Main content

  • Grant

    Innovate and Learn Grant

  • Target Groups

    • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people
    • Age-discriminated vulnerable groups, notably the young and the elderly

    Impact Themes

    • Improved Access to Social Services, Health and Education
    • Space for political participation
  • Lead organisation

    Amount Funded

    160,000 EURO

    Project Duration

    01 Feb 2017 - 31 Jan 2018


  • Organisation

    Positive Vibes is a Namibian registered trust that has been operating nationally since 2008 and in the South Africa region since 2012. The organisation currently employs 25 staff and has a functioning network of some 100 consultants operating at the community level or at the regional level. Positive Vibes has two offices in Namibia that serve the region.

    Positive Vibes’ main area of expertise is capacity development. Fifteen different participatory methods, aligned to the organisation’s Freireian philosophy, are used to build capacity in CBOs, NGOs and networks. From 2009 to present, some 70,000 people have been reached.

  • Project

    This project aims to deepen its understanding of the results and impacts of their previous programmes and projects implemented across 16 African countries, which addressed issues around identity and awareness of Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transsexual-Intersex (LGBTI) people.

    This project wants to contribute to the reduction of self-stigmatisation, social stigmatisation and discrimination of LGBTI groups in rural Uganda together with three partner organisations. The project uses three methodologies to address marginalisation of LGBTI: 1. Looking in, looking out (LILO-identity) which is designed to unpack feelings, needs and desires, and to help participants to make choices and plans for themselves. 2. LILO Key Population which deepens understanding of LGBTI people in general and provides tools to incorporate LGBTI in policies. 3. LILO Voice which is to advocate, influence others and build social movements. Therefore, this project intends to find out the overall outcomes and impacts with the utilisation of the Inside-Out Approach and methodology in LGBTI individuals and organisations.

