The Empowerment of Poor Community through Group
(Case Study on Joint Group Business of the Poorest/KUBE FM
in Bengkulu Province, Indonesia)
Sri Putri Permata
Lecturer at Department of Social Welfare, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Bengkulu, Indonesia
This research discussed joint group business of the poorest (KUBE FM) as an alternative to empower the poor community through a group. The research used the qualitative method. The location was in 4 villages which consist of 2 developed KUBE FM and 2 less developed KUBE FM. Informants were the head and members of KUBE FM, village and subdistrict mentors, district and provincial coaches.The finding of this research indicated that the most influential factors which interact to determine the development of KUBE FM were village mentors, the quality of interaction roles of mentors as the change agent and the commitment toward the goal. Based on findings, it could be concluded that KUBE FM could be used as a medium to empower the poor community.
Keywords: Empowerment, KUBE FM, Mentor, Group
Poverty, until now is still one of the focus of world attention. In a world conference on human rights, the United Nations affirms that extreme poverty and social exclusion is a violation of human sovereignty (in Lister, 2004). As a statement of global concern over the poverty issue, the Millennium Summit/MDGs was held in September 2000. The MDGs can only be achieved if public social services improved (Mehrotra and Delamonica, 2007). This was consistent with Smyth and Reddel’s (1997) opinion by recommending the need for integration of economic and social development planning in addressing poverty issues.
Related to the causes of poverty, Lister (2004) said that the main cause of chronic poverty was the inability to obtain basic social services such as education, health, sanitation and decent housing. Without the ability to achieve a decent standard of living, they will continue to be caught in poverty. According to Dowling and Fang (2009), this poverty trap was a combination of various factors, namely low income, low education and inability to reach the available social services. This is exacerbated by the occurrence of environmental damage caused by uncontrolled logging. Meanwhile, according to Chossudovsky (2003) macroeconomic stabilization of the structural adjustment program (SAP) imposed by the IMF and World Bank on developing countries that cause poverty.
According to Levitan et al (2003), programs aimed at assisting the poor can be categorized into 4 groups: cash assistance, basic subsidies such as food, housing and health services (direct provision or subsidization such as compensatory program targeted at children and youth, as well as efforts designed to expand employment opportunities (effort designed to expand opportunity for work). Meanwhile, according to the IMF and World Bank (www.imf.org), each country should formulate its own strategies for eradicating poverty in its own country (Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper / PRSP). Therefore, the IMF and World Bank formulated the basic principles used as a reference in developing poverty reduction strategies. These principles involve the participation of the general public (country driven/promoting national ownership of strategies through broad-based participation of civil society), beneficial to the poor (result oriented and focused on outcomes that will benefit the poor), comprehensive recognizing the multidimensional nature of poverty), developing partnerships (partnership oriented / involving coordinated participation of development partners for example government, domestic stakeholders, external donors) and based on long-term perspective for poverty reduction.
Poverty, also still a major issue in Indonesia, especially after the economic crisis of 1997-1999. One of the efforts or strategies were undertaken by the government, through the Ministry of Social Affairs, in handling the problem is implementing the poor empowerment program through group method, in this case through the joint business group of the poorest/KUBE FM (Ministry of Social RI, 2013).
KUBE FM was essentially a program of empowering the poor through the provision of cash assistance as capital to manage a productive economic business to the group that has been formed. Referring to Levitan, the KUBE FM program could be categorized into efforts designed to expand employment opportunities (the effort designed to expand opportunity for work). In relation to poverty reduction. Lister (2004) said, “the answer to the powerlessness associated with poverty is commonly held to be empowerment”. This was in line with Yunus’s (2007) opinion by saying that what was needed to get the poor out of poverty was to create an environment that empowers them.
According to Kenny (2006) empowerment was the main concept in community development. Kenny stated that empowerment was a process to get power (power achievement). Power was intended as the capacity to place a person’s will against the will or the interests of others. In the context of community development, empowerment was a collective action. Empowerment was a way in which power relationships take sides with people who are unlucky, oppressed or exploited. Empowerment raises awareness of how power is acquired and is the right of subordinates groups.
Kenny (2006) argued that empowerment was not only related to consciousness raising, but also a life-changing effort for the oppressed and the less fortunate. Empowerment improves access to the necessary resources, assets, and information. In order for such empowerment to be undertaken, these disadvantaged groups must have confidence in their ability to manage their own lives and also increase their participation. They must be able to overcome pessimism and fatalism.
