Category Archives: News

A Quiet Revolution

There is a quiet revolution going on in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. A revolution seeing a true paradigm shift of power to low caste poverty stricken villagers previously disenfranchised from wider society. All based on a completive approach led by villagers themselves.

This approach has been developed by the Manavodaya Institute of Participatory Development over the last 30 years training thousands of facilitators often from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as professionals including government officers, bank managers, and leaders of non-government organisations and managers of various international development projects in methods of participation, empowerment and self-help. In turn these facilitators have helped millions of families move away from abject poverty and enslaved as bonded laborers. So why you might never heard of this approach? Continue reading A Quiet Revolution

Manavodaya meets Parliamentarians at Westminster

Varun Vidyarthi & Pete Richmond of Manavodaya met with members of the UK Parliament at Westminster to raise awareness of the work of Manavodaya in India and in the UK. MP’s were interested to hear why the name of Manavodaya is not more widely known.

Manavodaya meeting in WestminsterOne of the major challenges facing Manavodaya India is recognition of its work, as the organisation is not self-promoting and by design it seeks to leave a minimal footprint. Over the last 25 years Manavodaya in India has been facilitating self-help groups at a village level to become established and in turn to help these self-help groups come together to be self-help federations. It is estimated that millions of families have had their lives touched by Manavodaya, yet relatively few people have heard of Manavodaya. This is because self-help groups are self-identifying and are not known as the Manavodaya group of this or that village. In districts where federations of self-help groups have formed again, they are not known as the federation of Manavodaya self-help groups, more likely they are just know by the district’s name federation of self-help groups.

This brought the questions from MP’s as to what is it that Manavodaya does? The direct answer is that it trains facilitators and gives hands-on fieldwork support where necessary. As groups develop, it advises and where necessary, helps facilitators to establish local federations of self-help groups. It goes on to help facilitators to identify new village-based facilitators. Other than in the earliest stages of development, where a little financial assistance may be available, facilitators are paid a small fee by the groups themselves or, as is becoming more often the case, other local institutions are funding the facilitator role. Manavodaya operates on a shoestring budget with funding coming from either small grants, local organisations seeking facilitator training, or in a small part from organisations overseas such as University of Lilliehammer in Norway who annually send  a cohort of students to learn about the methods of Manavodaya.

Cathy Jamieson, MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun and shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury commented:

‘I can now see how the work of an organisation such as Partners for Inclusion, which supports people with disabilities in my constituency, is influenced by Manavodaya, with its strong commitment to human rights for people with disabilities and providing a very successful model of support which is genuinely  directed by the person in receipt of that support.’

Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South and Chairperson of the Work and Pensions Select Committee,  commented  that she was aware of work in her own constituency proving very successful that was inspired by the work of Manavodaya. The infohub is a project set up and run by people with disabilities. The infohub seeks to help groups of people with disabilities come together to find their own solutions..

Varun Vidyarthi Keynote Speaker at the Partners for Inclusion Conference ‘Everyone Matters’

Varun Vidyarthi was a Keynote Speaker at the 2014 Partners for Inclusion  Conference ‘Everyone Matters’ in Kilmarnock, Scotland.

Varun in front of audience at Partners Conference 2014In his address to the Partners for Inclusion Conference; Varun said the need for people to have greater control of their lives was relevant in many contexts, be it in rural India or in a Western country such as Scotland. The audience – made up of officials from both local and national government, service providers along with people who use services and their families – heard Varun speak about the importance of control in your life.

He said that key to this is being able to identify your own dream and deeper purpose in life. This personal vision comes from self-reflection and allows the individual to collaborate more effectively with other’s to achieve a collective vision. In this way people are more able to find fulfilment that does not just benefit themself but also benefits the community around them. He suggested that external funding, if directed at the wrong things, could hinder this process by taking power away from individuals and communities to transform themselves.

One local government official speaking after the address said:

‘ Varun’s presentation was inspiring and gave a fresh perspective on the challenges we are facing. Varun highlighted that reducing government budgets, as well as bringing challenges, brings opportunities and we need to have more faith in the capacity of people with disabilities. With a little bit of the right kind of help, people can flourish and meet many of their own and their community’s needs.’


Carl Poll sadly died on 23rd May 2013

Carl Poll sadly died on 23rd May 2013. Carl was the instigator and a founding board member of Manavodaya International UK His own modest biography is below, but you can read some of our memories of Carl by going to this page:

In Memory of Carl

In the late 1980’s Carl developed the idea for a radical housing support model for people with learning disabilities – KeyRing Living Support Networks.

KeyRing presented an idea that seemed preposterous to many: that nine people, who might otherwise be in residential care, could live in their own place in an ordinary community, supported by a volunteer. This person offers practical support and helps Members to build self-reliance, mutual support and community connections. In 2010, there are over one thousand KeyRing Members living in their own ordinary places in nearly 60 local authority areas.

Working with KeyRing Members taught Carl about mobilising the capacities, skills and gifts of individuals and the importance of careful facilitation and support that does not steal the initiative from those supported.

He led KeyRing until 2003 when he joined In Control to work as a project consultant on three of the initial pilots till 2005. After this initial phase of In Control work, he worked as Director of Communications from 2005-2008 and was responsible, with Henry Iles, for the creation of the In Control brand and publications strategy.

Carl has two particular interests. The first concerns the meaning of citizenship for marginalised people. He has contributed to and edited a number of publications on this subject including In Community: practical lessons in supporting isolated people to be part of community (HSA Press, 2009).

The second is about how we communicate effectively and Carl has championed the importance of clear and concise information at KeyRing and In Control and continues to work towards this with easy read.

Before starting KeyRing Living Support Networks, Carl had been a language teacher, printer and typesetter

Carl is sadly missed by all at Manavodaya.

Manvodaya course, Lillehammer, Norway, 2012

At the end of 2012, participants from both Norway and the UK attended the programme based in the beautiful surroundings of Nordsetter in the Mountains above Lillehammer. The course was facilitated by Anne Bregnballe and Bjarne Ovrelid, supported by Varun Vidyarthi from Manavodaya India.

Participants were able to hear first hand from Varun about the techniques used and the wider experience of Manavodaya India. How long standing barriers to the disenfranchised rural poor, such as bonded labour, uneconomic and unsustainable agricultural practices, women and girls educational opportunities are being overcome. Through the process of self- and collective reflection, participants were able to then share their experiences and consider common themes in work in India, Norway and the UK.

One participant, Ruth from Aberdeen, said:

‘I would recommend the course to everyone no matter what your field. It
helps clear the mind so you get more done by doing less… go figure! It
introduced me to yoga, which I still do every morning and its helped my
back pain a lot. I’m also more relaxed at work.’.