The success BRAC's adolescent program has experienced in Bangladesh is far from being a result of chance--thanks to rigorous research and evaluation, the program has evolved through a combination of statistical analysis coupled with a native understanding of local social practices. The strategy starts by mobilizing the communities where BRAC aims to build adolescent programming by taking the following steps:
1. Identifying social groups and mapping existing formal structures or networks. In many rural areas, networks include adult males, religious leaders, teachers, and the parents and extended family of children. BRAC also recruits and trains female volunteers who become the nucleus of a social network of women.
2. Building trust with the community by providing something to meet their perceived needs. In most communities, BRAC starts a credit program that involves the poorest of the poor in economic activities to alleviate poverty.
3. Developing forums around social networks to engage in dialogue with the community. Key elements of developing effective community forums include 1) identifying appropriate actors; 2) recognizing and responding to communication patterns and behavioral cues that exist in the community; 3) building cultural beliefs about the authority and reliability of the information provided in the forum; and 4) using fora to strengthen existing positive relationships within the family and community.
4. Within community forums, exposing members to new ideas, involving them in problem solving, and encouraging "risky innovations." As forum members are taken through this process, they become advocates for the program approach by integrating program objectives into their own lives and value systems.
BRAC engages communities in an evolutionary process that introduces new ideas, and through open dialogue, community members are able to address more sensitive issues such early marriage, women's rights and adolescent reproductive health. It was through the process of community mobilization that BRAC has been able to establish 8,037 adolescent clubs to date across the country, and has become a widely accepted and celebrated part of the community.
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