Measuring Social Capital and Social Cohesion

April 2020 Monthly Global Meeting of the Movement for Community-led Development.

This month, a team of researchers from Mercy Corps and the University of Washington presented a new tool kit to address one of the most vexing challenges in Community-led Development — how do you actually measure what matters? (Starts 11 minutes into the recording)

Britt Lake, CEO of Feedback Labs, presented resources on the importance of Listening during COVID-19. (50 minutes into the recording).

We welcomed many new members to what – in this time of lockdown – was our best attended monthly meeting yet. Chapters from around the world shared how they are addressing COVID-19 – both in communities and with policy makers – and we heard from the team launching the chapter in Nigeria . (57 minutes into the recording).

Special presentation starts at 11:00 into the recording.

COVID-19 Brainstorm – 21 April

Purpose: To collectively consider the barriers to CLD programming during COVID-19 preparation, response and recovery, and to brainstorm solutions. Some 98 practitioners from around the world shared the barriers, resources and adaptations.

To expand or download the PDF documents below, click on >> at right.

Video of the entire call including Breakout Group 4

Action for Gender Equality

A special Learning Session

In this year of Beijing+25 the session theme is Harnessing the power of Gender Equality featuring Geeta Rao Gupta (UNF and 3D)Hemlata Verma (ICRW) and Mary Kate Costello (THP). The full program with speaker bios and their slide decks are below.

Community is key to Universal Health Coverage (UHC)

Top 10 Recommendations of the Movement for Community-led Development to the World Health Organization Executive Board, February 2020.

Everyone wants a healthy life for themselves and their families. To achieve this, people must have affordable and accountable access to quality health care and disease prevention, as well as information that they trust on the social determinants of health. Inequalities in access affect more women and young people. Based on decades of collective experience in facilitating community health worldwide, we have the following policy recommendations:

  1. Make health centers the anchor for one-stop public services. Most women are “time poor” and many travel on foot. Their lives are better when access to healthcare, child care, training, banking, marketing and food processing machinery is co-located.
  2. Establish and report on Citizen Charters. All health and all public services must publish standards of service targets and timely results data at the community level in the local language. These should be created with the participation of the community.
  3. Regularize social accountability. Local Government systems must establish mandatory mechanisms for community engagement and social accountability across all public services. Public forums – for input as well as feedback on actions taken – must be at times and in formats that work for busy mothers.
  4. Invest in women’s collective voice. As women are in most cases the “chief health officer” of the family, operating in societies which often marginalize women, civil society organizations must make building up women’s leadership and community-based organizations their highest priority. This entails adequate investment in facilitation.
  5. Respect community knowledge. Professionals trained in Western medicine must be trained in how to integrate their services with traditional practices – always respecting the dignity of each person as the primary author of their own health.
  6. Lead community-owned health campaigns. Community leaders must understand any prevailing harmful practices that must be halted (eg, FGM, child marriage, domestic violence, food taboos) as well as key health behaviors that must be promoted, and design and implement campaigns for awareness and action.
  7. Leverage scarce resources. Health systems must have trained, skilled, paid and well-managed front-line health workers accessible to the community 24/7. Communities can partner to construct health centers and staff housing. Trained community health committees can be an “outreach army” for professional health workers and can organize health camps and awareness campaigns. Health committee members can be trained as first responders with first aid training and to be aware of signs of infectious disease.
  8. Educate for health and nutrition. School system from pre-school onwards must make health and nutrition high priorities in their curricula.
  9. Coordinate at District Level. Representatives from communities, civil society and government should meet monthly at the intermediate tier (district, county, commune) to track progress, set priorities and identify gaps.
  10. Provide fair and adequate health budgets for UHC. Since the 1978 Alma Ata declaration, countries have promised to fund community health. Many fail to do so, and in others budgets are highly inequitably distributed.

Stopping As Success: January 2020 MCLD Meeting

Grace Boone of CDA Collaborative and David Yamron of Search for Common Ground were the special guests at our meeting today, briefing us on a project central to Community-led Development – “Stopping As Success: Transitioning to Locally Led Development.” The project website here has just gone live, and will feature 20 case studies and tools.

