Mahatma Gandhi, who led India’s independence movement, believed in the power of mass action for India’s development. He said, “We must be the change we want to see in this world.”
‘Samaj Shilpi (Grass roots Community Facilitator)’ is RIM’s flagship program and is founded upon the belief that in every community there exist at least a handful of people who have the motivation and voluntarily give their time to change their lives for the better. These village volunteers are called Samaj Shilpis. RIM identifies, trains and provides a stipend to these Samaj Shilpis.
The issues selected by the Samaj Shilpis range from enhancing rural livelihood through accessing MGNREGS and loans for Self-Help Groups, promoting organic farming, to access to public health care and education. The stress is on using existing government schemes and programs for these activities, rather depend on external project funding. To ensure that the activities sustain beyond the time span of the stipend support, the Samaj Shilpi activates and strengthens statutory community monitoring bodies, community based organizations and participation in Gram sabhas. They also build a cadre of local volunteers towards sustainability. Each Samaj Shilpi is supported for two years, at the end of which time they need to identify a means to sustain themselves while they continue their work.
Friends of Movement
If the number of volunteers can be increased steeply from year to year, a critical mass of Indians working cooperatively for self-reliant development can be reached. Mass action is needed for effective development on a national scale. The goal is to catalyze a mass movement to strengthen democratic processes toward self-reliant development. Towards this and to sustain their activities in the communities, each Samaj Shilpi attempts to create a group called “Friends of Movement” in each village. The group will have a minimum of seven members and the Samaj Shilpi will work through this group. This has the advantages of:
- Encouraging voluntary action.
- Empowering local people and giving them a platform, space and opportunity to think, plan and act on the issues of development concern them / their village.
- Sustaining the movement activities beyond the fellowship tenure of Samajshilpi.
Any one who is interested in their own area, village, community can become a Friend. They need not pay any subscription or membership fee. Their services will be purely voluntary and they shall not be compensated for their time, efforts and energy.
In other words, an individual with innate desire or urge to develop their own village, slum or community and be able to give their free time for the cause can become part of the Friends of Movement Group.