In 2014 I joined several other UK community workers on a trip to India. We went to learn how Self-Reliant Groups (SRGs) have become a strong and long-lasting way for people in India to escape poverty and renew their communities.
It was a colourful trip. And it was inspiring because we saw a culture where people who faced deep poverty just got on and did something for themselves, effectively making something out of nothing. When I came back, I wanted to see whether we could do the same here.
The principles of a Self-Reliant Group are simple. A group of people facing financial hardship agree to form an SRG and work together. They save money together, building capital that can be borrowed by individuals or for joint ventures. They share their skills and ideas with one another, and learn new skills. They use their skills together to earn income. And by building their confidence and livelihoods, they help to renew the wider communities where they live.
It would reduce the risk of people falling into poverty and desperation if they could see how capable they are… Self-Reliant Groups could reduce the apathy and defeat that people feel
WEvolution, the organisation who took us all out to India, have had success setting up SRGs with women in Glasgow and other parts of Scotland. Now we’re working to set up women’s SRGs in three areas of Greater Manchester. In Openshaw, a group has already come together in partnership with the local Baptist Tabernacle, and done a skills audit to help them plan their activities. In Rochdale we’re working with a local archdeacon to start an SRG. And in Salford, there are many opportunities identified by Sarah Whitehead, who became a community leader and trainer through our Schools of Participation programme and has recently been on WEvolution’s ‘DIY SRG’ training in Glasgow.
SRGs could bring real hope to communities where there are no jobs and no opportunities, helping people to build on their own strengths and relationships. We will share stories from the groups as they start to make a difference!