“Only when the villages prosper”, said Mahatma Gandhi, “can India truly prosper”. Amidst the bustle of the big cities and the drive to transform the Young Republic of India into a global superpower it is easy to forget the villages role in the growth narrative. And yet, the world’s largest democracy cannot ignore the needs of those vital voters who live in the 500,000 villages working the land or, marooned in lives on less than a $2 a day. These are the roots of “inclusive growth”.
Back in the 1970’s Ramachandran, an entrepreneur from Chennai, set up the NAESEY (New Era Association of educated Self-Employed Youth) Project as a Charitable Foundation aimed at offering training on basic skills for the youth in the villages of Tamil Nadu, Southern India. Ramachandran is the Chancellor of AMET University, India’s first Maritime University, and the funding for NAESEY is generated from profits from his various business ventures. So far, over 150,000 have benefited from this initiative; many of them on three month training courses geared to increase skills capacity in rural areas, generate sustainable small business ventures and promote self esteem. Continue reading
Years back I worked on a project at British Steel, Ebbw Vale, Wales. At that time, British Steel employed over 200,000 people all over the UK and as the weeks went by it became clear that few people on site were from beyond the Valleys – a local factory for local people. Looking back, in terms of skills, jobs and training; this was the world we have lost.
What happens to the skills?
The Plant was laid out over 3 kilometres like a supply chain. Raw material came into the Pickler – an acid bath to sort out the molecules; moved on to Annealing and, the Temper Mills; then, the Roll Shop and out through the vast warehouses to clients such as Metal Box and the canning factories; on to the bottling plants to end up on a shelf as a can of Coke or whatever. Recycling was a long way off back then. Continue reading
Last year, Dr Graham Hamilton of Yorks St John University led a team visiting the NAESEY Project in Tamil Nadu – a training initiative for the rural unemployed. This year they repeated the trip which featured a design initiative led by James Fathers – also of York St John. Here are some notes built from discussions with the team leaders and, observations from Nottingham University student Ben Hagyard, the winner of an Archomai Studentship to Naesey and an excellent exponent of the spirit of enquiry!
Adding value building livelihoods through design
Gandhi once said that “the soul of India lies in her villages” and the work of NAESEY is very much geared towards making sure that employment opportunities and access to skills can generate a livelihood in rural areas. This is a massive task best understood by experiencing reality at village level and, on this trip James Fathers explored the potential for design to play a role in increasing the value of their produce. The team worked with local potters on design and, the role of sharing market information to open their eyes on price and market access. Continue reading