In India, both income-based poverty definition and consumption-based poverty statistics are in use. Each state in India has its own poverty threshold to determine how many people are below its poverty line to reflect varying regional economic conditions.
The urban slum communities living in poor conditions are affected by deep rooted social problems such as alcoholism, unhygienic environment, domestic violence, communalism, gambling, child abuse etc. To address the issues arising from urban poverty, NGOs and various other stakeholders have made significant efforts to intervene and provide ameliorative services.
Today’s urban slum communities are majorly influenced by various external factors (media, politics, policies, reforms, and activists) affecting their socio-economic status and livelihoods. Social development is slowly adapting to the needs of a complex and competitive environment. This exposure and awareness of the changing needs/desires of members within the communities have created hopes and aspirations amongst the slum dwellers. The urban communities have progressed from basic survival needs to a complex situation of managing growth aspirations within the competitive environment. A slum-dweller is making all the possible efforts not only to survive and make his/her ends meet but also to go beyond basic needs and achieve a better quality of life.
We thus see this orderly transition where poor communities desire to move into the lower middle class category and then further onto the middle class. In this context, one has therefore to look at poverty from a different lens and provide solutions which are long-lasting and sustainable. We need to strengthen the Base or Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP). When the poor are empowered there is development, socio-economic growth and progress. New and creative approaches are needed to convert poverty into an opportunity for all concerned, and that is the challenge!!!!! (C.K. Prahalad)
With this paradigm shift and changing times, the NGOs need to re-visit their role, approach, and respond appropriately to serve the communities. The emphasis is to go beyond service delivery mode and mobilise people to participate and strengthen their potential. It is only in creating participation and capacity that sustainable solutions can be found.
Entrepreneurship- Financial support in cyclical doses is one of the solutions to resolve chronic poverty issues and build up sustainable economic growth. Micro finance institutions have played a critical role in accelerating micro enterprises. The NGOs have to facilitate the process and mentor these individuals/groups till they complete 5-6 cycles and can reach a break-even situation.
Base of the Pyramid (BoP)- It is strongly felt that large firms can be mobilised to share their resources and knowledge, to scale up and co-create solutions with the local knowledge and commitment of NGOs for the communities that need help. Corporates can bring efficiency and NGOs can bring innovations and creativity to solve problems that affect the poor. Poverty reduction can result from co-creating a market around the needs of the poor.
For NGOs to be more effective and efficient so as to achieve societal change, partnerships are a powerful tool to empower and ensure representation of local communities in the change process. By working together, sharing resources, knowledge and experience, there is greater impact, ownership and can build stronger communities and institutions for the future. These partnerships have to be transformational and not transactional with strategic investments, and total stakeholder engagement towards the betterment of the community. In our own context, academic institutions, corporates and non governmental organisations can create magic together if they build true partnerships- partnerships which work together for ‘a common cause of the greater good’.