Learn from ARCOS' experience: Six things you need to know to build community ownership and CBO development

The Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) play an important and relevant role in providing services at the local level. The wise management of an organisation can contribute significantly to ensuring the effectiveness of the work that they do. One category of community organisations is the cooperative institutions, which exist all over the world, providing essential services which would otherwise be unattainable. In many developing countries, cooperatives have been very successful in helping people to provide for themselves where private and other corporate capitals do not see high profitability. 

As an effort to approach development issues, community development programs have addressed the problem too narrowly and did not consider the broader context, mostly designed to react to the effects rather than the causes of the problems. This resulted in programs that where fragmented, project-based, donor controlled and focused on short-term results, demanding for additional projects with a cycle of dependency. This limited understanding has miscalculated the socio-ecological complexity that exists within a community and still leads to insufficient solutions regarding sustainable development at local level.

ARCOS' approach to community ownership and institutional development is based on building a solid and transparent system for cooperatives whereas result they become member-driven, member controlled and member-responsive organisations. ARCOS uses the following principles in building community ownership and leadership:

  1. Step by step: One of ARCOS principles is approaching communities with flexibility, allowing them time to identify priorities and consequently own the actions, instead of strictly adhering to pre- defined objectives and plans of action.
  2. Leadership through cooperation: To change the myth of dictatorship often imposed by the presidents of cooperatives, a leader is the one who listens and cooperates with the followers. Where there is cooperation, there are good ideas and solutions to problems.
  3. Systems and Facts: Cooperatives must have management systems in place, including files of meetings, financial transactions, etc. Cooperatives should make effort to be efficiently managed by experienced, trained and professionally- qualified staff under the supervision and control of democratically-elected committee. Adherence to the “joint-use” concept e.g., joint marketing, joint purchasing, joint use of capital, joint use of facilities; 
  4. Transparency: it should be understood by co-operators that cooperatives, are capitalist institutions. The principles of “accountability” and “answerability”, “role model”, “ethical behaviour” and “good governance” are employed.
  5. Self-resilience and conflict-resolution: Investing in transparency and good governance leads to open discussion about internal issues and finding solutions to emerging problems and conflict resolutions.
  6. Inclusiveness: Inclusive cooperation is central to ARCOS’ NBCEs Programme. As such, it is vital for cooperative efforts to incorporate women and youth in their activities and management. Cooperatives are encouraged to reduce structural gender barriers that inhibit women’s wealth creation and utilisation potential.

Cooperatives should be considered an important plank of development. The cooperatives have inherent advantages in tackling the problems of poverty alleviation, food security and employment generation. ARCOS’ Nature Based Community Enterprise (NBCE) Programme includes an innovative community development approach focused on empowerment and capacity building toward sustainability through a new holistic approach (BEST Approach). The innovative approach also realizes the importance of functional governance structures in leading communities toward a prosperous future and proposes social governance mechanisms aimed at creating transparent and participatory decision-making processes. Through partnership with community, we establish a holistic understanding of the socio-ecological system in which a community exists and looks to integrate a deeper awareness and consciousness into communities and partner government institutions. Socio-ecological success is also defined in the approach by providing a principle-based definition of sustainability.

Please, read more about how we go about it, achievements and lessons learnt in a pdf file of this case study on Building Community Ownership and Institutional Development available on our website here.

Do not hesitate to contact us, if you are interested in partnering with us or want to donate to our community program (NBCEs Program)