TEXT FOR PROMOTIONAL PAMPHLET
Community-Driven Development in China:
Helping Poor Communities to Help Themselves
China earns accolades around the world for its remarkable success in reducing poverty. Nonetheless, significant pockets of poverty persist in many areas. The poor disproportionately inhabit remote rural regions beyond the effective reach of many government programs. Their substandard living conditions are constrained by lack of access to markets and services, and often by unsustainable use of natural resources or poor environmental conditions. Meanwhile, their limited education and experience generally seems to promote passivity; poor communities show little capacity to organize themselves effectively for local development.
Official development planning pronouncements in China now emphasize “people-centered development.” Achieving the 11th Five-Year Plan goal of constructing a “New Socialist Countryside” requires measures to energize the rural poor, to make them capable and enthusiastic participants in their own development.
With this goal in mind, the State Council Leading Group on Poverty Alleviation and Development (LGOPA), in collaboration with the World Bank, is initiating a pilot program to test whether an approach known internationally as “community-driven development” (CDD) can move China another step toward creation of a “well-off and harmonious society” (“xiaokang shehui”).
WHAT IS CDD?
CDD is a concept incorporating widely varying practices, reflecting its adaptation in several countries in Asia and elsewhere. As with other participatory development initiatives over the past two decades, CDD intends to broaden the scope of local people’s involvement in development activities. CDD typically goes beyond other participatory development initiatives by vesting local communities with elements of direct control.
Local communities collectively decide what needs to be done to improve local living conditions
Local communities themselves manage program development funds, and manage implementation of development activities, to ensure that local needs are met
While CDD establishes opportunities for local communities to engage in planning and decision-making, local government agencies play a vital role in successful CDD operations as service providers. Local government agencies assist the program through screening proposals for technical and financial feasibility, through timely and coordinated provision of services as chosen by participating communities, and through various forms of formal program supervision.
WHY IS CDD IMPORTANT?
Experience with CDD programs is growing, especially in Asia and Africa. Despite varying country conditions and program adaptations, CDD generally delivers several program benefits:
Improved access to infrastructure and services. This is the most visible result of CDD programs. Improved access to markets and public services often leads directly to improved incomes and living standards.
Effective program targeting. Because local communities decide development priorities and manage funds and implementation processes, poverty alleviation funds are more likely to meet real local needs, with more effective and more sustainable results.
Capacity-building within participating communities. Going beyond a one-time delivery of physical infrastructure or service improvements, CDD institutes processes that give participating communities capabilities for collective decision-making, financial management, and technical implementation. Such skills can be expected to contribute to local development effectiveness well into the future.
Open and responsive local governance. When government agencies make plans without involving local communities, plans often fail to reflect local priorities. This reduces government agencies’ effectiveness in “serving the people.” CDD programs typically rely on open decision-making and transparent processes for management of program funds. Done successfully, CDD benefits participating communities by ensuring that their highest priorities are addressed, while providing local government agencies with both information and processes for improved service delivery. In effect, CDD promotes a revitalized local partnership between local people and local governments.
WHAT IS THE PILOT PROGRAM?
The LGOPA CDD pilot program, designed and implemented in collaboration with the World Bank, is expected to begin in May 2006 and to be completed in October 2008. It will benefit an estimated 100,000 people in a total of 60 poor administrative villages, with 15 villages in each of four counties and provinces. Participating areas are:
- Jingxi County (Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region)
- Baishui County (Shaanxi Province)
- Jialing District (Sichuan Province)
- Wengniute Banner (Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region)
The goal of the pilot program is to assess the suitability of CDD under Chinese field conditions as a means to provide poor communities with capacity and resources necessary to improve their living conditions. Program objectives are:
- Improved small-scale infrastructure and public services
- Improved environmental conditions, or enhanced community capacity for natural resource management
- Community revolving funds established to provide households with investment loans on a sustainable basis
- Communities obtain strengthened capacity for local organization, financial management, and implementation of local activities
- Local governments obtain strengthened capacity for timely, responsive and transparent service delivery
The pilot program is expected to cost about RMB 48 million (or about USD 6 million). A grant from the Government of Japan will meet about 33% of program costs, with the remainder coming from central government poverty alleviation funds, or from provincial or county-level counterpart contributions.
WHAT WILL THE PROGRAM ACTUALLY SUPPORT?
The CDD pilot program provides participating communities with access to three types of support, collectively attacking the major constraints to improved living conditions in many poor areas.
