Before we start working with communities we undertake a Research of Aspirations and Perceptions (RAP), a social research task that assists us in understanding how communities perceive environmental and social challenges, opportunities and constraints. We use the RAP as a basis for developing resources, capacity building activities and evaluation frameworks. Some key principles of the RAP are outlined below.

Live & Learn's RAPs can be found in our Resources Section

Principle 1: Programs should start 'where the communities are at' focus should be relevant to community members' lives and needs 

Detailed considerations from the results and discussion section of this report, they include:

  • Focusing on perceived priority issues; water, cash cropping, population growth, changes to culture, health
  • Acknowledging those groups that have influence over decision making and those that currently do not
  • Building on capacity already present in the community Considering perceived barriers to community participation
  • Focusing on factors that will motivate the community

Principle 2: Learning should have an emphasis on systems thinking (developing an understanding of how the social / economic / political and environmental systems are inter-related and dependant on each other)

The RAP identifies a variety of interrelated issues that affect communities including (but not restricted to):

  • Social and cultural changes linked to changes in the economic system (from subsistence to cash economy)
  • Environmental impacts linked to changes in cultural practices (e.g. use of specific areas, or resources)
  • Poverty related to inequitable benefits from natural resource exploitation (fishing)
  • Environmental impacts linked to economic development (e.g. forest clearing for Oil Palm)

Principle 3: Programs should provide an opportunity for learning that involves developing and practicing critical thinking skills. Critical thinking should aim to investigate and challenge past, present and future developments scenarios

There is generally a low education and literacy level in the community. However, participants readily participated and responded very positively to critical dialogue during the RAP. This indicates that facilitated critical thinking exercises would be more successful if presented orally.

Principle 4: Programs should involve developing partnerships between key people and institutions in the community and society. For example; decision makers, governments, business, non-government organizations, educators and community members

Key organizations that should be engaged include (example):

  • Government departments
  • National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan, Island Councils, local groupings
  • Teachers, schools, students and parents
  • Funding partners

Principle 5: Programs should be 'process oriented', using methods that can be applied to a range of issues, and should not be tied specifically to one issue

  • Focus action on perceived priority issues and the interrelationships between these and other issues

Principle 6: Programs should involve 'learning through doing'. All tools should be directed toward empowering action that leads to change

  • Focus action on perceived priority issues and the interrelationships between these and other issues
  • Direct action projects through groups with demonstrated capacity to take action
  • Acknowledge resource constraints; funding and materials (sourced from the bush or markets)
  • Capitalize on the high availability of human resources / labor

Principle 7: Programs should promote empowerment from within communities, and avoid creating dependency on outside influences

  • Avoid implementing solutions for the community
  • Avoid focus on issues in isolation
  • Focus efforts on root causes of problems