Last week from 25 till 27 April, Bridging the Gaps organised its very first Learning Institute in Nairobi, Kenya. During this three-day gathering 27 partner representatives from 12 countries have linked and learned on community empowerment and meaningful involvement of key populations: Nothing about us without us! It has proven to be a useful platform for key population communities to exchange across and between different communities and countries.

Finding solutions to joint challenges

The added value of bringing such a diverse group of people together is that they find solutions to joint challenges and opportunities, such as how to engage young key populations, manage volunteers and document community empowerment. Some partners were inspired to plan new activities, for example starting the process of documenting results and lessons learnt on community empowerment:

I have learnt that we need to document lessons learnt and results we achieved. We got inspired by the lessons learnt model of COC Netherlands. I will propose to my organisation to focus on one theme per year and document the process of learning and capture our results. We can use this to improve our programming and share lessons with others”, says Ikka from OPSI, a sex worker-led organization in Indonesia.

Other partners plan to strengthen existing project activities, for example using evidence from the key population implementation tools. These are tools partners and communities can use to plan evidence-based programmes. Others plan to improve their data system:

“I was inspired by Ishtar MSM how they support MSM and monitor and evaluate their services. The nurse fills in a survey and enters the data in their information system for case management. This was very sufficient. We can learn from this”, says Adams, a staff member of G-link, a LGBT partner organisation in Vietnam.

Partners also exchanged ideas and practices between different communities, for example exchanging how to set-up harm reduction services:

 “My organization learned that many of the sex workers also use drugs. We do not provide harm reduction yet. That is a gap in our current programme. For me this was a great opportunity to exchange knowledge and network with drug user organisations. I will reach out to them after the Institute to see if we can start implementing harm reduction” – Mojalifa, Sexual Right Centre (SRC), Zimbabwe.

Learning from site visits

The representatives inspired each other by sharing best practices and hands-on information. The programme was diverse with plenary sessions, group work, and site visits to local partners in Kenya, like HOYMAS, a sex-worker led organisation.

“During the site visit to HOYMAS I learned about the rescue center for sex workers. They go there in need of help when human rights are violated or they are in need of recovery or are very ill. This is something I would like to implement in MEWA in Mombasa as well. We have major problems with PWUD that are sick or even die, and it is difficult to reach them. So I reached out to HOYMAS and planned a meeting with them to further learn about this”. – Abdallah (MEWA, Kenya).

From learning to doing

Bridging the Gaps congratulates the 2017th graduates of the Learning Institute. The graduates have returned to their organisations and will share what they have learnt with colleagues. During the Institute, lessons learnt have been transformed into actions and captured in a Plan of Action that each of the participants drew up. Graduates will present their Plan of Action to their management and jointly finalize it for the work planning of 2018.

The Learning Institute 2018

Next year, the second edition of the Learning Institute will take place in March 2018. Input from the evaluation from this first edition will be used to further strengthen the programming to ensure it will be a great success again. The theme will be announced later this year, so keep an eye on our website and join our Facebook community to make sure you do not miss out!