I. The Context

The State of our Nation

Our nation is experiencing a range of social stresses, some recognized, some not so well recognized. There are stresses caused by displacement of people, by the drive for ethnic and caste identities, those caused by a clash of cultures, and those caused by changes in our environment. People have been displaced by the construction of dams and mining projects (for instance Narmada and POSCO) as well as by ethnic and political conflicts (Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir, Santhal tribals from Bodoland). The drive for ethnic identity has meant that many migrant communities (Chakmas in Arunachal, Biharis in Assam and Maharashtra) have been targeted by the so called sons of the soil. The clash of cultures comes out in the way Khap Panchayats in Northern India have taken to targeting inter-caste marriages. Changes in the environment have led to repeated floods on the Kosi plains in Western UP and Bihar, resulting in extensive loss of livelihoods as well as access to health and education facilities for the people living there.

There have been displacements by choice too, because of educated youth travelling to far corners of India away from homes in search of jobs. These youth have to deal with loss of family support, loneliness and the stresses of the demanding work environments totally removed from whatever they have been used to.

There have been many responses to deal with these multiple crises, some illegitimate (that is, not constitutional), e.g. the Maoist agitation; and others with varying degrees of acceptability by the state. Thus, there have been responses from the Govt. through the various Missions it has set up for Rural Health, Urban Renewal etc. A large no. of NGOs too is working in the area of Health, Education, Livelihoods and Environment, sometimes in close collaboration with the Govt., sometimes independently to show how things can be done better or differently. Many Civil Society organizations are working at various levels, either to get the state to be more responsive to genuine public needs, or to help resolve a range of ethnic or other tensions. And, finally, there are some CSR initiatives which parallels or strengthens the work being done by NGOs and the Govt.

A common problem: The inability to work with others

Given the range, intensity and complexity of problems, it is not surprising that one of the underlying process that threatens to wreak any intervention to solve the above problem is stress and distrust: stress and distrust between communities (Bodo vs. Santhal,), between different interest groups (big business vs. tribal), between communities and the Govt (for not providing good governance; for not dealing with corruption), and between different states (Karnataka and Tamil Nadu fighting over water rights).

There is another level at which lack of distrust can derail working on such issues: it is the conflict within an organization that can lead to the organization losing its mojo. Organizations that have experienced such conflict: PRIA and PRADAN, to name a couple of iconic organizations, have passed through periods of stress and under-performance.


Potential roles of ISABS

Facilitating Social Change Facilitators through T Groups

ISABS does not work directly with the community, or with issues affecting the nation. However, it has the ability to develop the skills of those who are working with the above: the civil society organizations, the NGOs, the Govt. missions and the CSR initiatives. All of these organizations are trying in their own way to get different sections to work together as teams (e.g. organizations representing poor women or tribals), or to build bridges between different stakeholders in situations of latent or real conflict.

It is in this context that ISABS can play a hugely significant role, by providing answers to some of the following questions. How do different sections of the community learn to work with each other, to trust each other? How can they learn to develop the skills of being able to work together in a way that is able to surmount the challenges of different needs and drives? How can organizations that are otherwise committed to solving fundamental national problems be prevented from self-destructing?

ISABS can help provide answers thanks to its mastery of the T Group approach. This approach, perfected by generations of ISABS professionals, is ideal for people to understand the kind of work they need to do with themselves, and the kind of behaviours they need to adopt in order to work effectively with others. Thus, ISABS can play a far more significant national role, than it has hitherto.

Other Products for Social Change Facilitators

Over and above conducting T-Groups for Social Change Facilitators – and helping them develop greater insights and skills into how they can work with groups, ISABS can offer other products too that can help Social Change

Facilitators. Some of these could include:

  • Large System Change Facilitation
  • Developing Skills in Negotiation, Dialoguing and Conflict Resolution
  • In-depth understanding of authority and power issues
  • Systems thinking
  • Promoting genuine learning through understanding double loop learning
  • Organizational Development and Change
Developing a larger pool of facilitators directly working in Social Development

There would be three steps to developing such a pool:

  • Substantially increase the number of labs – Basic and Advanced – being conducted in languages other than English – Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Bengali, Telegu, Marathi etc. Conducting such labs would create a large enough pool from which potential PDP candidates could be identified and developed.
  • Develop conceptual material – either through translation, or originally – in non-English languages.
  • Strengthening / Modifying/ Developing programs meant for social change facilitators.
Increasing awareness of Social Issues within ISABS

While it is not necessary, or possible, that all ISABS members work directly on social issues, or even work with Social Change facilitators, it is important that its members should have awareness about the burning social issues of the day – gender or caste based discrimination, communalism, marginalization of tribals and other communities, sexuality and reproductive rights, youth development etc.

