The first of the SPARK Learning Routes “Enabling disability inclusive rural transformation: the Ugandan experience” took place June 23rd to July 2nd in Kampala and Lira, Uganda facilitated by Procasur with the support of Light for the World Uganda. The Learning Route brought together more than 30 people including representatives of IFAD projects, Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) and program staff from ILO and Light for the World in Burkina Faso, India, Mozambique and Malawi. Participants were selected based on their significant roles in the implementation of SPARK. The Learning Route featured workshops, hands-on activities, and field visits all aimed at facilitating peer to peer learning.
Learning Route Highlight
Field visits on Financial Inclusion
During the Learning Route, the group made field visits focused on the financial inclusion of persons with disabilities. The visits included meetings with entrepreneurs with disabilities to learn about their businesses and how they save money in inclusive Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) followed by trips to different groups to learn more about the procedures and awareness trainings that have taken place to facilitate inclusion.
The group also made a visit to Opportunity Bank to learn about the efforts they have made to become inclusive and work with VSLAs to allow persons with disabilities to access formal finance. The bank has taken strides towards enhancing the physical accessibility of their branches by adding ramps and welcoming signage. Additionally, the staff has been provided with awareness trainings and equipped with basic sign language. Some branches of the bank have successfully employed persons with disabilities as well.
Opportunity Bank’s efforts extend to making financial services more accessible through allowing for flexibility in the lending process and providing financial literacy training to members of the disability community. The bank’s management has championed their inclusive approach and has begun to educate other financial institutions on their best practices.
Social Innovation Lab Discussion
Learning Route participants took part in a workshop to learn about the Social Innovation Lab and AgriLab processes facilitated in Cambodia. First used by Light For The World in 2016, Social Innovation Labs encourage organizations to try new explorative, and innovative ways to develop locally designed solutions. The Labs use a human-centered design approach, where various stakeholders including tool or service users co-design and co-create solutions. The AgriLab process more specifically focuses on the development and engineering of new physical tools that can be used to facilitate inclusion in an agricultural setting. The AgriLab done in Cambodia was used as an example on how to foster inclusion of farmers with disabilities in rural economies and improve their livelihoods by leveraging local technology and innovation.
Discussion surrounded the exclusion often faced by persons with disabilities living in rural areas due to the lack of simple assistive devices, exclusion from agricultural cooperatives, trainings, finances, and general discrimination and ways that Social Innocation Labs can be used to break down these barriers.
Social Innovation Labs are a core component of the SPARK program. Learn more about the approach here.
Strengthening Cross-Country Relationships
A key highlight of the Learning Route was the opportunity to strengthen professional relationships with stakeholders from all program countries. The social aspects of the experience facilitated learning and partnership in an informal way, improving professional relationships, and providing the opportunity to set up functional communication structures to enhance the program. Participants took travel as an opportunity to learn from each other’s practices and experiences and left Uganda feeling optimistic about the SPARK program.