May 10, 2021
Defining Social Capital in the Bahamas:
An Interview with Candid Concepts Development Agencies
By Ellery Wong, TAP Network Secretariat, and Rochelle Dean, Candid Concepts Development Agencies
Candid Concepts Development Agencies (CCDA), a TAP Network Partner since 2018, is an organization based in the Caribbean committed to working on the ground to progress new ways of thinking about human fulfillment and social progress, with aim for leading the way for the progressive empowerment of the region’s citizens. Since its founding in 2012, Candid Concepts has worked with partners from diverse sectors to operate as a source of insight in communities both on a local and global level, translating their knowledge and progressive thinking into practical change and inspiring others to also lead in civic innovation. This work has pushed the realization and implementation of sustainable development in the region by highlighting the advantages of adopting sustainable practices and the SDGs so that they can serve as metrics and standards for further independent development of the Civil Society sector.
Candid Concepts has navigated the growing Civil Society sector in the Caribbean while the region has been largely left behind in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Civil Society sector of the region has only recently begun to take shape, with for example the Non-Profit Organization Act in the Bahamas being recently passed in 2019 to establish basic policy regulations for the accountability and transparency of organizations. While not only advocating for policies such as this one, Candid Concepts has been devoted to providing support to the growing sector by underlining the value of investing in the concept of “social capital” to the public and the benefits that civic space can provide to Caribbean society and local communities.
Typically, in Caribbean society, social capital is an ideal that is unconsidered and undervalued, as people more commonly consider themselves to be disenfranchised and neglected by their national leadership and the regional policies. The concept of engagement and investment in civic space is largely unheard of. Candid Concept’s Director and Founder, Rochelle Dean, now aims to approach the challenge of how to bring about the prioritization of social capital and citizen’s identification in and ownership of protecting their own civic space in a culture that has yet to even consider the benefits of such. Additionally, with slow and steady growth of the Civil Society sector, Dean is also now reexamining how Candid Concepts can support such growth as it comes about and ensure that the field can work collaboratively under the umbrella of a common goal or purpose.
Read the following interview between TAP Network and Candid Concept’s Director and Founder, Rochelle Dean, about their work supporting growth and development of the SDGs and the conceptualization of social capital in the Caribbean.
Interview with Rochelle Dean, Founder and Director of Candid Concepts Development Agencies
Q: Can you describe the current landscape of the Civil Society Sector in the Caribbean?
A: Civil Society of course has always been very relevant to the poor and developing countries especially the Caribbean. So, it would be unfair to say there hasn’t been strong attempts to develop a robust civil society in the Caribbean, specifically the Bahamas. However, the sector is in need of resuscitation namely due to its reliance on the government. This has created an authoritative approach and with no push back has further caused disenfranchisement and socially atomizing and unsettling effects of market forces. These realities have caused an increase in the shrinking of the sector and of course civil society encompasses so much in terms of politics and economics to sociological views as well as international cooperation for development. Due to these realities the Caribbean has been left behind in the global agenda and of finally the hemisphere is experiencing high levels of poverty in all facets multidimensionally.
Q: Given the landscape, what has been Candid Concept’s role and function in the sector?
A: First of all, I think it’s very difficult to work in the present condition and while Candid Concepts has worked within the global sphere for many years in terms of international cooperation and development it becomes difficult to see progress for other regions and not want to participate in knowledge sharing and pass on that insight. Candid Concepts believes in team work and building synergies with the right partners to come up with strategies that are beneficial and we have worked with many organizations within the sector in the Bahamas for best outcomes.
Q: How has recognition by the Bahamian government, through the Non-Profit Organization Act in 2019, influenced the sector in the Bahamas?
A: This was major for the sector as the sector has been governed progressively by the Companies Act prior to the government’s new regulatory approach to the sector. The NPO Act 2019 was an acknowledgement that the sector can be viable and should be considered a means of market share. Speaking from an economic point of view the sector has the capacity to create jobs and of course is a means of taxation for the government as well so it is a win-win in that sense. I think it was easy to ignore compliance and there has been a lot of backlash in terms of the rationale behind the legislation from many industry leaders due to the idea that it was simply a means of compliance with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) but I think it was beautifully executed even the monitoring aspect of the process. I was definitely impressed with the CESRA which was an addendum to the Companies Act which made this process not so overwhelming for the veterans in the business sector who were operating from a business point of view and in many cases not fully familiar with the civil society sector. I think the NPO Act 2019 will further reverse some of the damaging effects within the sector and with the upcoming World Bank assessment we can expect expansion and growth if knowledgeable partners and professionals are sought.
Q: How would you define the term “social capital” and why is it an important topic to Candid Concepts for addressing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the Caribbean?
