Where co-creation begins …

4 weeks ago I went for the first time to Partha, a small small village in Uttar Pradesh, 45 km away from Mahoba. Beautiful landscape – a mixture between India and the Serengeti. Stunning.
Everybody there is depending on agriculture. 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 urban development. The poor are the victims.

Standard house in the village of Partha, UP

Antonella Zurina (Geeta is her given Indian name), who is running Kabir Foundation in Khajuraho, took me there. For a very simply reason. One of the villagers, Hakim Singh, wants to donate 2 acres of farmland for building a school. And her idea was (still is) that we build a we_school there. When we arrived at least 30 of the villagers were waiting for us! It was such a warm welcome!

I sat down with them and the first question which came up from the villagers was: What are your plans? When I told them that I had no plans at all and that I am only here to see and to listen all the blood in their faces went into their feet. Pure despair remained. I felt pretty uncomfortable since I only realized by then how high their expectations were.

Tons of cow dung >>> fire, cooking

They told me about all their daily problems. We went through the village and they showed me the 2 existing schools and other buildings which one might use for community activities, and they showed me the land Hakim Singh wants to donate. They were very proud. And I could feel how much they want help and how much they are willing to support activities once someone starts them.

Before they invited me for dinner – my stomach still refuses any kind of local spicy food ;-( – I told them that I would think about the entire situation and talk to Mehmood Khan, a social entrepreneur and game changer of its own. And I promised to come back to them within 2 weeks.

“Group photo with madame” – just before I left Partha

2 weeks later I went back – together with Mehmood Khan. They welcomed us with drums, flowers and the most delicious chai. This time probably 50 of them. We sat down and discussed the options. At the end we agreed to do a 2 day workshop – early in May – where all the stakeholders in the village are involved: children (girls and boys), teachers, farmers … At the first half of day 1 we will discuss their most pressing issues, the second half of the day is reserved for local administrative and political people who address their point of view. At the second day we will work in groups with the villagers trying to identify workable solutions and in the afternoon we prioritize the solutions and write down an action plan. We expect at least 500 villagers to join the workshop!

The villagers are still a bit hesitating – they simply would prefer a ready made solution. But somehow they understood the idea and they trust us. And they work for this idea …We believe that the villagers themselves need to be made stakeholders in the development process. And this is what we are going to do with them.

And this is when co-creation starts.

Only then the village and its people will experience a transformation they all like, everybody is committed to and everybody will be working on. That’s the only way to make change sustainable!

Mehmood Khan and I after our second meeting, before late dinner – in the “guesthouse”

And to close this blog post, here is an email I received from the villagers after our meeting …
Nothing else to say!

Dear, sir/ madam

as you know according to the last meeting on 21/03/13 ,we want to informe you ,that

we have arrenged the meeting on saturday then we have notify 75 active member with there all type of responsbilties.

so please, we want to your time dated on as 25/03/13 on monday,

please gives some point how will you manage your journy

thanking to you

your ,s All villagers