Samer is completing a PhD at the London School of Economics, and is a founding board member of Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network.
Culture and Collective Work
Saturday March 23, 2013 at 14:00 – Campus in Camps Al Feneiq Center, Deheishe Refugee Camp by Samer Abdelnour
How does culture and identity influence community and collective work? Is it possible for NGOs to play a supportive role in their construction?
Samer Abdelnour explored these issues using the case study of the hadaadeen (blacksmiths), who now reside in El-Fashir, North Darfur. The blacksmiths are amongst Darfur’s most discriminated castes. Historically, their socio-cultural distinction has rendered them unable to engage as regular members of society. Yet today the blacksmiths have managed—through a long-running partnership with NGO Practical Action—to gain some degree of economic and political recognition. Rather than conceive of their poverty as economic alone, Practical Action recognized identity to be the root of their social isolation. In a step-by-step process spanning over twenty years, Practical Action assisted the blacksmiths to organize into collectives, source inputs, improve production techniques, establish a credit system, and most importantly build relationships with local and international stakeholders. Over time, these changed the way in which the blacksmiths engaged with and are perceived by other communities in North Darfur. Significant to the evolution of the blacksmiths’ model of collective work are culture, community, staged formalization, and appropriate technology approaches to development. These and their implications for community work were discussed in detail.