Register for the Forum

What makes an intervention sustainable?

Laura Borbe, accompanied by her colleague, Ana,  from the New Horizons Foundation  (Fundatia Noi Orizonturi), held the session about “Building sustainable community interventions”. During the session, we were told about a game that illustrates the issues and solutions of creating sustainable interventions. The game was called “Bridge-building in Derdia,” which simulates high and low context cultures providing many insights for its participants. Lacking more participants to be able to play the game, an insightful constructive dialogue took place instead.

At first, we were asked what makes an intervention sustainable? Is it education, culture, cooperation, visible effects over time, authentic communication or neither? Or is it all of them?

According to the speakers, the first thing we must take into account is that just by seeing someone in distress, ethical issues arise when we get involved without being asked for help by the one we see in distress. This is not necessarily about cases of escalated abuse in which for example an abused wife is scared of leaving her husband and would need social support to flee from him. Rather, what we are referring to are cases where we would want to implement a project, but our proposed interventions aren’t needed by the target group, so it can’t be sustainable. A key feature is for the intervention to be needed by the target group (also for them to be aware of this need), because only then are people open and comfortable with receiving and giving in the process of learning and change.

Another key feature is for the one proposing the intervention to be competent source. According to Daniel David’s book about the psychology of Romanians (“Psihologia poporului roman”), it can be argued that the average Romanian citizen isn’t eager to trust other people.  Thus if we  look incompetent, we might not even be accepted to begin with.

A third key feature that needs to be taken in consideration is the presence of stubbornness and the resistance of the target groups. The causes for this resistance can vary. We might be trapped in the Karpman Drama Triangle (identifying with the either the persecutor, the victim or the rescuer, mostly being a combination of these three). Or we might be fearful of facing certain problems, like facing the possibility we might not be good at what we do best, or usually do, etc. This is why a foundation of trust must be built to be able to create opportunities for addressing and facing problems and also for finding solutions to them.

The one word answer to what makes interventions sustainable in the end is ‘Trust.’ Trust from the target group that they need the intervention, trust between the target group and the ones implementing the solutions, and for those who are intervening, being a trusted legit source for the target group.

Julia Svedac