JOURNAL ISSUE 7

2003/2004

 

 

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

IN A LOW-INCOME COUNTRY LIKE NEPAL

June 2000 / Regina Mueller

 

In Nepalese culture a sense of voluntarism and social thinking is anchored as a legacy of history. Nowadays, social structures change rapidly and extended families--traditionally responsible for their own members' social well-being--get more and more lost. In nuclear units where father and mother have to earn money outside of the house, children, disabled and aging people are left behind, uncared for and isolated.

 

For some years, Nepal has witnessed a proliferation of non-governmental organizations which claim to provide the necessary social services. The Government is not (yet) able--for many different reasons---to cover all the needs of its citizens, but is actively involved in delivering services through its democratic, decentralised systems.

 

In the presented papers---based on grassroots-level experiences---possible ways are shown to provide private support without struggling through bureaucracy, and to build up the confidence and self-esteem of the people. The situation in this low-income country can be compared to other new or reestablished democracies and may serve as an example for some aspects of the development of neighborhood and community support systems.
Questions for discussion:

1. How can small private support systems reach the global MUST of sustainable improvement of input into the project(s)?
2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of donors' influence over plannings, programs and activities of a private association in social services, specifically a private community support system.
3. What benefits could result out of the undesirable principle of 'indiscriminate all-round distribution'?

IMPLEMENTATION OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT INTO STRUCTURES

 

'Development' is a dynamic process, whereas 'structure' is a stable frame of rules and regulations. It seems, therefore, to be a contrast to bring development into binding structures which may block it, but in reality this has to be done when organizations develop social activities. Depending on laws, rules and regulations means putting a lot of energy into initiating development and implementing plans of action.

 

Many non-governmental and private organizations (NGOs) therefore search to follow the line of least resistance, finding their own way and avoiding the complicated process of close cooperation with official bodies and even with other NGOs.

 

A government itself intends policies on promoting the necessity of involving NGOs' power into the national concept. The recognition of the importance of NGOs and the private sector in the social field should encourage networking and facilitate development at the grassroots level. Rules and regulations, encouragement and knowledge are still not sufficient to implement new spirit in a fledgling democracy or in a war-stricken country which badly needs to cooperate in networking among governement, NGOs and the private sector. There is still a wide gap between wishful thinking and reality in the expectation of the government and the actual capacity of concerned and involved private sectors. As a result, there is no meaningful exchange of experiences between them.


SAMPLE OF A GOVERNMENT'S AND NON-GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION'S (NGO) COOPERATION

 

 

 

 

SAMPLE OF A STATE'S ADMINISTRATION

   

 

 

SAMPLE OF A 'BOTTOM-UP' SYSTEM

   

 

Comment

This system is risky because the community might miss the human resources which are necessary to run the organization. The benefit certainly results from the fact that the objectives will be implemented from bottom to top; the quality lies in the WHAT.

 

Findings and Learnings

Such personal commitment may serve as an example for development of building up communities in a period of rapid social change. It still has to prove its successful implementation from theory into practice, but it shows good performance of a concerned group of population as how to develop a community support system in a bureaucratic environment.

 

SAMPLE OF A 'TOP-DOWN' SYSTEM

   

Comment:

The system includes the risk of a filter system: the more levels involved from top to bottom the more the objectives may get lost. Finally only a few persons will benefit from the support they once requested. The quality lies in 'HOW' things are done.

 

Findings and Learnings

To build up a network of social communities in a society where teamwork, democratic systems and communication are not yet entirely integrated into everyday culture, networking has to be built up step-by-step from bottom-up and includes awareness and educational programs. In a situation where NGOs fear to lose their identity while sharing information, it is very important to define the role of every partner. Unless this can be communicated to all involved participants, the respective organizations will not prove cooperative.

 

ESTABLISHING COMMUNITY SUPPORT SYSTEMS INTO THE SOCIETY

 

As mentioned above it is a complicated process to establish any system into government hierarchies. Although old traditions and culture in every society are different, they are still an important factor, especially on the level of neighborhood and community, which must be respected while building up such systems.

 

The definition of position and job-description of key persons in an association or community might give the background for effective functioning of such a community: Only if roles such as 'what's the task of a board member, what role do the life members play, what is expected from the private and the government sector, who is involved into financial planning and fund raising, what is the role of a common member, who is in charge of implementing plans into action etc etc' are defined successfully, sustainable activities may result out of a such a community.


Sample of an 'Open-Guidance' System

   

 

Comment

Structure-oriented democratic organization does not face the same risks as in the 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' systems. Monitoring, supervision and evaluation are the most critical points in this sample, whereas democratic principles are implemented. The quality lies in both 'WHAT' and 'HOW' support will be provided.

