What is 'bottom-up' social development
Social development is an encompassing term for “processes of change that lead to improvements in human well-being, social relations and social institutions, and that are equitable, sustainable, and compatible with principles of democratic governance and social justice” (UNRISD, 2011: 2). Bottom-up social development refers to actions conceptualised, incepted, developed and led by members of the local community. The objectives and concerns of bottom-up initiatives respond to evolving community needs. Contrary to ‘mainstream’ aid programmes that withdraw from intervention sites once objectives have been achieved, bottom-up initiatives develop in the community and stay in the community.
The benefits of community-based and community-led initiatives are many and acknowledged worldwide. Scientific studies have documented positive outcomes in the social, economic, educational and health domains (Cornish et al., 2014; Murray & Crummett, 2010; Phillips, 2004; Skovdal et al., 2013). We also know that community mobilisation is a powerful means for pushing the voice of disenfranchised communities (Campbell et al., 2010; Campbell & Jovchelovitch, 2000).
An important point for grassroots movements and organisations is their role vis-à-vis that of the State. Bottom-up groups and organisations can be effective partners of the State, but they cannot and should not replace the State and its provision.