The Small-Scale Infrastructure and Service Improvement “window” provides subgrants for local public improvement projects. Within this window, participating communities are free to fund anything intended to benefit the whole community, except for a small list of proscribed environmentally or socially harmful or illegal activities. Among the most likely categories of improvements to be funded are:
- Local roads or bridges
- Access to drinking water, or water for irrigation
- Access to electricity or telecommunications facilities
- Community health-care centers or services
- Access to schools, educational materials, or training
The Natural Resource Management and Environmental Improvement “window” provides a subgrant available for environmental purposes. The CDD pilot program recognizes that environmental constraints and poverty often are closely linked in China. Creating a separate environmental category for subgrants provides an incentive for poor communities to collectively address resource degradation or other environmental issues. Throughout the world, there is little experience in applying CDD approaches to environmental issues, so it is more difficult to predict what kind of funding proposals villagers might prepare. Again, villagers are free to propose anything not specifically proscribed. Likely possibilities include:
- Measures to reduce fuelwood consumption through promotion of alternative fuel sources (e.g., biogas) or through increased use of high-efficiency stoves
- Support for local reforestation or erosion control.
- Improved public sanitation and solid waste disposal
The Community Development Fund “window” provides a grant with which participating natural villages collectively establish and manage a revolving fund making investment loans to households. This window gives households an opportunity to obtain small loans with which to pursue income-generation activities, while simultaneously building local capacity for financial management. The community decides on fund rules and procedures, makes loans, collects repayments and maintains financial accounts. Program principles require that participating natural villages give priority to poor households and female-headed households.
HOW WILL THE PROGRAM WORK?
The three types of support have some differences in their operational processes, in many cases to be decided by the participating communities themselves. In general, however, the program involves several key steps:
Community preparation is an initial first phase, and must be accomplished before participating villages can obtain access to program funds. In this phase, community facilitators are selected and trained, participating communities learn about the program and its objectives, natural village members elect a Project Management Committee (PMC), and the new PMC membership selects representatives to join a Project Decision-Making Group (PDMG) at the administrative village level. Following completion of community preparation, participating communities can initiate the project cycle, which includes the following steps:
Step One: Identification of priorities. The program operation cycle typically begins with one or more natural village meetings to identify local priorities and to decide on specific activities to propose for program funding.
Step Two: Preparation of Proposals. The PMC prepares proposals for funding, with assistance from the village facilitator.
Step Three: Preliminary Selection of proposals for funding on a competitive basis, with selections done by the PDMG representing all natural villages.
Step Four: Screening and Review by county or township governmental agencies for cost estimation, technical feasibility, and acceptability under program rules.
Step Five: Proposal Finalization. The PMC revises the proposal as warranted. A village meeting is called to confirm acceptability of the proposal, and to make arrangements for implementation.
Step Six: Disbursement of Funds to a joint account managed by PMC members. This step begins the implementation process.
Step Seven: Monitoring is conducted by a county project management office, by community facilitators, and through a participatory inter-village monitoring arrangement.
Step Eight: Interim Review of financial management and technical implementation. Participating villages found to be in compliance with program rules will be eligible for the next phase of the cycle. (The Small-Scale Infrastructure and Service Improvement category will have three cycles under the pilot program. The Natural Resource Management and Environmental Improvement category will have two cycles. Participating villagers will themselves determine the frequency in which funds will be made available under the Community Development Fund, but the program will provide seed funds in two installments.)
HOW WILL LESSONS BE LEARNED?
The CDD pilot program is an experiment rooted in “learning by doing.” Because the experiment could have broad-reaching implications for poverty alleviation programs in China, it is important that appropriate methods are established for drawing out lessons from this experience.
Going beyond standard program monitoring by county governments and project supervision by LGOPA and the World Bank, the CDD pilot program includes:
- Periodic monitoring reports prepared by village facilitators, based on intensive engagement with villagers and program processes.
- Participatory monitoring, by which community representatives have opportunities to compare experiences and results in other villages.
- Periodic formal auditing of program fund utilization.
- Periodic reporting on program grievances or complaints, and steps taken to resolve them.
At the end of program implementation, lessons from experience, and suggestions for improved practice, will be presented in an overall program evaluation study.
WHAT IS THE POTENTIAL FOR CDD IN CHINA?
The CDD pilot program primarily promotes experimentation and learning. It directly benefits only a very small number of poor communities. But if CDD is shown to be an effective and efficient means to improve poverty alleviation programming, the pilot program could be enormously influential. LGOPA intends to review program results for potential applicability in its ongoing Village Development Planning program, which is expected to reach 148,000 officially designated poor villages by 2010. Other central or provincial government agencies also have expressed an interest in utilizing CDD-based approaches in both rural and urban settings.
ABOUT OUR PARTNERS
The CDD pilot program benefits greatly from support provided by external partners:
- A USD 2 million grant from the Government of Japan helps defray program costs and provides a strong incentive for local governments to provide matching funds.
- Three international NGOs with rich experience in promoting participatory development in China will assist the program through training village facilitators and monitoring program processes. They are: Action Aid, Plan International and World Vision.
- Oxfam Hong Kong provided valuable support during the program’s design phase and will support independent project monitoring and evaluation.