Manavodaya’s approach

On this page you can find out more detail about Manavodaya’s approach.

Manavodaya has created working methods which genuinely transfer power to disenfranchised, marginalised people. In India, those people are usually low-caste villagers living below the poverty line.

Though the approach has been built in the context of community development in rural India, it can be important to those wanting to contribute to positive and sustainable social change in the West and, indeed, anyone who wants to be more effective in their work or relationships.

Photo of Self Help group in India

In dialogue with villagers over many years, Manavodaya has concluded that the external facilitator can only help such groups to create lasting change if they do two things:

  • the first is that the facilitator must approach the work with an attitude of deep humility – the people know their problems and have the solutions in their possession. In order to develop this humility, the facilitator must engage in a process of inner development – constantly working on their own attitudes in a process of self-reflection. Manavodaya offers a modest framework to approach this inner development work – Eight Steps in Action.
  • the second thing the facilitator can do is work with groups to uncover solutions – in a dialogue lasting many meetings in which the group talks about the problems of individuals and the potential benefits of being in a group. The facilitator must not make the group dependent on his/her presence. The group must, if this change is to last, work out ways of managing and organising its activities. In India, the groups are usually based around saving. Each member puts an amount of money (or sometimes grains) into a cashbox (or jar). As funds accumulate, the group makes loans to its members to start enterprises or repay debts to moneylenders. The level of control and self-management of the group distinguishes this approach from credit unions and other micro credit organisations.
In the UK such an approach may be at odds with the target-driven approach that has become more and more dominant over recent years. But there is plenty of evidence that while professionals intervene in people’s lives with the attitude that they bring solutions, little changes for any length of time. People mostly remain dependent. We need another paradigm – another way of doing things. Manavodaya’s approach seems to offer a sustainable solution.
Some participants in UK courses have made conscious attempts to test Manavodaya’s approach. Also, we realise that many of the most innovative services around the country have unconsciously applied similar principles. There is a growing network of people whose practice is united by the understanding offered by Manavodaya in India. We feel less isolated and more supported. We are hoping this movement will grow and that the effect will be more careful professional interventions – ones that do not steal power from people we are supposed to help.