In terms of empowerment, Lister (2004) argued: “the answer to the powerlessness associated with poverty is empowerment”. According to Ife (2002), empowerment was the process of increasing the power of the structurally disadvantaged groups, other disadvantaged groups, and the personally disadvantaged people, This process can be done with the availability of opportunities, options, needs definition, ideas, institutions, resources, reproduction and economic activities. Empowerment was done through the formulation of policies and planning, political and social action and education.
Referring to Lister and Ife then empowerment was a social process because it occurs in relationships with others, so that individuals and society are basically inseparable. Empowerment was multidimensional that aims to help people to control their own lives. Empowerment was the process of obtaining power (in this case the capacity to do something), to be used in their own lives, as well as in community and society, by taking action on things they deemed important. Thus, empowerment occurs at various levels of individuals, groups, and communities. Meanwhile, according to Kenny (2006) empowerment requires a prerequisite, namely the existence of confidence in the ability of self to disadvantaged people or groups (disadvantaged people).
In relation to social work, empowerment was often described as central goals and processes (Dubois and Milley, 1996; Butlerrez and Ortega, 1991; Hartman 1993; Parson 1991; Pinderhughes 1983; Solomon 1976; Weick and Saleebey 1995) in Robbins (2006). Social work is therefore directed at helping people overcome personal and environmental barriers that impede growth, development and adaptation functions (Germain and Gitterman, 1995) in Robbins (2006). Thus, according to Payne (2005) empowerment was aimed to help clients to make decisions about their lives, by reducing the impact of personal and social barriers so that their capacity and confidence increased.
Empowerment of Poor Group Based Communities
Johnson and Johnson (1994) in Hutchison (2003) said that small groups are 2 individuals or more who were each aware of their membership in the group and the presence of others in the group, who have a sense of interdependence and cooperate in achieving goals. Associated with the group, Seiler and Beal (in Shaw, 1981) stated that the group was a group of individuals who affect each other, have the same goals, perform certain roles, interdependent and interact together. Based on that opinion it could be said that the very important factor in the life of the group was the existence of social relationships among the members of the group.
The poverty alleviation program with the concept of group-based empowerment has been widely applied around the world. One of the international institutions that employed the concept of group-based empowerment was The Hunger Project (THP) which launched microfinance programs primarily to help the poor in poor African countries such as Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, and Uganda. THP provides credit to farmer groups, especially women farmers (because 80% of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa were women), to be used as capital to develop income-generating activities. THP also develops their knowledge and skills through training and workshops, builds confidence and changes their mindset from dependence to be independence (www.thp.org).
In Indonesia, poverty alleviation programs with community empowerment approach through groups were known as Joint Business Group (KUBE). One of them was KUBE Fakir Miskin (KUBE FM). KUBE was one of the media which formed to build problem-solving ability, fulfill the needs, and develop the self-potential of the poor. The socio-economic dimension forms the core pillar of KUBE FM activities. Socially, the incorporation of the poor into KUBE FM enables them to engage in positive social interactions. KUBE is expected to be a media that can improve the ability to communicate, solve personal problems and groups on a reciprocal basis. Economically, the business activities undertaken in the group will provide the strength to expand the business, raise capital strength, competitiveness, build business networks, and open opportunities to access economic resources. In other words, business management through KUBE was aimed at improving business capability and sustainable income for KUBE members to meet their daily needs. Besides, it was also used to improve the ability of KUBE members in carrying out their social role (Ministry of Social Affairs, 2016).
Based on various research findings it can be concluded that the most important role in determining the development of KUBE FM implementation was the village mentors. This was mainly because the village mentors most interact with the head and members of KUBE FM. In other words, village mentors served as the spearhead of KUBE FM development. On developed KUBE FM, village counselors played an important role in guiding the formation of groups and also the process of selecting and establishing group business. In addition, village mentors also play a role in providing various information and motivate the members of KUBE FM so that they become a harmonious group and can work together well. The mentors also played an important role in cooperation with other parties, and provide guidance for KUBE FM so that it could be developed well.
On the developed KUBE FM, the village mentors had a commitment to achieve the goal. This is important as an effort to build consensus within the group. The village mentors provide an understanding of the objectives of the KUBE FM program. Understanding of this goal (goal setting) further functioned in directing various activities to achieve group goals. The intensive meeting made communication between the village mentors and the head as well as members of KUBE FM running smoothly. In the meeting, they discussed various problems they faced and together find a way out to solve the problems. This made the relationship between the village mentors and the group members become harmonious. A harmonious relationship encourages them to participate actively in group activities.
