Discussion Question 1: What strategies did SIAAP use to identify community needs for HIV/AIDS interventions and to determine SIAAP's response? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the approach it took?
(a) Strategies Used to Identify Community Needs:
- Informal research. Shyamla's initial experience with the women detained at the Vigilance Home and her subsequent research into support mechanisms for HIV+ individuals and persons with AIDS (PWAs) provided clear evidence of the lack of services and resources in the communities.
- Especially-designed needs assessments: (i) Shyamla's assistance to MCCSS for the development of HIV/AIDS interventions started with her helping them to design and conduct a survey of community needs within the selected slum areas. It is assumed that MCCSS had previous knowledge and understanding of the overall development needs of the communities through their existing programmes, (ii) The lorry drivers' education programme started with a survey of the situation and the wishes of the lorry drivers themselves, (iii) Suspicions of the situation regarding STDs in the slum areas of Madras prompted a full-scale field investigation of the situation and the needs of the women before any assumptions were made about appropriate interventions.
- The District KAP survey (presumably conducted to help another NGO to design appropriate HIV prevention interventions).
- The information gathered during the first NGO workshop, which helped SIAAP to identify the experience and support needs of the NGOs. The District workshops also provided Shyamla with information regarding the existing programmes of community-based organisations and helped her to identify the strengths and weaknesses of these organisations in relation to implementing HIV/AIDS interventions. Shyamla then encouraged the NGOs to get back to her if they were interested in getting further support for implementation of projects (i.e. to define their needs first).
- Evidence of any needs assessment in the case of the volunteer training programme or the hotline is not available. From the information given in the case, these appear to have grown out of the specific interests of individual members of the SIAAP team. On the other hand, it would be difficult in these instances to determine community needs for these programmes, particularly if no similar programmes already exist in the locality.
(b) Strategies Used to Determine SIAAP's Response:
- Initially, Shyamla awarded priority to supporting other, existing community development NGOs to develop their own HIV/AIDS programmes. However, each new person joining SIAAP seems to have started his or her own activities, based on individual professional interests and previous experience. Although all efforts to stem HIV infection rates are needed, SIAAP's situation could result in a lack of focus, the diversion of efforts away from priority areas and an over-extension of the NGO and its staff. On the other hand, the commitment and motivation of the individual SIAAP members are essential to the survival and effectiveness of the organisation.
Participants should be asked to consider how a balance might be achieved between 'rational decision-making' about work priorities and allowing the individual members (some of whom are unpaid volunteers) sufficient freedom to pursue areas they feel to be important.
- The information given in the case suggests that SIAAP has given more attention to identifying the needs for HIV/AIDS interventions than to considering whether SIAAP really has the resources to respond effectively to those needs. Participants might be asked to identify the factors that an NGO needs to consider when making a decision on what activities it should or should not initiate.
(c) Advantages/Disadvantages of the Approach Taken;
Possible advantages include: (i) the design and implementation of intervention programs provided SIAAP with direct experience in the field and kept them in touch with both community needs and the programmes of other NGOs; (ii) SIAAP's direct field experience would have increased their credibility with other NGOs, thus facilitating the acceptance of their guidance and support; (iii) the intervention programmes allowed staff to pursue their interests and the field work provided them with direct feedback from clients; both of which may have helped to maintain the members' commitment and motivation; (iv) SIAAP's programmes provided "demonstration" sites which would be of help in the 'training' of less-experienced NGOs; (v) by implementing field programmes, SIAAP provided much-needed services to the community; (vi) some potential donors might have been more interested in supporting field interventions than funding SIAAP's NGO support programme.
Possible disadvantages include: (i) confusion over SIAAP's priorities; (ii) excessive work demands on staff and/or volunteers; (iii) over-extension of the staff and the organisation; (iii) possible lack of continuity in programmes (intervention programmes may terminate abruptly if the responsible SIAAP member leaves the organisation).
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