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Rural Innovation Intiative Project

 ABGUS defines Rural development as part of social change as a process of expanding the decision-making horizon and extending the time frame for appraising investment and consumption choices by rural disadvantaged people collectively, and not necessarily at the village level but at even higher levels of aggregation.


Sustainable processes will require correspondence between people’s access to resources, ability to convert access into investments (that is, skills for using resources), and assurance of future returns from present investment (vertical assurance) and about others’ behavior vis-à-vis one’s own (horizontal assurance or collective rationality).  The changes in the network of access, ability, and assurance for development volunteers (DV) and the people have to be achieved simultaneously.


ABGUS Action and Research


Generating extra-organizational space for developmental volunteers within communities of villages is a necessary condition for sustainable social development.  ABGUS’s one study on bank and NGO cooperation for poverty alleviation in backward regions noted that there was no NGO working in the fifty most backward sub-regions of Rajasthan.  State organizations like the National Bank could not gain credibility in supporting NGOs if they did not provide the opportunity for exploration and experimentation to volunteers within their system.  NGOs often did not recover even the operating costs of many services from people.  In the process, such NGOs remained perpetually dependent upon aid agencies.  Moreover, accountability of the NGOs in regard to the poor was so low that most NGOs did not aim at inducting poor people into their own management structures.


ABGUS persuaded with one nationalized bank to invite its clerks to volunteer for two years in a village development program in an area of their choice without any loss of seniority upon their return.  This triggered numerous innovative experiments by DVs.Empowering them will require recognition of their voluntarism by a body of concerned scholars and activists


Finally, neither NGOs nor the developmental volunteers can succeed unless those long-ingrained values that inhibit change among rural poor people are brought into question.


Voluntarism in rural development in India has not been accompanied by pressure for policy change except in regard to environmental issues.  Often action at the local level has not been linked with lobbying at the macro level.  Recognizing that the state and markets perform better if kept under constant check, developmental volunteers within the organizations will have to serve a sort of “insurgent” function so as to align, anonymously, with grass-root activists, NGOs, and professionals.  International agencies can strengthen local social change by broadening local ideas and innovations into global thinking and by providing global space for developmental volunteers to validate their hypotheses. 


Sustainability in nature and society requires players, whistle blowers, spectator rules, and creative chaos.


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