Foundation Phase (1978-1984)
ASA was founded in 1978 with a focus on consciousness raising, group development and training among the rural poor. It was a phase to establish a “Just Society” creating an enabling environment for the underprivileged community.
Activists, like ASA’s President Md. Shafiqual Haque Choudhury, who were already working for NGOs founded ASA with assistance of compatible development practitioners. They were dissatisfied with the approach of the then NGOs and wanted a more radical, people-centered activities. So, they decided to create an alternative by establishing a new NGO – ASA.
ASA received formal registration from the government in 1979. To reach its goal of empowering the poor, ASA stressed the need for building people’s organizations, or groups, through mobilizing landless rural poor. Different programs were undertaken including:
- ➲ Awareness building for social action;
- ➲ Legal aid and awareness build-up program;
- ➲ Training program;
- ➲ Communication support service program;
- ➲ Training for rural journalists.
During this time, the group members of ASA conducted a series of social actions to fight against social injustices so as to ensure rightful access to institutional/public resources, obtain just wages, enter into the local power structure and have access to land.
Although the general impact of the foundation phase was positive, the programs suffered from substantial limitations:
- ➲ Group members were not able to get a just wage for a long time since the local elite recruited low wage laborers from outside;
- ➲ Impact of natural disaster and the huge inflows of aid obstructed the implementation of the social action programs, since the people began to prefer the economic way of solving their problems rather than through conflict;
- ➲ Idea of apex organizations, built up from and representing groups of the poor, was not sustainable. Being poor, members entered these bodies with the intention of having more facilities and fulfilling their self-interest.
In the light of these limitations, ASA adopted a revised approach to make the development efforts more effective.
Reformative Phase (1985-1991)
Gradual demand over simultaneous growth on socio-economic activities motivated ASA to introduce an integrated module, which included social actions plus initiatives for income generation. Although the new approach gave special emphasis on economic activities, ASA stressed the importance of social development aspects as well. In this phase, empowerment was made through the improvement of health, nutrition, education, sanitation and by making credit available to the poor. The focus was solely shifted to women, who earlier were responsible for nominal contribution in GDP. ASA focused them bringing a new untapped community in the frame of economy.
The reformative phase also brought out positive changes in the livelihood of the rural poor, but some constraints were identified as well:
- ➲ Many ASA members left the organization to join other organizations, which provided more appropriate products for their needs, such as credit for income generation purposes;
- ➲ Development and implementation of integrated programs took a long time and the group members had to wait a longer period to obtain credit;
- ➲ The absence of funds led to uneven distribution, which meant that a few members could obtain large amounts of credit while others got little.
Addressing the above obscurities over lending activities, ASA decided to solely concentrate on core microfinance development for the better enrichment of the underprivileged community.
Program Specialization Phase (1992- till date)
The main reason for specialization was for ASA to reorient itself to cater to the needs of its members in an effective way. This took the form of providing credit plus programs that eventually led ASA to provide a full microfinance package.
The main elements of ASA approach are:
- ➲ Savings and credit for income generation in a cost-effective manner;
- ➲ Member Security Fund to shield members from unforeseen hardships.
The main objectives of this phase are:
- ➲ Alleviate poverty and improve the quality of life of the landless rural poor by providing them with appropriate and affordable financial services;
- ➲ Reduce the dependence of the poor on the local moneylenders;
- ➲ Facilitate additional income earning at micro level for improving the economic status of the women; and
- ➲ Empower the landless and disadvantaged people.
In 2001, ASA became financially self-sufficient and since then it does not take any grants or donations from home and abroad.