A Note on Welfare Work by Akhtar Hameed Khan

Conventional Philanthropy: In Pakistan philanthropic intentions have usually flowed in two channels either the erection of subsidised superb institutions or the distribution of doles. While the utility of superb institutes and charitable doles cannot be denied, their limitations are quite obvious. For instance, elitist schools or clinics can serve only a small clientele and similarly the clientele of doles, although different, is not really large. In both cases, the main majority, the common people, are left out.

Scope for a wider perspective: For a newcomer to the field of philanthropy, it is easy and tempting to climb on this two wheeled band-wagon. However, it may be worthwhile to acquire, after an attentive look, a wider perspective of those common needs which can be appropriately fulfilled by benevolent assistance. The nature and scope of such assistance also requires close attention.

No instant blueprint: It must be admitted that a blueprint is not available for immediate implementation, although many instructive models do exist in other countries. Those who want to go beyond the conventional ways should patiently go through the process of investigation, local consultation, experiment and evaluation.

General direction: Institutional organisation: Before starting, let us say, in Orangi we may reasonably assume that a primary and probably the most neglected aspect of the local situation would be the need for institutional organisation. We are all living through a period of social dislocation, but for the Biharis in Orangi or for that matter the Pathans in Orangi, both uprooted from their old familiar environments, the dislocation is especially acute. They have to re-establish the sense of belonging, the community feeling, the conventions of mutual help and cooperative action. That can be done chiefly through the creation of many kinds of organisations, social and economic. Without such organisations chaos and confusion will prevail. On the other hand, if social and economic organisations grow and become strong, services and material conditions, sanitation, schools, clinics, training, employment, will also begin to improve.

Guidelines: Core workers and autonomous units: The promotion, guidance and evaluation of social and economic organisations could be the chief task of a trust or foundation. For that purpose, gradually, a core of full-time workers should be put together.

However, each individual organisation should be designed to be autonomous, and ultimately self-supporting. Of course, in the initial stage, it will be helped by training of its staff and evaluation of its work.

Collaboration with established agencies: To provide specialised training or evaluation or in the case of economic organisations, financial assistance, the trust would secure the collaboration of established agencies, government departments, universities and banks.

Avoidance of haste: A timetable: The development of social and economic organisation cannot be done quickly. Undue haste in this case will surely result in waste. Enough time should be spent on careful investigation of and acquaintance with the local people, their conditions and institutions. A rough timetable may be suggested. Several month’s preliminary investigation (3 to 6 months) followed by a tentative plan for the first year, followed by an evaluation based on the analysis of detailed documentation. The process to be repeated till the emergence of a successful pattern.

Main types of organisations: Tentatively it may be pointed out that the main organisations selected for promotion would be local councils, various kinds of cooperatives and associations, schools and clinics. As already indicated the emphasis would be community action and autonomy. The aim would be to promote not the exclusive development of one special school or hospital, but of institutions who may be willing to upgrade themselves by staff training and community organisation.

Two fundamental principles: Two fundamental principles should be scrupulously followed: i) The avoidance of any political or sectarian bias; and ii) the observance of a populist point of view, the preference for the needs of the common people.

A model for subsequent expansion: Let us hope that not immediately but in a few years this approach of social and economic institution building may begin to produce some good results. Then we may also hope that it may serve as a model for other similar areas of Karachi, and without much difficulty projected into those areas.

Avoidance of publicity and fanfare: In the beginning all publicity must be strictly avoided. The consequences of a premature publicity or any kind of early fanfare are likely to be as unfortunate as the consequences of hasty and grandiose planning. As the project grown intelligent public will be informed by means of accurate and well-documented reports by impartial evaluators.

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