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Building entrepreneurial capacity in deprived urban communities

Affluence in the larger cities and coastal areas of Portugal coexists with concentrations of extreme poverty in derelict neighbourhoods, sometimes little better than shanty towns. Between 2001 and 2005, approximately 15,000 people living in such neighbourhoods around Lisbon were rehoused in social housing. The paradox of developed cities (1) is that there are many jobs but high unemployment, as referred to in the Commission Communication on Cohesion Policy and the cities . The K'CIDADE project [pronounced kapasidade] is a long-term pioneer project testing a new methodology of building entrepreneurial capacity to help these people take control of their own lives and escape social exclusion.

Vieira da Silva, the Portuguese Minister of Work and Social Solidarity, says "two dimensions of poverty coexist in Portugal: the old poverty linked with lack of resources and poor qualifications, and the so-called 'new poverty'," which is linked to trends in migration and suburbanisation. Better housing is not the end to the problems. According to Carina Maio, a parish social worker, "Mira Sintra no longer has any shanty houses, but it does have many needs in the areas of employment and other services such as facilities for children." The baseline studies of these areas show that moving people to better housing without social or economic backup runs the risk of increasing their isolation and debt.

The K'CIDADE project promoter is the Aga Khan Foundation (2), one of a group of nine development agencies, which form the Aga Khan Development Network (3). This is the first time that the Foundation has applied its philosophy to the new realities of urban poverty in developed countries. The foundation's philosophy is that, with the right support, even impoverished individuals and communities can become the leaders of their own destiny and provide for themselves. The President of the Portuguese Republic, Cavaco Silva, said, "K'CIDADE won't give [poor people] the fish, but we will teach them how to fish."


Building a community stairway to entrepreneurship

The K'CIDADE EQUAL project is funding 14 closely interconnected actions from 2005-2007 to promote entrepreneurial spirit and a culture of autonomy and initiative. The project is distinctive in its belief that to achieve successful activation of disadvantaged groups in the long run, it is important first to mobilise communities and raise individual and community confidence. This attempts to tackle the root causes, rather than just the symptoms, of social exclusion and low entrepreneurialism.

K'CIDADE has established three Community Innovation Centres to launch and support a range of community projects. These are designed to be "creative and innovative spaces, planned and managed in the future by the residents". K'CIDADE stresses the importance of finding suitable opening times and locations in the communities as a vital step in making services 'easy-to-reach' and overcoming the real barriers faced by these communities such as low mobility.

The Community Innovation Centres in Alta de Lisboa, inaugurated in March 2006, and Mira Sintra are run by the Aga Khan Foundation, while House of Mercy is responsible for the Centre in Ameixoeira. The other EQUAL partners organise activities in the Centres to help animate them. Strategic support services such as education, entrepreneurship, internet access and the capacity building of civil society organisations are provided or facilitated.

The main innovative activities are the promotion of Community Innovation Projects (CIPs) proposed and led by residents. K'CIDADE leaflets and website ask residents in the target communities to approach them with ideas. Once interest groups start to emerge, they are helped to plan and implement their projects. The Aga Khan Foundation has gained considerable experience in these bottom-up community development plans in the rural areas of developing countries and does not provide solutions; rather the participants are encouraged to find their own solutions. External resources are thus used to reinforce local capacity and not to substitute for it.

Six projects are currently being implemented successfully by local beneficiaries, reaching about 600 people. These projects provide a good platform from which to mobilise other local people. More than 6,000 residents have been mobilised for different activities thus far with 28% of them being actively involved in the preparation of those activities. Conceição Maia, a 37-year-old unemployed mother with low academic skills was keen to see a leisure activity centre for the children in her neighbourhood. She approached K'CIDADE with her idea. Although many of her neighbours were hesitant, with the support and encouragement of K'CIDADE, Conceição and a group of five mothers are now developing a project to create and manage a centre to offer their children meaningful recreation and support to complement the work of the school.

