This latest Voices of the Poor study advances the participatory research tradition of the previous World Bank Voices works with new modules focusing on poor peoples' action recommendations. In the summer of 2002, 942 poor women and men from ten poor communities of Colombia discussed urgent problems facing their families and communities. They shared their experiences, frustrations and hopes for improving their deteriorating livelihood prospects, the pervasive violence afflicting their homes and communities, and the very poor educational and training opportunities availably locally. Voices of the Poor in Colombia also includes proposals, developed by the communities, that they believe can bring real improvements to their lives. Two broad patterns emerge from the more than 250 action recommendations developed. First, poor people view problems of livelihood, insecurity and education as tightly connected, and progress will have to be made on all three fronts if any is to be made at all. Second, households are seen to be the critical arenas in which development problems begin and then spread, and responsive and effective local institutions are terribly important if poor families and communities are to become more harmonious, secure and prosperous. Despite the wider political violence, a significant finding from this work is a very widespread view that more cohesive and stronger families and local organizations are the bedrock to greater peace and development.
Jairo A. Arboleda, James Blackburn, Patti L. Petesch