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The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) has impacted the lives of 1.3 million Jamaicans from inner-city and rural communities since its inception 12 years ago.
Over the period, US$167 million has been invested in 750 projects and while these are landmark figures, the JSIF approach in reaching the most underserved is perhaps the single most important factor that has contributed to the Fund’s reach, according to Managing Director, Scarlette Gillings.
“As a major plank in the Government’s poverty alleviation plan, we (JSIF) utilize various approaches in identifying, selecting and implementing projects for both welfare and development assistance,” she explains.
Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ session on Wednesday (July 23) Mrs. Gillings outlined that at first, JSIF employed a demand-driven approach, whereby the communities determined their needs and mobilized themselves in order to make the request. “In this approach we do not go and put the facility down, we do not hand it down, they come to us,” she points out.
However, over time, she says, it was observed that the more organized communities were accessing the JSIF services and it became apparent that “in many instances, when persons or communities are very poor, they never seem to have the energy to come forward.”
“You tend to find that the more organized entities are the ones that accessed the Fund in the initial stages,” she says.
“So what we did, was try to stimulate the demand by visiting and identifying poor and underserved areas and help to organize them through community-based groups,” she explains.
Another approach highlighted was community-driven development, which builds on the demand-driven approach, by placing communities at the forefront.
“In this case we provide the funding to the community, which is then responsible for executing the projects. We act as facilitators and train the community to procure and we oversee the work they are doing to ensure that it is technically sound,” Mrs. Gillings says.
Noting that the communities are chosen, using strict criteria including where there is the greatest need, Mrs. Gillings spoke of instances where communities received pre-selected, multiple interventions.
“This means that we have gone into communities, done the research and based on this, we identify their needs,” she notes, pointing out that JSIF designs the programmes around the communities’ needs. It was this approach that determined how the two-year old Inner-City Basic Services Project (ICBSP) was implemented in 12 communities from five parishes and how they were chosen to access financing and support.
“When we started in 1996 with the demand-driven approach, we observed that in many instances such inner-city communities were not benefiting as much as they ought to, because they were not coming forward,” Mrs. Gillings states.
As a result “we found that the demand-driven approach was much more conducive to the rural areas,” where 64 per cent of the poor reside, she elaborates.
Mrs. Gillings acknowledges that the impact on inner-city communities is more difficult to see as “There is a lot of anxiety and there are more people located in a small geographical location, and hence the intensity is more”.
With respect to the ICBSP, the communities were chosen with the help of the Ministry of National Security, as well as the Planning Institute of Jamaica.
Turning her attention to partnerships as another viable approach, Mrs. Gillings says it is a crucial component.
“By partnering with several organizations we are able to ensure that there is a reduction of the possibility of duplication of efforts,” which she says “allows for a more streamlined utilisation of scarce resources.”
She highlights JSIF’s collaborative efforts with the Social Development Commission, the Department of Co-operatives and Friendly Societies, the private sector, the CHASE Fund, the Peace Corps of Jamaica, and all government Ministries.
Mrs. Gillings also points to new partnerships with key stakeholders that emerged as a result of the implementation of the ICBSP. These include the National Solid Waste Management Authority, the Rural Electrification Programme, the Jamaica Public Service Company, National Water Commission, the Ministry of National Security, the Parish Councils, and the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
The JSIF was established in 1995 as a limited liability company incorporated under the Company’s Act of Jamaica and conforms to the definition of a government company under the Financial Administration and Audit Act. The Fund is managed by an eleven-member Board of Directors.