Notes from the retreat / 2-day gathering of AID volunteers from several chapters.
Rashim talked to a few of us today and mentioned that the training for new project coordinators had changed in recent years. Earlier the training covered both project quality as well as project admin and today it emphasizes admin responsibilities. As a result project coordinators are not oriented to learning about the kinds of quality indicators we were talking about yesterday such as political awareness, linkage with grassroots movements and potential for social change. Secondly they are weak in following up, reading reports, visiting, learning and advocating for the cause on which our partner is working, and asking critical questions that would help improve the work and further the cause.
Recognizing the role of sangharsh in effective nirman
In light of various changing dynamics in the world as well as within the organization, we discussed the importance of integrating a rights-based approach in the constructive work that we support. This is both ethical and strategic – ethical in the sense that it works from the basis of people’s own agency and dignity in defining and achieving development and strategic in the sense that rights-based work has the potential to reach a large scale, to mobilize resources and result in long term change far beyond the scope and period of program support. For example, when grassroots coordinators help people file RTI applications, or apply for entitlements such as rations or NREGA work, people may utilize these processes to reap benefits many times greater than the investment in the resource persons who guided them. When people are able to hold the government accountable, this news spreads and emboldens others to speak up, on the same or on different issues. This capacity of movements to spread beyond their original location and original set of issues is essential for doing justice to the interconnectedness of the problems that people face.
We must support programs that empower people to know and articulate their rights, to raise their voices and hold the government accountable for public services and the general welfare of communities. During the retreat we shared our conviction that it was time that AID stepped into larger scale projects with a longer term vision for holistic and lasting change.
We talked about why it was vital that we envision change at a level where individuals at the last mile recognize and own their roles as changemakers. To be responsible supporters of such projects it is vital that we hear people closest to the desired change articulate what the project means to them, and their own role in carrying out the work.
Who is a volunteer / what is a chapter?
(More Notes from discussion on Day 2)
Should we have higher expectations for volunteers and chapters? Should we create other avenues for interested people who are not in a position to assume responsibilities of volunteers and sustain chapters?
Suggestion: Let interested people be called supporters and interested groups of people be called support groups or affinity groups. Support groups can do tabling, sell calendars & eco-products, distribute newsletters, share posts on social media, etc. They can also choose from the list of approved projects and support them through awareness, fundraising and direct involvement such as research, writing and advocacy.
Chapters do all of the above and also review and approve projects, vote on organizational decisions.
Twice a year, a chapter will hold a special meeting for all the support groups affiliated with it, where their work will be recognized and they will also have a chance to learn more about the one
Support groups will be affiliated with chapters near them and attend quarterly or annual meetings designed for them.