Community participation and the commons…


In a frenzy to meet the deadline I’ve been scouring the net to identify community participation projects that demonstrate genuine commoning, then in dawned on me that was an active member in a grassroots organisation in Nigeria called ‘The Global Initiative for Peace, Love and Care’ (GIPLC).  Please, please do not be put off by the name or that they do not have any famous donors.  What I experienced and the fundraising activities that I took part in were phenomenal.  Moreover their resource mobilisation, innovation and unbreakable spirit sets them apart from glossy brochures and spreadsheets.  When I volunteered with GIPLC- we would collect monthly donations of food, material clothes, shoes and toys from the local community at a drop off point.  Then once we’d group the things (very crudely) into piles for local orphanages, we’d load up the cars and then visit each orphanage.  After speaking with staff, cuddling children and unloading stuff we’d move on.  It was exhausting.  Travelling in convoy on dirt roads in blazing heat was not for the faint hearted; neither was witnessing the difficult conditions experienced by orphans and their carers.

On one occasion I collaborated with the organisation to deliver a charity disco to fundraise for Polly water tanks to be installed into two orphanages.  It was a massive project for me to juggle- but we successfully engaged the international community and prominent Nigerians.  It was a blast and the real work started after our sore-heads and nursed hangovers subsided.  My point is- this type of Grassroots organisation has no credible accounting mechanisms, no fancy funding, no fancy building with HR departments and executives.  In-country large-scale international organisations like Unicef, Save the Children, Oxfam and the World Health Organisation should be using these folk to deliver. Similarly bilateral funding from UKAid, USAid and the Nigerian government’s development budgets could be used more effectively to drive improved delivery and sustainable changes.  Waste, mismanagement and corruption in the Third Sector still goes largely unchallenged.

In terms of scale- according to the DFID website theUKprovidedNigeriawith £114.2 million pounds between 2009-2010.

By the same token according the USAID accountability websiteNigeriareceived some $295,792,542 from theUnited Statesin 2010.

World bank figures suggest that Nigeria’s GDP in 2010 was $193,669 Billion.  Mind-blowing figures!

If money is not the issue- it beggars the question what is it?  Why does such disparity still exist between rich and poor? And in this day and age- why can’t people be assured of food security, clean water, effective health provisions and an education?  How much does it cost?  I saw firsthand the squalid twelfth century conditions that are the reality for so many inNigeria.  By contrast I’ve worked for DFID and I know too that the swimming pools, large homes, private schools, expenses and extensive flight packages cost lots of money to maintain.

I’m no fan of conspiracies- but it would seem the status quo suits too many in privileged, powerful positions.  It isn’t about money-clearly.  It seems to me that the concept of the ‘commons’ collective engagement, shared responsibility, community; individuals having a stake in the welfare of others could be a viable way of empowering the many.  Of course the sheer scales involved with huge populations will require prescribed methods of promoting development through projects/programmes etc. but the real stuff; the neat stuff is already being done at the grassroots. Grassroots organisations and community participants are the class acts in my opinion.



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