Category 4: Management
Important issues for project management
While there are many factors that should be taken into consideration, the following are some of the important issues for project management.
Building a community
Time should be invested at the beginning of a project to establish relationships with stakeholders, to become familiar with the environment and to build up trust. However, divisions within sex worker groups and diverse community agendas may make it difficult to identify a cohesive community. It may be necessary to work separately with different groups, or to begin by working with only one group. Activities such as the development of peer educator networks help to develop a better sense of solidarity within the community. Some projects have created drop-in centres or other forums where sex workers can meet each other, interact in a non-threatening environment, and break down barriers.
A project may initially have to take the lead in supporting sex workers to mobilize around a particular issue that they have identified. The act of participating in community action will in itself help to foster solidarity and a sense of community.
Staff recruitment and structure
Recruiting the right personnel is a key part of project management. Many projects have duty, administrative, and field staff. It is important that all staff have positive attitudes and appropriate skills. For field staff in particular, a non-judgmental approach is crucial, as is a willingness to learn and an ability to mix with people from widely differing backgrounds. Appropriate training, supervision and support are essential. Project staff may face hostility and stigma because of their work on HIV in sex work settings. High turnover rates are common among peer educators because of high levels of mobility in sex work. This may disrupt fieldwork and should be factored into project planning.
Having regular meetings, providing opportunities for greater involvement in the project and offering various incentives can also help to maintain motivation among peer educators and other community groups.
Sex workers have often suffered years of social exclusion and may require considerable mentoring and capacity-building to equip them with the skills necessary for taking on new leadership roles and dealing with mainstream society. Project staff may have to advocate with external agencies in order to enable sex workers to participate in meetings or other activities. Special arrangements, such as the provision of interpreters or the translation of key documents, may also facilitate increased participation.
Initially, sex work interventions benefit from highly committed and strong leaders. However, steps should be taken to develop a more managerial leadership style, which is broader and more inclusive and which builds capacity among a larger group of sex workers. It may be necessary to have ongoing leadership development and training.
An intervention sometimes leads to conflict within sex worker communities over perceived access to project-related power and resources. Tensions may emerge over the allocation of funds to different community organizations, over leadership roles, over remuneration or incentives for participation in project activities, and over jobs and salaries. The maintenance of open communication and transparency about project decisions can help to minimize this problem.