Despite having the highest GDP growth rate in Europe, Moldova is the poorest state in Europe. For years, the country has been hampered by corruption, unemployment and mass emigration – that together have led to the breakdown of the social systems that the poorest need most.
Some of the worst conditions can be found in rural communities heavily reliant on agriculture – where poverty is four times higher than in urban areas. The country’s unfinished transition to democracy can begin to explain this. Limited investment in land and machinery coupled with a closed market has left behind widespread inefficiencies in its wake – with little means for business owners to secure reliable buyers or a good price for their product.
Turning the lights back on
Based on the premise that communities can overcome their biggest challenges themselves, our Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) programme is working to turn this situation around. Our integrated bottom-up approach is designed to reveal strengths and weaknesses within social groups – and let this form the basis for a sustainable development strategy.
What does this look like in practice? It starts with a ‘community mapping’ exercise. Dorcas creates an inventory of all organisations – formal and informal, big and small, young and old – in the district. Next, we bring these actors together to share their story and outline their assets. Over a three-to-four-week period, group brainstorming sessions are held where the various organisations identify best practices and choose which resources they would like to share.
Common goals, big ideas
At the end of the workshop, the teams are encouraged to visit each other’s premises to see their operations in action. They are then invited to draw up a plan that utilises their combined spaces, equipment and experience to enhanced effect. By focusing on their strengths and working in the background to eradicate deficits, the community creates the space to translate needs-based thinking into opportunity-based ideas. Likeminded individuals and associations also become connected; able to pool resources in order to maximise impact.
In the Florestri district in north-eastern Moldova, this new way of working has already shown its merits. Following the 2018 workshop, which saw more than 25 representatives from local organisations come together to bring about change, the community became more outward-orientated – which helped them approach and garner the support of a number of new buyers. By adopting a common strategy, they were also able to change local mindsets and, as a result, do away with ineffective or outdated operating models. In 2020 we will pilot the ABCD methodology in Bujor, a village in the Hîncești District of Moldova. This pilot will focus on the promotion of small scale community-owned enterprises. In the first stages of the programme we will mobilise community-members to build these enterprises based on local needs and opportunities. After start up, we will organise trainings and offer mentorship to support the active development of newly established businesses. We will also support the set-up of cooperatives that see various community-members come together to advance like-minded activities and find their place in the labour market.
ABCD is evidence-based – an increasing focus for Dorcas. Through a number of studies, we will continue to trial and test the best ways in which to mobilise the ‘active’ people in a community and form working groups. Research has shown that a shift in mindset – from looking at what is missing in a community to instead identifying the assets in a community – is essential to community empowerment and poverty reduction. Our efforts aim to ensure that these people become drivers of change in their neighborhood for years to come – and that those most vulnerable are central to the equation.
27 July 2020