Successful Projects related to
Poverty and social exclusion are a major challenge
for humanity. According to the Human Development Report 1997, a quarter
of the world's population remains in severe poverty, despite the major
advances in reducing poverty made during the 20th century. At
the same time, social inequality, marginalisation and discrimination still
exclude many people from full participation in economic, political and
cultural life. While poverty and social exclusion represent common problems
to policy makers in both poor and rich countries, new initiatives have
been developed to combat these problems, initiatives which merit being
called "Best Practices".
Poverty and Social Exclusion
What are Best Practices?
The idea of a Best Practices Database is based
on the observation that carefully documented case histories can provide
excellent guidelines for policy making and planning of new projects. The
goal of a database on Best Practices is to present and promote creative,
successful and sustainable solutions to social problems arising from poverty
and social exclusion in order to build a bridge between empirical solutions,
research and policy.
Best Practices, in the MOST Database, are
model projects or policies aimed at improving the quality of life of individuals
or groups suffering from poverty or social exclusion. They are typically
based on the cooperation between national or local authorities, non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) and local communities, the private sector, and academic
communities. They include a variety of activities in all parts of the world:
In England: «The Big Issue»,
a magazine sold by homeless people so they can earn a living
and re-integrate into society, has grown from a monthly to a weekly publication
with a circulation of 350,000 copies and has paved the way for street papers
in thirteen European countries, South Africa and Australia.
In India: 4,000 women established the
Shri Mahila SEWA Sahakari Bank to provide credit at reasonable rates to
self-employed women workers. This project has been so successful that today
the bank has 51,000 depositors and assets worth 6.6 million US dollars.
Calling these activities "Best Practices"
is to suggest that they can and should be replicated, that ideas can and
should be generated from them, and that they can and should contribute
to policy development. The following four characteristics are common to all Best Practices related to poverty and social exclusion:
In Brazil: the «Living Library»
was created to make reading and writing an everyday activity for
poor children to combat high rates of failure at elementary school. The
library works with existing non-governmental organizations and community
centres providing them with books, information and professional training.
Thanks to this initiative over 20,000 children living in the slums of Brazil
have been provided with reading materials.
It is essential that, to qualify as Best Practices,
the activities in question be evaluated in terms of the criteria
of innovation, success and sustainability by both experts and the people
concerned. To function as a model for replication, however, it is imperative
that information about the activities be easily accessible. This is precisely
the reason why UNESCO's "Management of Social Transformations" (MOST) Programme
has set up a Best Practices Database within the MOST Clearing House.
Best Practices are innovative. A Best
Practice has developed new and creative solutions to common problems of
poverty and social exclusion.
Best Practices make a difference. A
Best Practice demonstrates a positive and tangible impact on the living
conditions, quality of life or environment of the individuals, groups or
Best Practices have a sustainable effect.
A Best Practice contributes to sustained eradication of poverty or social
exclusion, especially by the involvement of participants.
Best Practices have the potential for replication.
A Best Practice serves as a model for generating policies and initiatives
What is the MOST Clearing House Best Practices Database?
In order to facilitate, at an international
level, access to information about Best Practices and to establish contact
between the actors participating in them, the MOST Programme has created
the Best Practices Database. On the basis of the four criteria for Best
Practices, MOST is collecting information from all parts of the world about
a variety of projects, policies and strategies related to the eradication
of poverty and the reduction of social exclusion.
At present, the MOST Database provides
examples of Best Practices for policies and projects in Poverty Eradication,
Social Exclusion/Integration, Women and Gender Equality, Homelessness and
Housing, Economic Development, Community Participation and Urban Governance,
and Crime Prevention.
Who are the Target Audiences?
With the Best Practices Database, UNESCO's
MOST Programme aims at reaching a wide spectrum of audiences. The Database
will be of particular interest to all organizations and individuals dealing
with social exclusion and poverty alleviation - that is to local governments,
national government agencies, intergovernmental institutions and NGOs,
civic leaders, mayors and councillors - who could use it as a source of
information and inspiration. Social research institutes specialising in
policy evaluation and policy development are an important target group
as well as policy makers and actors in civil society.
How does the Best Practices Database operate?
To identify, collect, analyse and compile
new submissions by communities, organizations or governments, MOST collaborates
with NGOs specialised in urban problems, poverty projects, development,
etc. These organizations are invited and encouraged to contribute their
knowledge and experience to the development of the Database.
One of the main objectives of the Database
is to disseminate information about Best Practices related to poverty and
social exclusion to a broad international audience. This is achieved by
the following operations:
- Through its co-operation with the UNESCO field offices, its research
and policy projects and its contacts with NGOs, the MOST Programme
diffuses Best Practices to municipalities who are seeking appropriate
response strategies to problems of poverty and social exclusion.
- A mailing list is used to inform subscribers
of new developments in the Database and to circulate new Best Practices.
- Every three months the ‘best’ new Practice will be given special
attention in the publications of UNESCO/MOST and on the MOST website.
How to become involved in the Best Practices initiative
Organizations and policy makers wishing to
participate in the Best Practices initiative are invited to contact the
UNESCO-MOST Secretariat or UNESCO National Commissions to obtain further
information on co-operation and the submission of projects. Contributors
are asked to provide detailed information on their project. This includes
a short presentation of the project, its characteristics, its objectives,
strengths and weaknesses, the partners involved in its realisation
and contact addresses. Projects submitted are examined by experts working
in the field of poverty and social exclusion to assess their suitability
for the Database.
Submissions fulfilling the eligibility criteria will also be forwarded to the Best Practices & Local Leadership Programme of UNCHS (Habitat) for consideration for the Dubai International Awards for Best Practices in Improving the Living Environment as well as for inclusion on the UNCHS Best Practices Database.
MOST (Management of Social Transformations)
The Management of Social Transformations Programme
(MOST) is a research programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designed to promote international comparative
social science research. The overall long-term objective of the Programme
is to establish sustainable links between researchers and policy makers
and to emphasize the relevance of social science research for policy formulation.
MOST concentrates its activities on the management of change in multi-cultural
and multi-ethnic societies; the study of cities as the sites of accelerated
social change; local management of economic, technological and environmental
transformations; and the eradication of poverty and social exclusion.
The MOST Clearing House
The MOST Clearing House is the Internet site of the MOST Programme.
It offers up-to-date information on the projects, publications and activities
of the Programme, including the Best Practices Database. The site also
includes an Internet search engine, an e-mail announcement service, and
a reference service providing links to the partners in the Clearing House