One of the mothers, Georgina Santos, explains that "Without K'CIDADE we wouldn't have had either the strength or the enthusiasm." Elisabete Castrelas, another group member, highlighted that "We learnt that 'no' can be overcome and we try to find alternatives. K'CIDADE made us feel that the project is ours and we have to work to accomplish it." This group of women are not only improving their own lives and that of their children, but also influencing their peers by showing a positive example of what can be achieved through mobilisation.

Building on the positive mood change and increased confidence emerging from community mobilisation, work can then be undertaken successfully in supporting business development. Otília Cortez is a 43-year-old African immigrant with less than nine years' schooling who is now an entrepreneur. She has created her own business by building on her knowledge and potential in the field of traditional and ethnic crafts. She explains the factors leading to her success as "the self-confidence and belief in the success of the business, as well as having a good support network. I think the key is that when you really want something, you can accomplish it all!"

Innovative tools to support independent business activities

A first one-stop shop was opened in March 2006 under the Community Innovation Centre of Alta de Lisboa. These shops provide a support system to potential entrepreneurs made up of clearly defined stages from profiling and planning to start-up, consolidation and growth. Each stage provides services such as counselling, motivation, vocational training, mentoring and facilitating access to microcredit that help the entrepreneur acquire the personal competences, technical skills and resources necessary for success. Systems have been developed to record the progress made by the entrepreneurs along this itinerary in a way that is recognised by the entrepreneurs themselves, banks and other agencies.

Business incubators are being planned specifically to attract people facing severe disadvantages in the labour market, such as unskilled women, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and the long-term unemployed. The incubators will provide new businesses practical support including physical space, equipment, technical support and access to a shared managerial services platform to reduce the risk for the entrepreneurs and increase the chances of success.

Tailor-made action-training courses targeted at small businesses and services have been set up by the project partnership looking at issues such as confidence and trust, caring and responsibilities throughout all phases of business development. Positive entrepreneurial role models are presented by organising contests and competitions for entrepreneurship among particular groups such as young people. The project is actively promoting action plans for employability developed by the local networks in the three territories and the first job-matching projects are now starting. Twenty-five potential entrepreneurs have started following these support processes, of whom five have already started running their own businesses.

Partnership for change

The project has benefited from the diversity of the internal project partnership emphasising the importance of co-operation between public and private stakeholders to foster more sustainable interventions. At the opening of the first Community Innovation Centre, Roque Amaro, an economist at the Portuguese Work and Enterprise Sciences Institute, told ministers, MPs, entrepreneurs and NGOs participating in the K'CIDADE Advisory Committee: "I have never faced such a mixed audience of public and private actors in 25 years of working in development." For this to work in a way that develops horizontal and vertical linkages, it is essential to develop an enabling environment. The project meets this challenge through a strong system of governance; in March, the first Advisory Committee meeting engaged key national and regional stakeholders from the public and private sectors.

Beyond the project partnership, K'CIDADE has engaged around 100 local organisations in a participatory diagnosis to identify key issues and perspectives. The team have subsequently mobilised nearly 70 local organisations to think, plan and implement activities for the communities in an integrated and mutually reinforcing manner. Local partnership and collective approaches are uncommon in Portugal, but are fundamental to the project's philosophy of enabling community participation and maximising local assets. Ana Barata, the manager of a local organisation in the capacity-building process explains that K'CIDADE's main strength is "combining top-down and bottom-up approaches and stimulating a common learning process."

Reinforcing networks and the capacities of local social organisations is essential to engage them effectively in partnership. Eighty-one workers from six organisations have been involved in capacity building processes leading to the strengthening of three local partnership networks and 218 local development agents. Activities such as joint training sessions and workshops for local development agents, on-the-job consultancy for local organisations and exposure visits have raised the participating agencies' awareness of the issues at stake and the project's approach.