On the less developed KUBE FM, the village mentors did not play the role properly. After guiding the process of group formation, the election of managers and the making of group business proposals, the village mentors no longer interact intensively with the head and group members. He rarely gave information or motivated the members of KUBE FM so that KUBE FM become unharmonious. As a result, the group becomes into frictions and the members were apathetic. The village mentors also did not cooperate with other parties and not provide guidance so that the KUBE FM could not grow as expected. On the less developed KUBE FM, village mentors had less commitment to achieve group goals. This is evident from the absence of efforts made to face the emerging problems. The rare meeting made communication did not run smoothly. This condition made the relation between village mentors and the head as well as the members become disharmony. The unharmonious relationships further impact on their unwillingness to participate in group activities.
Sub-district mentors played less important roles in determining the development of KUBE FM. This was because they did not interact directly and intensively with the head and members of KUBE FM. Nevertheless, indirectly, the sub-district mentors roled in monitoring, coordinating, guiding and reporting the activities and performance of village mentors.
Meanwhile, the coaching process performed by the District Social Service of North Bengkulu and the Bengkulu Provincial Social Service also did not play a direct role in determining KUBE FM development. This was because the district social service officers and the provincial social service officers did not interact directly with the head and members of KUBE FM. The coaching process undertaken by district social service officers was more intensive than by the provincial social officers. District social service officers of North Bengkulu acted as coordinator and supervisor in the process of KUBE FM program implementation in North Bengkulu district. The Bengkulu provincial social service officers also acted as coordinator and supervisor in the process of KUBE FM program implementation in Bengkulu province.
Based on the above exposure it could be concluded that the developed KUBE FM was more dynamic than the less developed KUBE FM. On the developed KUBE FM, there was a commitment to achieve goals. Working distribution was balanced and all issues and decisions related to group activities were discussed together. This made the relationship between members intertwined harmoniously. The active role of the group leader made the group members motivated to participate actively in group activities so that the group’s business develop well.
On the other hand, on the less developed KUBE FM, had less commitment toward the goals. Working distribution was not balanced. All problems and decisions related to group activities did not be discussed and solved together. This made the relationship of the group tend to be unharmonious. Furthermore, the impact of the passive participation was the group business could not grow as expected. In terms of group dynamics, it can be concluded that there was a very close interaction between the mentoring and coaching process with the group dynamic in KUBE FM. The process of assistance, in this case, is mainly the mentoring process that had been done by the village mentors because he was the most often interact with the head and members of KUBE FM. The intensive mentoring process with various roles as a change agent had succeeded in motivating members to actively participate in group activities. On the other hand, the inadequate mentoring process characterized by minimum roles of change agent. leads to passive participation. The mentoring process by sub-district mentors as well as coaching process by the district and provincial social service also played an important role. They were not in direct contact with the head and members of KUBE FM in the field because they functioned as coordinators in their respective working areas.
The group dynamics of the developed KUBE FM was influenced by the active role of the mentors as the change agent. In the process of empowerment through this group, the village mentors built consensus, enhanced the group’s commitment, so that all activities were directed towards the group’s goals. The village mentors interlaced harmonious relationships with the head and members of KUBE FM so that they are willing to cooperate and actively participate in group activities.
In the process of empowerment, the role of the change agent was very important. Empowerment, in this case, was performed through the mentoring process conducted by village and sub-district mentors as well as coaching process undertaken by the district and provincial social coaches. Based on the research findings, the role of change agent was to be a facilitator in the process of group formation, motivating KUBE FM members to energize them in carrying out group tasks, providing moral support through words or attitudes and behaviors, utilizing resources and member skills, organizing members to take actions that lead to the achievement of group goals. Furthermore, communicate intensively with members, provide necessary information and collaborate with others who could trigger the development of KUBE FM. In other words, mentors and coaches have performed various roles as change agent namely facilitative, educative and representative roles. The things that had been done by the mentors on developed KUBE FM were in accordance with the opinion of Ife (2002) and Hogan (2000). In the process of empowerment through this group, the first thing done by the mentors were setting goals. Thus all group activities were directed to achieve goals. The mentors also dialogue with involving empathy (active learning) and provide support and motivation (personal supporter).
Empowerment is also an interactive process, whereby a less powerful person sets goals individually to improve power, takes action directed towards achieving that goal, and reflects the impact of an action, rests on growing confidence and uses knowledge and skills to achieve goals (Hogan, 2000; Cattaneo and Chapman, 2010). In the context of empowerment through KUBE FM then the interactive process was the interaction between members and mentors that were intertwined in the process of mentoring and coaching KUBE FM. In this process, the mentors treated the client (the poor) with all their limitations, as a person who capable to act and to improve his social functioning.
