Searchlight Convening in Mumbai: Reflections from Participants
An important component of the development of the Searchlight function has been an annual, in-person workshop of all the participating organizations to explore the trends that are emerging from various regions. The second such convening, organized by Intellecap with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, took place in April 2011 in the global city of Mumbai, India. Workshop attendees included representatives from the 11 Searchlight scanning organizations.
One of the goals of the workshop was to learn from the dynamic and cutting-edge activities being undertaken throughout Mumbai by way of a series of field visits that illuminated some of the forward-looking, pro-poor development and policy initiatives in India that could have relevance to other regions related to the urban poor. In addition to the field visits to key social entrepreneurship organizations, a learning journey to Dharavi was organized by an innovative civil society organization SPARC, that is working with the residents to deliver and secure affordable and high-quality housing, services, and employment opportunities.
The workshop was characterized as a collaborative and cooperative process of discussion, reflection, and strategic planning. The following section presents the personal and professional reflections from one of the Searchlight function representatives who attended the meeting. This is part two of three in the series. You can read the full report here.
Visiting Dharavi has made me reexamine some ideas about social networks, leadership, and sense of community. First, that social networks tend to be strong where conditions are adverse is a common idea but very hard to appreciate in the field, let alone to measure. For every case study supporting this hypothesis, there is another cross-country study showing that poverty conditions erode social networks. Second, that leadership can make the difference does not say anything about how leadership surges and how communities can survive their leaders. Third, that the sense of community can make people work together for their common good regardless of their differences sometimes sound like wishful thinking and an impractical idea to implement in the field. In the three cases, visiting Dharavi has provided clear evidence that social networks become stronger when a group of people face a common problem; that leadership guiding efforts toward a common goal can make the difference and promote the surge of new leaders in the process; and that the sense of community can make communities work more efficiently.
Villa el Salvador (VES) is a former slum in Lima formed in the 1950s and now a vibrant district whose progress may shed light on what could be the future of Dharavi. VES was formed by migrants from the Andes who took possession of a land in a deserted area south of Lima. Over the decades, community organizations pressed for social services like sanitation, education, and health, and property rights; and in parallel, the community, through voluntary work, implemented their own social programs such as community soup kitchen, day care centers and primary care clinics. This sense of community under the leadership of a former major has made VES a well-known case study on how solidarity can contribute to improve the livelihoods of poor people. Nowadays, most VES families have improved their situation and VES has developed an industrial complex providing jobs to hundreds of families.