IACD’s lead regional partners in South Asia are the Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation and The Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society (CECOEDECON). Both are active in networking community development organisations across the region, and have a strong international profile. In 2016 IACD partnered with Grassroots and CECOEDECON on organising a roundtable conference on the theme of community development and the Sustainable Development Goals and a study visit Practice Exchange to Northern India. Both are active in the Pan Indian Coalition of 50-plus organizations and networks working on Environmental and Climate Justice and Sustainable Development.
In July we also built closer links with the community development practitioners in the Philippines and we have members across the region. There are many other community development type networks and fora in South Asia and we are keen to share their contacts and their work. Please contact our Regional Directors for South Asia.
Anita Paul (apaul
This is a recent article about IACD’s 2016 Practice Exchange to India and Nepal.
As part of our continuing professional development support for members, IACD organizes Practice Exchanges to different part of the world. Practice Exchanges are an opportunity for a small group of community developers from different countries to join together in visiting community development in practice.
Our 2016 Practice Exchange returned to India, following the highly successful trip four years earlier to Southern India. This year our focus was upon community development practice as it was addressing sustainable development in Northern India. Our partner was the Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation. 18 Community development practitioners, policy makers and academics from nine different countries embarked on a two week journey, exploring and sharing practice, knowledge, and engaging in dialogue amongst India’s rural and urban communities.
We started our trip with an IACD India round table mini-conference together, where we were joined by over 40 IACD India members, held at the India International Centre in New Dehli. Here we focused upon the implications for community development of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We heard presentations from some senior leaders from Indian civil society organisations including C.K.Ganguly, CEO of the Timbaktu Collective, Sohini Bhattacharya, Vice president, Breakthrough, India, Manas Satpathy, Executive Director, PRADAN, Mathew Cherian, Chairman, Voluntary Agency Network of India(VANI), Radhika Mathur, Program officer- SDGs, National Foundation of India (NFI) and Jyotsna Lall, Director Programs – AKTC- Aga Khan Foundation.
The round table was a wonderful opportunity to engage with Indian IACD members on a policy priority for the association. We shall be running further CD and SDG round table mini-conferences in different global regions during the year. It also provided for the Practice Exchange participants a key insight into the national challenges in India.
With the SDGs as the continual thread, the Practice Exchange took the group from New Delhi, to Ranikhet in the foothills of the Himalayas, finishing the trip in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India’s ‘Pink City’. The diverse schedule featured a wide range of project visits and ensured that there were opportunities to engage in dialogue with small grassroots community organisations through to larger NGOs.
The international professional development experience of a lifetime. Reflections from some of the Practice Exchange participants.
Put 18 Community Development specialists on a train together in India and you have much more than a mobile party. You have the international professional development experience of a lifetime. Our hosts Anita and Kalyan Paul founded and co-lead the Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation– an inspiring organisation with a real depth of community development experience and innovation. This includes the house of Umang, its fair trade enterprise and store.
The foundation also has a very advanced understanding of mountain ecology informing both its community forestry and sustainable agriculture efforts to improve livelihoods, nutrition, food security and environmental protection. Of particular interest to me was their small scale bio-gas plants. These units – despite being an advanced technology- are still able to be managed and maintained in the village and produce clean gas, saving trees and improving the health of users.
Overall, the trip left me with an appreciation of how much more we need to learn and do to incorporate the SDGs into CD. It also highlighted the tremendous potential of using these goals as a framework for collaboration across civil society and with the state and private sectors. If you ever have the opportunity to participate in an IACD practice exchange grab it with both hands. I am sure my colleagues will agree, we shared a rich and refreshing experience that will inform our planning and shape our future practice.
Senior Lecturer in Community Development, Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand
More observations from John will be published in the next issue of Whanake: The Pacific Journal of Community Development
Clearing the path for Self Help
The common theme for all of the places we visited was ‘self-help’. While this was the actual name of many of the women’s groups we met (self-help groups), more importantly, all of the communities we visited seemed to have figured out a way to help themselves by thinking creatively and using their existing resources to expand their economic base. This is the essence of community development. Often, as ‘outsiders’, we believe we can (or should) solve other people’s problems and, of course, there is a place for volunteering and helping out when necessary, but I think what I learned most from this experience is that people are mostly capable of taking care of themselves if the path is cleared for them to do so.
Programme coordinator, Montana State University, USA.
Women leading the change
The practice exchange programme in India was a real opportunity to think about my place in the world. I learned that that climate change really is affecting people now. It is affecting the most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable environments. Communities in India are taking action to counter its adverse effects with brilliant reforestation, hydrology and biomass fuel projects.
I noticed that women are leading the change in communities. They are being well supported to get started and the self-help model is strong, building resilience and making positive change for whole communities. This progressive realisation of human rights for women is key for contributing to the SDGs locally and globally.
