Experiencing the Journey of Serve, Learn, Lead: Part I

Every member of the team I am working with shares a good understanding and commitment to the work and people with whom they are working. My host organization started its work by bringing together the local youth from the local villages. The work culture is inclusive, accommodating and organized.

As an AIF Clinton Fellow, I was working with a team of 23 project staff: 1 Program head, 1 Pedagogy coordinator, 1 Seasonal Hostel Coordinator, 3 Block Coordinators and 15 Resource center facilitators. Every month, I actively participated with project staff in a monthly review meeting. This meeting provides the opportunity for both personal and professional development. Also my field engagement in blocks is closely in coordination with block coordinators and learning resource center facilitators. Working directly with field staff is helping me in learning the skills as well. In our work culture, diversity brings new ideas, approaches, and perspectives toward the accomplishment of task, purpose or goal. I had the opportunity to work with people coming from diverse backgrounds viz. education, profession, culture, race, and ethnicity.

As an AIF Clinton Fellow, I was placed with Lokadrusti at Nuapada. As a Fellow, I was working within AIF’s Learning and Migration Program (LAMP) implemented in Nuapada district of western Odisha. My educational background is Humanities and Social Sciences, with a post graduate degree in Social Work. At Lokadrusti, I was working in collaboration with the organization’s project team. Here I was an AIF ambassador and also a project team member. The nature of my engagement was centered on the rural communities since the implementation part is for these villages, along with coordination with AIF and Lokadrusti.

Therefore I worked with people at three levels: one at the head office with program director and head, on block level with four block coordinators, and on ground with field staffs. Also there was networking and coordination with various stakeholders viz. government official at district and block level, panchayati raj institutions, and voluntary organizations. The coordination and communication between the hierarchies needed multi-tasking, participatory and collective approach. Team building and team work played a major part in devising a strategy to implementing the same. When we work with the communities, the major aspect is diversity and disparity in socioeconomic and political domain. Hence bringing together of ideas, building consensus, and active participation is the one of the major challenges at grassroots.

In my experience during these ten months, there were many challenges and issues, starting from initiation of my work of team building, strategy design, to implementation. Once these issues were identified, accordingly I devised a mitigation plan to attain and achieve the project goal. For coordination to be in place at three levels of hierarchy, I did the division on my engagement part and spent the required time with the teams. In the communication part, I accordingly channeled the communication both vertical and horizontal. While in the implementation part, I took various roles from a lead to a worker at the ground and hence was able to make my project achievable and attain the deliverables. Effective work comes with the shared goal, vision, and a common purpose while working in real time situation one needs to have a positive outlook toward the goal and move patiently.

I have also gained exposure and practical understanding of how the collaborative aspects in the work plays a vital role in shaping the works sustainability, to add momentum to same convergence, working with the government and other major stakeholders.

Working with a grassroots organization needs patience and a quest to learn from experiences of people and self. From my earlier experience of work and engagement prior to this fellowship, I have realized that going with a certain mind frame would not always work as it does in organizations working as implementer. To implement or to devise something, our understanding, learning, and immersion of the context is important. From my side, what I have realized is the need to participate and take initiatives as much as to participate with patience and in process of understanding and respecting the cultural differences (way of living, language, food, political and religious sentiments and views as well). My major experience in the last months while I spent time with communities in the villages of Nuapada Block, has further shaped my perspective towards people’s ways of living, differences in term of social acceptance, and how power and one’s affiliation with institutions shapes further process of engagement are central. People we are working with and people for whom we are working shares a motto of for the people by the people. Putting it in other words, the capacity of community has to be built so as to make the whole process self-sustainable or functioning in limited capacity/capacity located within the community itself.

Niket has completed his education from Jamia Millia Islamia. He has done his graduation from the Cluster Innovation Centre at the University of Delhi. In pursuance of his interest to work with marginalized communities, he completed Masters in Social Work from the University of Delhi. It is one of his goals to work for an equitable and accessible public education system. Niket has worked closely with rural communities under State Rural Livelihood Mission in Maharashtra and Rajasthan. He has undertaken academic research work with the forest and mountain communities of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. As an AIF Clinton Fellow, Niket served with Lokadrusti, an organisation working with the distressed migration population of western Odisha district under AIF's Learning and Migration Program (LAMP).

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