solutions?
We want to identify the challenges in our local communities and through projects of high quality generate sustainable solutions.
The quotation above explains the essense of Active Citizenship the JCI way. The most important parts of it are “local challenges” and “sustainable solutions”.
The project description for the calendar project was to collect money for the fight against malaria by engaging members from a different parts of the organisation in the production in a Nothing But Nets kalender. Only voluntary work from members of JCI Denmark (printing excluded).
The project itself was done locally with JCI members alone. But the challenge of malaria is not a local challenge. It could become a local problem in Denmark if the mosquitos get ideal conditions for surviving further north than they do now but that horror story is too far out in the future to legitimize the criteria of the project being local. WE can make the argument that as members of JCI we are “global citizens” and kick that problem temporarily to the corner. So that is what we will do so we can concentrate on what in my opion is the heart of the matter: Is the “net calendar” a sustainable project that creates changes in society?
Most projects by far are crafted with the purpose to collect money. They are typically best described as band aids that are forever to be changed on a regular basis. The Nothing But Nets projects seem to fall into this category. We collect money that we send to troubled countries through an organisation so the citizens of those countries can protect themselves against the mosquitos with mosquito nets. However, that is not the whole story but lets return to that later in this post.
Impact Training i practice
The key in the tools in Impact Training is to ask relevant questions to the projects. Continue to ask why. Stop when the action either reduces the problem or eliminate the cause. Or when the local chapter has reached its limit for acting on the problem.
So, to start from the beginning:
Why do people die from malaria? Because they are being stung by mosquitos that carry the malaria infection.
Why are people being stung by malaria carrying mosquitos? People are stung by the mosquitos because they are not protecting themselves and because the mosquitos have ideal conditions for surviving and breeding in the afflicted geographical areas.
Why are the people not protecting themselves against the infection from the mosquitos? They don’t protect themselves from the mosquitos because they don’t have the means to do so.
Why don’t the people have the means to protect themselves? Because they donøt have the money to buy insecticide treated nets and other solutions to fight the mosquitos – or simply because they don’t know where the disease originates or what they can do to avoid it. There is also the issue that many people in the afflicted areas don’t know that there are simple things they can do to avoid creating environments for the mosquitos to breed. Still waters, for an example, is a huge problem. In this case an information campaign would be a necessary action.
So a solution to the malaria problem is to provide mosquito nets to the population, destroy the breeding options for the mosquitos and inform the people affected by the threat of malaria about concrete actions to fight infections and mosquitos.
The effects of a succesful project
A project proposal has been identified. The project is relevant for local communities several places in the world. And, it solves the problem. So…?
What would the effect be if the project was succesful?
Economic effects: A direct effect of the malaria fight will be an economical lift in the afflicted countries. Those countries spend far too much money on their health sectors, lose money because people are kept away from work and education, loss in profits on the tourist industry ect.
Social effects: The social effects of the malaria fight will be a generally higher level of education in the population, thereby ensuring a socioeconomic improvement in the country.
Environmental effect: The fight against malaria is very much depending on the changing of the environment in the afflicted areas. Therefore the environmental effect will be a part of the project itself.
Could we travel to the malaria troubled countries ourselves and inform people and distribute mosquito nets? We probably could but that makes little sense. A better solution is to leave that part of the project to professionals and organisations that already have a setup and a method to solve the problem.
In the Impact training we would usually use the analysis above to identify possible partnerships. Here the situation is reversed since organisations such as Nothing But Nets and United Nations already have done the analysis and are asking us, Junior Chamber International, to be a partner in this project. The competences of the local chapters is the ability to collect money through a good project.
Let me repeat the principles from the JCI Impact Training: Continue asking why. Stop when the action either reduces the problem or eliminates the cause. Or when the local chapter has reached its limit for its ability to act on the problem.
Is the calendar an Active Citizenship project?
Yes and no. The starting point for the Active Citizenship Framework is tha tthe local chapters in JCI create sustainable solutions in our local societies and find partners who can support our work and at the same time connect the projects to the local society. That is not the case with the calendar project.
But, as written earlier in this post, in the Nothing But Nets projects we honour our commitment as a partner to the United Nations. We do what we do best at the project at hand. Our share can be written off as “charity” but our partners in the project has analysed the scope of the project and thought up a plan where they delilver the best solution to the problem through a series of partnerships.
When it comes down to it, Active Citizenship is about making a real, sustainable difference. And we do that, in the end, with the Nothing But Nets projects.
[i] United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals.