Giving Compass' Take:

• Erum Mariam speaks with IDR about the need for movements and organizations to recognize the power of communities as a driver for change.

• Why is this especially important during coronavirus? How are you making sure your giving respects the rightful power of communities to capitalize on opportunities for change?

• Read about an example of the underreported power of communities in responding to disasters.

Erum Mariam is the Executive Director of BRAC IED (The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee Institute of Educational Development), BRAC University, in Bangladesh. She has extensive experience of scaling up education interventions and was involved in the expansion of BRAC’s non-formal primary schools in the 1990s.

In this interview with IDR, Erum tells us about why it is important to put children at the centre of education programmes and systems, how this builds ‘resilience’, and what this buzzword means to her. She also emphasises the critical role that frontline workers and communities play in times of crises, and how they are the real drivers of change.

Erum Mariam:

Even within poverty, we need to develop an understanding of poverty. It is not a uniform experience. What are the choices that are available to each family? What has happened in a child’s life? Going deeper to understand some of these questions is a part of the ethos that needs to be built into education programmes. At the core of this ethos is respect. You cannot try to understand vulnerability without this.

We believe that people in poverty can solve their own problems, we are simply there to assist them. We don’t use a ‘deficit lens’, we don’t see people who face poverty as being have-nots. Solutions, ideas, and competencies are within people themselves.

You cannot bypass the power of communities, it is the biggest driver of change.

We’ve found that including people from the community—particularly women—has significantly helped our programmes. We choose women from the community to be teachers, even if they don’t necessarily have the education qualifications that would ordinarily be required for the public education system.

Read the full article about the power of communities with Erum Mariam at India Development Review.