2019 Top 10 Achievements

Our Overarching goal for 2019 has been to shift the movement into “Phase Two”: to move beyond enlisting and organizing member organizations into taking collective, strategic action towards facilitating community-led development at scale. This goal has been achieved!

  1. Influencing National Governments: 
    1. We were invited by the national governments of Benin and Uganda to provide input into their national 2030 strategies.
    2. Zambia’s Ministries of Health and Community Development have officially joined the Movement.
  2. Influencing Donor Agencies: 
    1. The Movement organized side events at the UN Commission on Social Development, Commission on the Status of Women, High Level Political Forum and General Assembly, the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability, InterAction, Pathways to Power (London) and Global Washington (Seattle). 
    2. We organized our first all-day Washington symposium with USAID’s deputy administrator as our keynote, and were invited by USAID to co-creating meetings under their Broad Area Agreement Framework.   
  3. Expanded Support structure: to accelerate our collective action worldwide, The Hunger Project has provided: 
    1. Three full-time regional coordinators in Africa: Daisy Owomugasho in East Africa, Pascal Djohossou in West Africa and Rowlands Kaotcha in Southern Africa. 
    2. Expanded staffing in the global secretariat: Ann Hendrix-Jenkins and Gunjan Veda.
  4. Collaborative Global Research:  A team of 30+ evaluation professionals from 23 agencies coordinated by Gunjan completed the first phase of a meta synthesis of 300+ evaluations of member programs with the goal to understand the complex relationship between CLD and sought-after development outcomes like citizen’s engagement, self-reliance, gender equality, sustainability and resilience. The team presented collaboratively developed tools and initial findings to the World Bank and the American Evaluation Association.
  5. Expansion in East Africa: The Kenya Chapter launched and is proving to be a pace-setting national chapter of the Movement: establishing strong and productive working groups, mapping member activities across the newly well-funded county governments. Rwanda and Ethiopia are close to launching, and first steps are underway in Tanzania.
  6. Expansion in West Africa: Civil society organizations in Togo launched their chapter, and groups in Mali, Nigeria and Sierra Leone took initial steps towards chapters there. 
  7. Expansion in Southern Africa:  In Zambia we had a successful “double launch” in launching our Zambia Chapter and our first-ever Consortium CLD Project.
  8. In Asia, we’ve enlisted the partnership of LOGIN Asia – an existing local governance network – and, for the first time, the participation in the Movement of 12 Indian organizations. 
  9. Humanitarian Working Group has been almost established, and will be a big priority for 2020.
  10. Communication “campaigns” to socialize MCLD with current and potential members has begun, managed by Mary Kate Costello. In 2019 we attended brown bag learning sessions  at Islamic Relief USA and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the Humanitas Global Development Board Meeting to discuss the value of CLD membership. Mary Kate began development of a member orientation, and is tracking member progress in publishing CLD information pages on their respective websites. 

Unleash Women’s Power: Neighborhood Groups in Kerala

By Father Edwin M. John – a submission to the UN Commission on the Status of Women

A massive experiment in the State of Kerala, India, points the way to a new political order in terms of global governance from below, to ensure empowerment of women,  in a wide-reaching and sustainable manner.

The experiment, Kudumbashree, has nearly 300,000 neighbourhood groups of women in poverty-risk, reaching nearly half the families of the State. The groups are federated at three levels of local governance. These groups of women-in-poverty-risk, put together, have a financial outlay bigger than that of any corporate house in the State. And due to such groups, in  a State where women were not encouraged to socialize much outside their homes, more women got elected to the local governance body than men, in the last two successive elections.

The experiment that began with neighbourhood groups of Poor women, opened the way gradually to a new system of citizens’ participation as promulgated through Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA), integrating not just the women and the poor, but every citizen. All citizens can inclusively participate through small-sized neighbourhood assemblies (neighbourhood sabhas) at the base, which link to ward sabhas at the second level, and to Panchayat council at the top. 

