Reframing the Question (guest blog 3)

Further enlightenment came from various conversations I had with Freddie from my Mabadiliko group. A problem faced by young men like himself from Ponda Mali was the prejudice they experienced being from a known problem area, a prejudice from which they suffered socially and financially as they were often turned down for jobs simply on account of where they lived and the negative associations of that location. Some of the problems they identified which I initially branded as too big to solve – unemployment, idleness and  poverty – I see now also are being actively addressed by the group.

Members of my Ponda Mali group were already involved with community projects for the purpose of improving their area and it’s image. I was one day delighted and shocked to discover Joshua and Moses knew Ruth from my Thairira widows intimately, breaking down social and generational barriers that were so strong within their community. They had been working on a community initiative to improve housing conditions together in their area. They were actively going about solving the problems which we branded too large to for anyone to solve, because they were solving it for themselves on a local level.

Furthermore, the value of this pursuit might indeed be argued to be circumstantially greater than the sort of commercial value we were seeking to render out of solving business problems. In a community with such low levels of trust, where personal safety and security were threatened and subsistence a universally accepted fact, no wonder they could not understand the sort of very specific, commericial, and comparatively trivial type of problem we were looking to solve, for example,  a lack of fresh fish in their area, or why these seemed to be more legitimate in our eyes than problems of unemployment and disease.

Understanding more about the context in which I was teaching, the conditions lived in and values held of the individuals in our groups helped me reframe the questions I was asking in a way that was relevant, and comprehensible to my groups.

We wanted to find business solutions, i.e. simply solutions which people would pay money for, not solutions that enabled groups to support each other as social co-operatives, improvimg each others lives, but without any commercial prospects. The question which needed to be asked instead was not “Is this a problem we can solve ourselves ?” but more specifically, “Is this a problem we can solve ourselves and make money from the solution at the same time. ”