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Bridging the Divide: I, You & We

Youth brigades catalyze social cohesion & harmony using common ground of improving Water, Sanitation & Hygiene in their community & villages

Photo of Shikha Dixit
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

“Madam, my people think only about themselves. They are only worried about cleanliness within their homes. You can see the entire village is filled with filth but nobody sees it.” – laments Abbas Mohammed (name changed), the village head of Andhrola in Palwal, Haryana (India). We (www.somaarth.org) have been in 51 villages in this region for a decade trying to explore the synergy between health, economics and environment for harmonious development. We observe that these communities live in complex contexts of uncertainties. They • are divided on lines of caste, class and religion for social, political and individual benefit • lack collective consciousness for pressing issues of vulnerability • lack the will and encouragement for development planning and its execution • are often individual or group agenda driven and development is a ‘victim’ in the process Water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) is a pressing issue in this community but is not perceived as a problem at large. However, we see this as an opportunity for community integration and development. Our experience on identifying and handling WaSH issues through local youth (Eco-Eyes) has been encouraging. We inducted 98 local youths (including 11 girls) from 84 villages. This youth brigade within two years catalyzed establishment of 24 community monitoring committees; 6 villages received cleanliness award. We propose a social re-engineering initiative in 51 villages that would leverage the energy of the youth and our experience with EcoEyes Program to bring about harmony, peace and social cohesion using WaSH as an entry point. We propose to create youth (boy & girl) brigades drawn from different castes, classes and religions. These brigades will form the fulcrum for initiating a series of nexus planning workshops at village level in partnership with local self government and the influential community members and co-create culture and context sensitive and feasible solutions for improving sanitation.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our direct beneficiaries are 199706 residents of 51 SOMAARTH villages in Palwal district, Haryana (India). The surveillance area has: Hindus (68%) & Muslims (32%); Castes - scheduled castes (16%), other backward classes (48%) and forward castes (36%); with 1/3rd population illiterate. We are using nexus planning approach to involve all sections of local community in decision making and to refine implementation. Thus, the proposed project strategy of raising youth brigades comprising of members from all communities segments are expected to enhance meaningful interaction for a common cause i.e. skills to map local resources and addressing the challenges of their dirty environment. This in turn should bring greater harmony and cohesion across the social divides.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Segmentation (caste, class, religion) particularly in rural Indian communities is an age-old scourge adversely affecting societal cohesion and peaceful co-existence. This has compromised human and economic development, and made communities vulnerable to sociopolitical exploitation and inequities. We are addressing this long-standing challenge with the application of advanced social science tools for community engagement and collective decision making (nexus planning). Youth brigades comprised of members drawn purposely from different social groups as 'agents of change' will address the common problem of poor sanitation and water hygiene in their villages employing modern technology. The methodology is widely feasible if the organization(s) have the trust of local communities. INCLEN-SOMAARTH is working in the area for almost a decade and has made concerted efforts to win over the trust and confidence of the local population through community relevant and culture sensitive projects.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

The INCLEN Trust International is a unique multi-disciplinary network registered as a “not-for-profit” Trust in India dedicated to attainment of equity in health for development through community engagement. www.inclentrust.org www.somaarth.org

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Palwal villages are considered among the most backward though situated just 80 KMs south of Delhi and so SOMAARTH was established in 2009. In 2016, I went for a community meet. The elected village chief of the local self government (a lower caste person) came and sat on the floor while I was sitting on the sofa; the house belonged to a forward caste person. Event hit me hard. The enthusiasm and negotiating ability of a young girl in 2017 to get her village cleanliness award re-kindled hope.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace: SOMAARTH villages are heterogeneous and divided on lines of caste and religion. Communities are disengaged in local decision making and unsure of their capacity and willingness for collective action for common causes. In context of rapid economic transition, values are changing, and individual greed and mistrust has spilled over to societal levels. Fissures in social cohesion have widened and vulnerabilities are exploited by agenda-driven individuals and groups for vested reasons. Planet: Our geo-spatial analysis reveals that WaSH is consistently poor across the 51 villages. Density of waste dumps per 1000 inhabitants varies between 24.2 and 29.1 across caste strata. Difference in median distance of the nearest dump between lower and upper caste houses is just 3m. Dump density was 33.2 in Muslim and 32.9 in Hindu villages. Our EcoEyes project experience suggests Youth-led WaSH initiatives can touch every inhabitant of the area and stimulate collective action for social peace.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