The fact that this could be done in Kerala, which though a State is bigger in population than 41 countries, gives us reason to think of the possibility of its wider or even global adaptation.

The factor that makes Kerala’s programme distinct is  neighborhoodization, supported by factors like smallification, multi-tier federation and convergence.

Unlike self-help groups elsewhere, in Kerala the groups are neighbourhood-based. Territorially organized, they could get everyone inclusively involved. This geographical territory-based approach meant also that the poor women could easily interface with local governance structures which too are territorially organized. Thus at every level of local governance women had an organized voice, a mechanism, to interact. ( Especially In developing countries, being neighbourhood-based gives added accessibility and advantage to women, as here women stay around in neighbourhoods more than men.)  

The insistence is also on the participating forums being small. The bigger a forum, the more the small voices get drowned and they go powerless and helpless.

We need a new political – and economic and social – order that builds on such factors.

One such dream is represented by neighborocracy which is explained as neighbourhood-based sociocracy.

Neighborocracy envisions a world organized as neighbourhood parliaments of about thirty families each. These serve as neighbourhood governments with ministers to respond to the concerns of the neighbourhood and to respond on behalf of the neighbourhood to the concerns of the wider world.  These Neighbourhood Parliaments are federated at various governance levels like that of area/ward, local governance, sub-district, district, state, nation, international region, and the world, with ministers at each level. The elections are to be just from one level to the next. The whole process is to be guided by principles of Smallness, Numerical Uniformity, Subsidiarity, Recallability, Convergence, Consent-based Decision-making and Sociocratic Elections.

Principle of Smallness is to insist that the forums that start from the neighbourhood level and go upto national, international and global levels be so small that everyone could sit around and talk without a microphone.

Principle of Numerical Uniformity follows from the first. If the forums elected are to be small at every level, they can contain only a certain number of representatives from units immediately below. This will lead to a situation where there are no bigger and smaller countries and hence no border wars and hence no war at all.

Principle of  Subsidiarity insists that whatever could be decided upon at any subsidiary or low or decentralized level should be decided upon at that level, leading to a situation where most of the decisions are taken at the base level. 

Principle of Recallability, whereby people at any level can call back representatives elected to the level immediately above, becomes easy because, at every level, forums are small in size. This ensures that people hold power not just during the once-in-five year elections but on a day-to-day basis.

The successive governments of Kerala did a great job delegating to the neighbourhood-group-federations whatever could be routed through them. This gave them more and more reasons to come together and do things together. And the more the forums came together, the stronger and the more cohesive they became. And this approach is represented by the Principle of Convergence: let every activity, role and power converge as much as possible at neighbourhood forums and their federations.

When the decisions are majority-based as in democracy, people get divided. And there is a compulsion for the majority to project the minority or “opposition” in a bad light. In addition, due to the hugeness of election constituencies,  democracy often ends up as the rule of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. Against this, from Netherlands emerged Sociocracy with its insistence on small circles, double-linking, decision by consent (not consensus), and sociocratic elections. Every decision-making based on consent and every sociocratic election tends to leave groups more united and cohesive and glued.

Fortunately, the small-neighbourhood-based approach gains more and more acceptance. States and countries send delegates to Kerala to learn from the experience, and the Kerala government has opened a special training center for such needs.

Again a network of Inclusive Neighbourhood Children’s Parliaments, that is becoming increasingly global follows the above principles. They are being organized in schools and in residential neighbourhoods. Even when in schools, the units are not on the basis of the classes or grades the children study, but inclusively on the basis of the residential neighbourhoods they come from. Every child here becomes a minister. 17 such ministers in each unit of 30 children are for the  17 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. There are schools with as many as forty units functioning in the same campus, meeting one hour every week meeting alternatively as territory-based neighbourhood parliament sessions and as theme-based meetings of the various ministries. The children get initiated this way for proactive global;

All such initiatives give the hope that a new world of governance-from-below will not be very far in blossoming.

So our call to countries and women everywhere: start organizing your own neighbourhood as small-sized territory-based units. We will very soon have a world of women-led empowerment, justice and equality.