Ayakomaso, a small farming community at the outskirts of Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region was chosen for the field component of a Social Innovation Facilitators’ Training (SIFT) for 10 managers of NGOs operating in the Brong Ahafo and Northern Regions of Ghana.
The 1-week training was organized by the Centre for Social Innovations (CSI), Ghana’s premier social innovations training centre and the Sunyani-based College for Community and Organization Development; the premier OD and Community Development Technical University in Africa. The purpose of the training was to help the NGO managers learn new approaches to working with communities to develop solutions to social challenges using asset-based community development (ABCD) and Design Thinking methods.
Per the design of the program, the trainees had to map the assets of the community and also identify the major issues of priority concern to the community on the first day in the community. It became glaring from the first day that the absence of a decent public latrine in the community was a matter of grave concern to most community members including the Chief and Assembly Member.
So in the first meeting of the Design Team of community members selected by the trainees, the Chief and the Assembly Member showed up. They agreed that the community needed a ‘modern public toilet’ which costs not less than GHS 80,000 or $22,000. Although they knew that the community did not have the money and the Local Government Authority was not ready to provide, they had neither thought nor implemented any alternative ideas to solve the issue. They have been fixated on that singular solution for years.
With the help of the knowledge in asset-based community development and the design thinking that the trainees had been thought and armed with their asset maps, they started working with the community members to look at other ideas for achieving the same result of improving community members’ access to toilet facilities other than the $22,000 public toilet which they were never going to have and even if they get it, was not the best solution to the problem. Through brainstorming, storytelling and other open innovation techniques, the trainees and the community members were able to find a better alternative to the ‘modern public toilet’ idea. They came up with the design of household pit latrine made from purely local materials which costs $50 to construct. The realized that they had all the assets and resources they needed to make this happen and the solution was going to give community members a better experience than walking half a mile from their homes just to attend to nature’s call in a public latrine.
Although the short duration of the program did not allow the trainees and community members to start the implementation of the new solution, we ended the program with both trainees and community members learning great deal of lessons on how external facilitators and community members could work together to develop innovative and cheaper solutions to intractable social challenges by thinking about varied solution ideas and looking at what local assets and resources are available for developing solutions.