Poverty, Participation and Government Enablement
INTRODUCTION, 17 RESEARCH FINDINGS
Gert Lüdeking, Programme Coordinator
Christopher Williams, Programme Research Coordinator
POVERTY, PARTICIPATION AND GOVERNMENT ENABLEMENT
A Summary of the Findings, Lessons Learned and Recommendations of The UNCHS (Habitat) / Institute of Social Studies Evaluation Research (1996-1998) Documenting the Work of the Community Development Programme in 60 Municipalities and Settlements of Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Zambia (1986-1996) JUNE 1999, Prepared by: Gert Lüdeking, Programme Coordinator, and Christopher Williams, Programme Research Coordinator, UNCHS (Habitat) / Institute of Social Studies Evaluation Research
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- PART I: RESEARCH FINDINGS, LESSONS LEARNED, RECOMMENDATIONS
- Effectiveness and Relevance of Applied Strategies to Reduce Poverty
- Community Participation and Community Management
- Findings on Government Enablement of Community Action
- Decentralisation, Enablement and Community Organizing:
Variations in Africa and Latin America
- PART II: IMPLICATIONS FOR UNCHS (HABITAT)
- An Integrated Strategy for Urban Development
- Co-ordination and Collaboration among UNCHS (Habitat) Operational Initiatives
- Habitat's Strategic Vision: Linking Normative Positions to Operational Strategies
- Learning and Knowledge Building for Policy Formulation and Advocacy
- Contributing to a Global Campaign on Urban Governance
- Applied Strategy for Dissemination of Research Findings with Partners
- Future Research
- APPENDIX: SUMMARY OF RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
- Leading Research Questions
- A Framework for Research
- Measuring How the Concepts Evolved Over Time
- Examining the Validity, Relevance and Contribution of CDP
- Analysing How the Programme AND the Applied Concepts Reduce Poverty
This document is a contribution to current debate on the efforts of UNCHS (Habitat) and partners to reduce poverty, improve settlements, and strengthen the participatory character of urban governance.
The report summarizes the findings, lessons learned and recommendations of a three-year evaluation research of UNCHS (Habitat) Community Development Programme. Commissioned by the Centre and conducted by the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) together with seven, national research teams, the study documents the work of CDP from 1986 to 1996 in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Zambia.
The study assesses the practical effectiveness of the work of CDP in order to enhance the efforts of the Programme in future, and to make available to activists, practitioners and policy-makers valuable lessons learned. By focusing on "practical effectiveness," the study assesses the degree to which the concepts, as applied by the Programme, reduce poverty and improve settlements.
Three key applied concepts under investigation are:
- Community participation: the application of rights and responsibilities of citizen participation.
- Community management: skills people use to increase their capacity to participate in and manage settlement improvements
- Government enablement: norms and management practices local and national authorities use to enable civic action
The research concludes that community development as applied by CDP has a significant effect on reducing poverty in the settlements and municipalities in which it has worked. Community participation, community management and government enablement applied practically and in combination generate assets, increase access to basic services, and improve collaboration between CBOs and public authorities.
The report contains 17 findings with corresponding lessons learned and recommendations. It begins with the overall findings on poverty reduction, and continues with findings on community participation, community management and government enablement. An additional section concerns how these findings vary by country and region with emphasis on the relationships between empowerment, enablement and decentralization.
The report also includes a chapter on the implications of the research for UNCHS (Habitat). Emphasis is here placed on drawing from the lessons learned to inform UNCHS (Habitat) policies, normative and strategic work with partners, global campaigns, and future research priorities. Issues of research design and methodology are taken up in the Appendix to the report.
