Monday, February 2, 2009

Challenges facing community development organizations


These days, there are myriad problems that affect, and sometimes paralyze us. We often feel powerless to change a system that seems too vast to navigate and too bureaucratic to care. We don’t think that we have the power to make a difference. Many have found hope in a process called ‘Community Organizing’, which helps people transform that feeling of powerlessness into action. This paper explains the concept of community organizing in a society and to what extent it imparts changes in a given area. The paper is focusing on portraying the activities of Non Governmental organization named Community development and relief trust in Geita district (CODERT) and its objective of organizing the marginalized people towards economic empowerment, and will observe challenges it faces and what measures to be taken to strengthen the organizing towards poverty eradication.

Theoretical literature review.

Community Organizing.

Community organizing is a process by which people are brought together to act in common self interest to recognize and honor their individual and collective voices by working to transform their communities. While organizing describes any activity involving people interacting with one another in a formal manner. In short community organizing refers to organized individuals in pursuit of a common agenda. Community organizers create social movements by building a base of concerned people, mobilizing these community members to act, and developing leadership from and relationship among the people involved.

Community organizing explicitly seeks to build the power base of the poor so that they can affect and change the public policies and private market forces that create and sustain social and economic inequality (Henry Allen yams foundation).

Community organizing is usually more focused on more than just resolving specific issues. Organizing is empowering all community members, often with the end goal of distributing the power equally throughout the community. The history of community organizing is intertwined with the settlement house movement of the 19th c as they are with the protest movements of the 1960s.

Over the decades, community organizing has increased its sophistication and networking for greater impact and wider results. Today community organizing fields encompasses varied philosophies, approaches, organizational arrangements, actors, priorities issues and constituencies. Community organizing has taken root in both urban and rural settings. It enables ordinary people to work effectively together for change often with significant impact at the block, neighbourhood, community, city and the country as well as the regional. Various racial, ethinic groups and other disadvantaged or disenfranchised groups use community organizing to fight for fairness and equity.

Types of community organizing.

(i)Grassroots organizing.

It is a value based process where people are brought together to act in the interests of their communities and common goal. It is a strategy that revitalizes communities and allows the individuals to participate and incite social change. In this organizing the community groups are built from the scratch, develop new leadership where none existed and organize the unorganized.

(ii)Faith based community organizing.

Refers to a deliberate methodology of developing the power and relationships throughout a community of institutions such as congregations, unions and associations. The work of Saul Alinsky, the founder of industrial areas foundation, spurred new thought and new blood into community movement.Alinsky promoted greater awareness of community organizing in academic cycles in the mid 1900.There are now 180 FBCO in the US as well as in the south Africa and other nations. Local organizations are often linked through organizing networks such as industrial areas foundations.

(iii)Coalition building.

Efforts seeking to unite existing groups such as churches, civic associations and social clubs, to a more effective pursuit of a common agenda. Community organizing is not solely the domain of the progressive politics, as dozens of fundamentalist organizations has sprung up, such as Christian coalition. Additionally political campaigns often claim that their door to door operations are in fact an effort to organize the community, often these operations are focused exclusively on voter identification and turn out. Currently there is increasing community organizing in terms of financial capital to fight against poverty and have alternatives in terms of income.

Principles those are common to most organizing practice.

Power is in the relationship.

Community organizing attempts to reweave the social fabric and rebuild trust within our neighborhoods by bringing people into relationship so that they may better understand their collective concerns and then learn how to act together to transform their communities. Community organizing finds its power in numbers.

Self interest moves people.

‘We are most motivated to act when what we value most is threatened.’ The community’s collective self-interest is what provides the bases for action. In community organizing, residents are considered masters of their experience.Typically, community member’s partner with a paid community organizer from a local nonprofit organization to teach the community organizing process in order to meet their philosophy that forces organize themselves.i.e increase level of productivity, have access to loans and fight social exclusion

Empirical literature review.

CODERT is an acronym for community Development and Relief Trust.CODERT is a non governmental, non religious, non partisan and non profit making organization (NGO).The organization is registered by the ministry of home affairs in Tanzania under the society’s ordinance 1954, with registration number (so.13191).

The organization was formed by fourteen young people with varying professional background and experience; of these 8 are males and 6 females. These young professionals were motivated to assist in the struggle for human centric sustainable development through improvement of social economic conditions of the vulnerable, marginalized and deprived communities in Tanzania, especially the lake zone area with special emphasis to women. Community organized had its philosophy that facilitates people organize themselves in order to increase the level of productivity alternatively by having access to credits.

CODERT Vision.

