Authored by Bharath Sequeira, Project Lead - Saamuhika Shakti
One of the critical factors that determines the success of any change intervention is its potential to create sustainable and systemic impact. Few aspects that contribute towards this include, but not limited to, an in-depth needs analysis, enduring vision, robust strategy, meticulous implementation, M&E systems and a process for continuous learning and adaptability to ever changing situations.
While most of the aspects mentioned above have dedicated resources working towards them, there are a cadre of people, the Community Resource People (CRPs) or on-field members, whose role spans across all these aspects and whose insights are critical towards every aspect of a change intervention.
Why are CRPs critical to Saamuhika Shakti? Simply put, they are the ‘frontline workers’ without whom it is difficult to imagine change. Saamuhika Shakti follows the Collective Impact methodology where multiple partners from different sectors are collaborating to enable waste pickers in Bengaluru to have greater agency to lead more secure and dignified lives. While at the conceptual & program design stage, it is easy to envision multiple teams coming together on ground to work, it is the CRPs working on ground who make “collaboration” a reality.
The different roles of CRPs
Being part of the communities themselves or having extensively worked with vulnerable populations has provided the CRPs of Saamuhika Shakti partner organizations with firsthand insights into the lives of waste picker families, their lived realities, challenges they face on a day to basis, the opportunities that exist and the direction to be taken towards addressing the challenges in a holistic, coordinated and systemic manner.
The qualitative and quantitative information provided by the CRPs from the waste picker communities helps monitor and evaluate the interventions and facilitates continuous learning at Saamuhika Shakti. These insights have helped the partner organizations analyse what works, adjust strategies and allocate resources to tailor the solutions to address the specific needs of the communities. For example, Hasiru Dala is now focussing on providing social security services by reaching out to waste pickers at their doorstep rather than relying on waste pickers to travel to a centre. CARE and LabourNet realized early on in their intervention that providing training to waste pickers from various localities in large, central training centres is challenging and have now adopted a decentralized approach of providing training through community based centres.
Along with striving to implement the projects of the organizations they are part of, the CRPs shoulder an added responsibility of gaining in-depth understanding of the projects of other partner organizations in Saamuhika Shakti. They work towards realizing the vision and outcomes outlined in the common agenda by implementing activities in coordination with CRPs of other organizations.
As the work progressed, CRPs of CARE, Hasiru Dala, LabourNet, Save the Children and WaterAid have collaborated towards facilitating each other’s entry into new localities, ensuring the interventions are delivered to the same set of beneficiaries, coordinating their activities with efficient use of resources and referring eligible beneficiaries to other partners for relevant programs.
The CRPs play a critical role in ensuring the stories from the waste picker communities are showcased to the external world. Be it facilitating a photoshoot, with valid consent collected, to document the lived realities, encouraging the waste pickers to record their own videos to share widely or by pointing out the stories that need to be reported, the CRPs play a vital role in external communication. The communication teams of all the partners rely on the on-field members to collect and validate the messages to be shared with stakeholders.
Early Learnings from working collaboratively
The on-field members have shown tremendous determination and agility amidst various adverse situations since the beginning of the initiative. The first wave of COVID hit just as the initiative was taking off. While the impact on the health of the waste picker community was not severe, the loss of livelihood meant they needed support through relief material. The CRPs, especially the Hasiru Dala team, stepped up and ensured the immediate needs of the community were met. As the first wave subsided, the teams immediately plunged into action to implement the project activities and made considerable progress in a short span of time.
The second wave had a devastating impact on the waste picker communities with many families affected due to loss of livelihood and life. While the organizations set up support systems through relief materials, health care, COVID care centers, etc. the CRPs of all organizations ensured last mile connectivity to identify the needs of individual families, linking them to adequate health facilities, provide relief and other material support and monitoring the health and quarantine facilities in the community.
As Saamuhika Shakti progresses, surrounded by various uncertainties like impact of COVID on the community, possible third wave, etc., the need of the hour is to keep the overarching vision in sight while addressing the evolving needs of the community through better coordination, strategy, implementation and continuous learning. While the task seems daunting, with the committed resources Saamuhika Shakti possesses on-field, it certainly is not impossible!