THE SEVENTEEN RESEARCH FINDINGS:
- Community development as applied by UNCHS (Habitat)/CDP has a significant effect on reducing poverty
- Community development as practised by UNCHS (Habitat) is at par and in some respects well ahead of the "state of the art"
- Participation is not enough: people need the capacity to participate effectively
- Community management skills enable people to participate democratically in their own organizations
- Residents of settlements who have acquired capacity to plan, monitor and evaluate improvements negotiate more effectively with local governments and NGOs
- Reducing poverty requires integrating economic, social and physical development at the local level
- Community organizations are more effective when their efforts are supported systematically by governments
- Governments improve their planning and economize public resources more efficiently when they draw upon, rather than disregard community initiative
- Governments have not as yet systematically established legal, financial and administrative frameworks to enable community action
- Field officers rather than senior local government officials lead the way for innovative administrative reform
- Government enablement is not yet a properly formulated concept
- Decentralisation of government administration does not follow a specific regional pattern
- Government enablement and decentralisation are not automatically related
- State/Society relations and their impact on joint popular/public partnerships follow a regional pattern
- The way low-income households organize follows a regional pattern
- Agents of government enablement vary by region.
The purpose of this report is to provide UNCHS (Habitat) and its partners with a summary of lessons learned from more than 10 years of operational work in the field of community development. The information is derived from a three-year Evaluation Research (1995-1998) commissioned by UNCHS (Habitat) Community Development Programme (CDP) and undertaken by the Institute of Social Studies (ISS), together with seven national research teams. The research concerns three concepts of community development: community participation, community management and government enablement. The study documents the evolution, validity and practical effectiveness of the concepts as practised by CDP and partners over ten years (1986-1996), with a view to improve conditions in low-income settlements in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The motivation for the Evaluation Research is to learn systematically and reflect on experiences gained by CDP over the past 10 years. The research is designed to assist CDP in improving its concepts and practical approaches applied for settlements improvements and poverty reduction, as well as in offering essential inputs to the process of policy and strategy formulation ongoing at the Centre.
CDP has developed strategies and tools for participation, community management and government enablement through operational projects, training and research in more than 60 communities and municipalities in 7 countries since 1984. The work of the Programme, financially supported by the Governments of Denmark the Netherlands, and UNDP, relates mainly to the Habitat Agenda Chapter on "Capacity Building and Institutional Development" and, especially, to the sections on "Popular Participation and Civic Engagement" and "Decentralisation and Strengthening of Local Authorities."
The ISS evaluation research focuses on concepts and practical approaches CDP uses to reduce poverty: participation, community management and government enablement of community action. Whether explicitly or implicitly, the vast majority of development co-operation undertaken today rests on these and related concepts. It is difficult today to find a settlement improvement initiative or municipal development strategy that is not based on community participation and to some degree facilitated by local or central authorities. Although numerous ad-hoc project evaluations of such initiatives are available today, they provide only limited knowledge on how effective these concepts and approaches actually are at assuring a sustained impact on improving settlements conditions beyond the external project assistance period.
The fact that participation and enablement approaches are widely applied, but mostly not backed by in-depth research, raises serious concerns about what we actually know of their long-term effectiveness and desired impact. Agencies, governments, municipalities and communities invest considerable resources in such projects. Keeping in mind that some participatory approaches actually make the poor more dependent on external aid, it seems crucial to seek clarification on what form of participation is most cost-effective, assures women's participation in decision-making processes, reflects the priorities and capacities of the poor, is most democratic, etc. Research is further needed to assess the role and responsibility of local and central governments in such projects: to set standards for community enablement that goes beyond political correctness and clientism. Would participatory approaches be sustainable without some form of government enablement that respects people's rights and demonstrates good governance? And what is it, exactly, governments should enable and how? Such questions were the inspiration for this research.
The UNCHS (Habitat)/ISS Evaluation Research has attempted to redress such absence of critical inquiry on what has come to be "state of the art" development practice. The study, therefore, is designed to address the evolution, validity and practical effectiveness of community participation, community management and government enablement. It examines how these concepts have evolved by tracing their application from 1986 to 1996, in seven countries where UNCHS (Habitat) has maintained operational activities. This includes analysis of how participation, management and enablement were employed in places as diverse as Kampala, Quito and Colombo. To determine the validity of the concepts, the study contains a detailed literature survey on community participation and management, and a separate review on government enablement. The literature surveys consolidate general publications of leading agencies and organizations, as well as of applied scholars in the field. The research compares CDP operational experience against the literature in order to determine CDP's relative contribution to community development.
