After conducting a series of Dialogues on Rural Development with professionals from Academic and non-profit background, Sahaj Foundation has now launched its flagship Dialogue for Professionals building their career in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Field. The Dialogue is said to take its participants on a journey to understand the space of Development by questioning its very basics such as ‘Industrialization’, ‘Globalization’, ‘Self-Reliance’, ‘Governance’, ‘Markets’ while also keeping in mind the modern tools such as ‘Technology’, ‘Education’, ‘Infrastructure’, ‘Tourism’, ‘Entrepreneurship’ etc.
“The Dialogue facilitated me to live through ages, starting from primitive to pre-colonial to post-independence and beyond. It helped me to have a bird’s eye view of the whole scenario, and develop a new perspective on development discourse. The program has a power to change lives,” says HabeebulRahiman who is presently working as an assistant professor with Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi.
Speaking to Ashish Kumar, an IIT Roorkee Graduate of 2009 batch who facilitates the six day long Dialogue in Deer Park Institute, Bir, Himachal Pradesh, the Dialogue follows a very experiential approach in which there is no Rural Development expert invited from outside. Only the participants of the Dialogue build their own learnings while going through a series of carefully designed simulations and field visits. “The simulations are like group based activities that put participants in certain situations to give them a better idea about how it feels to live in communities of pre-british era and how Government and Market based systems of the present times have come into existence in our country,” adds Ashish, “The field visits further validate the learnings from simulations.”
Along with deeply immersive Simulations and project-based field visits, the Dialogue also encourages participants to practice silence in spiritual environment of the venue, spend time on reflection and watch documentaries in order to further understand what is happening in Governments’ and Markets’ space at macro level and how it affects communities at micro level. In the whole process, the participants find it very intriguing that what they earlier considered a great thing to do, may not be so great for communities all the time. “My notions of scale, sustainability and impact were continuously challenged throughout the Dialogue. I could see that my interpretations of these words were very limited due to influences of education and the development sector on myself. To me, now it seems that they are not things that could be achieved in isolation, but they are integral part of something very fundamental and transformational. State and market in their conventional sense cannot achieve the intended impact. Our traditional communities, in some ways, got it right. Their interdependency on each other was more trust-based and less transactional. Hence, their systems were sustainable, scalable and impactful in truest sense. I realized that I need to understand the traditional systems better to ensure that I do not end up disrupting the good in it,” reflects Divish Gupta who joined the Dialogue in August 2017 when he was working as Product Designer with a social enterprise Digital Green.
Talking more about his upcoming Dialogue for CSR professionals during February 17-22, 2018, Ashish shares that along with understanding ‘Development’ by questioning its basics this Dialogue shall also focus on analyzing the role of ‘Markets’ in the space of Rural Development for better long-term sustenance of the communities. He believes that the Dialogue shall help CSR professionals to design their present and future projects with a better focus on self-reliance of the communities. “Most of the time, our initiatives are aligned as per Governments’ or Markets’ ways of thinking, which are very different from the ways of living of our traditional communities. Hence, our initiatives bear fruits in short-run by generating livelihood or by empowering people through education, but they end up making communities dependent on outer entities in long-run, therefore causing damage through well intentioned efforts,” he concludes.
Sahaj Foundation, co-founded by Ashish Kumar in 2013, is a registered organization that works in the field of Education with Rural Himalayan communities of Himachal Pradesh. The organization focuses on connecting kids back to their Traditional Knowledge Systems by designing Project-BasedLearning modules. Along with local community initiatives, Sahaj Foundation also conducts Rural Development Dialogues named “प्रश्न विकास का” with nationwide urban audience so as to create a better understanding of rural eco-systems among them.