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close this bookVolunteer Participation in Working with the Urban Poor (UNDP - UNV, 64 p.)
close this folderII. Insights derived from community-based programmes
close this folderUrban informal sector
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentMicro-enterprise promotion
View the documentWorking conditions in the informal sector
View the documentThe ILO experience

The ILO experience

Increasingly, UN-system projects are focusing on micro-enterprises which lend themselves to a combination of entrepreneurial training and a package of business advisory and credit services. These types of micro-enterprises, rather than those involved in trading and service activities, are seen as clearly amenable to growth and thus capable of transforming themselves into formal sector profit-oriented enterprises through productivity augmentation, technological transfer/adaptation, capital accumulation and skill development.

Within the framework provided by the World Employment Programme, the ILO since 1982 has actively sought to encourage the self-help initiatives of artisans and other workers in the informal sector to improve their income levels and living standards. ILO has also directed greater attention to encouraging the development of micro-enterprises undertaken by women and unemployed youth, even those with no formal education.

One such programme, notable for its participatory approach, is the "Programme to Support Urban Informal Sector Enterprises in French-speaking Africa" in Mali, Togo and Rwanda. This programme took two years (1982-83) to develop a suitable approach to issues of collective concern to individual artisans, which was to become the mainspring of further organised action. Three more years (1984-86) were devoted to strengthening nascent organisations encouraging self-management and providing technical assistance relevant to production needs. The final phase of the project involved the consolidation of CBOs so that they could develop a credible partnership with local authorities and institutions. At the same time, the central associations of these CBOs in capital cities were strengthened in financial and operational autonomy.

A major lesson from this and similar experiences shows that bottom-up participatory work requires time to take root so that it will become sustainable: flexibility is of utmost importance. This type of approach cannot be rushed to suit bureaucratic requirements such as project deadlines or tightly-defined expenditure schedules. Many institutions which initially embark on community-based organisational work find their that their endeavours fail, largely due to institutional impatience.