Such awareness could be built using some or all of the following methods:

  • Articles in Here and Now
  • Holding Thematic labs (Extension Motivation, Gender etc) during the National event.
  • Holding sunrise seminars during events.
  • Using learning event spaces and opportunities and/ or hold e-group discussions or other discussions on social issues within the ISABS community.
  • Organise brainstorming and planning sessions with members and invited people from the social sector in different regions. For this the regional representatives will be involved to organise the meetings. The Social Development committee members will try to participate in these meetings wherever possible without incurring major expenses.
Creating opportunities for dialogue and interactions.

ISABS will also promote and possibly create common spaces where individuals from the social development sector, government sector and the corporate industrial sector come together to exchange, learn and sensitise each other


The Next Steps for ISABS

If ISABS wants to influence social change in the country, and follow up on the ideas given above, some of the concrete action steps it could take within the next two years could include:

Develop Collaborations with Social Change Facilitating Organizations

There are various ways in which ISABS can provide significant support to Social Change Facilitators. Some of these include:

  • Collaborate with organizations that train other NGOs, e.g. PRIA, Aravali, UNNATI, HIDF, Jan Vikas, JAGORI etc.
  • Collaborate with large sized NGOs that have a large footfall of their own. For instance, PRADAN, MYRADA, DHAN, AKRSPI, BAIF, YUVA, EKLAVYA.
  • Collaborate with organizations working in specific areas: with Dalits, with women, with disabled people, with tribals, with minorities; those working on issues of peace and justice; those working on issues of sexuality and gender etc.
  • Collaborate with donors who in turn are connected with a large network of NGOs and other social initiatives, e.g. SRTT/Roopantaran, IDRC, Action Aid, CARE, DFID, NFI etc.
  • Collaborate with other social initiatives and networks such as Ashoka Foundation, WASAN.
  • Collaborate with academic institutions that are promoting social development: XISS, XIDAS, Behavioral Science Centre, TISS, NIRD etc.
  • Collaborate with political or quasi political organizations that are committed to political change, e.g. NBA.

In order to do the above, the Social Change group of ISABS could draw up a list of criteria and methodologies for selecting appropriate collaborations. It is suggested that over the next six months, ISABS should target to enter into at least one such collaborations.

Develop Collaborations with Translators & Publishers

EKLAVYA is an iconic organization in the area of curriculum development, and consequently publishing, in Hindi. For the past two years, they have sent over a dozen participants for the Basic and Advanced labs; they continue to be hugely committed to benefitting from the T group process. More relevantly, they have helped to translate five of the articles that get distributed to basic lab participants.

While all this work has been done gratis, EKLAVYA is also open to the possibility of entering into an agreement with ISABS to do more time bound work of translation, and if required, publishing. Collaborations such as the above could be detailed out in the next few months, involving the PDP Deans, Program Deans along with the Social Development Dean.

Develop Material based on our experiences

A key to developing Social Development facilitators (as well as improving the relevance of the PDP material) would be to develop conceptual material based on the experience of ISABS members. To this end, ISABS members, collaborating with the Deans PDP and Social Development, could commit to developing such material over the next year.

Publish social change articles in ‘Here and Now’

The Social Development committee could try to ensure that “Here and Now” gets at least one article every issue that is relevant both from a process point of view, and from a social development angle. To this end, the team would not only provide its own written material, it would also canvas for articles from potential sources.

Ensure low cost labs with different ethos

A key to getting a large number of participants from the social development sector is the cost of the event. Events held at campuses of various social development organizations usually meets this purpose.

Such labs may also have a feel that is different from the national event, a difference resulting from differing stay arrangements (dormitories), a different standard of comfort (no AC or other luxury elements) and even a different kind of party (Ghazals, Jokes, skits, folk music & Art)

It is important to point out that many regions have already been holding such labs; what is important is that there is some culling out of key learnings that could be used by other regions, as well as at the National level.


ISABS as an organisation

ISABS is a not for profit organisation and is also committed to provide services to the development sector at very low cost.

Contact the Regional Representatives, Deans Programs, Executive members, or direct your inquiries to the Dean Social Development.

For further inquiries contact

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