Social Inclusion

Social inclusion is an essential component of our work. Across our countries of operation, we seek to reverse the exclusion and stigmatisation of individuals or groups in society while enhancing access to social protection structures – both within our programmes and the wider society.

Why it matters

The social exclusion or social marginalisation of an individual is complex and multi-layered. It primarily affects those who lack access to public services and social support structures – and thus often comes hand in hand with poverty.

Our mission as Dorcas is to reach the most vulnerable people – particularly those in remote communities. Therefore, it is our duty to protect those who, for a multitude of reasons, have been pushed to the margins of society.

Together with social protection, social inclusion is a key intervention on the vulnerability – resilience continuum. It strongly influences the way we view and look out for disadvantaged groups and reflects our ongoing commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Source: Implications for women, children and youth with disabilities, vulnerability- and resilience-based approaches in response to the Syrian crisis, January 2017, (page 9)

Our vision on social inclusion

Recognising the ambiguities surrounding the definition of social inclusion, Dorcas adopts the following working definition: ‘Inclusion means ensuring that all are able to participate and achieve their full potential in life regardless of differences in ethnic background, economic status, education level, physical or mental ability, religious and faith-based beliefs, gender, geographical location, sexual orientation, age and other socio-economic factors.’

“We work with a trickle up approach which is at the very core of our identity”, explains Nico Smith, Programme Coordinator as well as the person responsible for the mainstreaming of social inclusion as a cross-cutting theme at Dorcas. “This approach sees us conduct regular evaluations of the risks associated with social isolation among poor and marginalised groups. We also set up local, national and international facilities designed to benefit the vulnerable. The protection and empowerment of every individual is key. We want to see them take ownership of their life and their role in the community.”

Though our focus is on building an inclusive society within our communities, we recognise that there are greater forces at work. Social exclusion is not only harmful, it’s a direct violation of fundamental human rights. We advocate for the rights of marginalised groups in a variety of forums with an aim to influence government policy.

Dorcas interventions to promote social inclusion

Wherever there is poverty, exclusion or crisis, Dorcas works to create conditions for people to thrive. We do so with an eye for the most vulnerable, without favouring anyone. First we ask ourselves: who are the ones left behind? Have we encountered them in our programmes? We also analyse the factors that have led to exclusion including lack of education, gender and cultural norms, physical disability, class and race. Programme participants typically include older generations, single-parent families or members of religious or other minorities. Though gender and social inclusion are closely linked, gender norms play a huge role in our communities and therefore warrant their own theme.

Many of the individuals we work with have been suffering in silence for years and after multiple traumas may be wary of outside help. Our projects focus on changing the environment around them i.e. the problem itself. By improving access to public services and community-based support systems, we aim to remove the structural barriers that lead to exclusion.

Dorcas strongly believes that in order to do good, we must involve the whole community in the change process. Our projects bring together historically divided groups to challenge misleading stereotypes and champion differences. Getting everyone ‘around the table’ is important, but we also want to direct people’s energy into something else – bettering their outlook as a community. Activities are often education or entrepreneurship orientated, and help people take their future into their own hands.


Every project make-up needs to ensure that all people can participate in all stages of the change process, including decision-making. Projects are designed to recognise differences and include robust processes to manage and resolve conflicts. Before we commence a project, there is an extensive briefing period. It is crucial that from the very first idea to completion and beyond that communication is clear and a constant. Everyone involved must fully understand the project activities, expectations and purposes.

Flourish: a model for social and economic inclusion

“The ultimate goal of the majority of our inclusion projects is to help people gain financial independence”, says Smith. Creating employment opportunities is key. This is another complex task. Chronic poverty affects everything from physical wellbeing to mental health. According to Smith: “Breaking this pattern is what we call a process of socio-economic inclusion. It’s not something that can be achieved overnight.” To assist us in this process Dorcas developed its own social and economic inclusion model: FLOURISH. This inherently participatory model sees vulnerable families sit down and explore their needs and unique skillsets together. “They are in charge – we play a supportive role from the side lines”, adds Smith. “In this way, family dynamics change and overall confidence and morale is boosted.” Dorcas also conducts surveys asking families what they are missing so we can incorporate these insights into our programmes. This sees us bring in communities from the surrounding area, developing useful support services that people can easily connect to such as temporary consumption support, skills training or loans to kick-start a business – all with aim to strengthen social safety nets while boosting local economies. 

Adopt a Granny

Many Dorcas projects revolve around employment and entrepreneurship: we help people create their own business and become self-sufficient. However, these projects are specifically targeted at youth or young families. For older people, it is often impossible to hold down a full-time job and maintain independence. There is a need for a continuous (community) safety net. The same applies for families with multiple chronic challenges, predominantly health or disability related. In our Adopt a Granny programme we focus on the potential and aspirations of elderly people – both those they still possess and those that can be revived. This way we ensure that older people also get a chance to participate in society again and don’t get left behind. We help set up community safety nets and open up access to medical care and other services. Another important aspect is connecting older generations to people in their community. We have seen many get joy and comfort out of these newfound social circles – young and old alike.

Dorcas is working to increase its expertise in five key areas – Social Inclusion, Gender, Environmental Change, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation and Faith@Work. These five areas represent our cross-cutting themes and are assigned specific spokespersons who take a leading role in weaving them into our programmes in close cooperation with our country offices.

21 January 2021

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