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Non-Governmental Organisations And Local Community Development1
Generally speaking, all NGO activities are in the function of the local community development because their actions incite changes in the community, one way or the other, whether by proposing a topic for the agenda or by specific engagement in the realisation of development projects. NGOs that are directly in the function of development and appear in different roles are especially significant. The key concept in NGO activities is "positive development change". And from the point of view of the local community there can be a range of these positive development changes. Nowadays, local communities, and not only them, are seen as organisms, and one of the characteristics of organisms is that they develop, have problems during life, grow old and die. With artificially created organisms, some of these aspects do not have to be present or their duration period may be long, even unlimited, because their existence depends on the people who create them and their wisdom to maintain these organisms. Local communities were created by people and therefore the development and health of the community depend solely on the people who live in it and their wisdom in governing. This is precisely the role of non-governmental organisations, which perceive potential problems and potential solutions in due time and make them part of the community’s agenda, in order to take preventive actions when possible. The four main aspects of the local community health are: physical health (infrastructure, ecological issues, urban development), social health (participation of citizens in the process of making decisions relevant to the functioning of the community, relations between different social groups, etc.), psychological health (all aspects of actions taken by the community as a group, in view of reacting to possible disorders in the behaviour of certain community members (use of narcotics, alcohol, etc.) and economic health of the community (possibility of income generation necessary for the functioning of individuals and community as a whole, possibility to attract investors outside the community etc.). It is important to mention that different nongovernmental organisations cover these aspects through their activities and they influence the positive development changes in the function of the improvement of local communities. Bearing in mind that in the previous issue we defined the aspects of the local economic development, here we shall define elements that can help improve the social health of the community, and thus all the other aspects of the local community health, through the forming of local development coalitions for various issues and various domains of life. Some of the specific reasons to form a local development coalition are: To start solving urgent problems. • To strengthen elements of the community - or the community as a whole - to take control over the future. This can refer to the position of the young in the community, or the model of the community development in the light of globalisation and use of community resources. • To procure and provide services. A coalition can be formed - either completely and immediately or over a longer period of time - with the task to project and obtain funding and/or to perform necessary interventions in the community. • To establish a more effective and efficient programme realisation and to eliminate useless double efforts. Participation of all players in the solving of particular problems can result in more coherent and understandable interventions. By avoiding double efforts, organisations can assign responsibilities in the manner which provides participation of a larger number of citizens interested in the programmes and thus provide a larger number of services. • To unite resources. Organisations and individuals together have resources necessary to realise a task that none of them can solve individually. Generally speaking, people and organisations join coalitions in order to do work that none of them can do alone. • To improve communication between groups and to leave stereotypes behind. By bringing groups and individuals from various sectors of the community together, an alliance can be formed where there have been few mutual contacts. Joint work on solving the same problem helps people to bridge barriers and prejudices and to learn to trust each other.

1 Contribution of the NGO »European Movement in Smederevska Palanka« for the 7th number of newsletter of the project " "Promotion of Pluralism by Strengthening NGOs and The Civil Society In Serbia" in partnership with NGO »European Perspective« from Greece as main applicant (project B7-702/2001/0872, European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, European Commission). More information on the web site http://www.hhdn.org.yu Prepared by Milan Milošević, Master of Systemology and Logistics

can help in providing support to efforts regarding problem solving. For people who have been working in a vacuum or on their own for too long, assistance from others can be an incredible source of new energy and hope. To plan and start initiatives that cover the entire community as to a range of issues of interest. • To develop and use political support for obtaining service and other benefits for the community. A united coalition can perform public advocacy of its goals far more successfully than different groups or individuals on their own. In addition, we should emphasise that a large coalition can successfully exert political pressure from all the community sectors and provide great political power. • To start long-term, permanent social changes. Real changes most frequently happen over a certain period of time during which people gain confidence, share ideas and overcome prejudices related to the community needs. A coalition, with its structure of cooperation between various groups or individuals and their focus on solving problems can alleviate and sometimes even speed up the process of changes in the community. There are often barriers in starting/establishing a coalition and it is therefore important they should be taken care of and anticipated because this will dictate the work on the coalition strengthening towards its success. These barriers are: • Prejudices. Organisations are often very sensitive regarding the sharing of their work, target population and especially funding. Part of the work related to a coalition establishment is persuading a certain number of organisations that, basically, by working together they all benefit and they will better realise common goals. • Bad history. The entire community, organisations or individuals can have bad experience related to joint work in the past or joint work is simply impossible. The new coalition should cope with such history before any real work is done. • Dominance of "professionals" or some other elite. Too often people with university degrees, local politicians, business leaders and others are in a rush to solve problems or "help the handicapped", avoiding to include the people touched by the proposed solution as well as other members of the community. Creating an atmosphere of participation and keeping a tight rein on those who believe they know everything is always especially significant when establishing a coalition. • Bad connections with the community. The first step should be the establishment of, up to then, non-existent connections between organisations that are somehow already involved with the problem and the community as a whole. • Minimal organisational capacity. It may be necessary to find a coordinator, one or more persons or organisations that will find the way to divide assignments as to the organising of new groups or the first meeting. • Funding. Difficulties in obtaining funding are a usual limitation. It is less usual for the funding already in possession to be a precondition for the coalition to go the wrong way or to demand quick reaction which will not be effective. New coalitions must be capable to provide funding from different sources and to take care of the type of resources required and received. • Failures in providing and building leadership in a coalition. Coalitions demand a highly specific form of partner leadership. If such type of leadership is not available or cannot be developed within the coalition, its existence is at risk. In such situations it is necessary to provide an outside facilitator and/or training on partner leadership in order to overcome the problem. • Perceived or actual costs of joint work surpass the benefits of many coalition members. The task here may be to find the way to increase the gain/benefit of individuals or oranisations in the coalition in order for the coalition to survive. If we realise the potential barriers to the forming of coalitions in our community, we can plan one and increase our odds for success. A great number of local development coalitions have formed NGOs, thus showing that one of their important focuses of interest and work is the social health of the community, that is, participation of all citizens and all interested social groups. Sources: • "Community ToolBox", University of Kansas • www.mapfornonprofits.org
• To revitalise wisdom and energy of the group members who are trying to do too much on their own. A coalition


Non-Governmental Organisations And Local Community Development


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