The project team complement their skills by ad hoc agreements with external actors to bring a specific added value. Hewlett Packard has signed an agreement with K'CIDADE to test the Micro Enterprise Acceleration Programme to provide comprehensive start-up assistance and technology access to micro enterprises in low-income communities. The curriculum targets micro enterprise entrepreneurs in underprivileged communities who are interested in developing their business, but may not be able to access information and communication technologies.

Empowering people through information, education and training

Participatory digital resource guides have been developed to give residents and local organisations better access to information on local resources and infrastructure. These are now managed by 56 local organisations; K'CIDADE trained 87 local development agents on how to use and update the guides.

Three internet spaces with 15 computers each have brought new opportunities to over 600 people, including women, long-term unemployed people and adults over 55 years old. Already more than 120 people have received basic training and certification in new technologies. Besides helping people acquire job-related skills, the digital tools have proved to be excellent community mobilisers, with impacts on other areas of the programme.

The long-term approach of the project in addressing the causes and not just the symptoms of social exclusion and the lack of entrepreneurial spirit is reflected in the education dimension of the project. The Childhood Association develops entrepreneurial skills by training teachers in more active models of education (EDUCARE) which are designed to improve the autonomy, creativity and responsibility of children, their families and teachers. Children enjoy themselves while they are taught to investigate, to mobilise resources and to pursue their own interests.

A publication and videos will illustrate methods and techniques used to reach out to marginalised and disadvantaged communities and improve education. The series should prove useful for practitioners, policy-makers and scholars in illustrating experience and practice in developing education and empowerment for entrepreneurship.

Mainstreaming methods into future social development work

The problems of marginalisation exist throughout the country. The Portuguese government would like K'CIDADE to expand beyond the Lisbon area from 2009 and the Portuguese Prime Minister, José Sócrates, signed a protocol with the Aga Khan Foundation in December 2005. The Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity has invited K'CIDADE to provide training to social workers from the Lisbon district and to consider the expansion of the work to other areas of the country.

A specific advocacy plan has been designed to enable successful mainstreaming with a synthesis of the lessons learned and knowledge gained. It advocates for good governance, inclusive, participatory decision-making processes and capacity building at local and regional levels. A rigorous monitoring and impact assessment framework has been developed with stakeholder and partner organisations. Compatible with the methods used for evaluating the EU Structural Funds, a range of verifiable quantitative and qualitative methods for assessing capacity building, potential for change, and perceptions of improvements in the quality of life are used. An initial sample-based, participatory study provided a baseline set of indicators against which future impact assessments can be measured to reveal changes in social development.

This framework aims to help communities, technical staff and implementing partners to increase their capacity to critically re-assess their progress and adapt their actions accordingly. Community-defined indicators like community scorecards and portfolios will provide a key mechanism to balance or validate professionally defined indicators and engage all the stakeholders, especially the community members within the monitoring and evaluation culture.


DP name: Urban Community Support Programme - KCIDADE
DP ID: PT-2004-096
Transnacional Partners: Spain, ES-ES20040327, E+, Emprende +, Emprende en positivo / UK, UKgb-139, Strategic Vision for Entrepreneurship for London South Central (STRIVE)
TCA ID code: 3863 STRIVE+
Contact DP: Maria Marques (Fundação Aga Khan)
Tel: + 351 21 722 9001
E-mail: geral@kcidade.com
Website: http://www.kcidade.com


[1] Cohesion Policy and cities: the urban contribution to growth and jobs in the regions. COM (2006) 385 final.

[2] The Aga Khan Foundation is a private, non-denominational, development agency, established by His Highness the Aga Khan in Switzerland in 1967. The Foundation seeks sustainable solutions to long-term problems of poverty through an integrated, community-based, participatory approach that reinforces civil society and respects local culture.

[3] The Network operates in social and economic development as well as in the field of culture, has an annual budget of more than 300 million dollars, works in more than 30 countries and has more than 55.000 employees. It has established 171 health facilities, 5 hospitals and 304 schools with more than 58,000 pupils.