1. Village Youth (male & female; drawn purposely from all castes & religions): Catalyze cohesive community action for common cause - WaSH. 2. Village leadership and influencers: Decision makers for participation, planning and implementation through nexus planning 3. District Administration: for alignment with Government initiatives and resources 4. Academic and technical support (GIS & waste disposal) from Department of Geography, Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi and Centre for Environmental Education, Gandhinagar, Gujarat 5. Concordia LLC, New Orleans, LA, USA for organizing Nexus Planning meetings Result: Stakeholder engagement and organizing collective action for a common cause (WaSH) that is also co-aligned with national development are likely to promote community harmony and cohesion despite prevailing social divides. Example (community engagement in SOMAARTH for EcoEyes): http://inclentrust.org/inclen/wp-content/uploads/EcoEyes_Poject-completion-draft_for-website.pdf

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Despite inter-generational social divide & occasional strife, people in the area have lived together for over 1000 years. Community accepts heterogeneity when engaged in decision making and implementation for common causes. One fifth of the village chiefs are from lower castes. In SOMAARTH villages, individuals in the age band of 15-29 years (defined as "Youth" by Government) constitute over 20% of the total population. In all our community projects local youth are involved and appointed.

Geographic Focus

51 villages of SOMAARTH DDESS, District Palwal, Haryana, North India.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

DURATION-36 MONTHS Village wise stakeholder mapping Series of Nexus Planning meetings for the community: buy-in, planning, mapping of resources for local intervention & implementation Communities identify members of Youth Brigades Training Youth Brigade & stakeholders discuss cleaning their respective villages; responsibilities assigned Stakeholders meet district administration for leveraging government schemes Initiation & monitoring of WaSH drives Baseline & Endline WaSH spot map (GIS)

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

42 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Hannah Tsadik
Team

Hi Shikha Dixit - what a great project to integrate WaSH and peace building!

Our contribution to this challenge - Y-now: A global youth approval certificate for local impact  - presents a way that governments, companies but also NGOs like my organization and yours INCLEN trust can get a youth-approval stamp to certify that indeed their policies or projects have been reviewed and endorsed by a broader set of young people that the project/policy seeks to serve. There are similar certifications for Fairtrade, eco and organic products - but no certification for inclusion and diversity standards. Since your contribution seeks to engage young people in these youth brigades, at the level of an idea, what do you think of a globally certified "youth approval" stamp? At present, we are testing the idea with various organizations, to see if the idea itself resonates with those who work with young people.

All the best in the challenge and your work in SOMAARTH!

Photo of Karambu Ringera
Team

Amazing work Shikha Dixit. I absolutely agree with your model of engaging youth as the driving 'heart' of the transformation they want to see in their communities!! Great strategy!! The very best!! Karambu

Photo of Russell Davis
Team

Good afternoon Shikha, Trying to contact you via skype. You may find that the ELOS methodology will be helpful to your community engagement activities. I have been using it for our previous projects in India very successfully and will continue withour new projects. Also, we need to have a brief conversation before the cut-off period closes in a few hours. If you are short of time today considering the current hour there, may I suggest that you simply add me and my project in the Team section of your submission? I will do the same but we must agree to do that before the cutoff. It will only take you 2 minutes to add us to your Team, if for no other reason than agreeing to collaborate to help each others projects.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=BaZVRqExleg -1 minute ELOS intro
http://youtube.com/watch?v=O4CitZk5_T8

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Hi, Russel! Real last minute discovery for me. I have added you to my team though I feel that we should not make any further edits at the moment (there are some other members in the team and I must get their consent). Anyway, will improve the idea, Thanks

Photo of Deepshikha
Team

Hi Shikha! Apologies for the late response! This is a very interesting project, and hats off to you for working in such a challenging environment! I am curious to know whether there were caste and even gender issues that were faced while creating the youth brigade? If so, how did you tackle these?

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Thanks, Deepshikha! Yes, there have been some challenges. You can see my reply below to Bikash Gurung where i have pointed out some of these. Hope to meet you some time in future.

