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< prev - next > Social and economic development Social Development learning_from_practice (Printable PDF)
After the earthquake: villagers come together to
rebuild their school in Chincha, Peru
Where community organizations already
exist, experience has shown that working with
them provides a more sustainable basis for
community activity than attempts to create
new organizations. Existing community
structures are more likely to have a clear
purpose that their members identify with
and that motivates them, better meeting the
interests and priorities of the community; so
they are more assured of continuing after the
end of a project. One example comes from
the province of Chincha in Peru where, after
a major earthquake in 2007, Practical Action
allocated funds to supporting reconstruction
in affected communities. In the village of
El Señor De Los Milagros, three groups
came together – the Village Development
Committee, the Women’s Association, and the
Parents’ Association – to propose that village
members would supply voluntary labour for
the reconstruction of a school, and would
even make the materials (including bricks)
themselves – at a cost saving of 40 per cent of
Practical Action’s original budget. Not only was
the school finished with great enthusiasm, but
the community groups organized the building
of a second new school with the remaining
funds and their own pooled resources.
Equally, working with existing structures
can avoid adding to the number of competing
organizations in a particular location. For
example, in Kathekani, southern Kenya,
several NGOs working in the region all created
new community organizations as part of each
of their projects. But these committees all
drew from the same pool of local leaders and
officials, who spent much time moving from
one meeting to another. Community leaders
began to demand payment for their time in
meetings, and conflicts of interest emerged.
Most of the organizations disintegrated when
project funding ran out. Establishing new
groups for project-funded activities may also
create situations of confusion, resentment
and conflict when other existing groups are
excluded. And there is a tendency that the
creation of new organizations can lead to
relationships of dependence, ‘inhibiting
members from identifying their own creative
solutions and organizational strategies to
address new problems as they arise’.7
Nevertheless, in certain cases institutional
analysis may identify gaps, where setting up
new organizational structures may be the
best course of action. In some instances,
interest groups exist, but there is no
community wide coordination. In rural areas
of Sri Lanka, and in slums in Bangladesh,
Practical Action has helped communities to
form Village Coordination Committees where
none previously existed. These are made
up of representatives of all interest groups,
to collaborate on community-wide issues
and resource management. Working with
communities in rural Darfur, Western Sudan,
Practical Action found that organizational
structures and capacity at the village level
were negligible. With guidance, these
communities therefore established new Village
Development Committees and Women’s
Development Associations. Practical Action
invested considerable effort in building
up the organizational capacity of the new
associations, before initiating practical
activities. They are now the conduit not only
for Practical Action, but for several other
donors, to channel support to these isolated
Darfuri communities. Many have gone on to
undertake their own initiatives without external
input, enabled independently to gather
resources to fulfil their growing ambitions. New
community organizations may need several
years to become fully established. These cases
were successful because they responded to
real unmet needs.