|Volunteer Participation in Working with the Urban Poor (UNDP - UNV, 64 p.)|
|III. Towards a community-based strategy for VSAs|
In reviewing the case studies described in the previous chapter, it becomes clear that there is no one effective strategy which can be formulated, nor is it possible to develop a universally applicable "pack age" for addressing the wide variety of concerns among low-income groups in the urban sector. Every local situation has its own particular characteristics, and interventions must be tailored accordingly. There are, however, certain conditions for success, an essential component of which is the identification of needs and the setting of priorities by the community itself. Well-versed in their own problems and needs and well- endowed with existing forms of organisation the impetus for development initiatives is more genuine, appropriate and sustainable if it comes from within communities, rather than from an outsider attempting to act on their behalf.
Community participation is seen as an end in itself as well as a means: in other words, not just as a way of extending the government's limited resources and increasing project efficiency by sharing responsibility, but as an empowerment goal - a way to increase the community's control over resources and over the direction in which it develops. It is a continuous process which extends beyond the life of any particular project or programme.
As far as VSAs are concerned, it follows that support ought to be given to groups, rather than individuals, with a view to evoking a continuous process of participation. This support could be for production, through credit, raw material provision, training, or marketing groups; for services, through neighbourhood or sectoral or specialised organisations or for other activities as required. Activities for which the impetus has come from the community itself qualify for support, especially in areas of health, education, water/sanitation, infrastructure, etc. Issues of prioritization and choice arise most with housing construction, production and employment concerns: here, most initiatives are taken by individuals or families for their own benefit or profit.
When focusing on community participation as an avenue in "targeting" low-income urban communities for development initiatives, it is particularly important that VSAs recognise and include the concerns of youth and women, and take into account how far these groups have organised themselves. Attempts to ensure participation must allow for an understanding of functions and decision-making roles at the household level.