The Importance of Trust and Innovation in Community Development
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Alex Arockiasamy: working in association with Seva Mandir in Kotra Block, Udaipur District, Rajasthan on Community Development.
My journey here has been filled with many memorable moments and valuable lessons. One of my first experiences was being offered chai (tea) without milk in a saucer. As someone who is used to having tea in a cup, this was an unusual experience. I smiled and focused on not spilling any of it, while my host anxiously watched for my reaction. It was a scene straight out of MasterChef, where participants await critical judgment when the judges taste their creation.
Although I would have preferred tea with milk in a cup, I wanted to be respectful and enjoyed the chai with a smile. My host seemed happy and proud. This small moment led to an interesting relationship that has slowly brought me closer to the community.
Here are a few observations that I hope will help others understand the dynamics of a village and the Community Development process:
Importance of Trust
Trust is an indispensable attribute of Community Development. Why should they trust an individual whose world and way of life is mostly alien to them? Inculcating trust requires hard work, dedication and commitment. For starters, you can initiate the process by sticking to your schedules, being there when they need you and not over-stepping.
Open up and be vulnerable to them from time to time. Never promise what you can't deliver. If you're noting something down, try using pictorial representations. This will enable them to understand what you seek from them (in terms of information) and clear any fears or doubts they might have but are hesitant to ask.
Challenges of Competition
Competition is a reality in Community Development. People and organizations have come and gone, making promises that were broken. Rural India has been exploited for long enough for the community to enter a state of dissent and skepticism. This is not just because of the government and politicians, but also private players like chit fund scams, private money lenders and MLM schemes. You may be a recipient of this skepticism in various forms and manner - lack of interest in your initiatives, constant probing and monitoring of your movement and no support whatsoever.
This is demoralizing, but it also presents an interesting challenge. It's important to constantly innovate and creatively market your Community Development solution. In the past two months, I've had to change my plans twice based on the needs of a community. Kick-start a project with whatever limited resources you possess. Work on a solution that offers little risk to the beneficiary. By piloting a randomized controlled trial (just like how they do it with medicines), you will be able to figure out what works best. Observe. See what interests them and what doesn't.
In conclusion, Community Development in a village requires patience, understanding, and a willingness to learn. Trust, competition, and innovation are important aspects to keep in mind. Remember to observe, be flexible and always keep the needs of the community at the forefront. I am grateful for this opportunity to serve and learn from the community. I hope to continue making a positive impact in the lives of those around me.