Saom Tshering Namchu of GFF India, facilitating a village meeting in Kalimpong, India
The Glenn Family Foundation supports charities, institutions and individuals around the globe in the upliftment of poor communities and alleviation of suffering. The philosophy of its founder is in offering a hand up, not a hand out, and in so building communities that are empowered, self-sustaining and proud.
The Foundation uplifts communities through its “Village Development Model” by providing them with sustainable access to their most basic needs. This includes but is not limited to access to clean water, access to solar power, improved sanitation to reduce incidence of disease and improved living conditions to foster a sense of pride.We also recruit international and local volunteers to enrich these communities through education, health initiatives, skills sharing and technical expertise. Our volunteers are enmeshed in these communities for a six month period to ensure they have a meaningful impact. The National Standards for Volunteer Involvement (2015) attest to the valuable contribution that volunteers make toward the attainment of an organisations goals by extending the capacity of the organisation through their time, skills, expertise and points of view. GFF works to embody these standards in all its engagements with volunteers and considers volunteers as a vital part of its strategy.
Our primary beneficiaries are those living in underdeveloped rural villages in Nepal, India, Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and China. They do not have access to one or more of their basic needs and are significantly disadvantaged as a result. Our interventions aim to lessen this disadvantage so that they are empowered and able to take ownership of their own development.
The Village Development Model
Our Village Development Model was first tested in the Kalimpong, a rural community is West Bengal, India. The model aims to increase the standard of living in poor rural communities in a holistic way, through multiple interventions addressing the different areas of the person’s life, including their education, health, shelter and basic needs. The model’s strength lies in its core philosophy of local empowerment and ownership, ensuring that communities play an active role in their own development and are able to sustain themselves and contribute to the further development of their own communities and that of their neighbours.
A new component of this model is the use of local volunteers, who bring project specific expertise to the projects and who in turn also learn a range of new skills and competencies, and who will be more inclined to continue giving back to the community in their personal capacity in future.
Key projects include the installation of water filters and modular solar units, basic repairs to homes, improvements to school learning equipment and innovative educational projects, health-focused workshops and provision of supplies, and business and vocational training and coaching. GFF adds a range of other projects based on the results of its baseline survey and consultations with the village and we understand that each context is unique and requires a nuanced approach.
Our projects are delivered through GFF staff, local community members and experts, locally recruited volunteers and overseen through the creation of a local committee and project-specific sub-committees.
Goals and Objectives:
The overall goal of our Village Development work is that people in poor rural villages have access to their most basic needs, improved education and health, and a means of sustaining their livelihoods and increasing their standard of living. More specifically, they have:
- Access to clean, safe drinking water within or near their homes
- Sufficient lighting in their homes
- Safe and adequate shelter that withstands the elements
- An understanding of how to prevent illness through good hygiene and sanitation practices
- Local schools with sufficient learning equipment
- Children who have benefited from education programmes (project dependent)
- Increased their take-home income as a result of participation in our livelihoods programmes
Another important objective for us is that our volunteers successfully complete their programmes and develop a life-long passion for community development work.
Implementing the Village Development Model
The success of working in rural villages is contingent upon having a sound understanding of the root causes of issues and how they manifest in the community, the local context and how to operate within it, and the strength already existing in the community that can be leveraged. Communities are a delicate ecosystem and one must work carefully to ensure interventions are welcomed and there is buy in from beneficiaries. We do this by working initially with a trusted local partner with local expertise on these issues. Therefore, our very first step is:
- Village identification and partnership building
Our initial desktop research tells us who is operating in the area and in the sector. We meet with local NGOs, local and provincial government, community leaders and potential project partners in order to understand the need and where we fit into the solution, identify potential villages to work in and find a good NGO partner who shared our vision and will facilitate our entry into the village. Finding a good local partner is key to the success and longevity of our work. Often, we initiate smaller educational focussed projects in order to start to build our understanding and develop a presence.
- Village Meeting
The next step is to facilitate a village meeting where we introducing GFF and the projects we would like to propose. The purpose of this is to gain buy in for the projects, find local members who are willing to be involved in the planning and implementation and to gain permission to conduct a survey.
