Our vision of development is based on Amartya Sen’s concept of “development as freedom,” in which development occurs when people have the freedom to be, or do, something they value. These freedoms refer to all dimensions of human life, and consist of economic opportunities, social protection, security, access to information, and political participation. Hence, human development implies both more opportunities for the poor and an increase in their wellbeing. To us, development means thus widening people’s choices according to their own criteria, and reducing their vulnerability. We believe that development is inherently pro-poor when it enhances choices for all people.
We are mindful that living conditions, prospects, and needs of poor populations differ widely. For example, a chronically poor person faces a very different situation from that of a transiently poor person. And the opportunities and challenges of near-poor families can differ from those of the poorest of the poor. Poverty needs to be considered beyond the concept of absolute poverty lines, as it is multi-dimensional, time-bound and relative.
We are convinced that meaningful strategies for reducing poverty need to be adapted to the specific needs of the target group. Measures relevant for one target group may not be suitable for another. For example, microcredit can enable small business owners to develop their firms, but can increase the risk of over-indebtedness of very vulnerable or extremely poor households. The latter will benefit more from social security or adapted savings and microinsurance services than from microcredit.
In our work at joyn-coop, we seek to have sufficient knowledge of the local context to contribute to the increased freedom and reduced vulnerability of the poor. To this end, we assist in creating opportunities through customer-oriented financial sector development and strengthened governance at local levels. We support programs that manage conflict, and reduce vulnerabilities that result from extreme weather and climate changes. Our approach seeks to empower target groups and project stakeholders, so that opportunities they value are created.