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< prev - next > Social and economic development Social Development learning_from_practice (Printable PDF)
power structures are often played out in
institutions: ‘collective action and [community]
organizations inevitably reflect local divisions
and inequalities and tend to be controlled by
local elites.’22
Barriers to inclusion may be as simple as
procedural issues – like the language in which
meetings are conducted, or the time, place
and accessibility of meetings. For example, in
one village in southern Sudan, an otherwise
highly effective women’s organization had
difficulty recruiting members from the very
poorest levels. They found that their small
membership fee and time of meetings (in the
afternoons when poorer women had to go out
and do paid work) were important obstacles.
Practitioners can work in a decentralized
and facilitative manner to raise questions
about representativeness (e.g. of gender,
religious, poverty, or ethnic groups, see Box 5),
and to help community organizations to
analyse and acquire skills for inclusivity and
accountability. Organizations can be guided in
conducting self assessment, to monitor their
inclusiveness and the extent of representation.
This might include cross-checking the
relative poverty status of the organization’s
participants using participatory rural appraisal
‘wealth ranking’ methods. It should also be
recognized that inclusion has costs (e.g. slower
decision-making processes, opportunity costs
of participation in meetings). It is important
to be aware of those costs and the benefits;
to analyse the barriers to and incentives
for participation; and to seek strategies for
addressing them.
h. Plan for an exit strategy
To achieve the long-term sustainability of
initiative and autonomy of group action for
which Practical Action aims, requires that
community organizations are left strong
and able to cope independently when
NGO involvement inevitably ends. Howes23
suggests that total disengagement is difficult
to achieve, and must happen incrementally,
once independent management capacity and
material self-sufficiency has been reached.
This means that successful withdrawal requires
concerted planning; community organizations
must have clear expectations of the process,
and viable plans and capacity to fulfil the
functions vacated by the outside agency,
including replacement of equipment, coping
Box 5. Gender inclusion
Women are very often marginalized in
community organizations. Community
organizations can be supported to include
gender issues in the following ways:
help identify any barriers to gender-
appropriate project implementation
(gender analysis);
encourage organizational rules and
procedures that reduce barriers and
facilitate participation;
provide training on gender awareness;
• include gender-specific indicators in
monitoring and evaluation systems.
Collect disaggregated data; involve both
men and women in monitoring and
evaluation; and
demonstrate value for incorporating
both genders in community structures
by highlighting contributions made by
women and men separately through
assessment and survey reports.
A combined approach should be taken,
including all of the above. Merely to insist
on female members on committees may
result in ‘token’ representation, rather than
genuine inclusion.
Further information
FAO. (2001) op. cit. http://www.gdnonline.
Two IFAD resources: ‘Incorporating Gender
Into Rural Development Projects’ http://
htm; ‘Memory Checks For Programme And
Project: Gender and food security’ http://
with changing membership, and capability to
know where to access information, materials
and support when needed. Forming such exit
plans should be carried out collaboratively
through joint participatory planning, with clear
Our experience suggests that such exit
planning is not an add-on at the end of the
project, but should be an integral part of
effective intervention: good facilitators need
to exit before they enter. In other words, a