GFF conducts a door-to-door survey in each household in the village in order to gather a baseline measurement of the current standard of living which we can compare to our results at the end of our programme and to identify the size of the need as well as any other needs we should consider. The survey is conducted by local community members and students under guidance of an experienced researcher. We conduct pre-training to ensure the survey is administered correctly. Survey results are presented back to the village for verification.
- Project Planning
The analysed data helps us to determine which households are most in need and which particular projects are of benefit and are feasible in this particular village. These plans are rendered into a programme logic and associated budgets and monitoring frameworks are drawn up. Indicators of success are collaboratively set to ensure that projects meet will in fact meet the identified need. This constitutes a broader level of planning; actual implementation is decided upon by the villagers themselves at a later stage.
- Budget Setting
GFF costs out each project according the need and the unique challenged posed by that particular village and develops budgets and financial management processes to ensure good transparency and accountability and to ensure projects can be completed.
- Sub-Committee Formation
A sub-committee is formed to manage each project. The sub-committee comprises villagers who had demonstrated their interest and commitment at earlier meetings and who together are a good representation of the needs of the village, and local GFF Representatives who are recruited for their expertise in a particular project area. Local involvement is important for the sustainability of projects and creates accountability and ownership of project.
Projects are implemented over a four month period, led by each respective sub-committee and monitored by GFF. Local villagers play a large role in implementation and are required to assist wherever they are able. We think of projects as a collaboration where both parties play an important role in the achievement of shared goals. Our locally recruited GFF Representatives are key to the implementation phase and serve both as subject experts and project managers. They are part of the sub-committees and work closely with them.
- Monitoring and Evaluation
After the completion of projects, projects are signed off at a public meeting and expenditure is shown. This is to ensure all parties are satisfied by the results and to ensure financial transparency. A evaluation is conducted to determine the success of the projects against the initial indicators and baseline measures. These are professionally conducted and the results made publicly available. Evaluations are also conducted at the 1 year and 3 year marks to see whether the project have had their longer term desired impact. Evaluations actively inform how we work with the next village.
- Sustainable livelihoods and beyond
After a year of engagement with the community, we enter a new phase which sees the introduction of sustainable livelihoods projects, including microfinance, eco-tourism, animal husbandry or the possible opening of training centres for entrepreneurship and vocational studies for youth. The aim is to helps villagers to generate income for themselves and to contribute to the further development of their community. GFF continues to be involved in the village with a mix of education and health-focused projects using primarily local people. The village committees continue to identify opportunities for further development using funds gathered through the new enterprises. They also assist GFF with its work in adjacent villages. In this way, communities become empowered and self-sustained and are able to share their benefit with their neighbours.
“GFF Village development work in Kalimpong from 2007 to 2013 was one of the most beautiful projects I have ever been involved in. I am so fortunate to have been entrusted by Sir Owen to carry this enormous task which not only changed the lives of thousands of people but also mine for better. Each GFF team member contributed working day and night with full of vigor to make this project the most successful project ever done. Today when I walk in these 19 villages, the toilets, water projects, school projects and other GFF related projects are in the best condition because of the VALUE that the beneficiaries gained from it. The management that we created with the help of Village Development Committees was the most effective approach for the success of the project. Education became an important factor and so in every step of our project, we introduced different forms of education to make our people believe in and value the project. We did this because the project’s sustainability depended on it. Thank you so much Sir Owen for choosing me and my team to carry out your wonderful vision in our villages. I feel proud and privileged today to be associated with you and be an integral part of this movement.” –Saom Tshering Namchu – Project Director, GFF India
Values informing this model
Participation and empowerment
Our model is built around local participation and empowerment. All stages of our work, from initial investigation of the needs, to planning, implementation and evaluation involve local knowledge and decision making. We form village committees and build their capacity to ensure the continued development of the community.
Local committees who are empowered and committed ensure the continued development of the community, and the sustainability of our work. We also enhance sustainability through programme design; programmes that address the root causes of poverty and inequity have a deeper impact. Local participation also ensures that programmes are relevant and contextually appropriate. We conduct evaluations at the short and long term to assess the sustainability of our work.
Quality and effectiveness
We are committed to understanding the contexts we work in and including the knowledge and perspectives of local stakeholders. We articulate our vision, strategy and values, and our programmes remain closely linked to these. We evaluate our work and use these results to learn and improve. We share our results with all project partners and local stakeholders. We assess and manage risk at the organisational level, and on a project level.