Overcoming the challenges of transformational change for development of the poor and excluded is often a hard nut to crack. And when it is for the hardcore ones, the challenges are harder to overcome. Why? They are conditioned to remain poor due to many a reason like lack of opportunities, deprivation of basic human needs, superstition, exploitation, ignorance and so on. Added to this is their fatalistic attitude. It is generally thought by many people that faith based fatalism propped by ignorance holds them in benighted prison where they are conditioned to find themselves in their norms. So, deconditioning and reconditioning require such push which has to be innovative ones. Normal innovative solutions for transformational change may not go to an adequate extent to cure the ills of the hard-conditioned victims-the poor and excluded, particularly the hardcore ones. So, the ideas and concepts, methods and processes have to be different-poor centric ones to be better-fit to the requirement.

Innovation is a critical factor for transformational change. Simply saying, innovation is putting the new ideas and concepts into practices for winning in competition and earning monopolistic profits in short run by commercial-industrial enterprises. So it is the driving force of creative destruction, a term coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter in early 40s. Creative destruction needs introduction of ideas, products and technologies that replace the existing ones. Transformational development of the poor and excluded also needs new ideas and concepts for developing and guiding process and practices which help the poor people to get them out from the quagmire of poverty and backwardness. The social change maker is inspired and motivated by social objectives rather than for monopolistic profits as in case of commercial enterprises. The old products and processes make their exit in order to introduce new ones which are more efficient, productive, adaptive, suitable and very potential for positive outcome. At the dawn of our liberation in 1971, introduction of collateral-free micro-credit by NGOs appeared to be a black swan in the financial landscape of the poor and excluded in Bangladesh. This innovation enabled unhindered access to them to meet their credit needs.

In relation to innovation for the poor and excluded, I want to share an anecdote told to me by a Union Parishad (union level local government) chairman many years ago. Earlier, he was working for UNDP, Dhaka. After his retirement, he went to his village for settlement there (perhaps in Gaforgaon In Mymensingh district). He contested for the position of UP (Union Parishad) chairman and he was elected. He intended to make his union beggar-free. So he began the work from his village. He undertook a survey for determining number of beggars and related information about them. On completion of this work, he visited their living places to get himself connected with them. After several visits and discussion with them to change their condition by giving up begging and instead doing something dignified and valuable for them and society, he could not move them towards the desired end. Subsequently he invited them to a meeting with him in the afternoon. In the meeting he took with him seeds of seasonal vegetables. He told them to continue with what they were doing and simultaneously do a work for their benefits and others in the community. They were advised to request the household people to whom they beg to allow them to sow the seeds brought by them in places identified and given to them. There were incentives for all. Half of the yield would go to the landowners and half to them. This idea and process was innovative to attract my mind. Unfortunately I could not track it further.

After many years, I saw another innovation of my friend late Muhammad Yahiya who founded CDIP, now one of the national local NGOs. One day he went to visit his branch office far away from his head office in Dhaka. He was a visionary for sustainable human development of the poor and excluded. Looking at far afield he saw three boys were sitting under the shade of a banyan tree. He went nearer to them. They were afraid. With a kind curious voice he asked them if they were students. They informed him that they were students of a school not too far away from there. He then wanted to know the reasons for their non-attending the class. Upon inquiry he knew that they were all from the households where their parents and others were poor and illiterate. They could not get any help for their homework. In the following days they went to school without homework and preparation. In the class they were humiliated by teachers and fellow students. Day after day, they felt psychologically inferior to their other classmates. So they lost their interest in attending class.

This event caused Muhammad Yahiya to be psychological crucified. He began to think about what could be done for them. He reflected upon his own past. He was helped in preparing his homework by his parents. In math he was so guided by his father that he found this intellectual gymnastics comfortable and easy in days to come. Such help in the village could go a long way to support the deprived girls and boys for home preparation and motivation in learning and attending class. He shared his idea with his colleagues at head office and field. He wanted to know if the college attending girl students and housewives would be willing to face the challenge of making their villages dropout-free from primary level of schooling and also would contribute to conduct learning centers with volunteerism. Of course, some financial and material support from CDIP and community was sought. He envisioned a people's development movement regarding this innovative project.

At the dawn of our liberation, microcredit came as financial panacea to meet the requirement of the poor and excluded. The poor people were subject to exploitation by the village money lenders for their exorbitant interest. They could not think of entering into the premises of the formal banks, let alone micro and small credit. Microcredit was the innovative solution and strategic best fit to the prevailing condition at that time. NGOs have been working for the poor and excluded since the birth of Bangladesh. They are working for soft development of the poor and other community people. They can prove their utility to the society by continuous innovation, particularly in the soft development field like finance, education, health and appropriate technology.

The writer is a columnist and Vice Chairman of CDIP.

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