With.in Leading Together

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The “With.in Leading Together” programme was conceived jointly by PACS and partner Pravah. Its aim was to build the knowledge, skills and capacities of 350 PACS field facilitators from 7 states. The training took place in phases from November 2013 – October 2014.

A key strategy of the PACS program has been to empower socially excluded groups to take charge of their own development.

One way in which they encouraged people to do this was to organise themselves into small community based organisations (CBOs). Field facilitators were then employed to help support these groups – teaching them about their rights and how to access them.

Aims of the training programme

The aim of With.in was to help field facilitators to:

  • Design and run more inclusive, inspiring and engaging trainings and meetings with CBOs
  • Strengthen the CBOs with whom they work to better understand and advocate for their rights
  • Engage with multiple stakeholders to address social exclusion issues in their communities
Changing within

Using a psycho-social approach, Pravah designed the training programme as a journey from “self to society”. The underlying belief is that lasting change can only happen if we start by examining and changing our own attitudes and behaviours.

The programme encouraged field facilitators to look within themselves to recognise their own personal stereotypes and perspectives regarding social exclusion. Having identified their own prejudices, they were then supported to develop an action plan to encourage the CBOs they work with to become more inclusive and better equipped to end social discrimination.

The With.in programme used a range of methodologies to engage, inspire and educate participants. This included games, role plays, and guided meditation. The training activities were fun, memorable and easy to replicate in the field.

A five-month journey

Rather than a one-off event, the With.in programme took the shape of a five-month journey.

Learning is a process that happens over time. By allowing participants to experiment, make mistakes and reflect on their experiences, the resulting changes should be deeper and longer lasting.

Field facilitators were divided into small state-level groups of 30-35 people. The journey involved five stages:

  1. Foundation retreats (one per group): a 5-day introduction to the foundation ideas of teamwork, leadership, social exclusion and self-awareness through simple tools, activities and games. Each participant developed action plans to carry out in the field.
  2. Real world application: time for participants to put into practice their action plans and to apply the ideas, tools and activities learnt at the retreat.
  3. Cluster workshops (two per group): 2-day meetings in the middle of the programme to share experiences and learn from each other. Participants discussed the challenges and successes they’d faced in the field. One-to-one meetings helped them to reflect on and identify their own personal challenges.
  4. Refresher retreats (one per group): a 2-day workshop to discuss and reflect on experiences and impact. Participants started to discuss the changes that they were seeing as a result of the training, both in their CBOs and in themselves.
  5. Felicitation event: a 3-day event in New Delhi brought together all the participants for the first time to celebrate their journeys, share their experiences and reflect on the impact they have seen, both personally and in their communities.
Strengthening CBOs

The With.in leadership programme helped field facilitators to set-up and strengthen CBOs by:

  • Setting an agenda: participants were taught about the importance of setting clear plans and objectives for their CBOs in collaboration with CBO members. They were given training on how to identify, prioritise and analyse community issues and how to help CBO members to create strategies and action plans to address them.
  • Taking people along: participants were taught about the importance of inspiring people and building collective ownership over projects. They were given training on relationship-building, conflict-resolution and team-building to help them to involve all CBO members.
  • Using a rights-based approach: participants were taught about the importance of following basic human rights principles to include people from all social groups in their work. They were encouraged to recognise their own prejudices to help them to ensure that all CBO members feel valued and respected.
Stories of impact

The With.in training programme has had an impact on 3 main areas:

1. Impact on field facilitators

Several fundamental changes have been seen in the field facilitators’ self-perception, knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviours including:

  • Increased self-awareness
  • Enhanced understanding of social exclusion
  • Better understanding of the role of CBOs and their role as field facilitators
  • Increased ability to learn and become self-directed learners
  • Better relationships between them and their CBO members
  • Enhanced planning and design skills
  • Ability to create an inclusive space that promotes shared leadership within CBOs
  • Greater focus on identifying, including and working with socially excluded groups

2. Impact on CBO functioning

Several significant changes have been observed in the functioning of CBOs including:

  • Increased membership, attendance and participation at meetings
  • Enhanced participation of CBO members from socially excluded groups
  • Greater democracy, interaction and teamwork
  • Increased ownership and responsibility among CBO members to address local issues

3. Impact on communities

Several important changes have occurred in communities due to collective action by the CBOs to address community issues including:

  • Enabling socially excluded communities to access health, nutrition and livelihood entitlements under various government schemes
  • Improving village infrastructure, also providing jobs for villagers under the MGNREGA scheme
  • Monitoring schools and health care facilities to improve these services, including non-discriminatory access
  • Taking on a solution-based mindset, starting self-help initiatives to address local problems
  • Increasing community confidence in CBOs
Jyotsna was a PACS community facilitator from West Bengal. She put what she had learnt on the With.in programme into practice by helping to support a women's Community Based Organisation to improve the ICDS programme in their village.
Dilip was a PACS community facilitator from Jharkhand. He put what he had learnt on the With.in programme into practice by helping to support a Community Based Organisation to successfully improve the primary school in their village.
Manju was a PACS community facilitator from Madhya Pradesh. She put what she had learnt on the With.in programme into practice by helping to support a women's Community Based Organisation to advocate for a new road in their village.

Seven of the field facilitators also shared their stories of impact at the feliciation event in October 2014.

A lasting legacy

The With.in programme has helped the 350 field facilitators to build their knowledge, skills and capacities to work more effectively with CBOs for social change. Through them, their CBOs have become stronger, more equal and more democratic with shared leadership and collective action.

This work has been vital to ensure that PACS leaves a lasting legacy of empowered communities and organisations.

As one field facilitator from Odisha said, “I feel that if PACS doesn’t work there anymore and if we [the PACS partner] are not working there, then the community will still be able to take action and work for their rights.”

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