A: Social capital is defined by its function. It’s not a single entity but a variety of different ones that consist of some aspect of social structure and facilitate certain actions of individuals who are within the structure. Social capital exerts its influence on development as a result of interactions between two broad distinct types of social capital-structural and cognitive. Structural capital facilitates information sharing, decision-making, and collective action through social networks, rules, procedures, and precedents. While cognitive social capital refers to shared norms, values, trust, attitudes, and beliefs. This is important because associations are very important when we look at the role that each citizen plays within society. In order for the SDG’s to be implemented we don’t need to look at what other countries are doing or even agree to one theoretical approach to our society. We simply need to look at ourselves and understand where we all fit into making our society structurally functional for everyone. It’s hard to ignore the idea that the Caribbean has been left behind but it’s even harder to ignore the social constructs and associations that have caused so many individuals to feel disengaged. Candid Concepts Development really wants to dispel that philosophy even if it does exist in reality. Civil Society is all inclusive and it’s the beginning of participatory engagement for a thriving and fully functioning sector. I think that Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals are an all-inclusive passport for access and it is important for the full implementation within the Caribbean.
Q: How else does Civil Society need to be mainstreamed into National programming in the Caribbean? How is Candid Concepts working to support this change?
A: Civil Society needs to first be all inclusive and find its own source of strength independent of the government. The government has mentioned a National Development Strategy at some point and I believe this would be where civil society can be integrated into programming at the national level. As a project consultant I would like to see that happen especially if the government would use the global goals as indicators for success in that sense. I think it will be very easy to roll out some amazing programmes and collect data but I also believe that this is where partnership is important and this approach would definitely be best suited for successful outcomes.
Q: How does Candid Concepts aim to have a hand in the formation of the Civil Society sector in the Caribbean?
A: I think we have already done some amazing things at the governmental level. Candid Concepts Development has made amendments to the NPO Act 2019 and participated in the monitoring process with the Attorney General’s Office. We have also challenged the Bahamas to advocate for SDG16 and its review at the United Nations. With all of that going on Candid Concepts Development is expected to roll out a social accountability programme with international partners in the Bahamas in the near future. We are always looking to partner with international organizations where we can continue to grow and learn to bring new insights and concepts that we may not be privy to in the Caribbean. This is always our goal! To learn and further develop and right now the Caribbean is ready and Candid Concepts Development is a part of that change.
Q: What is the status of implementation of SDG16 in the Caribbean?
A: As it stands after the recent common country analysis, the Bahamas has declined in terms of government and the rule of law. While it was stated that institutions were strong there was no data to support this notion. The Bahamas government has agreed to support the advocacy as a member state of the United Nations to maintain the language and review of SDG16 and continued monitoring for peace, justice and strong institutions.
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the Civil Society landscape in the Caribbean and Candid Concepts work strategy?
A: COVID-19 has impacted everyone and the uncertainty is still very present in terms of the way forward. Candid Concepts Development is lucky in the sense that remote work has not been a challenge. The pandemic has revealed major gaps in the sector and many organizations and also helped Candid Concepts Development to determine exactly what is needed in the sector in terms of the citizenry. I have seen many people have great ideas and have capacity to do great things but so much within structural capital. This is really facilitating the shrinking of civic spaces. The country is developing and cannot afford not to work within structural capital within the sphere of civil society. The pandemic of course was an eye opener in that sense and so while COVID-19 was in a sense a setback in terms of financing and lost opportunities new ones always arise when you are a problem solver.
Q: What are the ambitions for Candid Concepts in the next three years?
A: That is a tough one! I think I would like to be able to hire full staff and not run my own business if that makes sense-I don’t believe in silo’s and I did most of the ground work and I have further educational goals so I would like to bring on more staff and expand in terms of more development projects.
Q: What can members of the TAP Network, especially ones located in regions that have also been left behind in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, take away from the experiences and lessons learned of Candid Concepts?
A: I think it’s important to be open to brutal honesty. People who are honest help you to succeed. I will also say partnerships are key, you may discover you aren’t all you thought you were and that’s the beginning of a shift that can take your organization to the next level. I decided to build others and took a back seat and sometimes criticism can be indirect and hurt your feelings but it’s also the best medicine to becoming a successful industry leader.
About TAP Storytelling: In 2021, TAP Network is launching the TAP Storytelling Initiative, which will aim to closely and frequently highlight the work of our Network through working directly with them to produce quality online content about their endeavors. Together in this initiative, we will aim to intimately spotlight the work of our Members and Partners and the challenges, successes, failures, processes and problem solving that comes with it, while also offering the chance for wide promotion through TAP’s outreach channels. We hope that these opportunities will not only offer heightened visibility of the work of our Network, but will also inspire and educate more commitments to SDG16 and transparency and accountability for the 2030 Agenda as a whole. If you are interested in spearheading this work with us, head to our TAP Membership Engagement Portal where you can find the Storytelling Form to submit your interest.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on the TAP Network Blog Platform are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the TAP Network. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion.
Photo by Candid Concepts Development Agencies
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