Collective Grant: a new Self-Help Group.
Location: New York City
Year: 2005, April.
Type: Paper for "Theories of Self-Organization and the Dynamics of Cities". Seminar by Manuel Delanda. GSAPP Columbia University, New York.
Author: Enrique Moya-Angeler.

I would like to present the following fictitious setting : Aurelia (A), Brian (B), Camila (C), Dan (D), Estella (E), and Fernando(F) 22, 17, 13, 9, 8 and 5 years old respectively, share a scholarship. But they do not share it individually. We are talking about a Collective Grant. Each one of them obtains certain economic and educational privileges. Nonetheless the future of their grant depends on the individual success of all the members of the group. If the performance of any one of the members of the group fails to attain the educational goals designed, the whole group will be affected by the loss of the fellowship. The individual success must be accompanied by a collective one. The functioning of the above Collective Grant (CG) is articulated around a program of self help. One of its main characteristics is that of generating a mutually binding sense of responsibility in a group. The goal is to promote academic excellence and to provide an opportunity for thousands of outstanding students with significant financial need in order for them to reach their fullest potential.

The same as in the Grameen Bank project, each member of the CG belongs to a reduced group in which an interactive participation has been set. In the Grameen Bank, although each borrower must belong to a five-member group, the group is not required to give any guarantee for a loan to its member. Repayment responsibility solely rests on the individual borrower, while the group and the centre oversee that everyone behaves in a responsible way and none gets into repayment problem. There is no form of joint liability, i.e. group members are not responsible to pay on behalf of a defaulting member. Grameen Bank was born in the village of Jobra, Bangladesh. The origin of Grameen Bank can be traced back to 1976 when Professor Muhammad Yunus, Head of the Rural Economics Program at the University of Chittagong, launched an action research project to examine the possibility of designing a credit delivery system to provide banking services targeted at the rural poor. It is owned by the poor borrowers of the bank who are mostly women. It works exclusively for them. Borrowers of Grameen Bank at present own 94 per cent of the total equity of the bank. The Grameen Bank Project came into operation with the following objectives: create opportunities for self-employment for the vast multitude of unemployed people in rural Bangladesh. reverse the age-old vicious circle of “low income, low saving and low investment”, into virtuous circle of “low income, injection of credit, investment, more income, more savings, more investment, more income”.

The Collective Grant is an organization that has as its objective the improvement and stimulation of the educational level of the six group members through participating interaction. There are several organizations whose articulation is based on mentors. These volunteers have an emotional compromise with society and they channel it through solidarity help. Big Brothers Big Sisters is a mentoring organization in the United States. In 2002, the organization served more than 200,000 youth ages five through 18, in 5,000 communities across the country, through a network of 470 agencies. The positive relationships between Big Brothers and Big Sisters ( BBBS ) and their Little Brothers have a direct, measurable, and lasting impact on children’s lives. BBBS one-to-one mentoring helps at-risk youth overcome the many challenges they face. Little Brothers and Sisters are less likely to begin using illegal drugs, consume alcohol, skip school and classes, or engage in acts of violence. Businesses and corporations partner with local Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates to encourage volunteerism and community support among their employees. Employees are recruited and enrolled as a group, and paired one-on-one with children in a nearby school. Big Brothers Big Sisters works closely with parents and guardians to match every child with the right Big. Every volunteer is screened, trained, and supervised, and professionals in youth development support each match to help ensure that the relationship will be safe and rewarding for everyone involved.

There are several differences between BBBS and the Collective Grant. In the BBBS the help is in one direction, from the mentor to the person being mentored and the interaction is only partial. That is to say that what the Big Brother obtains and what the Little Bother obtains are not the same as their interests are not the same: one helps and the other receives the help. It is evident that the mentor receives a very important personal emotional gratification. The difference lies in that his objectives are different and the vicious circle of interaction is not homogeneous. Instead with the CG the interaction follows in all directions among the six member group as well as with their respective families. Such an interaction is compulsory but very positive. It provokes the need for interaction. A, B, C, D, E and F are a group that need to self manage their educational help.

A, B, C, D, E and F meet the same requirements. A broken family both from the human and from the personal point of view. The boy or girl represents an economic burden that the family cannot cope with. The future of the child is very sombre and his fate is far from hopeful. In many cases the older members of the family decide that the child must stop his or her studies and start working to earn money. The consequences are evident: the loss of the human potential of the child both emotionally and intellectually. The development of the child is paralysed. The child cannot grow as a full human being. The aim of the grant is to help the development of the human potential that all children have through a follow-up educational program that includes the primary and secondary school system and the university level The practical structure is as follows: A, B, C, D, E and F meet three times a week. In other mentor-pupil situation the support classes are given by outside teachers. In this case the holders of the collective grant are pupils and teachers at the same time. Each student is subject to an inside follow-up. The first two weekly meeting are in pairs of two. In these sessions the older student acts as a tutor to the younger one. In the first session A meets with B, C with D, and E with F. In the second meeting, B tutors C, D tutors E and F is tutorized by A. A is the weakest element in the chain. Nonetheless it is understood that he or she is already at the university level and that he already has the educational structure necessary to allow for his success at the educational level and at the human an emotional one. The third session involves the children with the grants and their respective families. Sessions are between two scholarship holders and their respective families. The meeting have as their objective the detection of possible malfunctioning in the family environment and helping to build a group that has as its objective the regeneration and organization of a real solution to the educational problem. It is of vital importance the implication of the family members of the child and their understanding of their needed support. This implication is now only emotional as the economic burden is covered by the grant. Unfortunately the emotional support is sometimes the most difficult to obtain. That is why it is so important to create a strong support system amongst the families of the group that has the collective grant. The different families come into contact with each other, sharing experiences and exchanging feedback. This can create an effect of self-help between them. In the interaction between the members of the collective grant of this micro community lies the success or failure of this program.
A, B, C, D, E and F receive the necessary economic support to pay for all the expenses generated by their studies. Registration fee, school material, extra school expenses are covered by the grant. On top of that each family receives the equivalent amount of the minimum monthly wage. This way we avoid the problem of the family having to put the child into the labour market prematurely for economic reasons. An economic assessment of each family is made to establish the needs of each one of them in particular. The main rule is that each pupil of the group must obtain evaluation marks that are improving progressively. They do not have to aspire to obtain the best marks in the class but to maintain an educational progress. This must be accompanied by an emotional support structure. This emotional and educational support is created and maintained by the group and by the family network. Each student realizes that his own success is as important as that of all the members of the group. If a student fails, the grant is taken away from all the members of the group. Interaction is basic and fundamental as the student realizes that the success of another member is his own success.
This program has to be articulated by a foundation that manages the economic and human resources necessary for a positive development. It is obvious that qualified professionals capable of evaluating the economic and emotional needs of each child are needed. It is also of primary importance that each group is adequately assessed in order that the collective grant be a success. You have to make sure that there is a proximity in the geographical situation of the different schools of the members of the group. Initial periods of adaptation should be established and allowed. Once these periods are over and in order to make sure the success of the program if any member of the group does not meet the standards established, the grant is taken away from all the members of that group. Being strict is important to make the system stronger. The objective in the long run is for this foundation of collective grants to be in the control of the previous scholarship holders.
I am specially sensitive to the immense educational problem in third world countries or in certain ghettos of our own society. I strongly believe that all children have an emotional an educational potential. Through the Collective Grant Program that I propose I believe that the structure can be created so that the child can develop his or her childhood guided by an adequate educational environment.