Fostering Ethical Democracy and Advancing Micro Justice in India
This project aims to improve the provision of local democratic services to women, youth and students in disadvantaged communities in 5 regions. It will facilitate capacity development and create an enabling environment for Women Self Help Groups, youth associations and student groups to support their own “democracy action” initiatives. The project also seeks to initiate intensive campaigns on the Right to Information Act, in developing informed citizens. Additionally, the project will develop micro justice initiatives to address problems of infringement of rights; establishing para-legal clinics to facilitate the insurance of citizen rights and entitlements for development.
Lessons from Project
Project outcomes should be captured on a continuous basis, rather than only at the end of the project. It is vital to capture the difference made by a project intervention at different stages of the project (immediately after the event and at further times). Otherwise, it is impossible to distinguish between the effects of different project interventions.
Grantees should take care to adapt the information used in capacity-building exercises to the needs of the target groups. Grantees should consider adapting the information into more accessible or creative forms such as role plays, dramas, or art, or delivering information in conjunction with other activities meeting beneficiary needs (such as sports, life skills workshops) to bring key messages across.
Civil society organizations have the unique ability to act as a ‘bridge’ between service providers and users, building the capacity of marginalized groups that do not have the capacity to take advantage of the services available to them as well as helping service providers reach beneficiaries.
Awareness of existing power dynamics with communities is important for effective implementation. When organizing community-based activities in which elected representatives and officials are present, one must be aware of existing power imbalances and mitigate these imbalances by facilitating activities in a way that doesn’t reinforce existing power structures.
It is easy for nongovernmental organisations who are focusing their efforts
on promoting the greater accountability of government and the private
sector to forget that they in turn have an accountability to the
beneficiaries they serve, particularly where projects are funded by public
money. It is important to ensure the institution of effective complaints
mechanisms to enable beneficiary feedback.
In all projects that involve challenging established power structures, staff members that are most visible in project implementation (‘frontline staff’) face a high risk of personal reprisals. It is essential for grantees to be aware of these risks and take the appropriate measures necessary to protect frontline staff, for example ensuring the backing of a larger organization or having senior management playing a frontline role in project implementation as well.
This project provides a good model of planning for project sustainability. The grantee planned for sustainability in every component of the project, leaving nothing to change. This particular grantee’s experience suggests that projects that deliver tangible benefits to communities may be sustained by those communities themselves.
In order to effectively achieve project goals, grantees must be realistic about their organizational capacity, especially when working in areas and subject matters that are new to their organization. Grantees should call upon the expertise of other organizations with more experience in those fields if possible.