Box Basic Principles of Seed Scale

Build from success. Every community has a recent or distant success that can be the basis for inspiration and insight as to how the community can work together. Engage in three-way partnerships. Partnerships require that communities, state and market actors, and outside individuals (as facilitators, knowledge brokers, and change agents) all work together. Make decisions based on evidence. Objective data can inform decisions and help measure progress. Learning simple survey techniques gives villagers a deeper understanding of their environment and power over information collection. Measure results through behavior change in individuals and communities. Behavior change happens when people perceive something works and is in their self-interest to continue.

Source: See endnote 22.

the possible.23

In the beginning, anything can be the spark that nurtures this capacity, whether it is a mother learning to treat her baby's diarrhea with homemade oral rehydration solution, a farmer learning better farming techniques, or a group effectively confronting a polluting industry in its community. The critical insight is that the ownership of the success and its deeper meaning resonates within the community, which outsiders need to accept and build from.

In Seed-Scale, the initial emphasis of outside assistance is on guidance with the methodology and facilitation of community access to knowledge that responds to local priorities in areas such as health and hygiene, literacy, natural resource management, and income generation. This happens by teaching

Mobilizing Human Energy simple techniques or by taking individuals to see successes in other places. People adopt something new when they see others doing it in circumstances similar to their own.

Since 1997 Future Generations has applied Seed-Scale in the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which shares a border with Bhutan, China, and Burma. Arunachal is home to 125 tribal groups and the center of biological diversity for all the bananas and citrus fruit in the world. In this isolated area of India, communities have persisted for centuries in very basic conditions. While the British Empire never successfully penetrated this area during colonial rule, outside interests are encroaching on the state today, eyeing its vast potential for hydropower and timber. The government has promised the people of Arunachal a great deal since independence, but little has been delivered. Social conditions are harsh, particularly for women. Polygamy and child marriage are entrenched traditions, and forced labor is still practiced by some ethnic groups.24

Today, from four core sites radiating across more than 100 villages, communities in Arunachal Pradesh are actively and creatively solving their own problems. Small successes are keeping communities motivated and moving forward. Village Welfare Workers take the lead—gathering data on health, economic, and environmental issues; delivering home-based services; and mobilizing the community to action on a wide scope of issues and advocating for change. Work started with women's groups but later expanded to include men. Health improvements came from communities learning how to treat diarrhea and pneumonia, improve maternal care, have safer child births, immunize children, and monitor child growth.25 Husbands who were initially unsupportive of their wives' involvement quickly changed their minds when their families' health and

Mobilizing Human Energy welfare improved. They have gained access to microcredit and have started small businesses. They also have improved farming techniques and learned how to improve food security and nutrition. Impressed with the success in Arunachal, the state government asked that each new village council be trained in the Seed-Scale methodology so that the 6,000 villages in the state could be equipped to organize a process of local change.26

Perhaps the most impressive indicator of community empowerment is demonstrated by what the women have done to change some deep-seated social norms and institutions. Indian law exempts tribal areas from laws banning polygamy and child marriage, so the practices flourish. Some of the women in community action groups were from the lowest rungs of the social hierarchy, as one-time child brides and the third or fourth wives in a household. Once their value to their families and communities was enhanced through new knowledge and practices brought back from village health trainings, they found the voice to argue against child marriage and became part of a gathering community pressure to end the practice voluntarily.

Dialogue started within a few women's groups spread and then percolated up into village council meetings. A petition was drawn up and endorsed by men and women at a series of public meetings and given effect by tribal leaders. When rumors surfaced of an old man planning to take a child bride (his fourth), he was confronted and stopped by the community and reminded that this practice was no longer acceptable. This new attitude has held up throughout an area equivalent to 10 percent of the state. It is noteworthy that this change was the result of an organic process that was directed by the community. For this reason it is likely to be sustained because it reflects changed roles and behaviors.27

What has transpired in these cases represents a different way of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. An empowerment approach sees citizens as the authors of their own destiny, not passive vessels awaiting government programs, services, or educational campaigns to catch up with them. While financial resources are an important component of any community development plan, the first question addressed by empowerment approaches is whether the plan can be mobilized from within by using existing assets differently or through partnerships with others. What is perhaps a greater challenge is the fact that this approach requires outside experts and agencies to relinquish control and agree to an iterative effort that starts modestly and will take unexpected directions as well as its own time.

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