Community based organizations

For my first post on this blog, I thought what better way than to begin with talking about the phenomenon that captivates me intensely today.

Community Based Organizations (CBO) – also known as Community based enterprises (CBEs) or People’s institutions(PI) – are founded on the tenet of participatory democracy to bring about empowerment and commendable inclusive growth within communities. CBOs are increasingly being recognized around the world as enabling models of sustainable development. You’ll find these organizations across the world from Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti to China and Spain. ACORN in the US is of course on of the more known community organizations. In India, we have the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited, Fisherman’s co-operatives in Kerala, Thrift and Credit Cooperatives in Warangal and Karimnagar,Andhra Pradesh, and I’m pretty sure that’s a limited list. Notably, for all the Anna Hazare fans out there, the transformation that occurred in Ralegan Siddhi was through community organizing for rain water harvesting.

Most of us would however be familiar with the virtual community organizations most of us are a part of and subscribe to on a daily basis. Wikipedia, Amazon, Ebay, are just a few to name. These are organizations that have tapped in to the “wisdom of the crowds” to revolutionize the way business is done today.

While these virtual community organizations do share certain common principles with the more geographical based organizations that I explore, I leave them outside the boundaries of work primarily on account of a key (and obvious) differentiating factor that is technology.

These geography based community organizations present a really fascinating phenomenon to me, because you have a bunch of mobilized people taking action within spheres where typically, though not necessarily, the public and the private spheres have not trodden. There have been studies on these forms of organizing, trying to explore among many angles, how do such organizations overcome the tendency to form oligarchies, the role of these organizations in unlocking public entrepreneurship, the characteristics of these organizations, and so on.

What interest me about community based organizations is really their emergence. We know about entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial teams – but how does an entire community organize? Is it really one person who acts entrepreneurially and mobilizes people – in which case the whole phenomenon takes on the dimensions of a social movement? If it is is not, is it just chance? A combination of some societal characteristics as well as entrepreneurial action?

These are some of the questions I try to address through my dissertation.


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