Earlier this year, we had the chance to meet with Polly Compston and members of The Brooke and do some collaborative training. The Brooke is an animal welfare organization, dedicated to improving working conditions for horses, donkeys, mules and their owners, in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Brooke both does practical on-the-ground programs and training in countries, and also supports animal welfare through funding and producing research on subjects like equine health and community development.
As such, they have a global network of researchers, some with more limited access to resources to others. Polly tells the story of using Mendeley to further The Brooke’s mission:
I spent two weeks this past February in Kenya, working alongside a truly international group of vets, from Kenya, Afghanistan, India, Egypt and Pakistan. I was struck by the contrasts between different people from different places. Now I am back in the UK, it has made me think about my place in the human jigsaw puzzle.
About four months ago, I started working as research advisor at the Brooke, an international NGO with a focus on animal welfare that aims to improve the lives of working donkeys, horses and mules in developing countries. Millions of people depend on these animals for their livelihood and are unable to earn a living, fetch water or farm their land without them. Kenya was my first overseas assignment with them, and I was amazed by the passion and dedication of my international contemporaries. Despite circumstances that are obviously difficult, they work incredibly hard for both animals and people, and are hungry for knowledge that will help in achieving the goals of improved equine welfare.
My role involves providing research support to our staff in eleven country programmes around the world, and this is where Mendeley comes in. We are in the process of implementing Mendeley so that our colleagues in other countries can have access to the same resources that we do in the UK. We are looking forward to using it as a collaborative tool, to facilitate communication within our professional network worldwide and increase its research capacity. The hope is that this will strengthen our community of working equid specialists—driving forward our goals, widening our scope and also giving ownership of this community and its resources to all of Brooke’s employees equally, rather than them having to rely on the UK office for all their information.
For example: at the moment when our vets are performing a literature review prior to initiating a study, they must look up references, in a language that isn’t their first, often through a tortuously-slow internet connection (think about the highlands of Afghanistan). Most often they are confronted with a paywall and so must email the UK office to see if we have that reference in our repository. Mendeley gives us the chance to provide a ready-made library that will be expandable, along with opportunities for discussion and links between different people who are interested in the same subjects: in other words a true academic social network. Our employees have one common goal – to ensure healthier, happier lives for donkeys, horses and mules in the communities that they work in; and they achieve this through community engagement, training programmes, service provision and advocacy strategies. Increasing cross-communication will strengthen the entire system.
Call it grass roots, sustainable, bottom-up or whichever other buzz word is being overused in development at that moment – facilitating change at the community level is a powerful tool and the idea of people working together to create that change is a strong one. I’m looking forward to using Mendeley to fit the pieces of our jigsaw puzzle together and in doing so start to build up a professional community that will ultimately serve the animals that work tirelessly to help their owners.