Social Capital Credits

ORGANIZATION NAME: The Asia Initiatives

SUMMARY: SoCCs (Social Capital Credits) is a transformative community currency that is incentivizing neighborhood development in India, Ghana, Kenya and Cost Rica. SoCCs reward individuals for tasks such as waste management, planting trees and repairing streets. Earned SoCCs are redeemed for healthcare, education and other means of climbing out of poverty.

PROBLEM SPACE: Abject poverty persists because the existing monetary system excludes and marginalizes poor people. Most aid programs for the poor today are top-down, with little participation of communities. SoCCs works like a loyalty or carbon credits program to incentivize people to take charge of solving the community issues they face. It gives people choices about what they do for their own community and what they "buy" with their SoCCs, thus building local pride and capacities. As in free market, these choices will change over time, are decided by the users, and suited to local conditions. Once people begin to manage waste, to pave or repair their streets and public spaces, repair or improve homes, to build community centers, or to organize child care services, their sense of "can do" is strengthened, and local leadership and camaraderie emerge. SoCC System honors the otherwise "invisible" community work of women and older people. It also incentivizes local unemployed youth to undertake projects of social good, and trade SoCCs thus earned for skill enhancement training towards eventual job placement. SoCCs-preneurs are funded and mentored to start for-profit ventures that benefit their communities, and lay aside a small percentage of profits in the community SoCC pool.

SOLUTION: The goal of our project is to empower local communities to take ownership and initiatives to improve their own neighborhoods and lives, instead of just waiting for government help that often never arrives. In each site, we work closely with the local partners and communities to develop the SoCCs Earning and SoCC Spending Menus, and determine the SoCC value of the task based upon the importance communities give to it. In all our project sites we work with local partners who have already developed a relationship of trust with local communities. This reduces the preparation time for our projects and leads to more sustainable results. For example, our local partners in India are M. S. Swaminathan Foundation (well de-silting project) and Dhan Foundation (Vaigai River Restoration project). In Ghana and Kenya, we started the projects with Millennium Cities Initiatives of Columbia University, which have now been taken over by Women Strong International. Our partner in Costa Rica is the local government in Curridabat. AI has also developed a SoCCs Starter Kit, including sample rules and regulation, menu suggestions and SoCC Book templates that are customized for each project. AI also helps in the selection and training of local SoCC managers.

UPDATE (2018): Since 2015, Asia Initiatives has expanded the implimentation of the Social Capital Credits (SoCCs) concept to many new projects, and enhanced performance in our existing projects, bringing our total organization impact to over 200,000 people. All our projects continue to be pro-environment, pro-poor and pro-women.

Among our new projects, SoCCS is being used to protect delicate ecosystems and alleviate poverty among the tribal people who once lived inside Rajaji National Park in Dehradoon area of the Indian Himalayas. In the drought-ridden region of Bundelkhand, SoCCs are helping people harvest water and grow kitchen gardens. In Shohratgarh Uttar Pradesh, SoCCs are women are earning SoCCs for improving their village, and redeeming SoCCs for poultry farming kits.

In Kumasi, Ghana, our SoCCs program for adolescent girls incentivized tree planting, waste management and kitchen gardening. It also increased school attendance to 97%, almost completely eliminating the problem of absenteeism and teen pregnancies. Our cattle loan program in India, in which women earn SoCCs to become eligible for low interest loans for de-silting wells or buying cattle, is set to reach complete sustainability this year. This program improves water security, nutrition and family incomes in a holistic way.

In 2017 alone, AI impact has included 1200 women establishing kitchen gardens, 600 farmers implementing organic farming techniques, 200 women using low interest loans to buy cattle, 540 individuals in tribal villages petitioning for access to government services, and 1,000 girls staying in school who would have otherwise dropped out. In addition, 300 women underwent health screenings, 350 women artisans petitioned for and got vital government services, 200 women participated in waste management programs, 230 girls participated in mentoring programs and 150 children earned SoCCs for good attendance.

CONTACT: [email protected]