Referring to the opinion of Chattaneo and Chapman (2010), based on the results of the research it could be concluded that the empowerment process begins with a commitment to empower poor communities in this case through KUBE FM (define or redefine meaningful goals and objectives). In order to realize these objectives, various actions were taken such as recruit and select candidates, facilitate the groups, and carry out actions toward goal achievement. In order to implement the empowerment process, the mentors monitor as well as evaluate group development (observe and reflect on the impact of actions in relation to goal achievement). The empowerment process rests on the self-efficacy of KUBE FM members, in this case providing support or motivation, improving their knowledge through socialization and by providing various knowledge and information needed. In addition, by improving their skills and competence through training, resource utilization, cooperation and direct business development. At each stage, the roles of the mentors were very important.
Viewed from the perspective of group empowerment, on the developed KUBE FM, the process of mentoring and coaching which had been performed had a positive impact. In this case, especially the mentoring process that had been implemented by the village mentors. who actively provide various guidance, information, and motivation so that KUBE FM develop as expected.
Social implications had been marked by an increasing sense of solidarity among group members. This was because balanced working distribution had motivated them to cooperate well in carrying out activities and running their group business. Good cooperation between the head and group members makes the relationship between them become harmonious. There was also an increasing awareness among members about the importance of education. Growing business of the developed KUBE FM had motivated members to send their children to school. The Economic implication could be seen as their business had grown. There was an increased income among the group members, which means there was an improvement in their families welfare.The development of their business had encouraged them to diversify the group’s business. In other words, the business motivation of the members had enhanced as well. Group management had also functioned well. In this case, the head, secretary, and treasurer hade been able to carry out their duties properly. Judging from the group dynamics, on the developed KUBE FM, the relationships among the members are more harmonious. This condition had motivated the members to participate actively in every activity and in running the group business. Thus it could be said that the developed KUBE FM become more solid and more dynamic as well compared to the less developed KUBE FM.
Referring to Kenny (2006), about the characteristics of empowerment, the developed KUBE FM had shown the existence of group empowerment. This was evident from the increased participation in running the activities of groups. Social participation indicated by helping and trust each other. The intensive mentoring process had succeeded in motivating them to learn to express their opinions and to find solutions to the problems they face (have reason to believe that participation in the decision-making process is meaningful and productive). This had made them more enthusiastic and feel meaningful (belief in the right to control their own destiny).
In contrast, on the less developed KUBE FM, the mentoring and coaching processes performed had not had a positive impact on the development of KUBE FM. This was because the mentoring process carried out mainly by the village mentors had not been performed properly. Lacking guidance, information, and motivation made the less developed KUBE FM had not developed as expected. Village mentors had less intensive interaction with both the head and the group members. The real implication in the social field was a decline in the sense of solidarity among group members. This was due to imbalanced working distribution so that they were less motivated to cooperate well in carrying out activities and running group businesses. Improper cooperation between the head and group members makes the relationship between them unharmonious. In addition, they had less awareness of the importance of education. On the less developed KUBE FM, the members had not been motivated to send their children to school. Economically, because their business had not developed, there has been no increase in group members income. Therefore, there had been no improvement in their families welfare. The members of less developed KUBE-FM had not been encouraged to diversify the group’s business. In other words, the business motivation of group members decline as well. Group management had not functioned properly. In this case, the head, secretary, and treasurer had not been able to perform their duties as expected. Judging from the group dynamics, on the less developed KUBE FM, the relationships among the members were unharmonious. This caused the members to be reluctant to participate in any activity or in running a group business. Thus it could be said that the less developed KUBE FM were less solid so it becomes less dynamic.
This study used a qualitative approach because it could delve deep information by using various data sources so that it could be used to analyze problems comprehensively. The selected research type was a case study with KUBE FM as unit analysis. The study was conducted in 4 villages selected purposively, consisted of 2 villages with developed KUBE FM and 2 villages with less developed KUBE FM located in North Bengkulu Regency. Cases were selected with a criterion which had similar characteristics in terms of access, socioeconomic conditions and years formation of KUBE FM. but had a contrasting level of development. Informants were the head and members of KUBE FM, village and subdistrict mentors, as well as district and provincial coaches. Data collected by using observation method, in-depth interview, documentation, and literature study. Data were analyzed using qualitative data analysis.
Based on the research findings, it can be concluded that the factors that interact in the process of empowerment through the group were the quality of mentoring and the quality of the group. The active role of the mentor and the commitment to the mentoring process was the very important factor to keep group dynamics. Active participation and commitment of the head and members led towards the group’s goals. The interaction of these two factors determines group empowerment. Based on the results of the research, it can be concluded that KUBE FM could be used as an alternative media in empowering the poor through a group.
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