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< prev - next > Social and economic development Social Development learning_from_practice (Printable PDF)
thousands, not just the lucky few. An external
partner like Practical Action can be well placed
to facilitate connections, to help a community
organization to network with other actors.
Strategic networking can enable community
organizations to achieve three important goals:
1. access external service providers and
resources (both government and external
funders): in this way they can become self-
sustaining, independent of direct support
from NGOs and donors;
2. represent members’ interests in wider fora,
so enabling groups to formulate common
approaches to lobbying, and influence the
policy and institutional environment for pro-
poor change;
3. access horizontal peer support with
other community organizations, to share
experiences and ideas and learn from each
One example, which combines the first
and third of these goals, is from Chimanimani
district in eastern Zimbabwe. During an
institutional assessment, Practical Action
discovered that, in the context of little outside
or government support, community self-help
groups in three local wards had developed an
excellent working model for enhancing the
livelihoods of HIV/AIDS-affected households.
Seizing an opportunity, Practical Action helped
these few groups to initiate a district-wide
dialogue to share their strategies. Their model
Community organizations work to enhance the
livelihoods of HIV/AIDS affected households,
Chimanimani, Zimbabwe
was replicated amongst groups in 20 further
wards. As a result of links developed with local
leaders and service providers, they became
formally registered as community trusts,
which enabled them to access independent
An example from Kenya illustrates how
groups can be supported to network to demand
services and lobby for policy change. In
Nairobi, the city’s water company had long
resisted providing water to the residents of
informal settlements, considering them to
be illegal. Over time, together with Practical
Action support, small-scale water vendors
from Mukuru informal settlement successfully
joined forces to lobby Nairobi City Water.
They persuaded the water company to uphold
its responsibilities – and that a way could
be found to bring water to the slums, by
establishing meter chambers on the mains
pipes nearby, and legalizing connections
to water kiosks within the slum. The water
company has since established a department
for informal settlements, to work on water and
sanitation provision in slums right across the
Opinions differ about whether it is best
practice to formally register community
organizations with official governmental
agencies. In some cases, e.g. Nepal,
registration with government has been
beneficial for community organizations to
access support, training, and networks.
In Bolivia, the government promotes the
participation of community organizations,
enabling them to contribute to decision-
making, and gain funding and training. In
other cases, however, formalizing structures,
especially where funding is available, may lead
to political influence and corruption. In certain
parts of Sudan, government recognition may
potentially leave a community organization
vulnerable to violence. Careful political
analysis is required here as part of institutional
scoping, to determine the best course of
g. Check for processes of inclusion
If poverty reduction goals are to be achieved,
through strong group processes and inclusion
of the poorest in decision making, assessing
the extent to which a community organization
is representative, inclusive of, and accountable
to its constituents is vital. Entrenched