Capacitate communities to fully utilize available resources towards socio economic improvement of rural and urban poor households in the Lake Victoria zone of Tanzania by the year 2025.

CODERT Mission statement.

Grassroots communities know what they want and shall be fully involved as communities in planning their own lives and activities at the development programs and process.

Project goal.

To strengthen rural household and live hood security in Geita district.

The project objective.

Create a permanent and self replicating system of savings and credit associations in rural areas of Geita District by;

- Establishing self sustaining community based saving and credit groups emphasizing female membership and able to organize, monitor and maintaining savings and credit activities after technical support ceases.

- Training of community trainers-giving appropriate weight to female trainers-to promote the formation of these self sustaining saving and credit groups.

Project strategy.

Group mobilization.

The project is mobilizing self funding groups of between 25 to 30 members giving priority to women in 33 wards of Geita district. The expected number of groups is 525 which will directly benefit 10,500 household members. Currently a total of 126 HISA(Household income and Saving Associations) groups have been formed with assistance of expertise from CODERT, and the organization in now operating in seven wards of kalangalala,Kagu,Mtakuja,katoro,ihanamilo,kasamwa and Nyarugusu with a total membership of 3578 (1098 male and 2420 females).


-Total of 83 Village saving and loan association groups have been formed, most of the formed VS&LAs groups are of mixed(male&female)membership with 69.6% women membership and 60% of leadership is women. All the formed Village Saving and Loans Associations groups are active and operational. Members are competitively depositing their shares and getting loans out of their savings with reasonable interest rate of 10%.

-Through organized groups participants, particularly women, improve their social and

economic well being.

-Members make more efficient use of their economic resources.

-Women access and control over household resources is enhanced.

-Members indicate that their vulnerability to seasonal and unpredictable shocks is reduced because of their village saving &loan association membership.

-Members succeed to pay school fees and health services and improve their children’s


-Members are now able to purchase household and productive assets with savings

accumulated in the village saving & loan association groups and from enterprise effort.

-Members engage in and expand, their income generating activities as a result of savings and credit obtained through the VS&LA group.

Challenges facing the operation of codert.

-The organization is facing shortage of funds, groups formed depends on shares bought by members. Community organization has no alternative to increase the capital.

-The district is wide and communities are spersed, these create the communication problems and service delivering to group members inadequate.

-Poverty in rural areas hinders community members not to join groups, because they lack money to buy Shares. Many rural residents depends on agriculture which is mostly affected by weather conditions.

-Increase of micro credit institutions raises competition to the activities of CODERT due to emerging of culprits who join the groups and at the same time have credits from other credit institutions.

Policy Review.

Tanzania Government is working perpendicular with the Millennium Development Goals towards eradication of extreme poverty and hunger this is through reduction by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and the proportion of people living on less than one US dollar a day by raising income. Tanzania vision of 2025 starts with emphasis on the attainment of Gender equality and empowerment of women in all socio economic and political relations and cultures. That is why community organized and its philosophy gives 70% of the member in the group to be women.The vision needs to develop a culture and habit of saving and investment investing productively to generate wealth for individuals, households, communities as well as a nation. A culture of wealth creation and accumulation for development must be reinforced by culture of maintenance to prevent unnecessary loss of capital stock. The MKUKUTA which translate the Tanzania development vision 2025 also emphasis the increasing access to rural/the need urban poor with macro financial services for subsistence farmers particularly targeting youth and women by promoting and sustain community based savings and credit schemes such as SACCOS and Revolving Funds.


-The Government should put much effort in investing in rural infrastructure to facilitate marketing of the rural produce.

-Supporting of production of crops with high returns.

-Communities and members in village saving and loan association should have training s on enhancing life skills and entrepreneurships.

-Promoting off farm activities and value addition scheme to primary agricultural, fishing, forest, wildlife and livestock products through agro processing and cooperatives.


The purpose of community organizing is to fight poverty especially in rural areas/the urban poor. A single person cannot fight poverty


The Geita VS&LA Project (July to September, 2007); Quarterly Progress Report.

National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (NSGRP) –June 2005.

Tanzania Development Vision 2025.

Robert Fisher and Peter Romanofsky (1981), Community Organizing for Urban Social

Change: A Historical Perspective (Greenwood Press).

ISBN 978-0313214271

Robert Fisher, Let the People Decide: Neighborhood Organizing in America (1984;

Twayne Publishers, 1997). ISBN 978-0805738599

Neil Betten and Michael J. Austin (1990), The Roots of Community Organizing, 1917-

1939 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press). ISBN 0-87722-662-8

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