Photo of Bahaa
Team

Dear Shikha,
I love your idea and I am sure it will help bring the communities together as well as the planet!, particularly that you mentioned you have tried a pilot. Can I ask you to share some of the finding/ lessons learnt from your pilot? and what has the impact after the pilot ended? have the youth continued to communicate, what were the changes felt by the youth and the communities?
Thank you and wish you all the best of luck on your great work!
Best
Bahaa

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Dear Bahaa , thank you for your interest in the idea. Our pilot had very encouraging results and is still an ongoing effort.
Total 94 youth were trained under the EcoEyes program. Trained youth are working with the district administration and panchayats and supporting the Government's sanitation campaign and associated village level activities. As a result of intensive efforts made by the local administration and support provided by the local community during the last 2 years
villages have recorded stark improvements in achieving the Open Defecation Free (ODF) status (40%- 70 % +ve change). Total 84 panchayats covered under the project were given village Eco maps depicting village water and sanitation infrastructure and location of environmental harmful areas. These Eco maps will become very useful resource for planning and prioritizing solid and liquid waste management activities to be undertaken in the villages in future.
You can read the detailed report at http://inclentrust.org/inclen/?page_id=5779.
Happy to receive your feedback anytime.
Regards
Shikha

Photo of Bahaa
Team

Thanks Shikha for sharing your experience, that is really helpful and also quite fascinating. I wish you all the best in your great efforts!

Best,
Bahaa

Photo of Leah Varsano
Team

Hi Shikha,
What a powerful project! WaSH is one of Oxfam's main focus areas, and this is a compelling example of how WaSH can be the vehicle for creating bridges across social groups.

I'm wondering especially about what your approach is to increasing the gender equity of this project. While there were girls involved in the Eco-Eyes youth brigade, it sounds like that number was very small compared to the number of boys who participated. What is your strategy for bringing more girls into the work that you are doing going forward? Is there a way to structure the girls' brigade in a culturally sensitive way so that more girls of all castes are encouraged to participate?
All the best, Leah

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Hi Leah Varsano, Thanks for your appreciation! To ensure gender equality we will build structured enrollment processes. Prior to youth enrollment activity, we will initiate female focused education and awareness campaigns in our villages for building the momentum.

Photo of Samantha Pathirathna
Team

Dear Shikha Dixit,
Congratulations for your great idea. I am sure that you can make an impact. I invite you to become a team member of my project by representing India. So that you can connect team of Indian youth with this project. Please share your thoughts. I will make any possible contribution from my side for your project as required. Best Regards Samantha

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Thanks, Samantha! I read through your Youth4Peace submission. The strengths section seems to focus entirely on Sri Lanka but as you have mentioned in the title by-line that you are targeting 10 other countries, may be, you would like to highlight the 'strength of scalability' in your project. Rest looks great! All the best!
Sincerely,
Shikha

Photo of Samantha Pathirathna
Team

Hi, I am out of Colombo and was with the community for an research work. So sorry for the late response. I will add some lines on the scalability. Thanks for this important point. Thank you for taking on board me to your project and I will de my level best to support and I too will add you to my team now. Let us work with true innovations to bring positive impact for the lives of the people. Good Luck Samantha

Photo of bikash gurung
Team

Hi Shikha Dixit , thanks for such an amazing idea. We are glad that you have already piloted this initiative. Would love to learn about the challenges you faced while implementing this idea. Also We’d love to learn a bit more about which aspect of this proposal is new versus which aspects have already been piloted by your organization. In this Bridge Builders challenge, we’re particularly interested in uncovering innovative approaches to bridging peace, prosperity and planet.
We welcome all ideas in different stages of development. Specifying which aspect of your idea you haven’t tested would enable us to better support you on the Open IDEO platform. Would love to learn lil bit about what the current situation looks like because of caste discriminal & difference in religion, has there been any outrageous conflicts in recent years, how likely do you think it may happen ? I am particularly interested in learning what has been the response of the youths after they engaged in your EcoEyes program, are there any behavioral changes before and after the program. Ashley Tillman  What could be possible suggestions for Shikha before we end Idea Phase. Its an amazing initiative. Looking forward to learn more.

link

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Hello, Bikash! Thank you so much for your timely inputs. Yes, you sensed it right... these communities have witnessed outrages in the recent times on communal as well as caste lines. There has been a clash between communities originating from perceived hurt to religious sentiment. Also, in March, communities gathered around a vaccination team and shooed them away as they tried to motivate them for Measles-Rubella vaccination. They felt that such vaccines would leave their children impotent and hence was a concerted effort to damage the growth of their community! These are certain critical experiences that have led us to think for larger good of the population through this project.
In our pilot exercise, we found that youth can take up leadership roles but felt resistance if they had not been introduced to their communities in the 'new found' leadership role. Also, boys were more accepted by men while girls had better motivating power over the women. We have taken care of these aspects in this project.
This project is an effort to 'deep dive'. In our previous submission, we had worked to generate 1 youth leader per village but this time, we have decided to intensify this intervention by building 'Youth Brigades' constituted with both boys and girls. Also, the nexus planning this time will be done to bridge planet and peace, and focuses on the larger picture than restricting itself to just WaSH.
Regarding lasting effect of our pilot program... yes... since our pilot isn't much old, we do see that communities are keeping up with most good practices. However, since we had just one leader per village, we believe, if the dose and exposure time is increased, the change in community behavior will be sustained for a much longer time (and may be, forever)!

