|Volunteer Participation in Working with the Urban Poor (UNDP - UNV, 64 p.)|
|IV. Programming concerns for VSAs and UNV|
The case studies in the second chapter highlight four main criteria for successful volunteer involvement in urban interventions: flexibility; continuity; sustainability and self-reliance.
The focus on needs assessment by the people themselves necessarily calls for flexibility in setting project objectives. In other words, even if certain broad goals are set, they need to be defined and spelt out with references to what the communities themselves articulate as their objectives. This raises the question as to who (NGOs, governmental bodies, international agencies) would have the responsibility of eliciting communities' views. There does not seem to be a consensus on who is the best party for this; each situation would determine the dynamics of interventions.
Development processes take time to root. Once priorities are set, therefore, initiatives are necessarily long-term. The exact timeframe, however, would depend on local community capacity to manage without external support. There should be an emphasis on participation and local capacity-building organisational and technical) which would lead to empowerment of the community and act as a check against engendering dependence. This needs to be consciously promoted as far as possible, through the use of local resources (in terms of both skills and money), enlisting the participation of the community at every stage, and providing training and resources, where necessary, to either reinforce the community's own efforts or to initiate new activities. The importance of this approach is borne out by the experience of many projects, heavily dependent on external inputs, which could not be sustained once external support is withdrawn.
Therefore, ensuring sustainability and self-reliance are of paramount importance, and these objectives must guide the entire process of external intervention. A practical step in this process might involve the extension of financial support to local community members so that they may devote full time attention to organising and mobilising work, which is best done by local people themselves.