We are Agathe and Thibault, a French couple who had the chance to discover Qosqo Maki in the summer 2017. We have been working for three years as social workers in an association called « Les Ateliers Nomades » / « The Nomadic Workshops » in Autun, Burgundy, France, where we developed local projects of social development on a district level (shared gardens, cooperative bicycle workshop, opening of a participative place with the inhabitants, trips organized with families, etc…). After this experience, we wanted to know other community projects in the world, that’s why we created the association called “La Vie des Autres” / “The Lives of Others” in 2016.
In 2017, we are travelling with our camera to understand and enhance initiatives where human being is at the heart of the project. We went to Asia, America Latina and we will go next to the African continent. We film these projects to then talk about it around us in order to show that it is possible to do things together and to be positive about our current world. In addition to the realization of a documentary with the projects we are discovering, we also suggest our own initiative with our “luggage to share”, a piece of luggage full of different games to share, to gather people and to encourage meetings.
In Peru, it is in Qosqo Maki that we orientated our project. During these two months on the spot, we were able to understand quickly the participative aspect of the project as the association gives high priority to the youth.
How is the participation present in Qosqo Maki?
The assemblies organized with the users of the library or dormitory are the central elements of the participative dynamic.
In the dormitory, the assembly takes place every Tuesday. We had the chance to be able to take part of many of them and we have immediately been marked by the place of the young persons in these assemblies. Indeed, they were more moments of exchange when the youth could talk about their preoccupations or feelings to the educators and others users than a time when the educators exposed the problems or potential reproaches.
The educators’ positioning gives greater freedom to the users of the dormitory. Even with this positioning, we detect easily the respect the youth have towards the adults. The fact of making the young people aware of their responsibilities at the heart of the organization of their living place enables them to get used to the area more easily, encouraging its respect. We can notice that the newcomers appropriate pretty quickly the place and directly get used to the general functioning of the dormitory helping with the daily tasks but also taking part of the assemblies of the dormitory. These assemblies boost the group effect and the collective appropriation giving to each one the opportunity to find his own place and having a say. We also found that the fact of giving to each young person the possibility to add a point that seems essential to him to the agenda is a formidable way to develop this active participation. We take note of it for our next participative approaches.
During the assemblies but also the different moments we could share in the dormitory (breakfast, general clean-up, daily tasks…), we have been pleasantly surprised by the respect the users have towards the others while they are about thirty teenagers to share their daily life in this collective space.
In the library, the assembly is above all the opportunity for the users to exchange about what happened the week before. This meeting that takes place every Monday is also the moment to talk about what is going to happen during the week and to mention some topics in particular (behavior, a new activity, the arrival of an external actor…). The way this assembly works is different from the one in the dormitory as the topics mentioned are not really related to everyone’s daily life. However, we have been surprised by the voluntary and regular presence of the youth. The participative approach developed by Qosqo Maki is a way, for the library, to be extended to the youth of the neighborhood. This appropriation between the young persons of the neighborhood and the ones from the dormitory enables each one to have his place.
We have also found impressive the willingness of the educators to enable the youth to lead these assemblies with them. A new approach that, we hope, will go on like this and make the youth of the dormitory find even more their place in this area open to everyone.
Is it easy for each participant to speak out during collective moments like the assemblies? Do they also speak individually to the educators?
Why does the participation in the library seem different from the one in the dormitory?
Firstly because the function of these areas are different. One is a real living space for the users of the dormitory, and the other is a playful space for these users but also the youth from the neighborhood. The diversity of the public present in the library certainly makes the participation of everyone more complicated. Indeed, we felt a less important implication of the youth in the library in comparison with the dormitory, notably for tidying and cleaning.
However, the assembly in the library is newer, so it seems normal for us that everyone’s participation in this area is less important for the moment. Participative approaches take time. To come back to the assembly management in the library by the youth themselves, there is no doubt that this approach will speed up the participative process.
What is this participation for?
In the participative area we opened in France, we could see that everyone appropriated the project as each one felt that he had his place within this space and submitted proposals. An appropriation that didn’t happen with other projects where the inhabitants were more project consumers than active participant.
In Qosqo Maki, we had the chance to immerse ourselves in a participative project that seems to be a formidable example as for the “do it together” encourages personal development and socialization. It enables each user’s responsibility which stimulates the implication and appropriation of the area. This method based on constant interaction with the users boosts exchanges and respect everyone’s way of thinking. Indeed, the continuous dialogue between users and educators enable the youth to share their opinion, to develop skills and to encourage a spirit of mutual assistance, sharing and tolerance.
The collective participation also enables the association to focus its development on ideas or needs directly coming from the users of the different educational areas. Also called “co-management”, it enables the satisfaction of all within a collective functioning, despite of the personal compromises for decision-making.
As the proverb says, « Alone I go faster, together we go further ». Indeed, sometimes it is easier and faster to do things by oneself, to take decision without concertation but it is often proved that the result is different (lack of appropriation, of motivation, of implication, less voluntary time…). Everything takes time but Qosqo Maki, in more than 25 years of experience, has been able to show nice results with projects set up and developed with and for the beneficiaries.
It is with a great satisfaction that we add this project to our documental about “living better together”.
Agathe y Thibault Mouginot