National Rural Support Programme
Rahim Yar Khan
Social Mobilisation is at the heart of everything we do. The principles and practices of social mobilization follow a time-honored tradition established at the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in the 1980s by the renowned development expert Shoaib Sultan Khan and followed in all of the RSPs across Pakistan. Wherever NRSP works, whether expanding its regular core programme, implementing donor-funded projects, or responding to disasters, the principles and practices of social mobilisation remain the same. These are: establishing mutual trust; understanding that there are mutual rights and responsibilities related to accountability and transparency; observing the principle of benefitting the community at large, rather than individuals, and ensuring that the poorest and most vulnerable people are included in the programming.
We work with rural men and women to release their potential abilities and skills so as to build their knowledge and enable them decide their own development priorities. We also help people to find the resources they need to meet their identified needs. The purpose is to break the cycle of poverty, both economic poverty and ‘poverty of opportunity’. When community members come together for a common purpose – which is ultimately village-wide socio-economic development – they are in a stronger position to bring about sustainable improvements in the quality of life.
More About Social Mobilization
Local Support Organisations (LSOs) are central to the ‘Social Mobilisation’ approach of the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP). In a bid to reduce poverty and empower marginalized people especially women, the NRSP, Rahim Yar Khan mobilizes rural communities into a three-tiered structure, which consists of Community Organisations (COs) – neighborhood-level community groups, Village Organisations (VOs) – village level federations of COs, and LSOs – union council level federations of VOs. LSOs are able to carry out community-led development at a much greater level due to the advantage they gain from numbers. As the tertiary tier, LSOs are also uniquely able to develop linkages with government and non-government organizations, donor agencies and the private sector.
When NRSP Social Organisers go to a new Union Council they engage people in a series of dialogues explaining how to improve the physical and social quality of life. These dialogues help to establish trust in NRSP and the Social Organisers. They also enable potential CO members to identify the socio-economic and infrastructural opportunities available in their communities. Every effort is made to include both men’s and women’s perspectives as the dialogues proceed and to ensure that the poorest community members are included. Once identified, the opportunities are grouped into sector-specific categories (for example, financial services, small scale engineering, health, education and social protection).
We sign a Terms of Partnership agreement with every CO, VO and LSO with which we work. This identifies the rights and responsibilities of the community members and NRSP. It is taken for granted that the poorest and most vulnerable members of the community have the same right as those who are better off to benefit from development activities. This may happen as a result of CO activities or in the course of specific projects focusing on the poorest community members.
Currently, 100,201 Community Organizations and Groups (COs, Groups) have been formed. 64 Village Organizations (VOs) are consisting of these COs and Groups at village level. The members out of these 64 VOs then formed four (04) Local Support Organizations (LSOs) at union council level.
The Social Organizers work with community members to complete a ‘Situation Analysis’ which covers matters such as demographic trends, economic data (household income, agricultural and other earnings), employment data, the institutions (schools, hospitals etc.) found in the area, the amount and condition of land, health and education facilities and physical infrastructure and the state of the agricultural economy. The Situation Analysis utilizes primary and secondary sources such as interviews and Census data and is valuable as a benchmark for entry-level planning and for eventual programme expansion. One significant aspect of a Situation Analysis is a Baseline Survey, against which progress can be measured over time. Another is identifying specific, local aspects of poverty.
The first step of our approach to addressing development problems is to organize people into local organizations known as Community Organisations that are then able to identify and address local issues. We refer to this process as Social Mobilisation. We assume that local people know best about local problems and that, in partnership with NRSP, they have the talents and willingness to plan and implement local development. Mobilized communities work as ‘platforms’ for local development, helping to bring together communities, knowledge, and resources. Depending on the local norms the CO members may be all men, all women, or, as happens in some places, ‘mixed’ COs, having both men and women members. Once formed, each CO elects a President and a Manager. The NRSP staff and the CO members identify an Activist – an experienced local person who will take ideas forward – from amongst the CO members. In our support to the Community Organisation, we offer capacity-building skills and awareness-raising sessions to the CO Activists and/or office holders. Additionally, NRSP offers vocational skill training, micro-finance services, physical infrastructure development, and environmental and natural resource management. Awareness of women’s rights and their right to participate in local development are integral to NRSP’s work with community members.
The Livelihood Enhancement and Protection Project was designed to enable people who are among the poorest in their communities to establish and develop viable enterprises. The project supports them at every ‘link’ in an entrepreneurial ‘value chain’. Since the project is an effort to put new ideas into practice – i.e. reaching and supporting the very poor and vulnerable by giving them assets, information, and training – it requires specialized social mobilization skills. Many of the intended beneficiaries are not literate, are entering the market for the first time, have little work experience, and/or are working on the margins of the business world for meager returns. Members of these households also learned how to manage their assets and develop business plans. The established and new COs are encouraged to include the poor and people with functional disabilities, if they wish to join. Another key function of the project is to promote the formation of Common Interest Groups by men and women entrepreneurs. Skill trainings for employment opportunities is a significant component of the project. The CIGs are intended to reduce costs, enhance bargaining power and increase the profitability of enterprises.
