On May 3rd and 4th the we-school team with collaborators went to Patha, a tiny little village in Uttar Pradesh. The area is one of the poorest parts of India and a typical example for what it looks like when rural India is left behind in the race to develop. The poor are the victims. We went there to hold a workshop on how the villagers can cooperate to make their village a better and more prosperous place. I reported on this before.
To do so we used design thinking – a well-proven management method for innovation. It enables people to speak out right from their hearts, it gives free reign to their imagination and enables their creativity to flourish. As a result people easily co-create unusual ideas and solutions, they connect the right dots unexpectedly and – above all – they take ownership of THEIR solutions. And this is what you need when you want to drive REAL change.
The villagers provided a wonderful location. Right in the center of the village. The most perfect spot you can imagine – with an atmosphere almost impossible to improve.
The workshop was separated into 4 parts. The first part was all about identifying the problems of the village. During the second part we invited experts to tell the villagers about their experiences. The third part was up to the villagers themselves again – finding solutions for the problems which have been identified. And last but not least prioritise them and set up an action plan that assigns responsibilities and a binding schedule for when to do what.
Mehmood Khan guided the villagers through the workshop. During his business career at Unilever – where he was head of global innovation at the end – he practiced this concept over and over again. With a huge success. He describes the opening session as follows:
The outcome was pretty impressive. In 11 groups with max. 10 people each, the villagers identified more than 100 issues for their village. We categorised them in 7 main fields of action:
- water (drinking/irrigation/tank)
- health & hygiene (hospital, mosquito repellant)
- village market
- debt of farmers
- transport in and out of town
All these issues were discussed in the afternoon with experts and local officials. The collector of Mahoba, Anuj Kumar Jha, who is responsible for Patha and his CDO, Mr. Ykupadhyay, were very cooperative – and they still are. We hope it will last
Our experts had a various backgrounds and reached out to the villagers on different levels:
- we had two young fellows from the INK-Google initiative The Next Billion Online, Durgha Ramji and Ajith Inguva
- Baboo Sahab, a human rights activist and part of the RTI movement
- and Prem Singh, an agriculture specialist from the area who started his own Today it includes a wide range of small villagers selling their “green agriculture products” all over India.
The second day was the “solution day”. The villagers worked together in groups again and came up with THEIR solutions for THEIR issues defined the day before – everything precisely documented: solution, who takes ownership of the solution and when to do what. What I actually liked the best was the fact that the village kids themselves took action to improve the education situation and came up with ideas how to proceed. And they didn’t hesitate to present them in front of the audience and the officials! Hands-up for them!
Tonite I’ll take the night train to go to Patha again and discuss with the villagers the progress of our action plan. It’s the second time I go back after the workshop. So far they’ve set up their Patha Development Society and continued their conversation with the officials. The CDO confirmed that the state will give them one computer for their secondary school (we-school will add another three) and they are discussing the check dam and water tanks.
My job in the future will be to guide them through the transformation process, to bring in cooperation partners when needed and look for funding TOGETHER with them for the next projects. To be very honest, I only now realize how much they count on me and how much hope I bring to them. A responsibility I am willing to take but which is also not always easy to carry out. But I know one thing for sure: We (our planet) can’t afford ANY LONGER to leave these 5 billion people behind and we finally need to stop living on their expenses. It’s time to take action and work honestly together with them and build a sustainable future for all of us. A future for which all our kids yearn for to live in!
So I am curious to see what we’ll work on tomorrow …