SUPPORTING COMMUNITY ENTERPRISE _______________________________________________________________________________________________________
18th February,


This is a note for discussion with NGOs, donor agencies and financial institutions. It has been prepared jointly by Covenant Centre for Development - Madurai, Indo Dutch Project Management Society - Bangalore and Swayam Shikshan Prayog - Mumbai.

A national workshop on Bridging the Gap - Community Enterprise and Financial Institutions was conducted on January 7-9, 1999. The workshop was jointly convened by the above organisations. Over 150 participants from seven states attended the event. Included were representatives from several donor agencies, financial institutions, commercial banks, universities, NGO and community groups. The workshop provided:

What is Community Enterprise ?

Community Enterprise is understood as collective action by the marginalized poor, for their economic benefits through exchange of goods and services produced by them. The empowerment approach to community enterprise. In the context of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy, lack of training and under-development community enterprises offer a set of strategies to enable the rural poor to initially manouvre, cope and survive and subsequently improve their quality of life.

The development of community enterprise relies on upscaling and commercialisation of livelihood activities. Availability of institutional credit from banks is crucial. Similarly other support services that include linkages to resources, information, markets and technology are required to build and sustain these economic activities.

There is a tendency for institutions to perceive the development of rural community enterprise in a mechanistic manner that over-emphasizes inputs at the cost of processes in which inputs are assimilated. The development of capabilities in community groups is often a lengthy process and yet the most effective way to building and sustaining community enterprises. For those of us working to strengthen sustainable rural livelihoods, it is important to recognize the range of activities that are the basis of transition from subsistence to enterprise.

Women's self-help groups across the country have already laid the foundations for the development of community enterprise. NGOs are providing support services to SHGs as well as linking them to credit from financial institutions. Demonstration of successful partnerships among groups, NGOs and financial institutions / banks to promote community enterprises are few and far between. Hence it is important that we understand and analyse lessons from these partnerships in order to successfully support community enterprise.


    As follow up of the National Workshop, the convenors - IDPMS, CCD and SSP will undertake to seek support for activities at three levels:
    1. Organisation/NGO
    2. Networking with NGO, banks, etc.
    3. Advocacy with policy institutions and financial institutions
    4. Building partnerships to bridge the gap between community enterprise and financial institutions

How can Community Enterprises be supported ?

Given below are the range of activities that must be undertaken in order to build sustainable community enterprises.

1. Upgrading / existing economic activities

2. Exploration / networking activities

3. Demonstration project to set up a community enterprise unit

4. Providing support - bridging gaps in livelihoods to enterprise


5. Advocacy and building partnerships

6. Establishing a venture capital fund

Swayam Shikshan Prayog 58, CVOD Jain High School, 84 Samuel Street, Dongri, Mumbai 400 009 Tel: 022-3700853, 3780730 Fax: 022-3728833 Attn. SSP Email: [email protected]

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