Deepening social inclusion

Facing situations of extended poverty and destitution, Southern Hemisphere countries are right to confront it at first instance as a situation of social emergency. It is in order then to deepen social inclusion policies and actions in such a way that the population acquires the capacity to maintain a good living by itself: that implies accessing an education of excellence (educational inclusion) and personal assets and incomes that ensure a good family living (productive inclusion). Facing situations of extended poverty and destitution, Southern Hemisphere countries are right to confront it at first instance as a situation of social emergency. This implies quickly confronting serious food and health deficiencies and, almost simultaneously, deal with housing, drinkable water, sanitation and public safety. The disastrous situation of vast population sectors does not admit delays and it is right to turn to effectively attending their precarious life conditions.

‘Effectiveness’ implies that even in a state of emergency it is necessary to choose the best ways of intervention and organization. Emergency is no excuse for carelessly handing out the critical aid that historically neglected populations require. There is much to be done and to reflect upon in this crucial work front, such as reconciling the urge to provide basic services with the respect for the dignity of families facilitating their active participation in the effort and avoiding the intervention of local political bosses that profit one way or another from these programs.

It is not the aim of these lines to consider the initial phase of emergency but, once launched, to consider how to deepen social inclusion policies and actions. However, urgent intervention can condition the deepening of social inclusion since it establishes a type of relationship between the people and the State (national and local) that may favor or hinder subsequent actions.

Social inclusion sustainability

The success of a social inclusion policy is measured by improvements in the life conditions of people in situation of poverty and destitution but, ultimately, a social inclusion policy will have been effective if that population acquires the capacity to maintain a good living by itself. This means, it has had access to an education of excellence (educational inclusion) and to personal assets and incomes that ensure a good living for themselves and their families (productive inclusion).

An education of excellence can be characterized in several ways which those who work and have reflected on this subject know better than this author. It is enough for the purposes of this article to point out that it should be an education that will allow people to reflect, understand and act according to their expectations and interests as well as those of the other members of their community and country. That education of excellence provides a wide range of knowledge, instruments and values amongst which to choose those that are appropriate for personal and communitarian development.

The other critical factor to ensure the sustainability of social inclusion efforts is people accessing a decent job or a good self-employed productive activity. This is the subject we will tackle in the following lines.

Productive inclusion

Accessing decent employment obviously implies that there are appropriate job offers and, at the same time, that job seekers have the required training. The supply of decent jobs depends on the national and local situation, particularly on the existence of promising and well structured value chains. It is a field where social inclusion action has relatively little influence except in that referring to training and facilitating access to labor opportunities (information, contacts, references).

Where inclusion policies can in fact make a considerable contribution is in the area of establishing or strengthening productive ventures in which vast sectors of people emerging from poverty and destitution can be integrated.

Those productive ventures should be part of promising sectors (not residual ones) and operate with the necessary effectiveness in order to evolve in the local or national economy. To do so, the main challenge is usually to overcome the extremely small scale that characterizes disadvantaged sectors allowing them to participate in medium scale ventures that will enable (i) counting with differentiated management areas and (ii) accessing a superior threshold of opportunities.

If adequately faced, reaching a larger scale is not easy but it is possible. It requires using organizational engineering that enables associating in a productive unit a group of currently scattered small producers with a strategic partner who can provide modern management, appropriate technology, contacts with suppliers, access to markets and financing. A third actor should be added to these two, the venture’s Board, integrated by people who will facilitate a fair march and ensure equitable distribution of economic results amongst small producers, strategic partner and reinvestment of utilities. Together they constitute what we call inclusive ventures.

In this sphere a considerable share of social inclusion deepening efforts could be focused. The challenge is how to do it. Generally, public officers in social development areas usually do not have experience in identifying economic opportunities that will serve families undergoing a situation of poverty and, most importantly, to then assist in the establishment or strengthening of inclusive productive ventures. Nevertheless, that staff has vast experience and knowledge of the communities they work with: knowing their needs and potentialities, having knitted trusting relationships and understanding codes of behavior and expectations; those are critical assets that cannot be improvised. With that support it is possible to establish small units focused on developing inclusive ventures that can be called inclusive venture developers [[See their characterization in [Inclusive venture Developers->], Opinión Sur, december 2009]] , constituted by teams who combine social and productive experience.

Here lies a strategic area to mobilize productive protagonism of people in a situation of poverty where local, provincial and national government can convene other actors (scientific and technological community, territorial and development organizations, corporate and union associations, among others) to deepen and add sustainability to the social inclusion process.

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