Seeds of Change Chapter 17: Promote Social Co-Responsibility and Networking
From Vincentian Family News Blog's introduction to the Systemic Change: Seeds of Change series: Pope John Paul II encouraged people to analyze the situation of the poor carefully, to identify the structural roots of poverty, and to formulate concrete solutions.
This article continues a twenty chapter series offered by the members of the Commission for Promoting Systemic Change about strategies that are useful, often even essential, for bringing about such change.
Adopting as its starting point a group of projects in which systemic change has actually taken place, the Commission analyzed stories of leaders of successful projects. From these stories, the Commission sought to identify the strategies that helped produce lasting change. It soon became clear that many of the strategies that led to structural changes and transformed the circumstances of individuals and communities flowed from the Gospels and from our Vincentian tradition.
Systemic Change Strategy 17: Promote social co-responsibility and networking, sensitizing society at all levels - local, national and international - about changing the unjust conditions that affect the lives of the poor.
Oftentimes decisions and policies made by self-contained, yet powerful institutions and interest blocs dictate the tenor and operations of society. These decisions and policies in turn, adversely impact on the growing number of poor communities as manifested in the inadequate access to land, education, basic services and finance. Any substantive undertaking for change therefore should seek to address this situation not only by involving and mobilizing the poor, but to do so in collaboration with networks of the poor themselves and of other support groups.
The formation and nurturing of organic, community-based alliances or networks is crucial in the effort to sensitize society of the plight of the poor and mobilize action. Such strategy is manifested in the experience of the Homeless Peoples’ Federation Philippines, Inc. (HPFPI). HPFPI’s 161-member community associations of low income families from across the Philippine Archipelago collectively build their capacities, manage their expansion, and engage government and private sector to implement and promote pro-poor initiatives for secure tenure and urban livability.
These community-led initiatives that build and mobilize communities run the gamut of: consultations, socio-economic and structural survey enumerations, peer to peer and other horizontal learning exchanges, community savings, land acquisition, house modelling, actual housing construction and management post infrastructure development and disasters. In addition, these initiatives are linked with forming and maintaining issue-based alliances and networks of learning communities in various levels. HPFPI’s experience has shown that its network of learning communities in the local, city, national and international levels went beyond the rhetoric of good intentions and slogans and has:
- fostered a deep sense of belongingness and social cohesion among the poor which eventually translate to a wider pool of social capital to tap into in adverse times;
- provided the venue and space for communities to articulate, distill, plan and drive their development needs and agenda;
placed the people’s plight and their agenda “in the radar screen” of institutions like the government and economic blocs whose decisions impact on communities;
- built an ever-widening collective responsibility for caring for each other and in driving the development agenda;
- constituted viable platforms to launch scaled up programs for horizontal learning and exchanges, more meaningful engagements, and institutional partnerships with other players in society.
The HPFPI networks as seen in the cases of Iloilo City, Mandaue, North - South Rail, Bikol province, and Davao cases pushed the envelope by engaging and forming partnerships with local and national government, private sector, professionals and the academe. Such engagements have not only resulted in raising the urban poor agenda, but also succeeded in the adoption and implementation of practical and pro-poor solutions and thrusts on resettlement, disaster response, and social housing.
Moreover, HPFPI’s active affiliation with the Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) upscale development and advocacy efforts to the international arena. Through the SDI, various national urban poor federation affiliates are able to engage with and “remind States and international agencies of their obligations with respect to equity …. and constantly seek situations that enable those who are affected by poverty to become organised and united in ever-expanding networks, and to play a defining role in the way in which Governments and multi-laterals discharge their obligations to the poor.”
These various engagements and partnerships with government and private sector, with technical, legal, and academic personnel and their institutions, result in an expanding network of those willing to provide technical and logistical support to the poor in the pursuit of their development agenda. The interface of such support network coming from representatives of institutional players of society with that of the organic networks of the poor, enhance the efforts for achieving social change.
Index of Systemic Change: Seeds of Change series