Giving Back to Communities: What and how to give back

by Ouerle Chao (co-organizer o the LICCI webinar “giving back to local communities”)

At the last LICCI webinar, themed “Giving Back to the Community,” it was our goal to have an open discussion and brainstorm with our LICCI partners and collaborators on what and how to give back to communities.

Vincent, one of the core team members, opened the webinar by discussing the significance of giving back to communities. He defines it as a position, as part of the decolonial approach and research, and a working framework derived from practical anthropology. As a means of promoting and enforcing local knowledge sovereignty, it is of significant importance. In addition, it stresses local agency and facilitates knowledge co-construction.

First, we may consider our LICCI results in terms of the content we give back to communities. However, we might want to ask ourselves: if we’re to share our results with the community, what would we disclose? Is this what the community is actually interested in? And answers to these two questions might be found in the local communities.

As a starting point, Vincent began by presenting four examples, one from his own study and three from those of his colleagues. He spends a lot of time with the Betsileo people in Madagascar as part of his studies. Locals were intrigued by his botany research and requested a field guide that included photos of the plants as well as their scientific and local names in Malagasy, French, and English. The second example was the Tuareg community’s circular annual calendar developed by Mohamed and his colleagues, which was more suited to their knowledge and demands. The next example comes from the LICCI core team member, Julián. He and José Tomás organized an event, as a form of giving back, about the permaculture practice of the Mapuche people in Chile. They also created an infographic to show the agroforestry/permaculture system the local people use. The final example comes from Juliette Mariel, who is working in Madagascar. As a form of giving back, she decided to use all of the images, sounds, films, and drawings she’d gathered during his fieldwork to create a short documentary for the community.

After the presentation of Vincent, other attendees also shared their past experiences and ideas for giving back. One of the LICCI core team members, Mouna, said that she organized a restitution meeting to discuss her preliminary results with the community, and she had photos to accompany it. She also indicated an interest in incorporating innovative and artistic forms into her last giving back session. The LICCI project’s primary investigator, Victoria, discussed the use of theatre format as a creative means of establishing a conversation between the researcher and the local community. As a core team member, Andre expressed his thoughts on working with the local institute, which has a long-standing presence in the region. Sharing the LICCI findings with them could help them prepare for the future of local management.

A central tenant of LICCI has always been to work with and in consideration of the communities and people who make this project possible. So with that, this webinar took the initial step to help the members, partners, and collaborators consider different approaches to working with communities. We hope to keep this dialogue open, active and in reflection of changes.