Community road test proves small changes for animals can facilitate broad outcomes
Here at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, we have long wanted to extend our impact for dogs and cats beyond our flagship projects.
A recent meeting of our dog and cat rescuers from around the world gave us the opportunity to able to road test a workshop process our team designed to help communities develop their own humane, sustainable plans to improve the welfare of the dogs and cats they live with.
We know communities differ hugely around the world, and that there is no single solution to dog and cat welfare issues, however there are some common characteristics:
· No one will, at first, agree on the root cause of ‘the problem’
· There will be plenty of blame floating around
· No one will have enough time or money to address the issue
· Objective data on the individual animals will be scarce
· Objective data on people’s attitudes and behaviors will also be scarce
· Everyone would like someone else to solve the problem for them
Our humane community development process uses facilitated workshops specially designed to bring the various stakeholders in a community together. The stated goals include building consensus and commitments so a plan is then developed, owned and implemented by the community itself.
This is far from as straightforward as it might sound since people concerned with dog and cat problems frequently have strong and divergent opinions on both the causes and potential solutions!
Having eleven different nationalities and cultures represented during our road test allowed us to look at the overall process through many different lenses, and from the perspectives of people, as well as dogs and cats.
Our project field staff, emergency responders, veterinarians and campaigners brought their expertise and real-life experiences to bear on our design and their keen insight helped us refine the workshop to be more robust and applicable across communities.
We deconstructed the workshop exercises and examined them from the perspectives of a wide variety of stakeholders, from municipal agencies, public health departments to veterinarians and the whole range of animal rescuers.
The team was really pleased to find that some of the participatory methods and exercises that have long been used by Human Development agencies work extremely well in this context. Helping people learn by doing is extremely powerful and we found, as we had hoped, that it led to ‘aha’ moments when people felt their own assumptions shift and unforeseen opportunities open up in the various scenarios we presented them with.
We know that communities facing a dog or cat crisis want swift, decisive action, and hope desperately for a universal panacea.
However, we also know that sustainable humane solutions are harder to come by and rely on changing human behaviour.
What the range of people at our meeting confirmed for us was; breaking those changes down into manageable pieces and assigning them to people who can actually make the change is a powerful model.
We are now moving ahead on the road, forging coalitions, extending our impact and, most importantly, creating a realistic perspective for improving the lives of millions of dogs and cats around the globe.
For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Dog & Cat program, visit our campaign page.