|Best Practices in Poverty
10 November 1999
In cooperation with UNESCO and MOST, CROP convened a 1-day workshop in Amman, Jordan,
November 10th 1999, to help develop a framework for a project on best practices
in poverty reduction.
During the opening ceremony of the workshop the prizewinners of the CROP/MOST competition on "Best Practices in Poverty Reduction", Dr. Anuradha Joshi (with Dr. Mick Moore) and Prof. Mohammad Shafi, were presented with their awards.
Seven papers were presented and discussed at the workshop (abstracts are presented below):
The papers focussed on how a "best practice" in relation to a certain kind of poverty reduction can be described and analysed, and how the context in which the "best practice" functions has an impact on the development of a "best practice".
The workshop was financed by the UNESCO office in Amman, the International Social Science Council, the UNESCO/MOST Programme and CROP. The workshop was held under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan.
A publication based on papers and exchanges during the workshop is under preparation. The preliminary title is "Best Practices in Poverty Reduction. A Guide to the Identification, Understanding and Transfer of Good Practice", and responsible for the publication is Else yen.
The notion of "best practices" is one of those concepts which has been born in the political and administrative world of anti-poverty strategies and transported into a world of research which stands unprepared to handle it because few analytical tools are available. Those responsible for anti-poverty interventions want to learn from successful experiments elsewhere which can be transplanted into their own national or cultural setting. This is a sensible approach, and with increasing globalisation it is a learning approach which will gain impetus in the years to come. However, it is also a risky approach because the cultural variation as well as the variation in the target group are likely to disturb a direct transfer of one successful programme into a similarly successful programme in a different culture.
In the following we shall concentrate on the concept of best practice and bring in the complex realities of poverty and poverty reduction only marginally. First we shall ask what can be learned from the already well developed literature on evaluation research and how the question of best practice differs from evaluation methodology. Second we shall discuss best practice as a process. Third we shall bring in some of the political variables and discuss the impact of vested interest on the outcome of best practices.
Major issues are about the identification, export and import of "best practices." Assessment not only involves performance outcomes but also an understanding of what can be used by organizations and nations operation under different conditions.
What organizations and procedures are involved in selecting "best practices?" If rigorous evaluations are not possible, what can be done and by whom?
How do ideas about best practices gain attention? The roles of social science, media, organizations, intermediaries, governmental policy and advocacy groups differ though one or the other may be particularly prominent in the career of a "best practice".
How to adapt a "best practice" to local conditions? Which components of the practice are essential? Issues of finance, staffing, organization, popular and political acceptance and agreement by the affected population.
Department of Urban Studies and Planning,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
77 Massachusetts Avenue,
Cambridge, MA 02139
E-mail: email@example.com ph: 1-617-225-8142
Neo-liberalism is in decline. Its doctrines and prejudices no longer dominate the development policy debate. (1) Dealing with poverty in developing countries become a matter of some political priority for the international community. The so-called New Poverty Agenda set by the World Bank in the 1990 World Development Report no longer represents orthodoxy. That is a positive change, for the New Poverty Agenda has in practice provided licence for governments to turn away from poverty concerns. It is not that the core components of the New Agenda - pro-poor growth, better public services for the poor, and safety nets (only) for those who really need them - are intellectually indefensible. In an era of tight fiscal constraints, one can make a convincing case for the priorities that it establishes. The problem lies rather in the implicit messages: that measures directly to combat poverty are not of prime concern; and that priority should go to promoting pro-poor growth - despite ignorance about how to do this.
There is now scope to argue for real priority for poverty, through direct public action, without being on the intellectual defensive. What can we make of the opportunity? It is not sufficient just to ask that more public money and other resources be devoted to poverty alleviation. We cannot ignore the partial validity of the neo-liberal critique of public action: intentions and outcomes are different; public programmes intended to benefit the poor often leak into the pockets of the non-poor, who are more organised, articulate and informed . It is important that public resources be better used. Given the opportunity presented by the current climate, can we offer new insights for planning and implementing anti-poverty programs?
