COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATIONS AS A SOLUTION TO SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROBLEMS
Planet earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old. Despite the great inventions it has witnessed over this period and the industrial revolution we as its inhabitants are yet to find a lasting solution to problems like hunger, malnutrition, unequal distribution of wealth etc. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise granted that we are the ones who have impaired our own progress towards social equity bringing it almost to a halt by building flawed systems and giving power to a selfish political class.
Our communal sense of responsibility and purpose is being choked by the current trickle-down economic system which advocates and rewards ruthless individualism. Our political class over and above looking out for their own interest have been reduced by the corporations into mere clearing houses for their concerns.
The solution from my end looks more like actively trying to restructure our self-interested economic systems and political processes through the re-humanization of our society.
We rehumanize through building pockets of Community-Based Organizations which are founded on the very sound principle that human beings are inherently social beings. Social beings with the capability to be our own best source of collective support, love, and collaboration.
How? We use one uniting factor. For example religion. I picked religion due to the fact that across all of its forms the fundamental principle is the same i.e. Wealth is to be shared. Common belief has the capacity to bring legions together.
A classic example would be Eden Stewards. It’s an environmentally conscious CBO under the ministry of Nairobi Chapel Ongatta Rongai, in Nairobi. It signed an MOU with A.J Oscar & Company Holdings which owns COREC (Continental Renewable Energy Company), the company founded by Dr. Aghan Oscar. COREC has developed equipment to recycles waste plastic into building hardware which it sells to developers thus providing them with affordable and durable construction material. The MOU has seen the holdings company donate waste recycling equipment worth approximately 4 million. Through the partnership and knowledge transfer, the CBO will be able to hire locals and involve the community in collecting waste plastic in the township.
The waste plastic will be the raw material for manufacturing affordable building material such as roofing tiles, manholes, walkway slabs, fencing posts, and pavement blocks. The congregation will provide the market and it will also be supplied to surrounding communities.
Eden Stewards project that at full production capacity it will be able to tarmac Gataka to Ongatta road using this material at no cost to the community. Herein lies the real possibility of employment opportunities, local ownership while collectively solving the problem of environmental destruction.
This could make a considerable dent on the issue of affordable housing which is part of the four legacy pillars for the current Kenyan Administration. That is an entirely different discussion on its own.
Establishing CBOs to take on specific societal issues under the right strategic guidance offers a real chance of building truly progressive societies. It wrestles away power from broken leadership, interest and money groups while giving a bigger voice to ordinary citizens. All these are achieved collectively by one people united and empowered to meet common economic,
cultural and social needs.
Some of the key stumbling blocks for CBOs include:
(i) Financial challenges — most do not have access to capital from financial institutions for investment in their work
(ii) Siloed Services and programs. A good number are addressing the same problem but as individual units. If they could band up they may have a bigger impact.
(iii) Few or no financial reserves — they are susceptible to any slight fluctuation in their revenue and cost models.
Some of the above can be addressed through data sharing and seeking more deep strategic partnerships in networks across the social entrepreneurship space. For instance, in 2017, the Social Enterprise Society of Kenya (SESOK) was founded and registered as an umbrella body to offer critical benefits to social entrepreneurs in the region. Its doors are open to social enterprises enthusiastic about social impact and sustainability. They offer advisory services on scaling, strategy, and connection to other like-minded individuals.
There is no doubt that CBOs are contributing and can do even more to contribute to economies. Full optimization of what they are doing will require a concerted effort across various sectors from government agencies, philanthropic partners and the private sector. The goal is a WIN for society at large.