Livelihoods Network Camp – Day 3

Posted By: Rise Team|Dated: October 13, 2012

Day 3 of the Livelihoods Network Camp in Araku Valley was a validation of a new approach to development–one that emphasizes co-creation, local participation and the active involvement of investors.

Action Plans: Impact and beyond

The final day of the Livelihoods Camp saw teams presenting the action plans they developed with the help of input from local communities. “We learned that there are already several lending mechanisms in place here, and they don’t function as we expected,” remarked one member of the financial inclusion team.  This focus on using local knowledge while developing solutions was an excellent reminder of the fact that this event was much more than just a conference.

Livelihoods Network Camp – Day 3

The ‘Access to Market’ team presents their action plan to the Camp.

Another striking feature of the presentations was the way in which they were structured.  Following each presentation, an equal amount of time was allotted for ‘challengers’ to probe the teams, demanding each group to defend and reevaluate the ecological and cultural implications of their action plans.  Will generating tens of thousands of tonnes of agricultural produce improve the livelihoods of the adivasi communities?  What will be the carbon footprint associated with the necessary increase in transportation and processing capacity?  Did the communities even ask for this?

The tenor of presenters and challengers alike embodied the rigorous approach to development practiced by Naandi and the Livelihoods Fund.  As profitability and shareholder value are paramount to the corporation, such are the goals of sustainability and livelihood promotion to these organizations and they are pursued with the same vigor and emphasis on results.  It was this sense of commitment to delivering value to the local communities involved that truly set the Livelihoods Camp apart.

Keynote Speakers: Questions of development

The themes which emerged over the course of three days were felt strongly by all of the Camp attendees, but were perhaps expressed most eloquently by Tuesday night’s guest speakers–Emmanuel Faber and Ganesh Devy.

Emmanuel Faber and Ganesh Devy

Emmanuel Faber (right) and Ganesh Devy (left) give their keynote talks to the Camp on Tuesday.

Emmanuel Faber–Vice-Chairman of Danone and one of the creators of danone.communities, a social business investment fund–appealed to the convention to redefine ‘value’ as it is understood in our capitalistic society.  If shareholder value is the only type of value we seek to maximize, we must engage in constant exchange in order to do so.  Many economists would argue that the act of exchange itself creates value. But Emmanuel argues that this logic ignores a fundamental principle of scarce resources.  Establishing values that prioritize ecology and the environment along with shareholder value is necessary for modern corporations.

The organizations who are invested in the Livelihoods Fund realize this. Through innovative schemes linking the carbon economy to the promotion of livelihoods, they are bridging the gap between corporate and social spheres.  Furthermore, by contributing their competencies in project management, technology, supply chain management, finance, and nutrition, members of the Livelihoods Network are strengthening this link.

Another topic of interest was the role of globalization in the context of development.  While the benefits of economic advancement and technology transfer are often cited as examples of globalization in action, these are typically seen as one-way transfers.  Ganesh Devy–founder of the Bahsa Academy, a university for adivasi (tribal) students, and expert on language, culture and development–thinks that we ought to reconsider this unidirectional approach.

Ganesh Devy

Ganesh Devy fields a question regarding the role of culture in development.

Ganesh has spent his career studying many of India’s 800+ languages and the collective memory that is ingrained in these dialects and the communities which speak them.  These languages and cultures hold centuries-worth of accumulated knowledge which is often overlooked by the development community.  “The language of peoples in the Himalayas has over 100 words for snow,” he explains.  There is a wealth of knowledge that we can access from their intimate understanding of environment and surroundings if we take the time to learn from them.

As the final day of the Livelihoods Camp came to a close, all of the attendees in Araku were imbued with a deeper understanding of this forward-looking approach to development.  The focus on co-creation, shared value and learning from local communities represents the way forward in this field.  Ultimately, it highlights the need to replicate the model of development that has been pioneered by groups like the Naandi Foundation and the Livelihoods Fund.

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