Building Capabilities Collectively: The 3C-Model of Grassroots-led Development

Ibrahim, Solava (2014). 'Building Capabilities Collectively: The 3C-Model of Grassroots-led Development' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Capabilities need to be built from the bottom-up. Processes such as public reasoning and deliberative democracy are crucial not only for the generation of new capabilities, but also for their expansion. Since the poor suffer from a number of limitations on their individual capabilities and human agency, they engage in acts of collective agency in order to enhance their individual and communal wellbeing. How can the poor promote their individual and communal wellbeing through these acts of collective agency? What role can development actors (such as the state and NGOs) play in supporting these acts of collective agency? Which processes are required for these acts of collective agency to be sustainable, scalable and successful? This paper seeks to answer these questions by presenting a new model of grassroots-led development. The paper argues that there are three crucial C-processes needed to establish and promote scalable, successful and sustainable acts of collective agency; namely:  (1) Conscientization; (2) Conciliation and (3) Collaboration.


Using Egypt as a case study, the paper explores how and why these three processes are important for initiating, promoting and sustaining acts of collective agency. The paper shows how the process of conscientization encourages citizens to think critically about their realities and nurtures their 'capacity to aspire' for better lives. The conciliation process is important to blend in individual and communal interests and render them mutually reinforcing. This step is also crucial to build a common vision for the initiation of collective agency and to agree a goal that the state and the local community later strive to pursue. The third process in the proposed model is collaboration - that is building a working partnership between the local communities and other actors, such as the state, local NGOs and donor agencies. Such partnership is important not only for the sustainability of these acts of collective agency, but also for enhancing their scaling-up potential and long-term impact.


Drawing on three case studies, the paper applies this model in two rural villages and one urban slum area. The first case study is a rural village in Lower Egypt in which a local leader used moral discourse to encourage conscientization and conciliation in addition to collaborating with the state to successfully build Azhari universities in the village.  The second case study is from Menia, Upper Egypt, where a local NGO used community awareness programmes to encourage rural women to think critically about the practice of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and fight it in their villages. The final case study is from Manshiet Nasser in Cairo, where the GIZ, a donor agency, failed to promote conscientization, conciliation and collaboration thus distorting grassroots-led development in the area and failing to expand or support the acts of collective agency initiated in the area.

The three case studies shed light on how the three processes (conscientization, conciliation and collaboration) work in practice and why they are crucial not only for generating new collective capabilities, but also for promoting sustainable human development at the grassroots level.


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