Maharashtra Foundation

Pancham : Partnering with Villages for Holistic development

MF Issue Area : Various

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Maharashtra Foundation has launched a unique, multi-dimensional initiative, Pancham, that holistically addresses five issue areas – education, healthcare, women’s empowerment, poverty reduction and environment protection – in two villages of Maharashtra. We are partnering with dynamic NGOs doing grassroots work at the village level, to provide severely needed services to residents of these villages. Please join us in making this initiative a success!

Maharashtra Foundation supports social change work in five key areas: education, healthcare, women’s empowerment, poverty reduction and environment protection. We have always favored projects that move beyond charity, addressing the root causes of each problem. We aim to create sustained change, focusing on local impact.

In the past, we have used an open application process. The project committee evaluated submitted proposals and selected projects for funding based on our criteria. Over several years of funding, we have learned a lot. Primarily, we have recognized that human needs are interconnected. For instance, funding an elementary school in a village is aimed at providing education; however, children cannot learn if they are hungry, fall sick frequently, or if their parents hold them back from school to fulfill family needs such as farming or housework. For maximum impact, it is clear that we need to fund all aspects of life and all issues people face in that community.

As a result, we are now shifting gears to a new approach that we have named Pancham. This approach proposes to address the multiple needs of two villages in a holistic manner, covering various aspects of life as defined by our five issues.

Our local advisor on this project is RSCD (Resource and Support Center for Development). RSCD’s primary work involves training elected women Panchayat leaders for governance. In the course of doing this work, RSCD workers travel from village to village, in order to identify elected women leaders. In other words, they have ‘boots on the ground’. As a result, they have developed a deep understanding and knowledge about rural Maharashtra.

To launch Pancham, RSCD initially helped us narrow down 5 villages. These villages gave video presentations by smartphone to the Maharashtra Foundation Board, presenting their unique needs. These presentations, where residents of each village spoke about their needs (in one case, presenting by the light of a lantern from a nearby hilltop to get better bandwidth), proved to be very powerful communications. Although it was a difficult decision, we finally selected Mutnoor in Gadchiroli (Adivasi) and Kusumbi in Satara. The final selection was made based on the following criteria:

  • Poor, remote, drought-prone areas lacking in natural resources
  • Marked by unemployment, illiteracy, lack of electricity, no primary health center, shortage of teachers, no access to credit, rain-dependent farming, hunting/gathering
  • Unable to access funding from other sources
  • Presence of a strong VDC (Village Development Committee) whose members are committed to village development
  • Presence of volunteers who have demonstrated their passion by undertaking voluntary projects in the village

MF’s approach is to center the village residents in their own development. If residents become true stakeholders, they drive the work and ensure its completion. Once we have established a process in these two villages, we hope to roll it out on a larger scale.

With RSCD’s assistance, we have identified NGOs that routinely work in these districts. We are also reaching out to NGOs that we have funded in the past and with whom we have established trust – NGOs that work in our issue areas and have access to, and experience in our selected villages.

The work of Pancham has begun in full earnest. We hope you will support us in this ambitious endeavor!