 

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

 

History has shown many different ways how people serve each other in support systems. It is up and down, depending on many factors such as religion, type of government, economic status, psycological environment, and ecological situation.

 

The reason why communities are growing or why support systems are established may also depend on various situations. A change of common structures may demand different or new actions and guided development, or a particular group of population demands equal rights and wants to advocate and implement them by building up communities which have the necessary power.

 

The nineties showed that technology--specially computer usage in administration, evaluation and accounting-entered the development of support systems, even in social welfare and in communities. It seemed impossible to run systems without such modern instruments. In the same period a lot of human values were lost or at least overlooked and neglected.

 

This period discouraged conscientious persons from starting necessary units, and many small communities failed to develop because there were no resources to implement technology. This is, finally, the reason why merging got a credo not only in business but also in social welfare. In the corporate world with all these famous mergers people are replaced by technology. But neighborhood and community systems arenot run on the basis of technical laws.

 

Finally, we can find worldwide INGOs, such as UN or WHO or IMF, which remain of the belief that through strict administration human goals may be reached. The development of technology brought them to limited actions in 'projectitis'. In this IUC program there is no space nor time to enter deeper into this complicated change of structure which takes place at the end of 20th and beginning of the 21st century. What we can do as social workers or volunteers in communities is to learn from these changes, and to accept the consequences without hesitation and with common sense.

 

Despite all the technological developments, the core is people! Whether it be a volunteer serving needy individuals, a staff or board member working in a NGO, or a client such as ageing or disabled person receiving support or assistance, technology will not be able to replace the personal dedication and commitment needed in neighborhood and community support systems. It is not an easy way to compete with technology and to believe in values such as common sense and humanised organizations, but it is the only base on which to build up neighborhood and community support systems.

 

One should recognize that technology is not a goal in itself, but a means to an end! Technology and profit-oriented thinking will intensify the race to the top. I am convinced that it is only with common sense that we will help to compete 'in the appropriate way' and serve people in spite of this global merging development. Common sense may not be very common in many institutions, but it always humanises organizations and community supports and can be implemented without ignoring technology, structures, systems and administration.

 

SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL:

Neighborhood- and community support do not at first depend on complicated organizational forms. It is in the nature of those systems that they may start with a modest beginning. By focusing on common sense it may be possible to really serve people--our neighbors--with as much administration as needed and as little as possible. With one’s feet on the ground, sensible approaches can result in realistic achievements and common sense may be the feedback of rehumanized organizations as a counterpole to the score-minded oath of highest, fastest, best.

 

Finally, it is the people who make the difference, their commitment, their dedication, their skills and knowledge, their inherited culture, beliefs and values; this makes neighborhood and community support systems possible. I would like to encourage the young generation to face the challenge – in spite of all the prophecies of doom.

Profile of Nepals

 

•Location
Latitude: -26022’ N to 30027’ N
Longitude: -8004’ E to 88012 E

Border
China in the North
India in the South, East and West
• Size
Area 147,181 Sq.Km
Average length:885 Km from East to West
Width: non-uniform, average width of 193 km
from North to South

 

• Ecological Divisions

The Mountain Region is in the north with altitude ranging between 4,877 meters to 8,848 meters (Mt. Everest). The mountain region covers 35% of the land area; 2% is suitable for cultivation; 7.3% population are accommodated in the mountain region.

 

The Hill Region is located in the middle of the country; altitude between 610 to 4,877 meters; 46% of the population accommodate in this region. It constitutes 42% of the total land area, while only 10% is suitable for cultivation.

 

The Terai Region is the extension of the Gangetic plains of India and is situated in the south of the country. It constitutes 23% of the land area and accommodates 47% of the total population, while only 40% of the land is suitable for cultivation.

• Administrative Divisions

   

 

The country is divided into 5 DEVELOPMENT REGIONS, each composed into 14 ZONES; next smaller units are the 75 DISTRICTS, which are guided by 3’912 VILLAGE DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEEs (VDCs), headed by a CHIEF DISTRICT OFFICER (CDO)

 

The CHIEF DISTRICT OFFICER is mainly responsible to maintain law and order in the district, and also to coordinate development works implemented by different ministries and local agencies at the district level.



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Copyright for the I.U.C. Journal of Social Work Theory and Practice is owned by the Social Work Program, Department of Social Relations and Services, Bemidji State University, Bemidji, Minnesota, USA. One copy may be made (printed) for personal use; teachers may make multiple copies for student use if the copies are made available to students without charge. Permission must be secured from the editors for sale of any copies of articles or for any commercial use of the material published in the Journal.
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