On the question of practical effectiveness, the research compiles data obtained from surveys of 900 households, 120 community leaders, and 90 government officials. The data include information on working and living conditions in 60 settlements in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Zambia. The study compares data from settlements where CDP was not operational with data from settlements where CDP collaborated with community groups, municipalities and governments. Based on such comparisons, the study assesses the relative significance of community participation, community management, and government enablement as guidelines for informing efforts to reduce poverty. That is, the degree to which these concepts, as applied by CDP, generate assets, improve access to basic services, and enhance relations between popular groups and local governments.
The immediate output of the research is 21 global and country specific reports. CDP is in the process of making the results of these available to operational and strategic partners in an edited format tailored to the needs of community leaders, municipal practitioners and policy makers. Later this year the Centre will release a compendium set of the country reports and ISS synthesis reports available in Spanish and English. All reports, including the initial 21 reports, will be available on the UNCHS (Habitat)/CDP Internet Web Site.
The Evaluation Research focuses on applied concepts of community development in the hope that community activists, practitioners, and policy makers can take stock of the findings, and consider the implications for their work. The lessons learned and recommendations of the Evaluation Research primarily focus on the operational, instrumental elements of participation, management and enablement. Somewhat absent from the research is detailed analysis of the political elements, especially those that concern power relations among local actors (e.g. tensions between public officials that hold decision-making power, and community leaders that appeal to officials to share it). While the study documents the tools used to resolve conflicts and build consensus, it does not systematically assess the political dimensions that give rise to such conflicts and to the need for consensus. Activists, practitioners and policy makers are urged, therefore, to fully consider the political (as well as social and economic) conditions when seeking to apply the recommendations of the study.
The Evaluation Research documents the work of CDP from 1986 to 1996. It, therefore, does not include strategies and practices developed by the Programme and partners after 1996. These include the efforts in country projects to develop gender policies, scale up demonstration projects, making lessons learned available to national authorities for replication and massification. Moreover, the study does not document the work of CDP to develop sub-regional resource facilities in Central America and East Africa. The resource facilities since 1996, have succeeded in developing human settlements policies and practices within contiguous countries that share a common economic, social, and political history to community development. Given the nature and duration of the Evaluation Research, however, the Programme has adopted many of the recommendations, and already made great headway in applying them to advance and adjust their work.
What follows is a two-part report on the UNCHS (Habitat)/ISS Evaluation Research. Part One is a synthesis of the research findings, lessons learned and recommendations. It begins with the overall findings on poverty reduction, and continues with findings on community participation, community management and government enablement. An additional section concerns how these findings vary by country and region. Part Two is a summary of the implications of the research for UNCHS (Habitat). Emphasis is here placed on drawing from the lessons learned to inform UNCHS (Habitat) policies, normative and strategic work with partners, global campaigns, and future research priorities. Issues of research design and methodology are taken up in the Appendix to the report.
- Institute of Social Studies Advisory Service (ISSAS)
The Hague, The Netherlands
Prof. Frits Wils, ISSAS
Prof. Bert Helmsing, ISSAS
- UNCHS (Habitat)
Christopher Williams, Programme Research Coordinator
(assisted by 70 project staff of the Community Development Programme)
- National Research Teams :
Javier Huáscar Eguino, Affiliate, Pro-Habitat Foundation
Rafael Rojas, Independent Researcher
- Costa Rica
Jose Manuel Valverde, National University, San José, Costa Rica
(assisted by Independent Researchers,
Marco A.N. González and Antonio M. Brown)
Fernando Carrión, Director,
The Latin American Faculty for Social Studies (FLACSO)
Simon Pachano, Independent Researcher
Prof. Kwasi Adarkwa, Director, Department of Planning,
University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana
Prof. Kofi Diaw, Department of Planning, UST, Kumasi, Ghana
(assisted by Prof. Ernest Aryeetey,
University of Ghana, Legon/Accra, Ghana)
Dr. Phil Bartle, PhD, CTA
- Sri Lanka
Willie Mendis, Independent Researcher
Prof. Patrick J. Muzaale, Department of Social Work,
Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
Harriet Birungi, Fellow,
Makerere Institute of Social Research, Makerere University
Lawrence Mukuka, Professor, University of Zambia
(assisted by Diana Conyers, former affiliate ISSAS; and
Gilbert Masiya, University of Zambia)
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