Social Mobilization

Social Mobilisation is at the heart of everything we do. The principles and practices of social mobilisation follow a time-honoured 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.

The first step of our approach to addressing development problems is to organise people into local organisations 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. Mobilised 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.

Committees to support and supplement COs and VOs: NRSP encourages people to form Committees that assume responsibility for specific aspects of community life. Examples include Village Health Committees, School Management Committees and Sanitation Committees. In communities which have constructed physical infrastructure projects, an operating and maintenance Committee ensures that the structure is properly maintained. In some flood-affected areas people have formed Child Protection Committees. In some projects school children have formed Committees: the Rural Sanitation Project is one example. Wherever these Committees are formed, they play a role in conveying information, encouraging local people to take part in new ways to meet local needs, and support and supplement the work of the COs and VOs.

With support from donors such as the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Programme, the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development, USAID, the Government of Pakistan, Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, the ILO, ADB, IFAD, UNICEF and others. NRSP’s social mobilisation efforts have contributed to helping people to raise their standard of living, initiate village-wide socio-economic development and realize new opportunities for themselves and their children. People have achieved new levels of awareness about their human rights and civic rights and obligations, and, perhaps most significantly for the long term, have become integrated into local systems of governance and service delivery.

Social mobilisation is a dynamic, responsive process. Two current examples of social mobilisation initiatives are (i) the Livelihood Enhancement and Protection Project: Social Mobilisation for the Poorest and (ii) the Social Mobilisation Project for Human and Institutional Development and Revitalization. These projects provide the opportunity to extend existing interventions, assess refinements of processes, and test ideas. The results are fed back into the mainstream programme.

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 mobilisation 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 organisations 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 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 Mobilisation in Disaster Response and Preparedness

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 mobilisation 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 organisations were utilised 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.

The Social Mobilisation Process

Introducing NRSP In a New Community. 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.

Capacity Building for Effective Institutional Management in Communities: NRSP builds the capacities of the members of the COs, VOs and LSOs to establish links to various development programmes and projects that will benefit village residents. These links may be with the Government, local or national donors or local philanthropists. This process establishes the Community Organisation, VO or LSO as a primary vehicle for the delivery of goods and services to the communities and ensures people’s active participation.

Higher-level Organising: Village Organisations and Local Support Organisations

Since 2005 NRSP has been encouraging COs to ‘federate’ into larger organisations. 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, re-forestation projects, agriculture, and livestock.

LSOs Promoting Civil Rights Awareness

The World Bank and PPAF utilised the LSOs as a means of promoting civic rights awareness in Districts Bahalwalpur, 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 mobilisation programme.

The Situation Analysis

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.

Identifying Rural Poverty

This has been an evolutionary process at NRSP. 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 Organisation would categorise 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 became involved 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 2oo8 NRSP has used the 13-question Pakistan Poverty Score Card for this purpose. NRSP was closely involved in testing and finalizing the Scorecard in Pakistan. Using this method each household receives a score (on a scale of 0 to 100) for each question and a cumulative score. The score categories are:

CategoryUltra-poor/ Extremely poorVulnerable poor/ Chronically poorTransitory poorTransitory vulnerableNon-poor
Score0-1112-1819-2324-4041 and above

We have used the Scorecard to design relevant programmes for extremely poor community members and to ensure their inclusion in COs, VOs and LSOs. NRSP has utilised the PSC in projects as diverse as: the Sindh Coastal Community Development Project, the New Area Intervention Initiative, the Small House Cum Garden Project, the Small Grants and Ambassadors Fund Programme, the large scale BISP (Upper Punjab & AJK) survey, the PPAF-funded Livelihood Enhancement and Protection project, the Union Council Based Poverty Reduction Programme Education project, the Livelihood Support and Small Community Infrastructure Project, the Southern Sindh Recovery, Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Preparedness Program and the Community Livelihoods Fund. NRSP has developed an MIS to analyse the results of the PSC.

Microfinance for Institutional Capacity Building: LSOs Managing Credit

Since 2008 NRSP has been implementing the Community Investment Fund (CIF), funded by PPAF and disbursed to the VOs or LSOs by NRSP. A VO or LSO is given a grant amounting to a maximum of PKR 12,000 per CO member household. There are two conditions: 40% of CO members must be women and 50% of the members must come from households identified as poor through the Poverty Scorecard.

The CIF can be used for any productive purpose for the benefit of the entire community. This may include: physical infrastructure, health, education, or training that will benefit a significant number of people. The CIF cannot be used for micro credit or for social events such as weddings. The VO or LSO office holders are first trained in CIF Management. The VO or LSO is provided with a credit database and trained in utilizing it. This training equips the organisation to manage its credit disbursement and recovery and ensures that clients and loans are tracked, thus reducing the potential for information errors. Over 2011-12, Rs.50 million was provided to LSOs for loan disbursement through PPAF funding.

‘Second Generation’ Social Mobilization led by Community Activists and Community Resource Persons: Community-Based Social Organizers

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.