Published jointly by CARE, the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, and Oxfam in December 2011 is a manual to strengthen internal governance of community-based enterprise organizations.
The empowerment of local actors and institutions is a cornerstone of social and economic development.
Decades of experience have taught us solid lessons. One of these is that if development agendas and initiatives are not owned locally, they will not be sustainable and will have little impact. This is becoming increasingly relevant especially for international NGOs. Their raison-d’être is closely associated with the desire and capacity to nurture people-centered development, rooted in the aspirations and self determination of the poorest in the society. In this perspective, development is no longer just the provision of services, resources or skills. It is rather a process of facilitation and dialogue that finds its legitimacy in the capacity to provide a channel for the aspiration of its direct beneficiaries.
In the real world, the path towards this vision is fraught with difficulties: among these, unequal power balances are prominent. Power is expressed in many forms, like resources, capacities, influence, cultural relations. Power imbalances exist between an international NGO and its local partner organizations, between these and the communities they mean to serve, among members of the same community and between this and authorities. Therefore, the agenda of transforming power relations takes many forms and plays out at several levels.
This manual concerns itself with a specific domain of changing power relations. It looks at the way grassroots organizations involved in economic activities (i.e., agriculture or tourism enterprises) can take decisions for the benefit of their members; and the way such organizations hold themselves accountable internally and externally for those decisions. Its aim is to provide a practical guidance to development staff for the facilitation of partnerships with such organizations, with the ultimate goal of supporting their empowerment.
The manual was developed as a joint effort of CARE International (Country Offices in Rwanda and Uganda), the International Gorilla Conservation Programme and Oxfam in Rwanda. SNV in Rwanda also gave us an important contribution in the initial conceptualization and preparation of trials. We found ourselves sharing similar challenges when developing enterprises in collaboration with agriculture cooperatives, farmer and ecotourism associations, or other types of community development associations.
Several manuals and experiences already provide useful references to assess and develop capacities and systems (e.g., financial management or human resource management). On the other hand, empowering grassroots enterprises requires going beyond management skills or accounting books. Despite good and sustained management and technical support, many grassroots organizations battle to develop genuine internal accountability and a responsible leadership. Leadership crises can jeopardize the work of many over a long period of time. Furthermore, crises or unresolved latent conflicts can undermine trust in partnerships, which is the cornerstone of development endeavors.
This manual provides enterprise development practitioners with a set of tools and a practical perspective on organizational change, focused on internal decision making, accountability and power balance. We trust that the approach provided herewith may help others shape their own experiences in similar enterprise partnerships.
Country Director, CARE International in Rwanda
Director, International Gorilla Conservation Programme
Country Director, CARE International in Uganda
Country Director, Oxfam in Rwanda