Today, I went on a short trip to the “war-spoon village” – Ban Napia – in order to see how the exhibition / Visitor Centre developed over the past months. I didn’t expect much since Samuel from HELVETAS already told me that almost nothing happened. But nonetheless, it was disappointing to see that villagers use the place to store their construction materials and that it was dusty and dirty all over. The shelves are not used (nothing is there to sell expect for a few spoons lying around) and there is no sign outside and no donation box. I thought we discussed last time that the villagers (together with HELVETAS) were going to work on this but apparently they had other things to do. At least the information boards look nice (even though there is one missing and no one seems to know anything about it)!
I’m glad that I had a look just in time to improve things before I will leave Xiengkhouang. But I also wonder what the real problem is. It seems like the usual “bad case” in development work – giving people the fish instead of teaching them how to do it themselves. At the other hand the villagers wanted to have the weaving house and HELVETAS seems to work close with the locals. Still, as for myself, I figured out the following problems (actually these are deficits which I observed in many projects here in Laos):
1. No clear responsibilities between HELVETAS and GIZ and a lack of communication > no clear understanding of my own role (problems with taking over leadership at the beginning and now it’s almost too late)
2. Not enough focus / concentration: too much time passed between our visits; no strategic thinking, no planning, no deadlines etc.
3. No person in charge in Ban Napia
4. Not enough time to work on this project, too many other assignments
5. It seems there is no one with experience in how-to-establish-a-village-museum and especially how to organize and involve the villagers: how to motivate them, make them proud, how to encourage them to take care and take over responsibilities etc.
Let’s see how we can fix this! In the meantime I will keep one of our MA Mottos in mind (thanks Samuel Beckett): Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.