Photo of Snigdha Jha
Team

Hello Shikha!

I like your approach of making the local youth the drivers of change. What is the process of training these young individuals to deal with these issues at the grass root levels?
Do you also engage in provision of the WaSH facilities or does your organization only provide training and workshops for its awareness? It's always motivating to know the different approaches being followed by various organizations to tackle similar problems.

Warm Regards
Snigdha

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Dear Snigdha Jha thanks for looking at our idea!
In our pilot Eco-eyes project, we trained the youth to identify WaSH related issues mainly using GIS technology to map the various areas/spots with poor waste disposal, drainage etc. These trained youth brigades would then convey these findings to the village and district authorities who would initiate action. In short, they were functioning as a support system for the administration in the implementation of the government's sanitation campaign.
We do not engage in provision of the WaSH facilities. We do train the youth regarding WaSH issues and they in turn spread the message through various community platforms. We are always available as hand-holders for these young volunteers. Since WaSH is a priority issue in the government's agenda, we have also received backing from authorities in our endeavors so far.

Photo of Angi Yoder Maina
Team

Hi Shikha Dixit 

I like the approach of using a WASH initiative to improve social cohesion among young people in the targeted villages. Your Theory of Change seems to be that you will achieved peace/ improved social cohesion by improving relations between the main conflicting religious and social parties by bridging relations between through a joint project. Your project thus appears aimed at cross-communal relationship building.

My question about your project however is if there has been direct or indirect violence between the various groups. If so, what type of violence? Has it been single sided or on all sides? From what I can see there has been quiet a bit of structural violence which has intergenerational elements. So what I am missing from your project description is the key dynamics and drivers of conflict (and I think the resulting intergroup violence.) If you wish to change the conflict dynamics and improve social cohesion I think you will need to look deeper than just a joint project and start to work on some of the structural issues which have brought the social discord in the first place. This I believe would stregthen your project.

All the best, Angi.

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Thanks Angi Yoder Maina for your observations. They are very valid and we shall keep them in mind while editing the proposal.
There have been extremely few instances of communal violence in the region in recent times. What we have observed is discord in the form of discrimination against people belonging to lower castes in this community. There is a resistance to any initiative which requires different castes/communities to work together and consequently issues like WaSH remain unresolved.
Since we have had encouraging experience with community action for WaSH, we felt this could be an entry point for collective action.

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Hi again, Angi! While editing the version today, we have added your suggested word "inter-generational" in the community strengths section. Thanks for the suggestion!
Best Wishes,
Shikha

Photo of Angi Yoder Maina
Team

That is great. Good luck with it.

Angi.

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Dear Ms Ashley Tillman , please review our idea and advise on potential improvements.
Thanks!

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Dear Ashley Tillman , we await your inputs and would be most grateful if we could get some feedback before day-end today. We look forward to making needful edits once we get your viewpoint.
Thanks,
Shikha

Photo of Russell Davis
Team

Good afternoon Shikha, you spoke with our project partner Deepshikha earlier today and I would like to have the opportunity to discuss your project and potential collaboration efforts for programs we are working there. We have several existing activities and programs that we could transfer to help you. Please send your email and WhatsApp or SkypeID and I will call you to progress our combined possibilities.

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Hi Russell Davis, Thank-you for your interest in our project. My email id is shikha.dixit@inclentrust.org while skype id is inclentrust

Thanks, Shikha

Photo of Brig Vijay Panday
Team

Dear Dr Shikha,

Thank you for your prompt response.

Peace and harmony is a major problem adversely affecting development and health of villages in India and your idea would be a pioneering effort. Another area which is equally important is to save depleting natural resources in and around villages. Scarcity and quality of water is at the top of this problem. Problem like this can be solved by active intervention and implementation of ways and means to conserve water and solve the problem of increasing brackishness or salty of water.
I think your experience in this project can then catapult to active implementation to address the water problem.
with best wishes.

