The Importance of Sustainability in Communities
Whenever any organisation enters a community it is the mindset and perspective they enter with that will determine the kind of impact they have. If the mindset and perspective is one of deficit then the organisation will become a provider of services to try and fill the gaps. If the mindset is short-term help then no doubt the surface issues are the ones that will get most focus. If however the mindset is one of long term self-sustainability then the organisation will be more likely to try and notice the assets rather than the deficiencies in a community and will seek to assist and encourage in building those capabilities so that community members become participants in their own growth instead of beneficiaries from an outside source.
Over the past 40 years across the world the self-help group movement as well as the micro credit movement have been two vehicles that have sought to approach community self-sustainability on the basis that community members know the solutions to their own issues already and just require a little encouragement to self-organise as well as access to capital in order to develop livelihoods. Not everyone is entrepreneurial and can start up a small business but for those who can micro-credit is a wonderful intervention because the traditional route to access capital is just not available in communities ravaged by poverty.
Self-sustainability in communities is directly linked to having a sustainable income for each household and that is also linked to the job market. Where there to be an availability of decently paid jobs where people could earn enough to take care of their family’s food, health and educational needs then community self-sustainability would not be an issue. That is not the case because the job market (business) has been de-linked from the community. Many businesses operate with tunnel vision and one over-riding vision which is written into their constitution and that is to make profit for the owners of the business. When that is the case, exploitation of the weaker segments of society becomes the norm because if you pay people as little as possible you make more profit for the business owners. To re-connect business to community, there has to be a realisation that business should exist for the benefit of more than shareholders and owners and that all businesses have a responsibility to the local community in which they are situated. When that is the case, paying people a sustainable wage for the work they do will become an obligation and profit for owners come after that. One approach to helping communities become self-sustaining is to change capitalism and the way we do business.
Andy Matheson - Andy first came to India in 1979 where he taught at Woodstock school. Ten years later after a stint as Vice-Principal he left to work among street children in Mumbai and help establish the work of Oasis there. In 2000 he studied in the USA for a Masters in Intercultural studies majoring on leadership and then in 2001 relocated to the UK and took on the International Director role helping establish Oasis work in a range of countries around the world. After 3 more years living in India between 2017- 2020 he is now back in the UK living just south of London and working as a leadership trainer and coach. He is passionate about helping young leaders establish good patterns in their leadership when young and continues to do some training online for people in India which he thoroughly enjoys. He is married to Joan and has three grown up children and one grandchild.