Scripted Into

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“Pandemics such as COVID-19 render visible the deep-rooted inequalities across and within societies, seeded and catalyzed by over three decades of variegated neoliberal reforms. The trajectories of COVID-19 outbreaks as well as the effects of COVID-19-related policies render visible the inequalities that are written into the neoliberal organizing of political economy. Community participation is scripted into the neoliberal framework as an instrument for depoliticizing community and utilizing it as a channel for disseminating top-down individual behavior change messages.”

– Do you know communities are increasingly organizing themselves around issues that they want to promote, solve or resist?

– I know, the width of a circle.

– Organizing that often includes wanting to influence change in the behavior and policies of the government.

– I know.

– So that it listens to our opinion. So that it considers our proposals. So that it stops projects that affect us.

– I know.

– And what do you think?

– Think of what?

– Of how community engagement contributes to our democracy, promoting better public policies and services to meet social needs.

– I think that’s good.

– So do you know how to promote community engagement? Because “the engagement of communities can be challenging particularly since many times they do not trust the motives of the research/project due to historical exploitation of their knowledge, misuse of biological or environmental samples, and irrelevant results that do not address local issues.”

– I do know.

– How?

– Well, “there are various levels in which communities may be engaged ranging from outreach (“communication flows from one to the other to inform, provides community with information”) to shared leadership (“final decision-making is at community level, form strong partnership structures”). One effective mode of engagement is through local leaders or conduits that are versed in peer education/train-the-trainer approaches. Peer education focuses on building knowledge in a targeted population via designated community members as the teachers. This is contrary to traditional pedagogy models (top-down) where the learner simply receives information and cannot influence the educational agenda with their own experience. As a result, peer education can often create a more empathetic and credible relationship than the traditional top-down model, ultimately enhancing the transfer of knowledge.”

– Doesn’t this speak to US?

– Yes, it does, in the corner of the morning in the past.

“Community struggles for communication equality thus point to alternative forms of organizing health and well-being that challenge and seek to dismantle neoliberal governmentality.”

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