Social activism  has grown in India generally in conditions in which institutional support has been taken as the main source of support.  However there are many reasons, including those relating to stability and durability of support, where in addition more options of community support should be considered. This can also lead to conditions in which social activists have less constraints in their work and are less encumbered by paper work, or  certain routines and formalities that take up a lot of time often in  some forms of institutional support. It is more possible for such community-supported work  to be guided entirely by real needs of  time and place, to be more flexible in  responding to changing needs, to be more free and expressive, and also to be more transparent and accountable.

Who in the community can contribute the funds  for supporting local activists? While most of the work is to be done for poorer communities, the funds must come from the well-earning sections.

To take a more functional view, let us take the example of a state capital, say Jaipur.  If we have to support a core team of 10 full time social activists here, their livelihood needs as well as supporting expenses, we may need a budget of around Rs. 4 lakh per month. Is it too difficult to get  about 100 persons or households to contribute Rs. 4 thousand each per month , or about 200 persons to contribute about Rs. 2000 each per month? If there is a deficiency this can be met by smaller collections at gatherings, or by lump sum support from a few rich friends. An annual budget of Rs. 50 lakh can actually be met by just five rich persons from the community, but it is better to have a wider support base, and not to rely too much on the very rich, except to make up the deficiency. In addition this group can sometimes also take up some income generating work of their own, for example one well-funded research project in one year, and this can also be very helpful in removing any deficiency of funds, or to have some saving for difficult times.

One  out of 10 social activists will be given responsibility mainly for fund-raising, bank work etc. Now if we have Rs. 4 lakh per month ( or a little more ) Rs. 3 lakh can go to meeting various livelihood needs and supporting expenses of 10 activists. Rs. 1 lakh can be devoted to meeting expenses of various constructive initiatives this group will initiate. Together, let us say, this group will initiate one constructive activity every month several of which will have a very visible , inspiring, heart-warming manifestation. This will be very good on its own, but will also help to get more donor support.

The ten core activists can divide responsibilities. One of them is just for fund raising and support services for the other activists. Out of the remaining members five can take up very specific work relating to various high priorities, and the remaining four can be a core group handling various current issues that emerge from time to time, as well as taking up important policy issues so that there can be favorable policies for reducing poverty, protecting environment etc. Another responsibility can be to help those activists from various parts of the state, particularly those from very remote parts and from very marginalized communities, who come to the state capital with important needs and often need help and guidance from more experienced organizations and activists.

Such entirely community supported groups of social activists can play a very important role, in addition to the important role of existing institutional structures and people’ movements.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Man Over Machine ( Gandhian Ideas for Our Times and When The Two Streams Met ( Freedom Movement Of India).



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