Matching Grants in Seattle 
Wednesday, August 12, 2009, 09:43 PM - Inspiring
Seattle is an inspiring story of community development and smart funding strategies.

The city began with small neighbourhood matching grants to community groups. $1000-5000. What they did with the money was up to them. No strings.

Amazing what came out of this program. This is the after shot of the previous. Community gardens that neighbours created for themselves.

The only conditions were that the neighbourhood group had their own matching funds either in cash or in-kind. This was a neglected park washroom before.

This was an empty space under an overpass.

It has grown so large and gained such momentum that it has changed the face of planning in Seattle. It now takes place through decentralized neighbourhood councils in collaboration with city councillors. Each neighbourhood makes its own neighbourhood plan.

These photos are courtesy of Jim Diers from a PPT presentation at the Asset-Based Community Development Forum, Coady Institute. Check out his book "Neighbour Power."

Link between Women's Assets and Rights 
Thursday, July 16, 2009, 05:20 PM - The Solidarity Economy & Microfinance
In May, I worked with FARM Africa, Ethiopia to develop a base-line for their Rural Women's Empowerment Project. The project uses savings and loan associations, livestock groups and women's rights awareness including community-based legal trainers. In past work, they have found a link between women's own income and assets and her ability to have voice in the household and in the community. We did base-line analysis combining quantitative indicators (eg. # cases brought to social court, women's land title, poverty score of household) with qualitative indicators (focus groups, life-stories, most significant change reported by women themselves). Men in the community were also interviewed. FARM will revisit these indicators in two years and four years to see what changes have occurred and if, indeed, there is a link between women's assets and her ability to contribute and assert her rights.

A draft report is available. Contact me for an electronic copy.

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Listen to some Poetry  
Tuesday, March 17, 2009, 02:19 PM - Poetry and Writing
Congrats to Randy Dover from Newfoundland! He won the national CBC poetry face-off. Nice to see that it has gone to a fellow maritimer.

I won for Halifax. Thanks to all of you who took the time to write me a note about the poem. That was the real flight for me.

Have a listen below...
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Group Governance in Kenya 
Wednesday, March 11, 2009, 01:57 PM - The Solidarity Economy & Microfinance

The Decentralized Financial Service Project began in 2003. Phase II aimed to develop and test simple and effective tools and training to strengthen self-governance in community/rural based financial organisations (CBFOs). Through financing of Financial Sector Deepening Trust, I reviewed DFS Phase II with Angela Wambugu from Microsave (Kenya).

The project took a creative approach to training with a focus on accountability and transparency. By the end, members were much better able to hold leaders accountable. In all 225 groups were trained, approximately 5,000 members. DFS used a unique approach to group capacity building focused on member responsibilities and rights. They were able to demonstrate that built capacity in groups to self-manage and self-govern improves the performance of both groups and the institutions that support them.

Even though the results were promising, scale overall was limited and potential to improve upon that really depended on the type of association. The managed ASCA model proved to be the strongest demonstration of lowered costs that resulted in both broadened and deepened outreach (up to 70 km from the outlets). Financial Service Associations (FSA) were largely successful at decentralising services and increasing ownership at the group level. Built group capacity allowed the FSAs to reduce contact time thereby reaching more groups as well as creating groups in areas that would otherwise be too costly to reach. While the methodology shows promise, potential for scale is limited by institutional weaknesses and product rigidities. The Savings and Credit Cooperative was the least successful due largely to a limited ability or mandate to work on the group methodology and other institutional constraints.

Does training groups to be self-managed maximize rural outreach? Yes, particularly for the managed ASCA model. In the other cases, institutional limitations meant that efficiency gains at both group and institutional limit potential for broad outreach. Electronic copies of the report are available on request.

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Different Ways to Learn 
Monday, January 26, 2009, 07:01 PM - Inspiring
My friend Natasha's son Samuel asked her how long he would have to be in school. She told him plus or minus 15 yrs and more if he wanted to go to university. He said, "I'm not going to university, mom, I'm going to space."

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