Voice Annual Linking and Learning 2020
“Together We Are Stronger”
Linking and Learning is at the heart of all Voice country programs. It is a process that enables various stakeholders to share experiences and lessons from development initiatives while adhering to the three core elements of VOICE: include, influence, and innovate.
From October 26-29, 2020, the Voice program in Laos conducted its second annual Voice Linking and Learning event, in Laos' heritage city of Luang Prabang. The event brought together more than 50 participants from very diverse backgrounds across the country, including rightsholders groups and members from grantee organizations such as Sisterhood for Development, Luang Prabang Film Festival, the Land Information Working Group, and the Rural Development Agency.
The highlights of this year's event were four activities that spanned over four days, each designed to spark lively discussion, and facilitate knowledge sharing and cooperation between rightsholders, grantees, the Linking and Learning Facilitator, CLICK, and the Voice team in Laos.
One day before the Annual Linking and Learning event, the Voice team conducted a workshop on Photo-Voice, a methodology used by various project stakeholders to record and raise awareness on issues and developments that individuals or communities experience. The workshop aimed to build the grantee's capacity in photography and caption writing for reporting. In addition to safeguarding and ethics in story gathering, the workshop focused on the practical aspects of photography. Participants took photos at the very beginning of the workshop, all through the day, and ventured around the city to gather stories as part of the final exercise. The participants then uploaded their photos to a Facebook group--this allowed everyone to see how their and their peer's photography skills improved over only a matter of hours.
Walking through the Experiences
Day one centered around a Gallery Walk, an activity where all participants introduced their organizations and showcased their proudest achievements through a gallery-like exhibition. Following opening remarks from Ms. Brooke Bush, the Oxfam in Laos interim Director, and Phoutthasinh Phimmachanh, the Director of CLICK, as well as an interactive session on policies, the participants set out to learn about the other organizations present.
Throughout the gallery walk, organizations, such as the Disability Service Center, shared insights on how they work to improve the rights and access of disabled persons to services such as health care and education.
From Notebook to Stage
The highlights of the second day were group performances of true stories shaped around the challenges and successes experienced by Voice rightsholders and grantees in Laos. Visits to five organizations, the Association of Mutual Agreement (AMA), Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center (TAEC), the Association of People Living in Laos, an Organic Farm, and the Luang Prabang Film Festival inspired the performances. For instance, the group that visited TAEC performed an insightful piece on an ongoing intellectual property rights case involving traditional Lao cloth designs owned by ethnic Lao women, being replicated by Max to produce luxury items for foreign markets.
The audiences also benefited from engaging with guest speakers, who experienced the situations first-hand, in Q&A sessions.
“It was wonderful to hear others share their stories. I felt that the openness of the event encouraged me to speak freely too. It has really boosted my confidence!” – V’ang Seng, In Youth Project, Rural Development Agency
This year the Voice team and CLICK introduced the concept of Open Space. Open Space is a methodology for organizing large events to enable the agenda to be participant-driven. The Open Space aimed to allow any individual or group to share lessons on whatever topic that they believed other participants would benefit from in their work to promote the rights of Voice rightsholder groups.
For instance, Proud to Be Us Laos, an organization that promotes the rights of LGBTQI persons in Laos, shared lessons on Sexual Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) as well as insights on advocacy and campaigning for marginalized groups, as they have a strong social media presence.
Communities of Practice
A fundamental part of the Voice Annual Linking and Learning is creating a space where individuals and their respective organizations can identify together where and how they can collaborate on issues that span across organizations. CLICK and the Voice Team in Laos facilitated sessions where grantees and rightsholders were encouraged to explore how they could leverage each other's strengths to develop initiatives that promote the rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups. Several organizations have identified areas for future collaboration, CLICK, and the Voice team will follow the process over the coming months.
TAEC and the Association for Development of Women and Legal Education (ADWLE) discussed potential initiatives where they would work together to provide legal advice on various issues to local communities. Sisterhood for Development and the Association of People Living with HIV (APL+) discussed working together on HIV/AIDS awareness-raising among ethnic communities.
The Voice Annual Linking and Learning 2020 was a great success based on the participation from the rightsholder groups and grantees and the quality of interactions that facilitated learning and relationship building. Most importantly, grantees and rightsholder groups have paved paths for future collaboration with a mission to #LeaveNoOneBehind.