They decide who, what, where: The real empowerment process to design their own development

“You cannot waltz into a community and fix the world…. no matter how well you can dance” are the words of Melinda Jurd, a speech pathology student doing an elective on community engagement.

This is the basis of the bottom-up model of social development theory which promotes participation in community-wide discussions, improves opportunities to learn, and the sense of empowerment that comes with the knowledge to accomplishing the stated and implied goals of community development.

Empowering Animation is the key idea behind Caritas India’s first Strategic pillar to lift the dignity of people and strengthen their ability to be “subjects” of change and development. It is a fundamental process of communities taking complete control of their empowerment.

This was clearly demonstrated in the recently held Gram Nirman programme review and designing workshop in Kunkuri, Chhattisgarh. The programme covers Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand rural pockets majorly habited by the tribal population for their socio-economic well-being. The weeklong workshop focused on the People Led Development (PLD) approach wherein people are centre of the development and designed their development agenda by shaping it with appropriate analysis of existing resources and defined their growth in a positive and promising manner. Partner staff was also trained on the tools, methodology and the process of community-level data collection for proposal planning and budgeting.

Hence, planning and visioning of development pathways were done through the participation of communities representing different segments like the young children youth, adult, middle-aged and elderly members. The partner staffs were thoroughly oriented on the process to be followed in designing the planning process to emerge with a winning proposal.

Sharing about Caritas India’s Key Strategic Pillars (KSPs) with all the partners, Mr. Samir Stephen Kujur, Operation Manager of Caritas India emphasised that Key Strategic Pillars of Caritas India needs to be incorporated in all the programmes. Explaining the concept of half glass of water, he said water represents the available resources of the community, and the empty space of the glass to be filled by the community.

Field exercise in the programme design workshop encouraged active participation of the available stakeholder including adult men, adult women, elder men, elder women & youth groups. The field visit helped the community to categorise the assets into five sectors namely: 1: Human asset, 2: Physical Asset, 3: Natural Asset, 4: Social Assets and 5: Financial Asset and each stakeholder Kept one of these assets to develop the plan for next three years. Moreover, prioritized the activities/plan that would be carried/achieved first and last. The senior citizens were the best to develop the community/village development plan due to their experience and knowledge.


After the field visit, all three groups consolidated the planned activities of three villages of each stakeholders. Having consolidated all three groups segregated the activities and assembled them the 4 KSPs (Key Strategic Pillar) of Caritas India. This PLD approach exercise is done with 13 partners of Jharkhand & Chhattisgarh during programme designing workshop organized by Caritas India from 13th – 18th January 2020 in Kunkuri, Chhattisgarh.

The review of the current phase of Gram Nirman programme provided immense learning for the partners and the results achieved were commendable and need prolonged thrust for the communities to make this a sustainable initiative. The objective of building community institutions and strengthening has made tremendous progress as these CBO have been instrumental in creating awareness among communities on diverse development issues of the villages as well as government schemes. Livelihood and income-related changes among the small and marginal farm households was also very impressive. Most marginalized community focus intervention has also been of great value addition in terms of PLWDs being given space on decision making at Gram Sabha where their issue has been given priority.  Many of the most marginalized have been supported with additional IGP initiatives to augment their income and livelihood status.