Transferring Grassroots Experiences into New Development Theories and Concepts


About the Workshop

As part of building and disseminating knowledge, the Tata-Dhan Academy organizes events such as workshops, seminars, collaborative research works, and consultancy assignments for grassroots NGOs. The two-day Transferring Grassroots Experiences into New Development Theories and Concepts workshop—held in September 2005—is part of that initiative. The objectives of this workshop were to:

  • Motivate the participants with a renewed and upgraded understanding of development theories, principles, and philosophies—based on their grassroots experiences—by facilitating sharing of their organizational experiences.
  • Identify the development and poverty indicators which help practitioners understand and refine their strategies of poverty reduction and development.
  • Identify and promote linkage mechanisms between the Academy and the participating NGOs to update and enhance varied perspectives on development concepts and principles.

Workshop structure and content

The Transferring Grassroots Experiences into New Development Theories and Concepts workshop was divided into four sessions: poverty, development perspectives, understanding communities, and development professionalism.

  1. The presentations on Poverty sought to define poverty by (1) understanding the processes involved with defining the “poverty line” and (2) analysing and assessing various poverty indicators, particularly at the micro level. Currently, NGOs use different methods and indicators—often context-specific—to identify different levels of poverty; this makes comparisons of efforts difficult. Through these presentations and discussions, participants were encouraged to consider a holistic understanding of poverty dimensions.
  2. What is development? What is the development process? What kinds of indicators can be used to measure the impact of development from the grassroots experience? These questions were addressed in the Development Perspectives presentations and discussions.
  3. One of the challenges with development is the process of maintaining a strong sense of cultural identity while the community is changing. During the Understanding Communities presentations, participants were encouraged to reflect upon the culture, structure, and economics of the target population and develop insights about the needs, desires, traditional practices, and inter-relationships within the community which may impact a development intervention.
  4. Development Professionalism focused on the challenges NGOs and others in the development sector face regarding things like scaling of operations, organizational development, and human resources development. For example, many development organizations face extreme difficulties recruiting and retaining highly trained professionals—even if the candidates possess the necessary attitudes, knowledge, and skills to work in the profession.


Dr. A. Vaidyanathan, Professor Emeritus, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, facilitated the workshop. Faculty from the Tata-Dhan Academy facilitated different workshop modules.


NGOs working at the grassroots level were invited to participate. Each participant was permitted to contribute a maximum of two papers which were based on the framework provided by the Academy. Practitioners were selected to present their papers and their reflections on their grassroots experiences.


The Academy sponsored the entire cost of the residential two-day workshop.

About this Book

The content of this book is based on the presentations and discussions made at the Transferring Grassroots Experiences into New Development Theories and Concepts workshop. The book is structured along the same topic-based framework used for the workshop. The workshop was filmed in its entirety; these recordings were used to transcribe or summarize the major points presented and discussed and were used as the foundation for this document. The general structure for each section is a write-up of the presentation followed by a discussion section based on participant inputs.
Chapter 1 introduces two presentations on poverty. Chapter 2 reviews six presentations on development perspectives. Chapter 3 explains the need to understand communities using three presentations. One presentation was delivered related to development professionalism, the topic for Chapter 4. Workshop participants formed subgroups and discussed each of the above themes further; their ideas—and new questions—are included in Chapter 5. The book concludes with a chapter on a call for action to further link the Tata-Dhan Academy with NGOs and an appendix with information about the organizations which participated at the workshop.


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