Building safe homes and unlocking confidence in Lebanon

After seeing what her community was able to accomplish through the One Neighborhood project, one woman said, “…when we saw the changes in the neighbourhood, we were proud.”

Sometimes I marvel out how much people have in common, no matter where in the world they are or what their circumstances. Reading stories from Syrian refugees in Lebanon this week, here’s a quote that could have come from my life: “We started by questioning why we were taking the time to go to meetings, what was the point?” Have you ever had that day?

Be honest, what would it take to make you love meetings? For that woman in Lebanon, it was seeing what she and her peers could accomplish. “…when we saw the changes in the neighbourhood, we were proud.” Another woman says, “It would be good if more women came out of their houses and joined meetings because it’s exciting.”

That motivation extends beyond meetings. Fatima says, “I now feel I can do anything: I started installing cupboards at home – like a man would do – and my neighbour heard the DIY noises and he assumed that my husband was home! But no, it was me!”

That sense of possibility, of confidence, might be the most important impact we can have—when women and local communities know that they have the tools, skills, and support to fix their own problems. That’s what the One Neighborhood approach in Tripoli, Lebanon helped women unlock. It also helped them build safer homes.

The One Neighborhood Approach project ran in Tripoli from 2015-2019 in partnership with Akkarouna--a local NGO. The project got $2.3 million in support from the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. It helped 14,930 people total.

What changed?

  • People feel safer in their homes: 87% of people were satisfied with the quality of work in their homes. The report feeling safer because there are better doors, locks, and cleaner conditions.
  • Communities are more peaceful: 72% of people report reduced community tensions. Women report that their personal stress is lower—especially because they don’t have to spend so much time on unpaid care work, getting water, and trying to keep their homes and children safe.
  • People feel respected: 98% of people felt that the project considered and respected their opinions.
  • There is more hope: People feel that they used to have more conflict in the community, and that meetings were all about blaming each other and raising problems. Now that they have successfully accomplished projects—from installing LED streetlights to building new drinking water points to repairing roads—they feel proud. They feel more capable.
  • Leaders (especially women) are more confident: 78% of committee members (who are mostly women) feel more confident in their ability to negotiate with city leaders to get what they need.

How did it happen?

  • Start with the basics: The project helped upgrade and repair 2,221 housing units. This included installing doors and locks, adding toilets and sinks, or upgrading floors, ceilings, and railings.
  • Think beyond the house: The project helped 24 community committees think about their entire neighborhoods and come up with action plans that could benefit everyone.
  • Pay for locally-led solutions: The project allocated $1,500 per house repaired (with direction from the refugee living in the house) and $3,000 per committee project to upgrade their own communities. Committee members also got training on negotiation skills, conflict resolution, proposal writing, and building relationships.
  • Negotiate with power: The project team negotiated with landlords to freeze rent, keep their tenants, or even reduce rent when tenants were able to upgrade their houses.
  • Think long term, even when funding is short: This project had to reapply for funding every year, and didn’t know from one year to the next if there would be a new round of money. They still thought about a long term solution and strategy to have better impact over time.
  • Invest in evidence and share it with participants. The team did a rapid urban needs assessment and published it publicly. More than that, they presented those findings (and all of the assessments they did on more than 3,000 houses a year) to communities and partners so they could make decisions together.
  • Be accountable. As one participant said, “CARE was honest about what they promised they would do, therefore the people in the area were more engaged.” The team built several tools—from hotlines to Whatsapp messaging—to make sure that participants had ways to raise issues with project staff.
  • Think about reducing violence: The project helped 11,523 people benefit from protection services and GBV awareness. They did widespread family wellness sessions and helped provide referrals for people who needed them.

Want to learn more?

Check out the evaluation.