The Magic of Ownership

Dear Friends,

In these days, 'participatory development' has become buzzword in Social Sector. Participatory development is nothing but the participation of people in the process of development. Participation generates ownership and ownership leads to development of perennial nature. Let me substantiate this by giving couple of instances from PeFSSED's own endeavors.

The first instance is from the School building Construction project in the tribal belt of Raigad district of Panvel block. We have taken the task to facilitate the School Building construction works under Sarba Siksha Abhiyan of Maharastra Government. The Government has prepared the budget of standard hexagonal structure building. Studying the budget, one can find that Government, by design, NOT by chance, has given space for 'peoples participation'. Actually, the budgeted amount falls short of market cost. The difference accounts for labor charge, which the Government expects from people of the village to provide freely or against nominal charges. Though of late, Government has well realized the fact that peoples' contribution is essential in any development venture.

Secondly, let me quote the message encapsulated in the vision statement of our tsunami rehabilitation project. The statement reads as A Community that holds the Ownership of its Development. This vision statement was coined by none other than our Chennai based member, Andrew. He is an MSW (Master of Social Work) from TISS and presently teaches in a Social Work college of Chennai. This vision statement clearly speaks volumes on the fact that the key to development of any community is with the community itself. Government or NGOs; You or I; all form third party to this venture. They can only act as facilitator. It is the community, which has to participate both directly and completely, and which in turn pave the way to a developed state.

Development is of the people, for the people and by the people. I do believe, earlier the public policy strategists did not emphasize on the third clause i.e. "by the people". So, in a sense, development was 'imposed' on people. People found schools, hospitals, parks etc. got set up in their locality in which they did not have any direct contribution. So most of the people did not 'own' these products/services of development. So, these 'everybody's property' ended up becoming 'nobody's property'. Only those who have higher sense of ethics take care of the property, which is nobody's. But these higher mortals form a miniscule of the entire mass. The large majority needs that 'psychological my/our factor - i.e. I/we care because I/we own' to care for the subject. Such an indifference and carelessness lead to something popularly known as "Government ka maal darya main daal".

Hence, this has now become increasingly obvious that people's sweat and blood would go as a necessary factor to development. Today, the road that leads to the School Building construction site of Tawarwadi village of Panvel is an 'imagery of peoples' participation'. The village Tawarwadi is on the top of a hill. And there was no road for movement of vehicle to deliver the construction material. So people of the village got organized under the guidance of our outgoing Director of Projects Sukanta and built that road of half a kilometer length without any labor charge. Actually, Sukanta made the villagers realize that the upcoming School is their own, and they need to exercise their ownership through contribution in terms of effort.

Our Babdevwadi land issue also reflects; "ownership makes all the difference". In fact, the core concepts behind farmers cooperative, self help groups (SHGs), litigation free villages, youth clubs - all dwell around the principle of 'ownership'.

Also we need to recognize that the corporate world, from day one, has understood the importance of ownership. Many of us, who have worked in private farms, must have experienced that how 'ownership' forms part and parcel of every corporate strategy. Let me quote my x-project manager here. In one of our one-to-one meeting he said with emphasis that he has followed the following as one of the basic principles as the FPR (first person responsible)/head of the project team -

"When the project is credited with success, the appreciation goes directly and without any delay to the person(s) who is(are) responsible for the same [It's a 'hit' - You Did It]; and when the project is blamed for any failure it is shared by all the members of the project [Its a 'miss' - We share it]".

Hold on! Don't often in government and social sector just the reverse happen? When it hits - all of us together share and crave for recognition. And if it misses - we disown, and the blame game starts. So, government and social sector people need to learn "this value of ownership" and imbibe the same into their culture.

The Swedish development economist, Gunnar Myrdal, once said that Give a person handful of Sand, but tell her/him that its her/his 'own'; s/he will turn the same into Gold - that's the 'magic of Ownership'.

Thank you,
Founder Secretary, PeFSSED