Our answer is yes. We reach this conclusion through several steps. There is a generic problem in anti-poverty interventions. The intended recipients - the poor - tend to be politically weak, in the broad sense of that term, in relation to public agencies and the non-poor. Anti-poverty interventions in poor countries will tend to work better if intended recipients can increase their influence over the implementation stages through collective action of various kinds. They need, according to one language currently in vogue, to build social capital. How can that be achieved? The focus of this paper is on one path - the role of anti-poverty interventions themselves in building that social capital. We argue that anti-poverty programmes may, and should, be designed and managed such that they either (a) positively stimulate among intended recipients the collective action that is needed to make the programmes more effective or (b) less ambitious, at least do not discourage and frustrate collective action. The paper advances a conceptual framework to help us think more constructively about the conditions under which public anti-poverty interventions might have these positive consequences.
In Section 2 we locate the arguments of this paper in theoretical context. Section 3 provides some detail on why the implementation stage of the public policy process is so important from the perspective of poverty interventions. Our main conceptual framework is laid out in Section 4: the overarching concept of predictability, with three sub-categories -trustworthiness, programme stability and formal entitlement. We illustrate the usefulness of these concepts through two case studies. Section 5 deals with the contribution of trustworthiness to the success of a programme that requires what we have called a concordant relationship between groups of poor people and external agencies. In Section 6 we explore the ways in which programme stability and formal entitlement have brought considerable benefits to the poor through a programme that has involved them in relationships with government agencies that are frequently discordant. Through a review of recent trends in anti-poverty interventions, the case is made in Section 7 that the issues we have discussed under the term predictability are widely ignored in the practice of anti-poverty interventions.
This paper attempts to pull together the lessons for social policy in developing countries from countries which rapidly improved their social indicators. The good practices discussed in the paper clearly relate to social dimensions of poverty - not income-poverty.
The method adopted was to do country studies in each developing region picking on high-achieving states in each region. These were meant to be longitudinal studies - looking at historical data on the evolution of social policy, social indicators and public expenditure patterns in each country over a 30-40 year time span covering the post-colonial epoch. Health transition and educational advances took nearly 200 years in the now industrialized countries. The majority of developing countries have made much progress in compressing this time period. However, this paper concentrates on ten developing countries that managed to exceed the pace and scope of social achievement of the majority of other developing countries, many of their social indicators now being comparable with industrialized countries.
Half the ten countries studied have combined rapid economic growth with social achievement, and are now considered to have high-performing economies. Significantly, the high-growth economies achieved social progress very early in their development process, when national incomes were still low. Others grew more slowly and experienced interrupted growth. However, they demonstrate that it is possible to achieve a high level of social development (and mitigate the worst manifestations of poverty) even without a thriving economy, if the government sets the right priorities.
The cases studied - Costa Rica, Cuba and Barbados from Latin America and the Caribbean, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mauritius in Africa, Kerala state (India) and Sri Lanka from South Asia, and South Korea and Malaysia from east Asia - offer a variety of routes to high educational status, decreased child mortality, and low fertility. As regards the timing of social investment, it came early in their development process, despite low levels of per capita incomes at the time. Some high-achieving countries, which are today middle-income countries, were seen as 'basket' cases then. Several common policy lessons emerge. First, the role of the state in the financing and provision of basic social services in each state - regardless whether the economy was centrally planned or market-oriented - was paramount. There was no reliance on the free play of market-forces in service provision, nor a reliance upon trickle-down of the benefits of economic growth. Second, there was high macro-economic priority to health and education. During the 1980s - which was a lost decade in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America - instead of following orthodox stabilization/adjustment policies, these countries followed the principles of 'adjustment with a human face'. They protected health and education expenditures in times of economic crisis. They also followed heterodox macro-economic adjustment policies to respond to domestic or external imbalances. Third, the equity and efficiency of spending is of paramount importance. There were key elements of the sectoral interventions in both the health and education sectors - which the paper discusses - which together contributed to hastening the demographic transition in these countries. These investments in basic services are possible because these services are low in cost, and high in effectiveness. Fifth, as regards the sequencing of social investment, investment in basic education preceded or was simultaneous with the breakthrough in infant mortality reduction (or public health expansion) - it did not post-date the breakthrough period. The synergies between interventions in health and education are critical to the success of each and increase the return to each investment - and the sequence is important. Finally, underlying all the above good practices in these countries lies women's 'agency' role (Amartya Sen,1995) - the freedom women have to work outside the home, the freedom to earn an independent income, the freedom to have ownership rights, and the freedom to receive education.