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Thank you, Sir, for the best wishes!
-Shikha

Photo of seema sharma
Team

Wonderful Dr. Shikha!! It is a great initiative. Keep up the good work.

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Thank you! :)

Photo of Brig Vijay Panday
Team

Dear Dr Shikha,

I have seen your proposal. Wow! its great to know that your organisation is doing a yeomen service to the poor and marginalized in the backward area of rural India.
Regarding your project, I would like to comment that the problem is typical to India as here the society is divided economics, politics, caste sub-caste, religion, creed and so on. People have made efforts to change the scenario by social reformemnt but of little success as the approach has been through preaching
i am sure that the methodology proposed by your organisation is out of box thinking, unique and workable as instead of preaching it is involvement of youth of different factions for village development (sanitation) which may lead to harmony and peace.
Wish you all success and I hope that the project is shortlisted for better service to mankind.

With best wishes

sincerely yours
Brig VK Panday(Retd)

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Thank-you so much Brig Panday for your appreciation. You are absolutely right, India has so much of diversity. Through our project we aim to build cohesive communities by engaging youths. Any suggestions from your side are welcome.
Thanks again,Shikha.

Photo of Sharmil Dubey
Team

Thank you Dr. Shikha,

I like your reply, if you have experience so you can achieve, best of luck for Youth brigades catalyze social cohesion & harmony using common ground of improving Water, Sanitation & Hygiene in their community & villages,

Thank you
Best Regards
Sharmil

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Thank-you Sharmil!

Photo of Rupak Mukherjee
Team

Shikha Dixit  great initiative ! I like your approach to bring social harmony and cohesion through  addressing a common issue that impact society at large.  Improving WaSH is really a burning problem in India even after proactive Government programme. Your idea of engaging Youth and  training them  for preparing  village maps (GIS) is interesting.  You have also talked about Nexus planning. Is it a kind of community designing ? Can you please elaborate ?

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Hi, Rupak! Thank you for your kind words and keen interest in our concept. Yes, you guessed it right! Nexus planning is a form of collective decision-making. It is a structured method of including local stakeholder constituencies in identifying local resources and strategies to leverage them for a common cause. This method has been documented to be very effective in community planning and designing, and even in rebuilding communities after they have been damaged. You can google up to know further about this concept. I am sure, you will find this technique quite exciting.
Best Wishes,
Shikha

Photo of ishaan vloges
Team

Thanks for your reply

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Thanks, Ishaan!

Photo of Jill LaLonde
Team

Hello Shikha,
Thank you for directing me to your idea, and for the invitation to review and provide feedback! Our organizations share a lot of similarities to how we begin engagement with social resource mapping and putting together a cohort of leaders (both male and female) to drive the process and engage the wider community. I particularly like your focus on youth as a catalyst for change. Are you familiar with Restless Development? They bring together youth globally to solve development challenges, and may be a good resource for you.

Another thing that stood out to me is the illiteracy in the communities you work in. This had been a particular challenge for us at OneVillage Partners, but we developed picture-based learning tools for all aspects of our programming, so people can participate and learn regardless of literacy level. What sort of tools are you using to engage communities?
Thank you again, and best wishes!
Jill

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Hi, Jill! It's wonderful to learn about one another's work. I didn't know about Restless Development but I googled it up after I read your comment. It seems to be doing some real good work. Thankfully, the office is in Delhi and I look forward to meeting someone from their team sometime soon. I also searched for your organization, OneVillage Partners, and found it interesting. Will go through the website in detail.
As you said, using picture-tools is a way to get around the illiteracy challenge. In our setting, we mostly rely on inter-personal communication, group meetings and peer-learning techniques; we use picture job-aids, though.
Best Wishes,
Shikha

Photo of Sharmil Dubey
Team

Dear Shikha,

This is great idea, I would appreciate for your idea, but an Indian scenario is it possible for implantation?
I think it is very big challenge to bring youth at one platform for common Issues. Please share your planned methodology.

Best Regards
Sharmil

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Hi Sharmil. Thank-you so much for your appreciation. It was indeed very difficult and challenging when we talk about implementation, also because of the socio-cultural diversity in India. But, I was happy to see the results of our program EcoEYES at SOMAARTH. Me and my team could motivate and train the youths to create awareness about sanitation issues and also monitor the changes in their villages. I have the methodology in my idea page, please kindly have a look. Also, for more details you can visit the link(http://inclentrust.org/inclen/?page_id=5779). We have the report of our previous experience while working with these youths on water and sanitation issues.