Tools and Methodologies
In the tools and methodologies promoted among the members of the Huairou Commission, grassroots women recognize and value their own knowledge, exchange knowledge and practices, and use it as the basis for advocacy. In the Huairou Commission, we believe strongly in the power of peer learning – a kind of learning that builds upon notions of empowerment and popular education. This horizontal way of learning contradicts the hierarchy of teacher and learner that can reinforce the effects of oppression and prevent people from trusting their own thinking.
A peer exchange is an event where a group of women visits another group in order to learn about their local practices and also share their own knowledge. Women learn together and build horizontal relationships between organizations. Exchange is a strong tool for networking and for exchanging and consolidating knowledge and skills.
When women learn from the experiences and innovations of their peers, they can feel encouraged to recognize their own experiences and innovations as significant knowledge. Peer exchanges provide the space for hands-on, experiential learning that values the teachers and the learners as experts that already have significant ability and capacity.
Exchanges become spaces for direct transfer of solutions and lessons learning. The learners learn critically and reflect on how they might adapt the new ideas to their own communities by asking: “How can we make this work in our context?” and “What would we do if faced this situation?”. These kind of exchanges help women to see their own situations through a new set of eyes as they share their work with others
A Grassroots Academy uses the principles of peer learning in a larger space with 30 – 100 women from multiple communities, organizations and often countries. Participants use participatory processes to reflect on larger political and development issues, starting from the positive place of their own successful development practices. These practices and stories are shared and analyzed and joint plans and policy recommendations are often developed at the conclusion of an Academy. Academies are often used as preparatory events held before larger policy events at the UN or other spaces. The Grassroots Academy methodology won the Dubai Best Practices Award in 2006.
Mapping places grassroots women in the center of information collection by empowering them to undertake critical evaluations of the state of their communities. Through participatory processes often involving the entire community, they assess their community, looking at their vulnerabilities and resources in relation to different issues such as vulnerability to disaster, prevalence of HIV/AIDS or women’s access to and ownership of land and housing. Organizations often use mappings as a tool to advocate for change.
Local to Local Dialogues
Local to Local Dialogues are locally designed strategies whereby grassroots women’s groups initiate and engage in dialogues with local authorities to negotiate a range of development issues to influence policies, plans and programs in ways that address women’s priorities. Dialogues have advanced grassroots women’s abilities to negotiate with local leaders to increase women’s access to resources such as land, housing and basic services and have increased access to social services such as health care and education. Local-to-Local dialogues are an effective tool to enhance local governance and participation of grassroots women in local decision-making by stimulating dialogue with local authorities, relevant government departments, municipalities, NGOs, development partners, the private sector and the media. The Huairou Commission, its member organizations and UN Habitat have coordinated efforts to document, support and replicate this tool around the world.