Funding resources are a crucial part of the work that Gram Vikas is able to do among rural communities. Over four decades, the organisation has received support from a range of organisations and individuals who have been part of the journey in conceptualising and developing programmatic interventions, and strengthening organisational capacities to deliver. They are all part of the successes that Gram Vikas celebrates today.
Over the years Gram Vikas has been witness to significant changes in the landscape of funding organisations. With every passing decade, the nature of donor organisations has changed, and this has necessitated the ability to sense the shifts with very acute antennae, to be nimble-footed, adapt and develop capacities to engage with them. Depending on the nature and scope of work, Gram Vikas has leveraged funding support from government agencies, international and national grant making organisations, individual contributions and donations.
Working with the government
Gram Vikas mobilises communities and provides support in accessing government resources that are meant for community development activities. Using funds from extant government programmes as a base, Gram Vikas works imaginatively to complement resources raised directly by rural communities together with external grants to create assets which are of high quality and durability.
Government funds have at times been available directly to Gram Vikas towards ‘service charge’, ‘training and capacity building’ or ‘technical support’. Such resources have been judiciously accessed, recognising the ‘tied conditionalities’ and delayed payments.
The role of international donors
Through the eighties, nineties and initial years of the new millennium, funding from international NGO and bi-lateral organisations were the mainstay for funding Gram Vikas’ work, supporting a great deal of experimentation and innovation in working with rural communities.
The majority of funding organisations at this time had a progressive understanding of development, working through iterative processes and looking at incremental gains. While activities, outputs and outcomes were defined, there was a thread of learning and course correction which allowed for flexibility in operations. ‘Long term’ grants renewed in three to five-year grant cycles made it possible for Gram Vikas to engage with communities, build village institutions and imagine pathways such that development processes would sustain even after Gram Vikas withdrew from active engagement. Such investments are often the hardest to monetise. While there were clear measures of accountability, and successes were celebrated, donors were also sensitive to ‘failures’ and took them as opportunities to learn from.
Towards the end of the 90s, the tendency to define work in SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Time-bound) terms became the norm. While it pushed Gram Vikas towards defining its work through a problem-solving approach, correlating actions and results, the process of boxing them into log-frames, limited what was expressed, and consequently what was measured and what the organisation was held accountable for. The articulation and learning about deeper processes of engaging with communities were often lost.
Of new age funding organisations
The early years of the new millennium marked a transition in the funding landscape, with many large donors globally shifting focus. For Gram Vikas, these have come to be replaced in the last decade by smaller grants from international NGOs and funds from Indian corporates as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The opening of CSR presents an opportunity, however, ideas and processes in this are still evolving. The compulsions of modern-day funding organisations operating with shorter time-frames of support and resource limitations lead to greater binding with regard to defining activities, outputs and timelines. Funds are tied to specific activities and the organisation has little room for manoeuvre or to invest in building capacities.
Mobilizing community resources
Over the years there have been a large number of individual donors who have contributed generously based on their implicit trust and belief in Gram Vikas’ work. These contributions have been a significant buffer and also tremendous moral support for Gram Vikas.
What needs to be underscored is the range of resources raised by communities that Gram Vikas works with, both through monetary and in-kind contributions. They are not passive recipients of grants or ‘beneficiaries’. They participate actively, with pride and dignity, in finding solutions to build an equitable and just society.
Jayapadma RV worked with Gram Vikas from 1998 to 2005.