Is development work the panacea for the poverty prevalent in the society? When we talk of development the first thing that comes in mind is projects, activities and we assume that doing all these we liberate people from the cultches of poverty. The documents like logframe, design, programme theory, Theory of change (the latest fad) takes over everything. Yes all these are very important. We do need clear goals, objectives, indicators to measure. We have been doing these since the day some one in some corner of the world dreamt of addressing poverty. But still the poverty level is not decreasing the way it should be. There is diminishing returns on the investment we made in alleviating poverty. Why?
Today in one of my offices in Jharkhand I was talking with the staff from the field. The staff started a litany of good activities that are going on in the communities from the awareness programme to the check dam addressing food security to women empowerment. At last he asked me a question, amidst all our activities we still could not bring the real change in the people. The community people are still divided on the basis of caste, gender. The children from two different communities do not take part with equal enthusiasm in the same activity.
On probing more on the issue we found:
1.Development is not about resources alone, it is more than that. In our development work we have started giving priority to the the visible change only. Eg agriculture productivity increased. we spend lot of resources in awareness generation for immunization but still children are not immunized fully. It is not because govt do not have supply nor mothers are not willing to bring their children for the vaccination. I think it is because we have failed to understand people, their belief and world view. Without understanding people's world view we have implemented so many activities and they have failed to yield better results. So the bottom line is UNDERSTAND PEOPLE'S WORLD VIEW.
2.Development is not about construction toilet, roads alone. It is about the relationship with the people. The lens that community are receipients, they do not know is fatally proven wrong. With this lens we implement activities but fail to address the change issue which is resided in the relationship. People are happy to have tubewell being constructed but once you are out of the place the divide due to caste, race, status which had appeared to vanish again resurfaces. The gap I see is lack of touch with the common masses. The influence can take place only when we communicate with people, build relationship with them, sit with them, think with them, walk along with them. In earlier days we used to attend village meeting ourselves but now it has been outsourced to volunteers. Because of this the activities of the village depends on the idea the volunteer have and as per his/her interest. We do not know community people, their issues first hand. we hardly listen to them. They are still the receipients and I am the giver. Bottom line then is DO NOT OUTSOURCE RELATIONSHIP.
.(Unedited: Random thoughts; you might disagree with this)