Lauren Abendschein

Community Engagement Spurs Innovative Program for Day Laborers

Men on the Side of the RoadMontgomery County in Maryland is struggling with community backlash from efforts to provide employment structures and services to day laborers. According to yesterday’s Washington Post, city officials are hoping to eventually alleviate the tension by training workers to run their own enterprises, but in the mean time negotiations for a structure continue. This tension is far from unique to Maryland–all over the world day laborers congregate to offer their services. Yet for communities that struggle with ?not in my back yard,? constructively engaging with day laborers can prove to be a win-win solution, as an innovative South African organization has shown.

The Men on the Side of the Road Project (MSR) has developed an innovative way of integrating the community into their efforts to provide day laborers with the skills and tools they need to become readily employable. MSR takes a three pronged approach to the problem: 1. organize workers and help negotiate temporary wages and employment conditions; 2. train workers to become readily employable and give them access to necessary tools; 3. supervise and place men at job sites.Their innovation comes through their Tools Project, commended by Ashoka’s Citizen Base Initiative as a powerful way to cull community support. MSR offers to pick up used tools from businesses and individuals. Day laborers then collect them and establish community contacts in the process. After learning to fix the tools, the men can use them to specialize in a trade, offering their services to the contacts they have made.

You can read a full profile of MSR in the activity database.