Promoting community self-determination

Encouraging community self-determination
Fostering community self-determination
Enhancing community self-determination
Promoting self-determination for communities
Promoting collective self reliance
Developing community self-reliance
Evoking community independence
Encouraging coordinated community efforts
Fostering community self-organization
Encouraging adequate resource self-sufficiency
Strengthening local self-dependence
Increasing community self-sufficiency
Development of autonomous, regional and local cycles of production and consumption based primarily on renewable resources of energy and raw materials, and recycling all types of wastes, thus preserving natural resources for future generations.
Self-determination is a collective human right of peoples. It can mean many things: freedom from political and economic domination by others; self-government and the freedom to make decisions about family, community, culture and country. It can take many forms, from regional agreements to community constitutions, depending on each community's needs and aspirations.

Self-dependence means emphasizing 'prosumption' (production for one's own consumption) and self-help. (For example self-built housing means the people have better ideas how to maintain their dwellings. Parents as teachers means the education system is less dependent on state support.) It also means focusing on supplementing incomes from multiple sources rather than full-time single job employment (which produce the consequent narrow focus on conventional industrial plants).

Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra (VGKK) was established in 1981 to enable the Soliga tribals (Karnartaka, India) to restore their self esteem, tribal inheritance and become self-reliant. After 15 years, VGKK considers its most significant achievement to be its fostering of self-organization among the people. VGKK has a governing board. Every village now has its own council (sangha) which are federated at higher levels. Through these sanghas the people solve their internal problems and fight for their external rights, as a result of which most of their alienated land has been restored to them. The Soligas have started sending representatives to tribal meetings elsewhere. In 1993 they participated in strikes and protest. Soliga candidates have done well in elections and two tribal women are now chiefs of the local council. They are confident about addressing outstanding grievances to the highest level, including India's prime minister.

The Philippines Bureau of Non-Formal Education funds a programme called Development of a Learning System for the Improvement of Life (DELSILIFE) which is aimed at improving the quality of life of the rural poor through organization of neighbourhood learning groups which address the problems in the community.

ELC International is a global network of nongovernmental organizations and community-based groups, facilitate the voice of the grassroots by: fostering communication and sharing information and skills between groups working at the grassroots level; developing mechanisms for greater and more effective communication between the NGO/grassroots sector and the governmental/intergovernmental sector; maintaining close contact with the United Nations Environment Programme.

The Commonwealth Association for Local Action and Development (COMMACT) is a worldwide network of people and organizations committed to the principles and practices of people-centred and sustainable development in local communities.

****** FROM DUPLICATE Implementation ****** There are several operational characteristics of the strategy of community self-dependence, which can be summarized as follows:< [Community resources] Exploiting the natural, human and technological resources of the community in preference to dependence on outside inputs. Maximum use of local resources makes for cheaper costs, greater accessibility and a reinvestment in the community.

[Equitable benefits] Controlling the resources, production, and distribution mechanisms so that all in the community, tribal group or local area, benefit and so that the people's priorities are achieved.

[Basic inputs] Providing the security that allows people to live adequately and not be tempted or forced to migrate to the city.

[Human Investment] People are the most important local resource. Investment in skills training, knowledge acquisition and building consciousness of community is of long lasting benefit to the community.

[External credit] Having credit available from credit institutions outside the community permits investment in increased production and diversifies the village economy by enabling both individuals and groups to go into economic ventures that supplement agricultural income. Loans rather than grants, are a venture in self-identity and self-dependence.

[Internal capital] The encouragement of local investment as part of a project through family savings, the creation of village funds and credit associations increases the economic vitality of a community. This provides an alternative to external financing for situations where local priorities do not fit institutional criteria. It permits people to build up over a longer period a locally-controlled capital pool that will balance their use of external credit structures.

[Local production and marketing] Activities built on local resources, skills and markets are more stable and give the people more control.

[Continuous training] Continuous skills training is a necessary aspect of building up human resources.

[Appropriate organisation] Appropriate forms of local organisation enable access to outside resources in a way that gives the group greater control than would be the case if they arranged things individually. It is the occasion for the group to take practical steps toward its objectives. This is possible by empowering existing structures or by the creation of new organisations.

Concerns for the practitioner intending to implement this strategy include: (1) Restricted credit access and credit schemes that favour the large farmer to the disadvantage of the poorer sections of the society or have procedures which discourage poor farmers, women and landless people. (2) Bribes required by some officials that can make government schemes too costly for the poor. (3) Inequitable access to land, water and forest resources. (4) Short term subsidies from welfare organisations or governments are often detrimental to motivation. (5) Disregard for local savings and investment, while encouraging credit from large institutions, creates a dependence on credit institutions and money lenders. (6) Establishing production units for employment which are dependent on import of raw materials weakens the economy of the local community. Similarly dependence on 'export' markets (meaning beyond the local or regional level) makes the local economy vulnerable. (7) The underdeveloped markets for rural products. (8) Disregard of the costs (both financial and expertise) of maintenance and repair. (9) Programmes designed to meet criteria for outside funding. (10) Few evaluation and monitoring techniques for measuring progress toward self-dependence. (11) Difficulty of enabling people to work through lifestyle shifts needed to take advantage of new or appropriate technology (different cooking hours for use of solar cookers, need for poor households to co-ordinate finances and house construction to build low-cost biogas plants). (12) Negative image of the 'old' way of doing things, such as abandonment of breast-feeding for bottles and twigs for toothbrushes, in rural areas in more-developed countries especially. (13) Overdependence on selling to national or global market and neglecting the building up of healthy diversified regional markets.

The practitioner needs to help the community to examine every aid programme from the perspective of its short and long term consequences. It means appreciating that this is an arena where no one is clear and understanding that every programme is an experiment. Some will eventually be abandoned, but will have provided income for a time. Some will be useful in enabling the community to learn. Perhaps this is the one implication for the practitioner: make sure the people are evaluating what they are doing and trying new things out of these learnings. Indeed the capacity to 'work it out together' is self-dependence.

1. Community-level action is critical to sustainable development. Where grassroots organizations truly hold the trust of their constituency -- usually where processes of participatory decision-making are practised and are clearly accountable to the constituency -- they become the communication node and filter for externally-supplied information and technique (otherwise likely to be resisted by the grassroots) and the outward disseminator of indigenous knowledge in agriculture, energy supply and conservation, biodiversity and traditional cultural practices.

2. Although the focus on self-dependence is essential for self-identity and shared responsibility to happen, it also does not happen if these other two objectives are not also taken seriously. An emphasis on self-dependence is an emphasis on the group assuming greater responsibility, sometimes in the face of advice from outside, urging on inputs that would weaken its move toward this objective. All this requires a united group, using well thought through priorities, and clarity on the kind of programme they intend.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies