GRAM VIKAS DECADE FIVE
The 'Decade Five Approach' outlines the strategic direction and programme framework for our efforts as we move into the fifth decade of Gram Vikas. It will be built on the achievements, experiences and lessons learnt from the past 40 years of our work.
The past 40 years have marked a remarkable journey for Gram Vikas, with a fair share of ups and downs. At each stage, when things did not work out as intended, the organisation demonstrated its resilience and adaptability to make course corrections, often leading to improved results. The general public perception of Gram Vikas being an organisation that can deliver results of high quality, and operate at a reasonably large scale, has continued over the decades.
Gram Vikas has also been open to recognising its shortcomings and addressing deficiencies, and this marks it as a reliable partner for the village communities as well as development partners. Village communities that we have partnered with cherish the joint achievements. In many cases, neighbouring villages continue to encourage Gram Vikas to initiate a partnership, which given the resource constraints, human and financial, have not happened in many cases.
Despite internal and external challenges, Gram Vikas has been able to retain a core team of staff members, who are a repository of institutional memory. Over the years, it has also continued to attract new talent into the staff pool, as well as a steady stream of volunteers and interns. We have also nurtured personal contacts and networks across a wide range of stakeholders.
PREPARING FOR THE FIFTH DECADE – LOOKING AROUND AND WITHIN US
As we prepare to embark on the journey in the fifth decade, it is imperative that we look around us to understand how the world has changed and is changing rapidly. It is equally important for us to look critically within, and not blind our perspective by basking in the glory of past achievements.
THE WORLD AROUND US
External environment is changing, and how!
- Government is more engaged and more active in its development role
- The nature and preferences of donors have changed
- NGO sector is facing existential questions, the past is not a sufficient indicator for the future
Grassroots NGOs are not considered important anymore, as the State and the Market seem to have gained the ability to reach the last mile. There are limited resources for developing and demonstrating innovative solutions to development challenges.
Village communities that we work with are changing fast
- Aspirations have expanded, due to increased awareness, and better access to education and technology
- Geographic isolation is not an issue anymore for most villages
- Overall economic growth has enabled newer employment opportunities, quality not withstanding
Development in general, improvements in physical connectivity and increased opportunities to migrate and see the world around them, have enabled the rural poor, particularly the younger generation, to aspire for a different world than what their parents lived in. For Gram Vikas to continue to be relevant, it is important that we understand the changes in their aspirations. Poverty and other development challenges continue to characterise many of the areas Gram Vikas works in.
FACTORS WITHIN US
There is now, stronger evidence of Gram Vikas’ impact
- Increasing number of academic analysis of the work and its results
- Geographic isolation not an issue anymore, for most villages
Acknowledgement of the fact that Gram Vikas has been able to contribute substantially to improving the quality of life of rural communities is a matter of strength that we need to build upon.
There is a strong feeling internally that change is necessary.
- We have been doing the same, in the same way, for the last 20 years
- Organisation should catch up and improve to match the new challenges and opportunities
- We have always stayed ahead of the curve, we should continue to do that
The feeling is that with the rapid changes outside, Gram Vikas needs to remain nimble footed to adapt and build upon what have been able to achieve, and strengthen the ability to innovate and demonstrate on the ground.
STRENGTHS AND OPPORTUNITIES
The community ‘rootedness’ that we have is our biggest strength. The abilities we have consistently demonstrated to work at significant scale and deliver high quality outputs needs to be built upon.
- Ability to connect and engage with communities and deliver good quality outputs
- Ability to innovate, design and run programmes that are ahead of the curve
- Ability to work effectively with government at different levels to leverage resources and influence policies
- International recognition by donors and academicians of Gram Vikas’ ability to address key development challenges
Changes in development policies, if taken advantage of, will help us build stronger interventions, and continue to be relevant to the communities we work with. The changes in the funding environment will require innovations in resource mobilisation and financial arrangements.
- Impending policy churn in the sanitation sector, post Swachh Bharat Mission, that will allow us to build on the results we have achieved so far
- Increasing CSR spends by corporates will increase the demand for last-mile delivery capabilities, in geographies that Gram Vikas focuses on
- Higher financial outlays for Panchayats and increased availability of funds with local governments, which community institutions can tap into
WEAKNESSES AND THREATS
While we have demonstrated ability to work effectively at scale, we may not have been equally rigorous about our efficiency. Internal abilities have not matched up to the growth and will need to be addressed with great alacrity. Quality consciousness, time- and cost-efficiency and better communication towards the communities and to external stakeholders are critical areas that need to be addressed.
Limited project management systems and capacities
- Mismatch between quality of human resources and what is needed
- Weak knowledge generation, dissemination and outreach abilities
- Weakened links with community institutions post programme interventions
Increasing political aspirations at different levels is a matter to contend with for its effect on community cohesion and local dynamics. Sector-unfriendly policy pronouncements give rise to lack of confidence within and outside. New types of community development models, with deeper pockets make it difficult for us to attract good talent. Inflation, changes in tax structures and competition driven wage-rises lead to cost increases that donors are unwilling to provide for.
Gram Vikas has demonstrated pathways to address issues of poverty and underdevelopment. In the changing context, there is a clear role for Gram Vikas to partner with rural communities who are otherwise neglected in the growth story.
The path ahead is not likely to be an easy tread, and necessitates that we recognise and address the challenges so as not to lose our advantage. What remains the same is our resolve to overcome, and to continue to be relevant to rural communities. Many villages in Odisha, and now Jharkhand, have come to rely on Gram Vikas as a true friend, the one with them in times of need. It will be this unending source of inspiration that will keep us going.
The knowledge that we have institutional strengths that we can rely upon; memories to guide our way ahead; and supporters and collaborators – old and new – will stand by us in our journey.
We need to become smarter, and more efficient. We need to learn from our mistakes and take necessary steps to correct those that cannot be wished away. We need to build upon what we have already achieved, while keeping an alert eye and open mind to the prospects of further expansion and growth. We need to grow, both in depth and in breadth.
Two hands coming together to form a heart – the spirit that will guide us in the next decade.
DECADE FIVE STRATEGY
The Decade Five Strategy will be built on two broad principles:
This will help Gram Vikas grow deeper, with the communities we have already worked with; and, wider, reaching out to new communities in the geographies that we have chosen to focus upon.
The programmatic framework will be built on these two principles.
DECADE FIVE - BROAD STRATEGIC CONTOURS
Consolidate results achieved in villages we have worked with
Expand in new areas in and around existing villages
Strengthen connect with communities already working with
Preserve, build upon and extend the results already achieved
Spread core activities in new areas, new communities
Build capabilities to take up interventions faster and better
Create Gram Panchayat level critical masses of communities
Build village level capabilities and systems to supplement government and replace Gram Vikas
Spread core activities in new areas, new communities
Build smarter internal systems with learning capacities to match fast-changing external environment`
DECADE FIVE – PROGRAMMATIC PILLARS
Gram Vikas’ work in Decade Five will be organised in six programmatic pillars which will help build upon, extend and sustain results already achieved; create new interventions in response to the needs of communities; and, help manage the interconnectedness of development problems and their solutions.
Cross-cutting principles in all the programme pillars include:
- Use of information and communication technologies for efficient internal functioning, including feedback systems
- Proactive reaching out to the external stakeholders
- Ensuring compliance with statutory requirements
We will work intensively in ten districts of Odisha and one district of Jharkhand.
In the other districts where we we have had operations in the past, we will choose to intensify the work if and when sufficient human and financial resources become available.
The Movement and Action Network for Transformation of Rural Areas (MANTRA) approach has guided our work with the communities and will continue to do so. The key principles of MANTRA will continue to be the guiding principles for the Decade Five programme. Programmes and projects will be developed, specific to the geographic context and needs of the communities.