The Social Mobilisation Projects address the fact that in any social environment, new needs for information and action arise and organizations need support in order to mature and become more effective in response to changing circumstances. To improve the knowledge and awareness of the CO, VO and LSO members, workshops are being held on numerous rights-based issues, such as how to obtain a Computerized National Identity Card, how to register as a voter and how to register births and deaths. Other workshops have been held on women’s right to inheritance, rights in marriage and the need to ensure that marriages result in a registered Nikah Nama. Women’s rights in divorce and the terms of the dissolution of marriage are also covered. Community institutions were also engaged to form School Management Committees that would increase primary level enrolment and reduce dropouts through campaigns. Workshops have also been held that teach people how to access social safety net programmes such as Zakat, Baitul Mal and the Benazir Income Support Programme.
Social mobilization is a highly effective tool for disaster management in that it enables the rapid flow of information to and from community members to NRSP and partner staff. Social mobilization is vital in distributing relief goods on a mass scale. During the 2010-11 floods, NRSP worked closely with its network of LSOs, VOs, and COs. 98 LSOs from 14 flood-affected Districts were directly involved in the relief efforts. These organizations were utilized to carry out rapid assessments, distribute relief items and obtain information on community needs for long term rehabilitation. The LSOs engaged in relief operations distributed food and non-food items, shelters, medical aid, and livestock care and cash grants. In addition, the LSOs contributed PKR 853,000 to NRSP relief operations.
Since 2005 NRSP has been encouraging COs to ‘federate’ into larger organizations. These organizations facilitate the COs and other small institutions to pool their financial and human resources and to create linkages with different levels of Government and with service providers. A number of COs in a village form Village Organisations and those VOs form a Local Support Organisation (LSO) at the Union Council level. As of August 2016, there were 674 LSOs in 64 of NRSP’s programme Districts.
The COs, VOs, and LSOs are an invaluable resource for the delivery of a variety of services, including:
- Surveys, situational analyses, market research, and product introduction and promotion;
- Training, awareness-raising, dialogues on a variety of issues, feedback, marketing, information, education, and communication, thereby increasing community participation in public sector programmes and projects;
- Conflict resolution and peace-building;
- The construction and maintenance of community-managed small infrastructure, the introduction of new technologies, and ‘build, operate and transfer’ projects;
- Delivery of microfinance services including loans, savings and deposits, insurance, remittances, “village banking”, research in financial services, and product development
- Responses to disasters such as providing and distributing rescue services, relief goods and services, livelihood-related projects and reconstruction and rehabilitation
- Facilitating governments for increasing community participation in family planning, health, education, literacy, reforestation projects, agriculture, and livestock.
This has been an evolutionary process at National Rural Support Programme (NRSP), Rahim Yar Khan (RYK). Until 2008 we used participatory wealth ranking as the method of identifying five categories of economic status:
- the destitute,
- the poor,
- the very poor,
- the ‘better off”, and;
- the ‘well-to-do’.
Using this approach, people who were in the process of forming a new Community Organization (CO) would categorize the residents of their village into one of the four categories. This gave NRSP a good idea of the scale of poverty in the area and enabled us to match interventions with local needs. The Social Organizers then helped the members of the newly-formed CO to draw up micro-investment plans. Established at three levels (household, group, and the village) these plans help the CO members to identify their economic needs in concrete terms and to plan ways to improve their economic standing.
However, we found this method to be rather subjective and it made it impossible to compare data across our increasing number of districts. Searching for an alternative, we got engaged in the World Bank’s initial efforts to introduce a simple and objective means of identifying households whose members were likely to be poor. Since 2008, NRSP has used the “13-question Pakistan Poverty Score Card” for this purpose.
We have been using this “Poverty Scorecard” to design relevant programmes for extremely poor community members and to ensure their inclusion in Community Organizations (COs), Village Organizations (VOs) and Local Support Organizations (LSOs).
The World Bank and PPAF utilized the LSOs as a means of promoting civic rights awareness in Districts Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Rajanpur, DG Khan, Khushab and Mianwali (Punjab) and Pangjur and Awaran (Balochistan). This year-long initiative (2010-2011) promoted good governance, beginning in the COs themselves. Improvements were measured against baseline levels of transparency and accountability. The indicators used were:
- Institutional development
- Equity and inclusion (at least 40% women and 50% of those identified as poor)
- Increased capacity for collective action, the delivery of improved public services and increased awareness of civil rights and responsibilities.
NRSP is now forming a strategy to employ Social Mobilisation indicators to measure performance in its core social mobilization programme.
The LSOs utilize the services of both men and women leaders from the COs, VOs, and LSO as Community Resource Persons: they function as local Social Organizers. They receive a small stipend for their services. Depending on the needs and on their expertise the CRPs may be involved in forming COs, engaging in community livestock interventions and serving as ‘master trainers’ to teach women tailoring and embroidery skills. Some CRPs with the relevant skills provide services a Traditional Birth Attendants and as service providers for health and hygiene. The CRPs have been given specific targets to form new COs, provide assistance to extremely poor households and reactivate dormant COs and VOs. NRSP has provided the CRPs with the necessary technical assistance and financial support to enable them to interact with LSOs and establish partnerships with Government and private institutions.