The paper is essentially devoted to developing each of these themes. It also discusses who these good practices reached, in which context they may or may not function, and the potential for replication.
At the outset, the paper makes a comprehensive survey of the measures taken by India towards eradication of poverty since independence. It refers among other measures to the Integrated Rural Development Programme wherein assets are provided to the poorest of the poor, so that they may have a continuous source of income. While appreciative of the various measures initiated towards poverty alleviation, the paper points out that the measures adopted have not made any real dent in eradication of the poverty of the masses, as the programmes and practices are not innovative and provide no creative solutions to problems of poverty. The measures have no sustainable effect as they do not have the potential for replication.
The author has suggested a number of programmes which are innovative with creative solutions to problems of poverty, taking care that these practices are sustainable and have potential for replication. These programmes are:
In connection with the Management of Social Transformations (MOST) for improving the quality of life, poverty alleviation and removing social exclusion, the paper suggests:
Substandard and insecure housing conditions are recognised as a crucial aspect of urban poverty. In most large cities in the developing world, the formal market serves only a minority of the population. It is estimated that between 30 and 70% live in irregular settlements and that up to 85% of the new housing stock is produced in an extra-legal manner. John Turners groundbreaking work and the first Habitat conference in Vancouver 1976 became markers of a paradigm shift towards an enabling and participatory approach to housing provision. However, little progress has been made in translating the new paradigm into practical policies. Relocation schemes, social housing, slum upgrading, and sites and services are beset by two related problems: They are far too small-scale to serve the growing demand, and products are far too expensive to be affordable for low-income groups.
Based on Pal Barosss argument, the paper states that the conventional sequence of Planning-Servicing-Building-Occupation is a key factor in both market and state failures. Each of these steps leads to a steep price increase and speculation, and in effect raw land is turned into a scarce and expensive commodity. In informal subdivisions the sequence is reversed. Housing and infrastructure are developed and improved incrementally, according to the needs and capacity of residents. To incorporate this logic into public policies is a promising approach to the alleviation of housing poverty. The paper introduces the Philippines Community Mortgage Program and Hydarabads incremental development scheme Khuda ki Basti as best practices in this direction. Both programmes have effectively enhanced the supply of land and housing for low-income groups, albeit on a very different scale. Their replicability is a question of political will rather than a technical one. Vested interests in both formal and informal land markets are likely to put up stiff resistance against serious reforms in this sector.
The main purpose of the project presented:
The paper seeks to identify, describe and analyse the main characteristics of selected practices which qualify as successful in the fight against poverty on the local level in Argentina.
In order to achieve that goal, a list of major experiences of poverty reduction programs at different locations throughout the country was prepared. An analysis protocol was produced in order to evaluate a limited set of practices.
The analysis was developed according to a set of evaluation parameters prepared to retrieve success criteria adopted by the practices administrators and beneficiaries.
The selection cases/practices was based both on criteria/characteristics recommended by the MOST programme and those coming from local actors before it was processed through a multi-criteria evaluation approach.
Two examples of best practices selected and evaluated in the first stage of the CLACSO-UNESCO project were:
After describing and analysing the key features of these practices, it was documented that the experiences have overcome a regional and national unfavourable context in which poverty, unemployment and social exclusion have kept growing. They have managed to keep their main purpose alive, and to break through the process of social marginalisation which constituted the initial situation in these practices.
1. See, for example, recent critiques by one of the Vice-Presidents of the World Bank (Stiglitz, J. E. (1998) "More Instruments and Broader Goals: Moving Beyond the Post-Washington Consensus", in Wider Annual Lectures, 2, WIDER, Helsinki).
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