#InnovMAMPU Talks: Institute for Education, Development, Social, Religious, and Cultural Studies (INFEST)

In the last blog in the#InnovMAMPU talks series, we spoke with Institute for Education, Development, Social, Religious, and Cultural Studies (INFEST) that is working to improve women’s role in policy making. INFEST is working towards increasing the participation and influence of women in village government by testing curriculum for governance schools for women, appreciative village planning methods, and the use of information and communication technologies for village planning across 5 districts of Banjarnegara, Wonosobo,  Malang, Poso, Takalar.

VIN: INFEST is working toward increasing participation of women in local government across a number of locations. Could you briefly describe your program, and the various prototype solutions you have developed?

INFEST: The program has been designed to improve women’s  participation in decision making at the village level.  It is important for women groups to influence decision making and development process. The Women friendly Village has been designed to answer two main problems at the village level i.e. limited capacity of women groups as the important actors to influence development processes and limited women group’s political participation along development planning processes .  We see that capacity of the women groups will determine the  ability of the women to influence  local authority and regulations to be  gender sensitive. The enhancement of women’s political capacity will increase their  participation.

INFEST  designed Sekolah Perempuan (SP), a women’s school, as an inclusive and dynamic civic education space, where creative groups and village government collaborates to advocate the changes at village level. SP prepares women group with practical theories and makes them to practice on field, in order to improve capacity and influence village decision making process, including the contents of development planning.

VIN: In some cases, like that of the ‘School for Women’, you are prototyping a similar situation in different locations. How do you adapt your solution to differing contexts? What has your approach been? What learning exchanges were made possible with this?

INFEST: Infest differentiates approaches in Banjarnegara and Poso based on their  unique and specific context and capacity of Women groups. Starting with capacity building, Infest used two different modules for gender mainstreaming for these two locations. Women School collaborated with the local village government and together they addressed the fundamental problems that occur at the village level such as lack of basic services and invalid poverty data. Women School wants to reinforce the goal of transparent government and has been formulating testing activities contextualising it by village.  There’s a constant knowledge exchange and learning amongst women cadres, across villages through meetings and social media.

VIN: You are facilitating an appreciative village planning process in selected locations and are following an asset mapping approach to set foundations for this activity. Could you talk about the approach a bit more? How does this feed into the village level data collection process being done by each village?

INFEST:  People at the village level  have proven that local and personal resources influence social and development process, such as building the house of worship, road maintenance, and other social activities. The key to success of these activities is the  ability of people to come to consensus through public discussion (musyawarah) in a participatory manner. This example shows us that the villages are capable of handling the development process based on their  strengths along with social, economical and geographical assets.

Appreciative Village Planning (AVP)  recognizes data as the most important aspect along the planning process. By having accurate and actual data, people will  have better understanding about the potential activation nodes that may activate village improvement. Development process is not only directed to solve the problem, but also to improve the village and strengthen the capacity of the people to solve the problem. RPJMDesa as the result of AVP reflects systematic planning based on the actual data and has strong orientation to improve people’s welfare and public services.  

AVP basically has 4 main elements, namely actors appreciation, village authority mapping, village assets mapping and analysis and local welfare identification. Actors Appreciation development method identifies potential actors from the community to mobilise development processes. Village authority mapping activity mapped people, community and organisations that are required to run village governance, manage development process at the village level , support and direct community development. AVP tries to go beyond tangible or material assets and map other aspects that will help in improving quality of life and public services in the village. Analysis of village assets mapping activity lead to non tangible assets as well as the basic strength of the village, such as social, institutional, values and spiritual resources in addition to the tangible physical assets. Local welfare identification aims to improve quality of life and welfare in the village by formulating the local standards and indicators to measure the poverty inside the village.All of the process and the steps are conducted with adequate participation from the people in the village.  People from marginalized communities are encouraged to share proposals and inputs at this platform. All collected data will be used as source of RPJMDesa with collective verification among the people in the village.

VIN: INFEST is designing for data collection and financial management, and one of your prototypes in particular, relies significantly on technology. Could you talk about working with data and technology in a rural context, and the challenges and opportunities that come with that? What has your approach to this work been?

INFEST:  Data availability is one of the biggest problem in the village in addition to the accountability and transparency of the village government. Infest provides a village information system (VIS) as the main technology for data storage. Infest sees that availability of accurate and actual data will support the planning process at the village level.  This data will enable the village  to identify the strengths and imagine targeted changes for the village that can be  programmed in RPJM Desa. The main principle introduced by Infest is basically working with data for village planning. RPJMDesa without data will be an illusion the change inside the village.

We found a very energetic enthusiasm from the village government to implement data collection and ICT based data management. Main challenges that we faced during data collection phase, was data accuracy and participation.  To solve both participation and accuracy challenges, INFEST made public consultation for all the processes and steps of data collection for public verification. Another technical problem that INFEST faced for ICT data management is the lack of computer or mobile technologies knowledge among village members and village government . With the help of local project officer,  INFEST established several in-house training for day to day support.

INFEST encourages village  government to implement standard of public information disclosure through ICT, so that the governance process at the village level can be monitored and overseen by the people in village. This step will encourage public participation and will force the village government to be more accountable for the village planning process.  

VIN: What were your earlier assumptions of the innovation fund workshop and how has your understanding of innovation fund workshop changed over the year?

INFEST:  Initially, we assumed that social innovation will be a new method for our organisation in which we will create a new method of social engineering through  prototype iterations, evaluation and reflections. But, over the course of time we realized that social innovations is a way of building up a comprehensive method, in which we identify a social problem, assess the social condition and set up various testing activities in order to develop a comprehensive and holistic method. We understand that innovation needs deep reflection based on the factual issues and field findings. We don’t need to worry , if we  fail along the  process of social innovation and develop an exit strategy for the chosen method. This method has influenced in many ways and has changed our perception for other projects.

VIN: Could you please reflect on some of your learnings from the Innovation Fund program? To what extent, and in what way, will they inform INFEST’s  approach to future projects?

INFEST:  MAMPU Innovation Fund has enabled us to understand and respond to the context of social innovation through deep reflection and prototyping.  The innovation fund has provided us an opportunity for discovering and developing an intervention method, which could be related to the planning process and financial management system in the villages. Appreciative Village Planning has been recognized by Ministry of Village affairs and Sekolah Perempuan becomes an important way of  improving participation of women groups in villages development process. INFEST has  become one of the CSO who was invited by the ministry to facilitate and give  inputs for the  future ministry program in national ministry assembly. INFEST is planning to maintain three aspects from the MAMPU Innovation Fund, namely Appreciative Village Planning, Sekolah Perempuan Desa and Open Data for village management. Based on certain curriculum, and  supporting ICT  tools Infest will establish a Village Training Center. The training center will focus on the capacity building  programme for the village  and women groups to implement AVP. This training center will be established in 2016.



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