Written by Tah Peter Fomonyuy
Cameroon – Bamenda. A new project called the GRID Network (Groups for Rehabilitation and Inclusive Development) has been launched in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. The GRID Network is one of the several projects of the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disability (SEEPD) Programme of the CBC Health Services whose mandate is improving the quality of life of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) within the Northwest Region of Cameroon.
Seven theme groups within the GRID Network have been identified, with each group made up of approximately 10 members. These groups are: Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), Management and Leadership in Inclusive Development, Media, Disability and Rehabilitation, Low Vision, Mental Health and Wellbeing, HIV and Inclusive Education. Leaders of these theme groups had their first meeting on April 22, 2016 at the Baptist Centre in Bamenda.
Addressing the leaders, the SEEPD Programme Manager, Mr. Awa Jacques Chirac, said the new project seeks to build communities of practice for rehabilitation and inclusive development in the Northwest Region. “A good chunk of knowledge has been developed within the CBC and other organisations but is not being appropriately shared amongst professionals,” said Mr. Awa. He declared that it is for this reason that the SEEPD programme has developed a formal framework (GRID Network) where professional knowledge could be shared to guarantee improvement in practice in different professional realms.
The GRID Network Project Coordinator, Dr. Louis Mbibeh, presented the project. He explained that the network comprises a group of professionals working in the domain of rehabilitation and inclusive development. He said the project connects stakeholders committed to sharing knowledge, creating and adapting resource materials and providing mutual professional support. “Together these groups make up a large community of practice focused on inclusive development and rehabilitation. Within the larger network are smaller groups focusing on more specific topics and themes,” added Dr. Mbibeh.
Dr. Lynn Cockburn, Project Head and Professor at the University of Toronto, Canada, joined the discussions during the meeting from Canada via Skype. She encouraged Theme Group Leaders to commit their time and know-how for the success of the initiative. She insisted on the need for creation and sharing of current knowledge among group members and to the wider community. She expressed optimism saying that one of the outcomes of the project will be sharing of more practical information that can be used across the region in all types of centres and schools.
The GRID Network project is involved among other things in providing opportunities for professional collaboration and learning, developing, adapting and sharing resource materials, encouraging the use of internet and social media to share knowledge and providing leadership opportunities.
Speaking at the close of the GRID Network leaders’ meeting, the Chief of Administration and Finance (CAF) for the CBC Health Services, Mr. Warri Denis commended the SEEPD Programme for the innovative ways of reaching out to PWDs. He called on all leaders to consider the GRID Network as an innovation in professional practice. “In which case we keep learning as we go…We are innovators and leaders in the Northwest and in Cameroon as a whole, and this work will have a great impact in the weeks, months and years to come,” stated Mr. Warri.
Theme Groups have begun holding meetings with the expectation to move forward as quickly as possible in making social changes in disability, rehabilitation and inclusive development. Most of the members of the GRID Network live and work in the Northwest Region, and come from several sectors and professional backgrounds including researchers, service providers, government leaders, persons with lived experiences of disability and marginalization.
The term communities of practice was first used in 1991 by theorists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger. The concept relates to a group of people who share common goals and who are interested or passionate about developing and spreading new knowledge to improve understanding and action around an issue. Today people see communities of practice as ways of promoting innovation, developing social capital, facilitating and spreading knowledge within a group and spreading existing knowledge in many fields. “We are optimistic that the GRID Network will be effective in bringing professionals together and in increasing disability inclusive development in the NWR,” says Dr. Lynn.
(With contributions from Dr. Lynn Cockburn & Dr. Louis Mbibeh)