Transferring Grassroots Experiences into New Development Theories and Concepts


Report on a workshop offered by the Tata-Dhan Academy, Madurai


Post-independence India has witnessed an immense struggle against poverty. A variety of stakeholders have resorted to innovative and diverse models to face the challenges ahead. NGOs have played key roles in furthering the efforts made by these stakeholders to reduce poverty. In this process, development practitioners have amassed a wealth of experience and learning, especially at the grassroots level.

This treasure chest of learning is there for the asking; unfortunately, knowledge sharing in the development sector is severely under utilized and much of the valuable grassroots learning experiences remain obscure and localized. Precious time, human resources, and other resources can be put to optimal use if these learnings are made widely and freely available.

Individual reflections and group discussions on this disparity indicated that a forum was necessary to make these learnings easily accessible to people; such a forum would help develop contemporary development theories and concepts. The Transferring Grassroots Experiences into New Development Theories and Concepts knowledge-building workshop is one such forum, and it was designed to facilitate sharing and learning and to enable practitioners to theorize and conceptualize based on their experiences. By creating this platform and enabling development practitioners themselves to present their theories, DHAN Foundation and the Tata-Dhan Academy hope to set in motion a very powerful process whereby the gaps between theories, grassroots level practitioners, and the community can be narrowed.

Eight NGOs working on a wide spectrum of development activities convened for the workshop to share evolving development theories and concepts. The outcome of this workshop will lay the foundation or a series of similar workshops exploring practical knowledge from various areas in development.

What makes this type of workshop unique is the nature of the involvement from the participants. Generally, a practitioner “practices”; for him or her, a concept note remains an elusive and abstract matter. This is because theorizing or conceptualizing is often left to the domain of academia. However, if this workshop or similar interventions succeed in bringing out a change in this set of attitudes, practitioners will be enriched by knowledge based on the solid experiences of their peers.

This document gives an overview of the presentations and discussions made during this two-day workshop.


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