Safe Homes Campaign: Reflections
This post written by Samar Dudin was originally published on The Leading Change Network.
On December 22nd, 2012, we had the Safe Homes Campaign’s media launch at Ruwwad Al Tanmeya in the Jabal Al Natheef Community Center. After 9 months of building and testing, over fifty campaign members and ten supporters launched the campaign to the media and we’ve been receiving great support and encouragement.
Safe Homes Campaign aims to organize 168 organizers to create homes that are safe from physical abuse against children and to educate 332 homes on safety from physical abuse against children. The campaign’s objective was framed by the community of parents educators and social workers in Jabal Natheef, an area in east Amman bordering an informal Palestinian camp and populated by more than 54,000 citizens. The campaign was launched in full partnership with Ruwwad Al Tanmeya, an NGO that focuses on youth and community empowerment, civic engagement and education.
As the Head of Programs at Ruwwad al Tanmeya, I researched Marshall Ganz’s Organizing methodology since 2009 and finally recruited Nisreen Haj Ahmad to run our first Community Organizing Training in-house in Arabic for Ruwwad’s Youth and Community Teams in April 2010. I trained with Marshall Ganz and Nisreen Haj Ahmad as a coach in the summer of 2010 and organized the 6 Minutes Campaign for the joy of reading in 2011. Safe Homes was born from the success of 6 Minutes Campaign.
In March 2012, I organized a leadership team to address violence on children at home and in the neighborhood. I conducted two weeks of one on ones to recruit a founding team for the campaign. After two days of leading a SSS – Story Strategy and Structure, workshop with “Ahel for Organizing”, Nisreen Haj Ahmad and Mais Irqsusi and myself worked on launching the 1st tier CO training on May 1st and enabled the formation of 6 teams. After a powerful journey of learning, I ran the 2nd tier training forming 11 new teams. The trainings and intensive learning helped build the capacity of 21 coaches for 1st and 2nd tier leadership teams all from diverse backgrounds (mothers, teachers, youth school heads and social workers) who live and work in Jabal Natheef.
In Safe Homes I saw three main components weaving the powerful path of change:
• the Organizing Component
• the Learning Educational Component
• the Accountability Component
The learning component proved to be the most essential element in addressing the behavioral change needed and in giving support to the constituency of leadership teams who are today 113 parents youth and educators.
As the organizer of the campaign, the coach of the core team, the coach of the 2nd tier coaches and the coach of the learning module of the campaign I was faced with many tensions. The key tension in the campaign was the organizing sentence and the measurable objective, because change in our campaign revolves around behavioral change which is much more complex than changing a procedure or creating pressure to change a law. And it is complex because physical abuse – although the most visible kind of abuse – is part of an invisible circle of emotional and verbal and in some cases sexual abuse.
The tension I experienced arose from the notion that organizing is about change yes – but numbers matter! I argued that 1500 safe homes is simply an impossible objective after stepping deeper into the process of understanding the problem. Its deeply rooted causes in human behavior, and how it is shaped and formed. A main tension also arose around the religious stance in the Muslim faith on physical abuse and how to defend it in alignment with developmentally appropriate practices in rearing children. It was through working diligently with the campaign core team and coaches as well as an Education & Child Safety expert, Dr. Hala Hammad and Creative Arts Therapist Reem Abu kishek, that we were able to construct a learning module and build it up to be disseminated.
After almost 6 months of the campaign journey, the metrics were finally shaped with hopefully more wisdom focusing on 500 homes: 168 safe and the rest working towards safety.
The following are my reflection questions, which remain my companions in the journey of safe homes as it pushes its way forward:
• As an organizer and educator I often found my two hats in conflict. My educator’s hat was pulling me to a slower pace and more humble numbers for the campaign. My organizers hat was pushing me to more outreach and larger numbers. If I had allowed my organizer’s hat to lead me, would I have been able to push the learning of the teams to maintain the critical change needed to stop physical abuse in 45 homes to date?
• Did we proceed with the organizing methodology of creating the core team and then later the first tier leadership team prematurely? Should we have developed the learning component for better parenting, dealing with disclosures, tactics to stop violence before the campaign? Or did the organizing methodology (of engaging the leadership of the community) become the needed threshold in the substance and direction the learning took?
• Is the team structure the most effective way of structuring learning, emotional support, and safe space to enable the community of the campaign to overcome their negative parenting habits? The formation of team norms and objectives facilitated the learning and created a space for safe disclosures, but could we have created more interactive structures? For example, the “forum theater” where we would actually prepare situations and act them out so campaign members can step in and act and reflect in action.
• Is healing a byproduct of team structure? Is the dynamism and creation of teams through the organizing methodology a living evolving mechanism for healing and personal growth, or is it the pain of the narratives and the transformative nature of the story element that creates this dynamism?