Fellow Since 1992
This profile was prepared when Muslich Ismail was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992.
The New Idea
Muslich wants to make giving rewarding and useful for the donors, thereby expanding the resources available for development and for the citizen's organizations undertaking such work. In the process he hopes to help rural Indonesia move away from the patron-client relationship that has long limited the horizons of the poor. Islam requires its followers to give zakat to the needy, ideally ten percent of the harvest. However, charity does not help the poor to break out of poverty and therefore leaves incomes unequal and the village poor, despite the presence of some prosperous families.How to give life to zakat giving? Muslich's answer is, in effect, to make both donor and recipient responsible actors in the community's development. He engages the donors, to the degree they are willing, in selecting the poorest families, and in working out sound investment strategy for each of these families. He also helps them succeed with knowledge, contacts, and encouragement, as well as with the initial investment.Muslich pays as much attention to changing the role of the beneficiary families. They must take responsibility for managing the investment wisely. He also encourages them to work with the donors, not in the old patron-client frame but as partners in a development process that benefits both. To underline the change from relief to development, Muslich asks that the zakat be given in different forms, such as a live goat (an investment), rather than grain (to eat).Muslich actively seeks to mesh citizen groups into this new dynamic. They provide some of the initiative, technical help, and ongoing organization for this new development process. The process in return gives them a very strong base of financial and other support. They need no longer be so dependent on government and international donors. Their new independence in turn leads toward a less dependent community that increasingly initiates its own development.