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close this bookAssessment of Experience with the Project Approach to Shelter Delivery for the Poor (HABITAT, 1991, 52 p.)
close this folderIII. Social impact of shelter projects
View the document3.1 Social impact at the local level
View the document3.2 Contribution to residential stability
View the document3.3 Proximity of projects to employment locations
View the document3.4 Job creation at the local level
View the document3.5 Impact of projects on the development of community based and non-governmental organizations
View the document3.6 Acceptability of project components to project beneficiaries

3.5 Impact of projects on the development of community based and non-governmental organizations

Many types of community organizations exist in developing countries. These may be broadly classified into two groups; community-based organizations (CBOs) and NGOs. CBOs are generally composed of residents who organize themselves to achieve specified local objectives and they are directly accountable to their constituents (such as housing cooperatives and residents’ associations). When objectives have been satisfied the CBO may disband. The NGOs generally consist of professionals based outside low-income settlements. They operate on a non-profit basis, with local groups. In many cases, NGOs act as catalysts, or intermediaries, to facilitate a productive relationship between local government agencies and low-income communities or CBOs.

The number of CBOs in developing countries is enormous, though many concentrate on social welfare projects, such as health, education, or vocational training, rather than shelter. Yet, many CBOs diversify into shelter-related activities as the importance of environmental conditions in improving health and opportunities for education are accepted, or when previous priorities have been addressed.

The number of NGOs active in the shelter sector in developing countries is still relatively small. Yet, their importance and numbers are increasing steadily as both communities and governments realize that they are able to achieve locally responsive results more efficiently than have been possible through other, more conventional, approaches. The achievements of NGOs and CBOs are often considerable, and range from organizing initial settlements to pressurizing local authorities to regularize land tenure, provide services and public facilities, and also organize the construction and maintenance of housing. Some examples of these achievements have been documented by Habitat International Coalition (Turner, 1988).

The extent to which projects have supported or strengthened these community efforts has been mixed. In Sri Lanka, for example, NGOs make a minimal contribution in the shelter sector, though they were apparently founded to build houses for those who could not afford to take a (subsidized) loan in the urban housing sub-programme. Presumably the cost of these units was written off, but in one case cited (Nawakelanipura), the number only amounted to two units. CBOs, however, have been active in rural areas for some time and provide a means of saving money and meeting other community priorities. In the urban sub-programme of the MHP, CDCs were an integral element in facilitating local participation. These social groups were generally smaller than the physical boundaries of their neighbourhoods, which made it easier for people to work together. The Housing and Community Development Committees of the urban local authorities were established to set guidelines for project implementation and consisted of both elected and appointed members from local government and community organizations. The Nawakelanipura project exemplifies the importance of CBOs in Sri Lanka. Shortly after moving into the site the residents formed their own CDC. This put pressure on many government organizations to complete the provision of basic amenities and facilities (Jayaratne, 1990: 64). The CDC even undertook a contract to construct the community centre and subsequently became responsible for all work at project level. Participation by local communities through the CDCs appears to have had a major impact in generating initiative at local level in both rural and urban areas (Jayaratne, 1990:101). This extended far beyond the level of self-help house building and involved participation in decision making about project design.3

3/ It is not known how public-sector officials and professional planners reacted to this new relationship with low-income communities or the CDCs.

A consideration in determining the effectiveness of CDCs or other locally based organizations is the basis of support from local leaders. If this derives from the local community, it will probably form the basis for effective participation and partnership. If, however, it derives largely from outside support, it could be resented locally and undermine the potential for local support and involvement (UNCHS, 1987:35). Creating local trust and confidence by example is the best way of strengthening local organizations. In Sri Lanka, for example, the NHDA thus invited Redd Barna, an NGO experienced in working with local communities, to help establish CDCs. This exposed local dissatisfaction with existing leaders and resulted in the election of new leaders with a local mandate (UNCHS, 1987: 35). A general conclusion from this experience was that NGOs are more effective in generating local community organizations than government agencies.

Another conclusion from Sri Lanka is that the CDCs proved capable of undertaking the initial planning of upgrading projects, the formulation of building guidelines, the assessment of building loan affordability and the adoption of regularization and plot allocation procedures. They also undertook to supervise the implementation of upgrading works that the NHDA or local government agencies were unable to achieve and resolved disputes regarding plot regularization among residents (UNCHS, 1987: 39 and 41).

Community involvement constituted a major component in the Sri Lankan projects. Besides the case of the Nagagahapura project, the project team responsible for the Wanathamulla project completed the initial blocking out within a month and the site survey in a further three months. They then set boundary pegs in place in collaboration with residents, so that any disputes could be resolved on the spot (UNCHS, 1987: 43). This “action planning” approach was developed from one project to another and was particularly successful in regularizing and upgrading existing settlements.

It appears that the concept of aided self-help has been generally accepted by project beneficiaries in Zimbabwe and the speed and quality of locally built housing has been impressive (Mutizwa-Mangiza, 1990: 60). In the Klender project in Jakarta, residents are also able to participate in the development of the environment once they start living in their new houses and “can also be responsible for the maintenance” (Herlianto, 1990: 29). It appears that residents have been very active in pursuing this option. In the Bolivar City project in Bogota, residents participated by assuming responsibility for the construction of their houses and managing some of the community facilities. The same applied in the Kennedy City project in Bogota, though there was also provision for community participation through the formation of community action boards, which dealt with welfare programmes within each “super-block” (Utria, 1990: 88).

Community participation is an important factor in the early stages of Colombian projects, when residents are constructing their houses, but this ceases once the houses are complete. One reason for this is that the community zone boards are dominated by the political parties and residents have limited scope to pursue their own interests (Utria, 1990: 101).

Innovative projects frequently seek to maximize community participation though, in practice, it is usually restricted to activities determined by the project agency, rather than ‘the local community. Thus, many projects advocate the virtues of “aided self-help” in house building whilst elements such as site layouts, density levels and land use are decided by the project agency. As a United Nations study concluded: “... participation is initiated and controlled by the authorities ... and the task of community development workers ... is to organize community participation when and where it is considered important by the project staff to facilitate the execution of the project.... If they do more than that, and stimulate people to participate as much as possible in all phases of the project, they risk being criticized by the other project staff for slowing down the project, instead of getting plans and proposals quickly endorsed by the beneficiaries” (UNCHS, 1984: 5-6). As van der Linden notes (1986: 123-124) the participation component is often executed half-heartedly and in part only. This also explains why residents are often reluctant to participate on this basis.

A major innovation of the Khuda ki Basti project in Hyderabad, Pakistan, was that it gave high priority to community participation. Several methods were adopted, though each seemed to offend one or more interest groups and people who were effective in getting things done, did not always employ their skills in the interests of the community (van der Linden, 1989: 23-26). In the end, the HDA ceased attempts to organize direct participation and opted to work with the organizations which residents formed themselves. However, this only serves to emphasize the potential role of CBOs as intermediaries between communities and local government agencies.