Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

Reflections of a Capacity Builder: An Autoethnographic Perspective of Capacity Building Methods with a Youth Livelihoods Organization in Vanuatu/Réflexions D'un Responsable De Renforcement Des Capacités: Une Perspective Autoethnographique Sur Les Méthodes De Renforcement Des Capacités Avec Une Organisation De Jeunes Sur Les Moyens De Subsistance, À Vanuatu

Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

Reflections of a Capacity Builder: An Autoethnographic Perspective of Capacity Building Methods with a Youth Livelihoods Organization in Vanuatu/Réflexions D'un Responsable De Renforcement Des Capacités: Une Perspective Autoethnographique Sur Les Méthodes De Renforcement Des Capacités Avec Une Organisation De Jeunes Sur Les Moyens De Subsistance, À Vanuatu

Article excerpt

Every day international development professionals arrive in new countries to impart their knowledge and expertise on indigenous peoples and organizations. But how often do these development professionals reflect on the work they are doing? This article is an autoethnographic exploration of my observations, thoughts, and experiences working for two years as the Country Director for a youth livelihoods organization, YLO1, in Port Vila, Vanuatu. The purpose of this article is to critically reflect on my own personal learning experiences, through an autoethnographic method, working with the YLO staffto build up their capacity to deliver relevant and effective livelihoods programming for youth in Vanuatu. Based on my reflections, I will review what capacity building is and what it is not, and conclude this article with an overview of my learning experiences as a capacity builder with YLO staff.

Autoethnography

Anthropologists have used ethnography as a research method for many years to study culture and human societies (Duncan, 2004; Reed-Danahay, 2009). Originating from 19th century anthropology, ethnography was a term used for outsiders to describe primarily non-Western community or culture (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2007). Merriam and Simpson (2000) define ethnography as having two distinct meanings, "Ethnography is (1) a set of methods or techniques used to collect data and (2) the written record that is the product of using ethnographic techniques" (p.104). Common ethnographic techniques that are used to uncover the meaning a setting or situation has for the people directly involved include; participant observation, in-depth interviewing, life history, documentary analysis, and investigator diaries (Merriam & Simpson, 2000). To use any of these techniques involves going into the field to immerse one's self in the collective way of life to gain firsthand knowledge about a culture or community. Merriam and Simpson highlight that "Fieldwork involves entering the chosen setting, establishing rapport with the residents of that setting, maintaining some type of relationship with the subjects, and, finally, leaving the setting" (p.105).

Autoethnography is a method of ethnography that focuses on the researcher's personal observations and reflections regarding the work they are doing or the research they are conducting in a particular community or culture (Reed-Danahay, 2009; Holt, 2003). Autoethnography varies from ethnography in that the researcher is no longer an objective outsider, but rather an insider in his or her own context (Duncan, 2004). Ellis (1999) explains that an autoethnography is a personal story which focuses on the author's feelings, thoughts, and emotions' regarding an experience the author has lived through. Ellis continues on to say that this is not an easy method for most social scientists, as it involves rigorous self-reflection and the vulnerability of revealing yourself so honestly in print.

On the other hand, the extraordinary level of personal candour in autoethnographic research could be a transformational catalyst for the author and the reader. Sharing one's own personal experiences may help others recognize similarities in their own lives and lead to their own reflection and self-transformation (Cranton, 2006). Autoethnography can also be a beneficial tool to "integrate research and practice into increasingly diverse classroom and social settings" (Glowacki-Dudka, Treff, & Usman, 2005 p.30). Many believe that educators must respect the diversity of their students, and autoethnography may be a useful way for helping educators and students to understand one another's background and experiences (Glowacki- Dudka et al., 2005).

However, Holt (2003) asserts that the use of self as the only data source in autoethnography has been extensively questioned and viewed as self-indulgent and narcissistic. The auto in autoethnography implies self-research, which could be negatively perceived by readers as non-academic, a work of fiction, self-indulgent, or lacking in objectivity (Duncan, 2004). …

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