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.
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.
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.
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.