  • Results
    During the two learning cycles in the project, Positive Vibes, its partners and other stakeholders reflected on the learning process at three interconnected levels:
    • An experiential level in which the LGBT-led organisations and LGBT people in Uganda are the primary subjects, based on their lived reality;
    • A strategic and operational level in which Positive Vibes and its implementing partners are the subjects, based in their technical design and delivery of programmes and methodologies in contexts like that found in Uganda;
    • A conceptual level in which the Looking In Looking Out methodology itself, and its theoretical underpinnings are analysed. Positive Vibes succeeded in identifying and acting upon lessons learnt along the project, bringing into sharper focus an understanding of marginalisation – of what that experience means and how it manifests beyond the familiar language used to characterise it – and how power is expressed within cultures and human systems to systematically exclude and side-line. This in turn has assisted Positive Vibes to understand how to accompany those who have been marginalised so that they are supported, encouraged, inspired and enabled to effectively come to voice.  Not only what activities to design, but the practice, behaviours and ways of thinking that must consistently characterise the approach for how activities are delivered.
    At this overarching level, nine significant lessons have emerged.  Positive Vibes is convinced that internalising, integrating and applying these lessons to practice could transform programming – in design and delivery – for most practitioners working amongst the marginalised to promote their coming to voice.  Specifically:
    Everyone has something to say, something worthwhile, some truth of their own – from the power of their own experience – that has meaning and value.  Everyone has a personal story, and a narrative that reflects how they perceive the world, and how they experience the world.  Story is voice, and in that personal narrative lies power.
    Nor does it extinguish it.  Instead, through the exercise of power and privilege, marginalisation excludes people from spaces and opportunities where that voice can be recognised and expressed and appreciated.  Extreme marginalisation – resulting through persecution and violence or threats to safety – suppresses voice, but it does not remove it.  No one is voiceless.
    Each person lives their lives within a rich tapestry of personal experience and perception that interfaces with a sophisticated, complex, intricate social, cultural and traditional environment.  Communities are not homogenous and, in order to do good work amongst those who are marginalised – whose voices are often suppressed – it is valuable and necessary to tune into their personal lifeworlds, to find their voice and story, to understand how life works in that space.
    Despite environments where power and privilege work to silence voice, to erase story – to suppress – people on the margins do not quickly give in to despair, as if they have abandoned all hope.  Even in harsh conditions, people are capable of a remarkable optimism – hopefulness, vision, yearning and believing for a future better than what they are presently experiencing – that sustains them in life.
    In a human rights sector driven towards a particular kind of strategic activism and advocacy, where communities are mobilised and power is confronted, there are steps – stages – before people in marginalised communities can speak truth to power.  Before people can express voice to respond to their external environment, there is a process through which they must come to voice; to construct their own narrative to themselves about themselves within their internal environment.  To be both author and reader of their personal story.  To become conscious – aware – of their lifeworld and the forces and factors within and without that act to limit, control, suppress or exclude. Learning how to think and speak about power may be a significant step before raising voice to speak to power.  Coming to voice within is a prerequisite to expressing voice and may include making choices for oneself to not engage that external environment.
      • PERSONALISATION | doing the internal psychological, emotional and cognitive work of looking in, looking back, looking out, looking forward; identifying the lifeworld and the environment in which it is located.
      • PARTICIPATION | opportunities for people to legitimately and authentically engage in processes and with material that is about them, that belongs to them, that affects them, and to speak to that material – to interpret it, to give it meaning.
      • ACCOMPANIMENT | in suppressive environments especially, people sustain their will and energy and confidence for movement and response when they are consistently, intimately, appropriately companioned by supportive “others” who believe in and affirm their human capacity to make their own responses in their own time and commit in some way to walking alongside in solidarity.
      • FACILITATION |a way of working with individuals and communities defined by “enablement” rather than “intervention”; not unlike the ethics of counselling, facilitation seeks to stimulate and support the unveiling of strengths in people and communities to make a response in their own lives, instead of prescribing or providing solutions, assuming people are unable or deficient.   Organisations may need to adapt their own ways of thinking and working, to consciously dismantle their own power that inadvertently marginalises those with lesser power.
    If people are the subjects of their own response – with the energy and ability to choose a way of being in life and in the world, that is good for them at the time;  if they are the protagonists, the lead actors, in their own story – and, if coming to voice within is a fundamental stage towards expressing voice without, then such beliefs, values and principles have important implications for organisations that wish to support and programme with communities to unveil, promote and amplify the voice of those who are marginalised:
    • to facilitate, protect, defend, promote spaces for authentic and legitimate participation by communities.
    • to respect the capability, insight, intuition and sensitivity of local communities to say what things mean, and to make choices about direction; to lead.
    • that respecting the leadership of communities does not mean organisations abdicate or abandon communities. Accompaniment means participation – to learn, to appreciate, to acknowledge, to support, to encourage, to celebrate – in the space where one does not lead.
    • to support the inner work of personalisation within individuals and collectives where coming to voice is a healthy foundation for movement.
    • to design programme in a way that is sensitive and considered of the local realities of people and places – their lifeworlds -- and to do so with communities so as not to presume or usurp local knowledge and expertise; or to implement activities that compromise the privacy, dignity or safety of people at the margins.
    • to facilitate, rather than intervene.
    8. PARTICIPATION IS A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE PATHWAY TO POWER   For Positive Vibes and its partners, the project presented an opportunity to do research – specific, focused, systematic learning – that was non-routine.  Research is not primarily PV’s core business.  Participatory Action Research shaped the methodology and approach in line with PV’s rights-based values and personalisation-based Theory of Change. What the process showed, however, and suggests for future application to programme design, is that participative processes – that go beyond community involvement, or consultation – where meaningful, authentic engagement is enabled, and where such contributions are validated, appreciated and valued, generate incredible personal confidence and power in those who are extended the opportunity to participate. In spaces where human rights programming may be difficult to explicitly or visibly advance, or where classically held ideas of advocacy might be dangerous to promote, ways of working that enable authentic participation by those who have been marginalised are a viable – and effective – alternative pathway to building power and voice.  Achieving that degree of engagement requires conscious and visible shedding of power by programmers in order to build confidence, trust and equity with communities so that the space for genuine participation becomes accessible.   9. PARTICIPATORY MEASUREMENT GENERATES BOTH PERSONAL POWER AND MOTIVATION FOR MOVEMENT   Development projects have long adopted the language of “Monitoring and Evaluation”, but its practice has not generally lived up to its potential as a catalyst of movement.  Often a compliance function, “M&E” is often delegated to an individual in the organisation who becomes responsible for extracting statistics to inform reports to donors.   Something powerful happens, however, when communities begin to access their own data, and collaborate to make meaning of it.  Not only do they discover they are capable in ways many may not have imagined, but they acquire energy and vision to apply their insights to advance their own movement.
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