Action Research Lab

Public policies have a significant impact, directly or in subtle ways, on almost all factors that enable livelihood promotion. This relationship is even more profound when it concerns livelihoods of the vulnerable and marginalized community. Huge public investments for poverty alleviation, rural infrastructure, skill building, supporting self-employment and debt relief measures are some of the case in point. These policies and programs that derive from them are designed with several short term and long term objectives. Arguably, some of them have provided much needed welfare safety net and helped many households to acquire skills and productive assets. Many others have produced sub-optimal results. Often the programs fail to sustain benefit streams, reach the intended households or prove inadequate in terms of a holistic approach to livelihood promotion.

As a knowledge institution, ILRT is constantly striving to diagnose the causes for sub-optimal results. A combination of learning processes that includes Case Research, Action Research and Policy Research enables us to develop various knowledge products that not only helps practitioners improve livelihood promotion outcomes, but also allow policy makers to make informed evidence based policies.

Action Research projects are undertaken with the help of selected LPOs with requisite research capabilities. Thematic areas are identified based on the following criteria:

  1. Geographies with incidence of endemic poverty,
  2. Communities facing barriers in access to resources either due to environmental degradation or fierce competition from other resource users such as industries,
  3. Existence of entrenched social and political barriers that prevent the poor from creating or benefitting from mainstream economic opportunities,
  4. High proportion of marginalized tribal population, and
  5. Public policy malfunctions or institutional design inadequacies that hinder the cause of livelihood promotion.

Case Research methods are employed to document, analyse and share lessons from pioneering efforts where innovative design features are demonstrated. With ready access to a large number of field level projects of institutions from BASIX Social Enterprise Group, ILRT has undertaken case research on some the projects.

Six action research initiatives (laboratories) have been launched in various parts of the country, each exploring and testing new innovative approaches that address persistent problems in livelihood promotion. The thematic and segmental focus of these labs resonates with ILRTs priority areas – livelihoods based on (i) agri-value chains, (ii) forest produce with focus on tribal areas and (iii) natural resource management.

ILRT undertook eight action research projects with support from Ford Foundation.

The action research aimed at increasing the pace of generation of land title claims and usage of lands for better livelihood outcomes. This is being implemented in the Thaitangar and Simdega blocks of Simdega district. The action elements included sensitization workshop, baseline study, FRC formation, awareness generation, facilitating claims settlement and convergence efforts. Member education at FRC level and facilitation support at SDLC and DLC level was done. FRC level intervention resulted in increased claim applications. The facilitation at SDLC and DLC level also resulted in increased claim settlements.

To achieve convergence, a consultative process was taken up from below. It had components of a) Gram Sabha based convergence planning; b) consultative processes with respect to the relevant stakeholders; and c) a constructive yet critically informed partnership with the government. The results achieved include increased awareness and participation of community, regularization of meetings between FRC and Gram Sabha, increased community assertion of right of livelihood plan preparation by Gram Sabha.

The action points included gaining extension of pond lease, linking with formal financial sources for implementing pond development, increasing technical capacity of fisher farmers, encouraging convergence of schemes for pond lease holders. After discussion with fisheries cooperative, it was agreed that pond lease will continue for the 20 ponds for the entire period. Pond development plan was developed with pond lease holders. Training of local fisher community was organized and an exposure visit planned. Attempts for accessing formal credit were made but banks were found reluctant to support.

During the year capacity building of Village Development Committees (VDCs) continued. The VDC members started listing down their development grievances. The needs of the community were consolidated. The VDCs negotiated with the respective departments to redress the development needs of the community. VDCs were able to realize rights and entitlements related to land, ration cards, irrigation facilities, housing, wage work under NREGA, drinking water facilities, electricity etc. Chenchu community who were earlier only leasing their lands to outsiders now started cultivating in the lands. The development of critical consciousness was gradually giving way for the tribal groups to discuss their inherent development issues, visit institutions and demand their rights, entitlements and development benefits.

Baseline survey was undertaken to assess the socio-economic situation of the Musahars. Tool to measure their self-worth was undertaken. The tool was however found to be less applicable to the Musahars. Other approaches to address the psychological mindsets of the poor were undertaken. This was done through visits to organizations such as People’s vigilance committee for human rights (PVCHR), Musahar Vikas Manch, Shoshith Seva Sangh. Initial problem conceptualization had to be redone.

Efforts in the direction of understanding influence of Political Economy factors in influencing Psychological mindsets were looked at.

The action points included training of BoD on governance processes, generating capital through internal and access to external mainstream capital, scanning opportunities and facilitating business strategy and development. Training was conducted on governance for BoD members, linkages were facilitated with mainstream financial institutions and agricultural input suppliers. FPO which had stopped receiving financial aid after a short period was found to be struggling in mainstreaming governance, running the FPO professionally and building its business. This was in contrast to an FPO which received long duration support.

The action points included sensitization exercises on new technologies, exposure visits, technological need assessment of communities, and facilitating access to technologies through Producer Company. During the year, farmers started making choices for technologies which they perceived as being affordable for them. The gap between technology providers and community was understood.