Social funds as a strategy for poverty reduction in Jamaica: An exploratory study

Glenn A Bowen, Florida International University


This study explored the relationship between social fund projects and poverty reduction in selected communities in Jamaica. The Caribbean nation's social fund projects aim to reduce “public” poverty by rehabilitating and expanding social and economic infrastructure, improving social services, and strengthening organizations at the community level. Research questions addressed the characteristics of poverty-focused social fund projects; the nexus between poverty reduction and three key concepts suggested by the literature— community (citizen) participation, social capital, and empowerment; and the impact of the projects on poverty. In this qualitative study, data were collected and triangulated by means of in-depth, semi-structured interviews, supplemented by key informant data; non-participant observation; and document reviews. Thirty-four respondents were interviewed individually at eight rural and urban sites over a period of four consecutive months, and 10 key informants provided supplementary data. Open, axial, and selective coding was used for data reduction and analysis as part of the grounded theory method, which included constant comparative analysis. The codes generated a set of themes and a substantive-formal theory. Findings were crosschecked with interview respondents and key informants and validated by means of an audit trail. The results have revealed that the approach to poverty reduction in social fund-supported communities is a process of development-focused collaboration among various stakeholders. The process encompasses four stages: (1) identifying problems and priorities, (2) motivating and mobilizing, (3) working together, and (4) creating an enabling environment. The underlying stakeholder involvement theory posits that collaboration increases the productivity of resources and creates the conditions for community-driven development. In addition, the study has found that social fund projects are largely community-based, collaborative, and highly participatory in their implementation, as well as prescription-driven, results-oriented, and leadership-dependent. Further, social capital formation across communities was found to be limited, and in general, the projects have been enabling rather than empowering. The projects have not reduced poverty per se; however, they have been instrumental in improving conditions that were concomitants of poverty.

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Recommended Citation

Bowen, Glenn A, "Social funds as a strategy for poverty reduction in Jamaica: An exploratory study" (2003). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3130417.