Ibrahim, Solava (2017). 'Social Change, Resilience and Collective Agency at the local Level - panel by TG group on 'Collective Capabilities and Empowerment'' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


Despite reduced global income inequality since 1990s, within country inequality has continued to rise. The poor seek to address the structural inequalities by forming their own local organisations to collectively challenge existing unequal power relations that sustain such inequalities. These local organisations, however, are mostly viewed as ‘localised’ solutions that merely help the poor to survive, rather than builds their individual and collective capabilities over time.

The aim of this panel is to challenge this assumption by exploring and tracking the institutional resilience of local organisations over time. The three papers are coherently linked in four ways.

First, they cover a wide range of country-case studies, namely Peru, Central African Republic, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire and Egypt thus allowing for an inter-regional comparison of these local organisations. Second, in exploring each of these country case studies, the papers focus on the generation of collective capabilities in diverse domains, such as fair trade, post-conflict reconstruction, maternal health, environmental protection and education services.

Second, the three papers emphasize the role of collective agency and collective capabilities in enhancing the power of the poor to challenge structural inequalities at the local level. The first paper addresses the role of farmers’ organisations; the second examines the role of local organisations in post-conflict contexts and the third paper explores the dynamics of grassroots initiatives at times of political instability.

Third, the three analyses not only stress the constructive role of collective agency, but also critically examine the various factors that affect the sustainability and resilience of these acts of collective agency over time. By introducing and conceptualising resilience, the papers aim to contribute to the capability approach by exploring the challenges of generating and sustaining capabilities (at the individual and collective levels) over time.

The panel thus presents an in-depth longitudinal analysis of local organisations to explore the nature, dynamics and types of the generated collective capabilities generated and how they seek to address structural inequalities and underlying causes of poverty in each respective country case study. It also critically examines the sustainability, impact and resilience of these acts of collective agency – thus contributing to the theoretical and empirical literature on the capability approach by emphasizing the role of collective agency, empowerment and collective capabilities at the local level.

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