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Guidelines for a Poverty Focused Community Assistance Service

Graham Boyd, February 2001

Contents

bulletIntroduction
bulletWhy a Community Assistance Service?
bulletCommunity-to-Community Extension
bulletBenefits of a Community Assistance Service
bulletComparative Advantages of a Community Assistance Service
bulletDefinition and Qualities of Community Agents
bulletCommunity Agents Selection Criteria
bulletRecruitment Procedures
bulletAppointing the Cadre
bulletConditions of Service
bulletCo-ordination and Self-management
bulletLearning and Skills Development
bulletGuideline Revision
bulletAcknowledgements and Further Information

Introduction

This set of guidelines was prepared as a part of the Partnership Approach to Meeting the Needs of the Urban Poor (PAMNUP) in Mombasa, Kenya. Mombasa is located on the coast of Kenya and is the country's second largest city and main port. In 1999 the population was estimated to be 653,000 of which some 38 percent are poor. The poor live in some 55 informal settlement scattered across the city where they predominately rent their accommodation.

These guidelines were prepared following a focus group meeting with 9 community leaders. The leaders were drawn from different informal settlements in two of the four divisions of the city. All those involved had several years of community development work and leadership experience in people's organisations in their own neighbourhoods. Several of the leaders had experience of assisting and networking with settlements outside those in which they reside.

The PAMNUP project is a 5-year partnership project jointly operated by Mombasa Municipal Council and local civil society organisations. The programme receives funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

Why a Community Assistance Service?

The urban poor in Mombasa are dispersed in more than 55 informal settlements across the city. These settlements are located over a wide and complex geographical area. Currently there are insufficient full time professional extension workers to provide coverage to all these locations. Furthermore there are other associated difficulties - social distance, transport, motivation and availability, etc.- in reaching them speedily in the implementation of the PAMNUP programme.

Community-to-Community Extension

To assist the Municipal Council and local development NGOs to overcome the shortage of professional extension workers and as a means of reaching citywide coverage the introduction of a community-to-community extension service is a necessary action. A cadre of up to 40 community agents - 10 per city division - needs to be recruited from socially active leaders who have operated for several years in their own communities. These front line leaders and development activists should have a proven track record in social mobilization in their own communities through the creation of self-help and other issue-based groups.

Benefits of a Community Assistance Service

The Community Assistance Service will be a mechanism for the poor to help the poor, of one community assisting another community and of reducing the social distance between the extension worker and the poor. It is a framework which not only makes community extension services more effective but also makes the cost relatively low in comparison to the conventional method of using external professional development workers.

Comparative Advantages of a Community Assistance Service

It is envisaged that a poverty focused Community Assistance Service staffed by a cadre of self-managing community agents will:

bulletStrengthen/reinforce partnership and participatory development processes at the settlement, division and city levels;
bulletAssist in reaching a larger number of poor and vulnerable families within a relatively short period of time;
bulletOvercome to some degree the shortage of full time extension workers; and
bulletProvide services to communities through closer contacts and more efficient use of resources.

Definition and Qualities of Community Agents

A Community Agent is a development activist from a low-income settlement who works as an extension agent in other low-income settlements. In addition to their practical skills and experiences gained through implementing work in their own community they should have the following qualities:

bulletBe honest, courteous and disciplined
bulletHave the ability to work intimately with the poor and different interest groups within communities
bulletHave the ability to operate in a fair manner and appropriately to suit specific circumstances
bulletBe able to work in close cooperation with governmental and non-governmental organisations
bulletNot be addicted to liquor, drugs or gambling
bulletNot be directly involved in party politics or indulge in divisive tribal practices or carry out religious evangelism.

Community Agents Selection Criteria

The following criteria will be applied to the selection of community agents to the Community Assistance Service:

bulletMinimum of 3 years community work, group work or counseling experience in their own community
bulletReading and writing skills
bulletAnalytical and problem solving skills
bulletCommitment and solidarity with the poor

Recruitment Procedures

All agents will be selected through an assessment centre. A four-person Selection Panel drawn from the Municipal Council's Social Services and Housing Department, an NGO working in a low-income settlement, a respected community leader from a low-income settlement and a member of the PAMNUP management staff will run the assessment centre. The assessment process will require the candidate to:

bulletsubmit a written statement (up to 2 pages) outlining what community/group work they have undertaken in their own community in the last 18 months. (The statement requires to be countersigned by two community leaders who should also provide their contact details.)
bulletparticipate with the other candidates in a group problem solving exercise set by the Selection Panel
bulletundertake with a fellow candidate a short half-day preliminary investigative visit to a new settlement unknown to the candidates. They will each make a short independent report on the status of the poor in part of that settlement and what actions if any are being undertaken to address their condition.
bulletundertake a short interview by the Selection Panel

The recruitment process should seek to ensure that there are an equal number of men and women recruited to the Community Assistance Service.

Appointing the Cadre

Successful candidates who are selected by the Panel to be Community Agents will be formed into 4 divisional self-managing Community Assistance Service Groups. Each agent will be provided with:

bulletA letter of Appointment to the Community Assistance Service
bulletID card or letter from the PAMNUP management office
bulletCopy of the Agent Guidelines
bulletCopy of the current Agent Allowance Rates

All agents will be required to complete a 4-month probationary period prior to being confirmed as a full member of the Community Assistance Service.

Conditions of Service

Agents will be required to contribute up to a maximum of 12-days per calendar month to the Community Assistance Service of which a half day per week will be for work planning, team reporting and co-ordination. The balance 10-days will be for community-to-community extension work. Agents will be expected to donate 1-day per month on a voluntary basis to their CAS group. This day will be available for agent skills development, team building and self-management of their CAS group.

All agents will prepare simple work plans and reports. This will initially be on a weekly basis but will move to a monthly basis as early as possible. Agents will receive two types of allowances:

bulletDaily Transport Allowance (Ksh 50/-)
bulletDaily Honorarium Payment
bulletProbationary Period (Ksh 300/-)
bulletFull member (Ksh 450/-)

Payments will be made on a monthly basis against completed work plans and countersigned end-of-month work reports. Payment of the allowances will be done as a unified transaction and agents will not be required to receipt all travel claims.

Co-ordination and Self-management

Each CAS will have a written constitution and will open a bank account in the group's name. In addition each CAS will appoint from amongst their number a coordinator who will internally co-ordinate the group's development programme and liaise with the PAMNUP management office and other governmental and NGO organisations. This person will be allocated an additional 3-days per month to undertake these tasks.

Agents will be free to decide amongst themselves if they wish to appoint other office bearers for their group (chair, treasurer and secretary). Every four months each divisional group will hold a 1-day workshop to review performance. One or two external resource persons will be invited to participate and provide constructive criticism. A member from each of the other CAS groups will also be invited to participate in the reviews.

Each agent will pay a CAS fee of not less than Ksh10 per day. The fee will be calculated on the number of days per month that each agent has contributed to the CAS service. It will be used by the group to cover their sundry and miscellaneous costs. The coordinator or treasurer will deduct the monies before the monthly agent allowance is paid.

Each CAS will have the right to discipline or dismiss a member should it be found that they are working against the unity of the group or are have acted improperly in breach of the group's constitution, rules or code of ethics. Prior to dismissal a member shall have the right to place their case before an Appeals Panel whose recommendations will be binding upon both parties. The Panel will be co