page 1
page 2
page 3
page 4 page 5
page 6
page 7
page 8
page 9
page 10
page 11
page 12
page 13
page 14
page 15
page 16
< prev - next > Social and economic development Social Development learning_from_practice (Printable PDF)
community organizations’ ability to function
alone. In order to have long-lasting impact,
we must learn to find ways of working that
avoid creating conditions of dependency and
that promote community organizations’ self-
The following pages draw together some
guiding principles and practical processes
and tools to support the process of working
with community organizations. Examples
from experience aim to illustrate not only
good practice, but also to recognize the many
challenges that can be faced.
People living in poverty should drive
their own development. Practical Action
concentrates on what matters most to the
people with whom we work, respects their
rights and supports their own efforts to
improve their well-being.3
This quote, taken from Practical Action’s
values statement, encapsulates three
principles for working with community
organizations that experience has shown us
are important. (1) For poor people to drive
their own development requires facilitating
processes that can empower. (2) To address
what matters most to those living in poverty,
the voices of the poor must be represented
and heard. (3) To improve well-being requires
community-driven action to meet practical
needs. These overarching principles (outlined
in this section) should guide our work with
community organizations in practice (as
detailed in the subsequent section).
1. Facilitate community empowerment and
Many poor people lack power or capacity to
bring about change within their communities,
or to influence wider structures and
decisions that impact on their lives. Through
facilitation, our aim should be to strengthen
community skills, knowledge, confidence,
and collaboration. Part of this will involve
enhancing the power and capability of
community organizations to bring about long-
term, sustainable social change.
Community empowerment can take several
forms: it can mean building individuals’ and
community organizations’ belief in their ability
to undertake action; it can mean strengthening
a community’s position in relations with other
organizations; and it can also entail enhancing
power of choice through increasing access
to resources.4 To achieve these forms of
empowerment requires knowledge and control
to be put into the hands of communities.
In practice, empowering community
organizations requires a ‘light touch’ approach
in facilitating change. Rather than NGOs and
development professionals seeing themselves
as being in charge, it is important to build on
communities’ own initiatives, putting energy
and resources where they can best serve as
catalysts for change. Whereas a community
organization over-reliant on funding, ideas, or
activity from outside can be unable to function
alone once its backers leave – the ‘orphan
syndrome’ – facilitation and training can
enhance the capacity and power of community
organizations to plan, better organize
themselves, and realize their aims themselves.
In so doing, communities can drive their own
2. Include and represent the poor
Marginalization from decision-making
structures is part of what constitutes poverty.
So it is important for pro-poor outcomes that
the voice of the whole community, especially
the poorest, is enhanced, that the poorest
members should be included or represented
in decision-making processes, and that their
development interests in particular should be
Poverty outcomes and strong group
member engagement require that all
members have a voice in the processes of
a community organization. Where direct
participation by all is not possible (e.g. in
large organizations and communities), this
means nurturing representation of a cross-
section of individuals, including the poorest
members of the community – particularly for
Village Development Committees, which claim
a representative role. These representatives
must create space for deliberative dialogue
with members, draw up and promote members’
prioritized agenda, and encourage collective
action and reflection.
A pro-poor position cannot be enforced from
the outside, but rather, genuine commitment
based on the desire for community-wide
improvements in well-being must be fostered.
Yet there is an obvious challenge here to