Plan B

The focus this week was on “household strategies”, the different ways that households deal with economic crises. Here are some strategies that I learned about and would like to share with all of you:

Manipulating Household Size/Composition is a way of contending with economic crises and there are many different ways of achieving this. One way is by the increasing of the number of people in a household that are able to contribute financially; instead of there being just one person and one income stream, there are multiple people and streams. So, where once a son, daughter, relative or close friend was off living by and providing for themselves, the individual moves in and contributes their resources for the good of the entire household. Another alternative is migrant labor where one or both parents leave the region to find work elsewhere and continue providing for their families from afar. Throughout my life, I’ve known many individuals, primarily men, who have come to the United States in search of work and have left their families behind.

“Flexibilization” of Labor is a method used by the industry and by employers where, during times of difficulties, they flex the terms of the contracts that were established with workers to reflect labor that is now either part-time or does not provide benefits.

Informal Economy occurs when a person begins to earn supplemental money by using a particular skill they have or selling goods. So, imagine someone cutting hair, as many of my friends did during college for pocket money, or another individual selling homemade baked goods. Informal economies are happening everywhere, even in the United States, particularly in areas where many minorities and immigrants live and face economically dire straits.

Home & Community Gardens seems pretty self-explanatory 🙂

Informal Savings Schemes was an interesting concept and one that I learned about for the first time. Essentially, this strategy involves a number of community based organizations that come together to save and manage money, a form of informal community banking, if you will. Each individual involved deposits a sum of money into the pool, which is rotary in nature. This means that each individual gets a turn at using the money to address needs. So, one person may buy a cow, for example, that could then provide milk for not only his/her family but the whole community. As times progresses, money continues to get paid into the account. This strategy harkens back times before institutionalized, capitalist banking, as it stands today, where relationships were formed between the banker and the “bankee”. I know you, I know your face and I know your name so that means I’m more apt to loan you some money. With this spirit in mind, for these informal savings schemes to be successful, accountability and trust are paramount.

Whatever the case may be, whatever strategies you or someone you know has used, unless you’re a part of the 1%, we all struggle in some form or fashion at one point or another. My struggle may not look like yours and you may have to sacrifice something that I don’t, but the struggle is real nonetheless. I think this is an important thing to fully grasp and understand because I feel that, in so doing, we put ourselves on the same level. I’m not any better than you and you aren’t any better than I.

I believe that this can translate to how planners plan, especially in marginalized and less opportunistic communities and countries around the world. Being able to understand that this individual is no different than I goes a long way. My needs may not be the same as your needs and my struggle differs from yours, but the fact that we both struggle is all that matters. Too often we have the mentality of “saving” someone else, a concept that leads down a dangerous road, in my opinion. We must be careful not to apply our metrics for success or happiness or wealth to others who may very well subscribe to a completely different metric. The details don’t really matter: all that matters is ones ability to live a quality life.

Protestors in Yemen react to economic difficulties that have come as a result of contentious politics and a lack of institutional development. Yemeni opposition protesters take to the streets of Sanaa after the Friday noon prayers in protest against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime on September 9, 2011, as analysts warned that Yemen, already the most impoverished state in the Arab world, is running the risk of economic and humanitarian disaster if its political and security crisis is prolonged. (GAMAL NOMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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