I rediscovered that we must come to our work with heart. Bringing our whole selves to our community development practice. Believing in people. Believing in change and believing in the power of the collective. It only takes a few passionate people to make real change happen and if their action is taken with heart… anything is possible. I feel renewed.
Development Coordinator for Edinburgh Tenants Federation, Scotland
Learning from the Indian experience
Programme content aimed to provide exposure to sustainable grassroots Community Development initiatives which have a strong focus on ‘Self Help’ and ‘Leadership’.
To really understand Self Help Community Development sustainable processes can be a challenge in India as it is a large and diverse country. Therefore it was difficult to build the broader perspective of the participants to get the message across. What is heartening is that despite these constraints we all settled on the Community Development journey together in India and all came out as more knowledgeable experts.
Apart from the content of the programme, India itself is an experience – the accommodation, the food, the train rides, and the toilets were all new experiences. We had cultural breaks and the participants enjoyed the Indian Shopping experience too.
There is a lot that participants learned from the Indian practice exchange which I hope will be used and reflected in practice and teaching, particularly regarding Community Development and community mobilisation.
IACD is an excellent membership based network which can help add value to International Community Development processes and frameworks.
Development Support Team NGO, Pune, India
Empowering communities for sustainable outcomes
In Kenya, I manage projects involving construction of water and sewerage facilities, like dams, water pans, and water & sewer treatment plants. I also work with rural communities assisting them to develop small community water projects.
India is famed to have best innovation in provision of sanitation services to the poor and I was keen to witness a few projects of this nature, among others. Highlights of the Practice Exchange included the visits to Water and Sanitation projects, where the promotion of appropriate technology and empowerment of communities to operate and maintain facilities resulted in sustainable outcomes, and the focus on Sustainable Livelihoods – using a holistic development approach that combines eco-restoration, sustainable farming practices and innovative micro-enterprise.
Practice Exchange was an eye opener especially on issues surrounding Global Warming and SDGs. Through the round-table discussions and reflection sessions, I realized the importance of ensuring SDGs are articulated and addressed in my organization’s interventions and reporting processes.
Moving forward, some key lessons learned include:
- Empowerment of women contributes immensely to success of projects implemented at community level.
- We need to value and harness local knowledge for success of community projects.
- Practice Exchange must be promoted amongst community projects locally
- Most importantly, inspire people to work with the heart!
Project Manager, Athi Water Services Board, Kenya
Finding ourselves a new community of practice
To be amongst such a wide group of community development thinkers and practitioners was educational, nourishing and (most importantly!) a lot of fun. Spending 10 days with such a diverse group of people who shared a dedication to Community Development work was a real privilege, allowing us to extend our learning and reflections from the daytime visits, through to the trains, tuk-tuks and dinner tables.
I entered the trip thinking that all the learning would be from and amongst Indian colleagues, but the IACD Practice Exchange delegation provided an extra dimension that I had not properly anticipated, adding a varied set of Community Development focused minds and thoughts to stretch and heighten the experience. To hijack a lovely quote, in our sameness we connected and through our differences we grew.
Community Development Manager, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, England
Himalayas to the Highlands
It was a marvellous experience. It struck me early on that fundamentally community development projects which we observed in India and are involved with in Scotland require the same core principles to be followed – building capacity, empowering the local community and supporting long term survival through development of social enterprise. The great difference is that while in Scotland we are aiming to improve quality of life and opportunities in communities, in India the work we saw is making changes to improve basic health and survival.
The contrasting problems in urban and rural areas were of great interest. The extreme poverty witnessed in for example Nizamuddin Basti is of a different order to what I have seen in Scotland. I was more at home in the rural areas, and impressed by the positive impact of the projects we visited. I felt that they should be adopted at National level as innovative models of development to contribute to population retention and sustainability of rural areas. The impact of that would be felt in the cities by reducing rural – urban migration. A rural solution to an urban problem?
Head of Partnerships, Highlands and Islands Enterprise,
Stories gathered from communities throughout the 2016 Practice Exchange in India were a continual reminder of how critical community based groups are to creating sustainable communities and livelihoods. Moving beyond a group’s specific goal and the positive impact they can have when developing a particular project, the wider benefits of community, camaraderie, self-help and collective action for challenging power and injustice were constantly reinforced.
Community groups are often small with their objectives seemingly narrow, but their strengths frequently result in wide, often unexpected and sometimes life changing positive benefits to individuals and communities. It always starts with a small group of people.
The IACD Practice exchanges provide a unique opportunity for our international Community of Practice to learn, share, explore and reflect. This year’s Practice Exchange was no exception, as the reflections show. We look forward to shaping and planning the next trip!
Would you like to participate in the next IACD Practice Exchange? Are you interested in collaborating with us as a National host? Why not sign up to IACD as a member and join Practice Exchange Planning Committee?