ADATS believes that a parity has to be found between the personal and the political. The way we development workers live and work has a direct bearing on what we turn out. Over the years, we have tried to evolve a woman-friendly environment which goes beyond making women colleagues feel comfortable. It makes living and working a pleasure, and enhances everyone’s overall performance.
Salary scales at ADATS are reasonable, but not on par with "market rates".
Perks include a standard and uniform accommodation, medical benefits at general wards in government and church run hospitals, children’s education at local village schools where tuition does not exceed ₹ 50 per month, and subsidised mess facilities for those who find it inconvenient to cook. These are identical for all staff members, whatever be their designation.
Everyone is encouraged to be totally open about personal finances and no Staff member is permitted to undertake any business, with the single exception of family cultivation.
No attempt has been made to build an individual security for Staff members. The value of living on the knife edge of insecurity is consciously promoted as an instrument to ensure relevance and efficiency.
Wherever possible we try to build a campus for living apart, yet together. This provides a moral and physical security, and permits the sharing of common facilities.
New forms of getting together where all family members participate are encouraged. Festivals are celebrated collectively without any overt religious trappings. Drinking is discouraged, except in rare social occasions.
We give a lot of room for sharing emotions without at the same time getting submerged in destructive self pity. We support our colleagues when they want to marry inter-caste or inter-religion, even at the risk of personal endangerment. We wait till the last motorcycle comes in from the field before shutting the gates and going to sleep.
Office timings are flexible and determined by the staff-teams themselves. We have no fixed holidays and each Staff works out when they want to take time off in a responsible manner that does not adversely effect their work or inconvenience others. Mothers bring infants to work and everyone pitches in to change diapers. Motorcycle usage is not strictly monitored since it is recognised that going home to one’s village is a natural and necessary part of working. This works very well for us, except when someone starts abusing the privilege. However, the use of our very limited number of 4 wheelers (1 per taluk) is strictly logged.
Though we try not to departmentalise the Staff into Accounts Admn, Field and Executive wings, work load, specialisation, overall responsibilities and the chasing of near impossible targets do tend to compartmentalise our interests and participation.
There are no in-camera meetings or official secrets at ADATS, be they financial matters, dealings with partners, or whatever. Books of accounts, statements, transaction details, and correspondence files are available to everyone. No one is made to feel left out. The every Monday “Situation Meetings” are exactly what the name suggests. They are designed to give everyone a sense of bearing and identity within the overall effort. Unless the situation so demands and everyone is interested in a particular aspect of project implementation Situation Meetings are normally not monitoring meetings.
An important consequence of this campus lifestyle is that it alters child care practices. Children are not considered a burden and no one has to overtly worry about looking after “their” children, since they belong to everyone. This gives a lot of scope for the children themselves, with a whole lot of adults taking interest in their welfare and development.
New persons are invited to join us on a trial period which lasts for 1-3 months. During this time we mutually decide not just where her contribution will be, but also whether she will fit into and contribute to the overall organisational culture. These things work only when they are not abused. If someone starts continually off loading their emotional baggage and private frustrations without making serious efforts to get a grip and move on, then the situation becomes insufferable. If the openness and freedom are misused to take too much time off, other people’s work burden increases unfairly and the job gets left undone.
An ironic paradox in ADATS − as different from the Coolie Sangha − is that democratic instruments are not used to settle organisational problems. Instead the project leadership at each campus takes tough decisions to solve problems. This does not mean that discussions are disallowed or that project leaders run rough shod over the rest. There are enough checks and balances in the system to spot this tendency at an early stage.