Our beliefs: are the product of constant reflection on our analysis of society, on feedback and analysis of experiences of the poor and marginalised as a result of our various poverty mitigation interventions and on the understanding that our interventions need to be governed by the “art of the possible”. The burden of change must not be borne by the poor as a result of our ideology, administrative needs, program design and the pressure for quick results.
We believe that the poor and marginalised have a right to form their own institutions which need to be respected and not made to conform to official requirements. We believe that stable, thriving, democratic, wealth creating institutions of the poor at the base are appropriate instruments to change oppressive power relations in a sustainable manner. Striving to “mainstream” the poor can also be dis-empowering, if they have to fit into the mainstream, on the latter’s own terms and conditions.
We believe that these institutions of the poor, when provided with adequate institution capacity building(ICB) can overcome the hurdles created by caste, class, bureaucracy, gender and tradition by neutralizing oppressive power relations and opening new doors and opportunities to access resources. The basic needs approach without a direct focus on promoting institutional empowerment of the poor is inadequate for sustained growth of the individual, it does not factor power and market forces into the equation which they cannot counter individually.
We believe that we need to constantly dig deeper to reach the poor. Asserting that we are working with the poor over a period of time in one area – especially if the intervention is effective – results in working with the enterprising poor. Continuous efforts are required to reach out to those who are left out of any system not matter how inclusive it may claim to be.
We believe that our interventions should build on people’s strengths, not on their needs to which they will respond at their time and pace. To start on the basis of needs is to reinforce existing relations of dependency. Their strengths are based on the relations of mutual trust and support or affinity/social capital, which is still strong in rural areas. This affinity exists before ARAVALI enters. It is like a diamond in the sand, which we happened to kick. We can only take credit for stopping to pick it up and polish it. Other strengths lie in the willingness of the poor to save, (once they realise that their savings are safe and can be quickly accessed), to invest time and energy to build institutions through which they manage finance and natural resources, open access the markets, provide services and influence governance.
We believe in investing in children, not in isolation, but together with the mother and in the context of the family by promoting supportive gender relations and sustainable livelihoods strategies through the dynamics of an affinity group and a healthy surrounding environment.
We believe that the livelihoods of the poor cannot be promoted by market forces and the private sector only; on the contrary they could easily be undermined. Institutions of the poor need to exercise a degree of control over market linkages and intermediary institutions. To intervene effectively in these areas, the poor need to be supported by Government investment in infrastructure, including roads (particularly rural roads), transport, storage and marketing facilities and by NGOs to promote appropriate institutions.
We believe that the poor and the marginalised need a safety net to ensure food security and the minimum health care and education. Government needs to take the lead and invest in these sectors, but management and implementation has to involve people’s institutions and should not be left to the existing delivery system only. The poor should be provided with choices in the field of primary and secondary education and health.
We believe that technical institutions providing basic training should be privatised or at least placed under a private-public partnership management model.