A Strategy of Strengthening Local Self Governance

Our activities are based on the fundamental strategy of strengthening Local Self-Government to become inclusive, participatory, just and efficient institutions of the people, which address food & livelihood security, health, education and other primary entitlements.

We therefore strive to advocate necessary changes in society and governance so that powers, responsibilities and functions move outwards from the community only on the basis of necessity and subsidiarity, through concentric tiers of governance, from the local through the state to the national and global.

CSO - Panchayat Partnerships

In this context the recent past has seen the emergence of Panchayati Raj Institutions being more vigorously promoted as the principal proactive stakeholders in poverty alleviation and rural development processes as had been enshrined by the 73rd Amendment of India's constitution. Panchayats (local self government institutions) have been entrusted with the responsibility to implement various development programmes for which they are still ill equipped in terms of experience, capacity or resources for critical gaps. Though a far cry from the vision expounded above they provide a starting point on which future generations will have to build

On the other hand we would do well to remember that NGOs whose role ideally should be temporary and catalytic in nature to provide support in strengthening mainstream participatory democratic processes often evolve into externally funded centres of power. Apart from their lack of accountability and transparency, they more often than not undermine grass root democratically elected people's institutions by bypassing them and often usurp their decision making authority. Experience has also shown that the efforts of NGOs where not embedded in mainstream institutions and processes are of little lasting value and in the long run unsustainable.

Local Self Governance Approach as a development strategy for NGOs

Ahead Initiatives believes that a local self governance approach is not only a more sustainable development strategy, but one that will strengthen local self government through supportive partnerships

Ahead aims to support and foster such CSO - Panchayat Partnerships, which also need to be formulated in the context of the vast number of flagship programmes and concomitant, albeit schematic funds flowing to Gram Panchayats, where there is a lack of capacity within the GP and more so among the poor to participate in the institutions and processes of local self governance so as to benefit from these mainstream resources.

Facilitating Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate - Local Self Government Partnerships

Corporate Social Responsibilty (CSR) in developed countries has emphasised the need for environmental sensibilities, business ethics and social issues which infringe on business processes. In India though, the government has called on the corporate sector to "share the burden" in the wider context of rural development to address poverty alleviation.

However, given the central role that Gram Panchayats (Local Self Government) need to assume as an institution of the people, it can be argued that Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives in rural development to alleviate poverty need to be done in partnership with institutions of local self governance, namely Gram Panchayats if they are to be sustainably integrated into the fabric of the local community. This requires the facilitation of NGOs who have the requisite local knowledge

Strategy of a tripartite partnership

Corporate - LSGI (Panchayati Raj Institution) Partnerships facilitated by Ahead Initiatives

It is proposed that an innovative attempt be made to take Corporate Social Responsibility into the sphere of strengthening local self government through partnerships so that apart from ensuring concrete deliverables which benefit the community, best practices in eliciting participation of the poorest and efficiently utilizing mainstream resources are demonstrated which can be emulated elsewhere. Such a strategy seeks to address issues of long-term sustainability and continuity, by integrating people's 'voice' & 'pro-active participation' in formulation and execution of initiatives on a continuing basis as part of local self governance

Such partnerships will also perhaps create a meeting ground to bridge the cultural divide and help corporates to understand the worldview and cultural context from within which Local Self Government operates