The fifth in the Seeds of Change series: 20 strategies for systemic change described by members of the Vincentian Family’s Commission for Promoting Systemic Change. The Rev. Fr. Norberto L. Carcellar, C. M. writes:

Systemic Change Strategy Five: Have a holistic vision which addresses basic human needs – individual and social, spiritual and physical, especially jobs, health care, housing, education, spiritual growth – with an integral approach toward prevention and sustainable development.

Poverty is multi-contextual and spans varying levels. Yet at its core, poverty should not be separated from its having a human face, its humanness. Hence, any strategy for systemic change should therefore acknowledge such aspects of poverty and move accordingly. A story that utilized systemic change strategies is that of the Lower Tipolo Homeowners’ Association, Inc (LTHAI).

LTHAI is a community association member of the Homeless Peoples’ Federation of the Philippines (HPFP), a national level social movement promoting community-led approaches for secure tenure and improved urban livability in cities. The LTHAI is a duly registered community association occupying a flood-prone city government land with 255 households-savers as members who survived a fire that razed their homes last July 25, 2007.

The city donated the land, all 9.2 hectares of it, to the actual urban poor occupants that include the LTHAI members. Their self-help initiatives at building their community capacities through savings have created the space for them to articulate, plan, implement and evaluate their development agenda. Their community savings and contributions to an urban poor development fund (UPDF) gave them the wherewithal to apply and receive a loan from other networked community savers of the HPFP. LTHAI used the loan proceeds to undertake the appropriate land filling needed to initiate their return to and upgrading of the area.

Initial community profiling through the conduct and analysis of socio eco surveys, strong membership governance, conduct of face to face, hands-on learning exchanges and engagements with the government, professionals and academe collaborators have placed the community in a position to further drive their upgrading processes. Such undertakings not only address their secure tenure and urban livability needs but more importantly, lay the platform with which to launch their participation in the city’s development as agents of change and as equal partners thereto.

The ongoing LTHAI experiences showcase how people-driven initiatives to address identified needs and aspirations, coupled with willing support groups from their own sector, and that of private and public technical and legal spheres, form the basis for promoting a holistic vision as an approach strategy for systemic change. Such holistic vision captures the four (4) groupings of the strategies of the Commission for Promoting Systemic Change of the Vincentian Family:

  • Mission-oriented strategies (motivation and direction);
  • Task-oriented strategies (organization);
  • People-oriented strategies focusing on the poor as the persons who are most capable of changing their own situations;
  • Strategies focusing on co-responsibility, networking and political action (participation and solidarity)

These successes of poor communities, in whatever form and degree, need to be celebrated firstly, as an attestation of their own invaluable stake and efforts at surviving poverty.

Secondly, such a celebration, especially by those who wish to collaborate with the initiatives of the poor, should accept the fact that whatever support they can muster to extend, really pales in comparison to the unwavering efforts made by the poor themselves in merely surviving poverty.

Finally, the celebration of such victories call for a commitment from collaborators to willingly dive into the problem and work with the poor, unfettered by biases and the need for long preparations.