June 2023

Collaborating for impact: How participatory planning will set the agenda for Saamuhika Shakti’s next phase

By Sanjay Paswan,

M&E lead, Saamuhika Shakti

Saamuhika Shakti is a collective impact initiative, the first of its kind in India, where nine implementing organisations have joined forces to enable informal waste pickers to have greater agency to lead secure and dignified lives, with a specific focus on gender and equity.

Since 2020, partners have been working with informal waste pickers on areas that were identified by the waste pickers themselves, including livelihoods, education, water and sanitation and social security, among others.

As the project enters its second phase in 2024, it is crucial to reassess what the waste-picker community needs from the project, what worked, didn’t work and what could be done better. To do this in an inclusive, representative manner, The/Nudge Institute — the backbone organization for the collective — adopted a participatory planning approach to chart the course for Phase 2 planning and action.

Principles of participatory planning

The planning exercise is grounded in three key principles.

Stakeholder voices at the centre:  This involves engaging a diverse range of stakeholders, including informal waste pickers, community resource persons and project coordinators of the Saamuhika Shakti partners, as well as the leadership team to ensure the planning process will capture the perspectives of members from multiple levels of the implementing organisations, as well as represent the voices of different vulnerable groups among waste pickers, including women and people living in non-notified slums. 

Bottom-up approach: The team used two platforms for this. The first is the ‘Namma Jagali’ or ‘Our Space’, a monthly community meeting set up by partner Hasiru Dala to provide a space for community members to voice their concerns, access project interventions, and build solidarity. The insights and data gathered from Namma Jagali formed a foundation for the planning of phase two. The second was detailed consultation with community resource persons, the people who work closely with the waste pickers, and are the eyes and ears of Saamuhika Shakti on the ground. More on this in the sections below. 

Collaboration and ownership: The participatory planning process encouraged collaboration among partners to co-create a common agenda, establish common goals and objectives, and to develop an overarching monitoring and evaluation framework. The aim is to foster collective ownership, accountability, and collaboration for greater impact.

The method

CRP consultations: To assess the community’s needs, The/Nudge team is conducting consultations with Community Resource Persons (CRPs) from partner organizations. At these consultations, various participatory research methods such as social mapping and cause and effect analysis are being used to identify needs and potential solutions. The CRPs are thoughtfully identified to ensure representation from diverse project localities and expertise in working with different types of waste pickers - free-roaming, sorters, hair pickers, and itinerant buyers. The data from the CRP consultations, combined with insights from the Namma Jagali, sustainability discussions, and impact evaluation reports will help inform the collective’s agenda. 

Insights from CRP consultations.

Gender Reflection: In line with Saamuhika Shakti’s pursuit of gender inclusivity, the team is conducting a series of consultations with partners to critically reflect on gender at the ecosystem level, as well as the gender roles and associated vulnerabilities among informal waste pickers. These discussions will inform the objective to hard code the inclusivity framework onto the collective agenda for Phase 2.

Revisiting the collective agenda: For over three years, partners have worked together on the field, collaborating to provide the interventions waste pickers need based on a common agenda that was decided in Phase 1. The planning process now involves facilitating collaboration among partners to finalize a common agenda for Phase 2. A participatory workshop and follow-up sessions are planned to facilitate the identification of goals for gender, collaboration, and sustainability. 

Co-creation of project proposals: Individual partners collaborate with The/Nudge Institute and the H&M Foundation to develop project proposals aligned with the common agenda. This iterative process will ensure that each partner's plan contributes to the collective goals.

Expected outcomes

  • Adapting agenda: The ground-up exercise will help align the Saamuhika Shakti agenda with the evolving needs of the community, ensuring that interventions remain relevant and impactful.
  • Prioritising vulnerable groups: The inclusion of the needs and priorities of different vulnerable groups within the waste-picking community will enable the project to prioritise interventions and target populations more effectively.
  • Ownership and shared accountability: The participatory planning process fosters ownership of the project goals among stakeholders and develops shared accountability for the common agenda. This shared responsibility enhances the project's sustainability and impact.
  • Interconnected problem-solving: By encouraging partners to think beyond their specific areas of focus, the planning process facilitates collective efforts towards a common goal.
  • Collaboration: The process encourages partners to collaborate and align strategies and activities. 
  • Sustainability and lasting change: The planning exercise seeks to enhance the project's capacity to adapt and effectively address potential assumptions and risks. It encourages partners to consider the long-term sustainability of the project's impact and actively strive for lasting change within the ecosystem.
  • Evaluation and impact measurement: The planning process will enable the development of appropriate evaluation methodologies to measure the impact of the project accurately.

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