Documents of ADATS - Book 5

Institutional Support to Coolie Sangha (September 2017)

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This document is written in two parts — a Prologue that traces grassroots NGOs through the Decades, followed by the policy brief on Institutional Support to the Coolie Sangha.

Four years back, we began to ponder on a role transformation for ADATS. We started by asking ourselves if and how the Coolie Sangha would continue; indeed, whether at all it had any role in a radically changed socioeconomic and political milieu. A year back, we were clear that our involvement will not remain the same after the current ten-year Strategic Plan was completed in December 2018.

40 years back, ADATS described the political economy of the day, and it served us well to plan appropriate responses. The time has come to develop a new theory that explains today's happenings; one that finds resonance in the people we work with. Not a generic and all-embracing one that pretends to explain all that's going on in rural India right now. Just an understanding of what Member Coolie families are experiencing here in this region where four decades of community organisation has empowered and emboldened them.

Maybe there is some purchase in repetitiously continuing what we've done so far, since there always will be remnants of unfinished business and uncovered individuals. The Coolie Sangha can very well do that. But ADATS is unable to meaninglessly repeat what we've done merely to safeguard our lingered existence.

Ourselves continuing to implement ongoing projects is not the manner for ADATS to meaningfully contribute. Our role is no longer to merely identify sectoral lapses and make piecemeal attempts at successive responses. It is not to fragment every problem and solve them linearly, one after the other.

We need to comprehend the reality of changed times with a holistic intermixing of socio-economic, political and cultural disciplines, as well as an understanding of technology that plays an ever-increasing role in shaping everyday life. An overload of information is not quite the same as a holistic framework where happenings are placed, and reality is squarely faced. We need to suggest ways to respond, with a well-orchestrated intertwining of different skillsets.

The post-project implementation role that ADATS sets for itself is to create institutional capital from the social capital that has been built in the Coolie Sangha, and generate employment opportunities for the rural poor to participate in locally owned and operated decentralised ventures.