One of the underlying principles of Biomimicry is the Genius of Nature and that, as Janine Benyus is often quoted as saying, we need to quiet our intelligence and let Nature tell us what it knows.
When I first watched the Shaffi Mather TED Talk “A New Way to Fight Corruption”, I didn’t have a positive reaction to the idea. Paying a service so that you don’t pay a bribe? Can’t that level of corruption just be dealt with? But I was reacting with my suburban New England background and understanding of “how things should work”. When I thought longer about it, I realized that it was beating the corruption by empowering citizens with tools to fight. Having to pay for this service was valuable because the research was done and they had a representative to help them stand; more empowering than charity. I needed to listen to those that are suffering in that community come up with a brilliant and innovative solution to free themselves.
Similarly, the idea of Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (roscas) and other community based microlending (Biggart, 2001) is the community building something that works for it based on the social constructs that they have. Formal lending institutions are constructs often based on colonialism and don’t fit the cultural norms of the communities they are supposed to be serving. Female based microlending groups are a primary example of this because, even though they run households and businesses, they can’t participate in formal banking except through their husbands.
Sometimes the best way to help a designated “underserved” community is to listen when they describe the solutions they already have created and amplify them.