From halli to Delhi: FoV's Report on Kolar Visioning Workshop

Fields of View’s Report on Kolar visioning workshop


The lake outside the Grama Vikas office shimmered in the afternoon sun. The participants were scattered outside, catching up on conversations and phone calls as lunch was arranged. The morning sessions had mainly focused on different issues being faced in Kolar, and the initiatives that were underway to address these issues. One participant recounted her experiences in the morning, and in describing the interconnectedness of all the issues they had mapped, said, that the issues spanned all the way from, “Halli to Delhi.”

Social problems are complex, and we need multiple actors to come together, have an informed dialogue, and imagine pathways forward. A common vision acts as a lighthouse so that people can combine their resources and efforts toward a shared vision. The vision must speak to different aspects of the problem, and the interconnectedness; in a way, the vision must speak to the breadth of the issues, from Halli to Delhi.

The one-day visioning exercise was designed to collectively imagine a vision for Kolar. The goal of the visioning exercise was three-fold:

  • For participants to build a common vision for Kolar
  • Map how existing initiatives contribute to the broader vision
  • Create a map of the gaps — what are the activities that need to be undertaken to strengthen the pathway forward

In this report, we document in detail the proceedings of the workshop and synthesise the outcomes of the different activities undertaken by the participants in Kolar. We first provide an overview of the different sessions conducted for the visioning exercise. Following the overview, we delve into the key insights from the proceedings of different activities. Finally, we conclude with reflections and an outline of the pathways emerging from the activities.

We wish to thank the members of the CAN network in Kolar for their patience and generosity in giving their time and enthusiastic involvement to make this workshop a success. We wish to thank Grama Vikas and Mr. Rao for their hospitality and support during this process. We wish to thank Rainmatter for supporting a collaborative approach to pave the way for long-term systemic change.

The Session

The workshop session was held on May 27th, 2022, in the picturesque Gram Vikas workspace in Kolar. In a large hall, the participants from the CAN network worked in four groups, and the sessions were anchored by the Fields of View team. It was ensured that participants who worked together in the same organisation were not part of the same group.

The overall feedback from the participants at the end of the workshop was strongly positive. Participants expressed that they found the time and space in the workshop to take a step back and understand the larger context in which they were working in. They expressed that they needed more time and could do with a longer workshop to flesh out more specific pieces of their work.

Overview of the workshop process

Social problems are complex, involving multiple dimensions. We need people from diverse disciplines, backgrounds, and perspectives to come together to design for these problems. Though bringing together people from different backgrounds is acknowledged as a first step to a more participatory, bottom-up approach to design, often such sessions become difficult to manage, and leave participants frustrated at the lack of productive outcomes. The Fields of View workshop involves a guided process that creates a space for participants from diverse backgrounds to design together.

In game terminology, a field of view refers to what is visible to the player. Fields of View thus refers to the common ground, where different people with different perspectives can come together and have a dialogue. At FoV, in order to design tools, we have developed an in-house interdisciplinary methodology that involves participation of different stakeholders which we developed into the FoV workshop. The disciplines we have drawn from to design the workshop include design theory, ethnographic and studies of collaborative work settings, and theories of cognition.

Drawing upon our in-house interdisciplinary methodology, the FoV workshop thus involves a guided process involving two phases — the Problem Articulation phase and the Design phase. The first phase of the workshop, the problem formulation phase, involves participants working through different activities that lets them come up with a commonly agreed upon problem statement. The problem formulation phase is followed by the design phase, where the participants work together to imagine futures and figure out how to design for these transformations. The flow of the workshop has been provided in the Annexure A.

Key Insights from Activity 1 - Issue mapping

The main categories of issues identified by all groups are as follows:

  1. Water: Issues related to shortage of groundwater; pollution; and fluoride contamination; use of grey water; lack of drinking water
  2. Agriculture: Issues related to pricing of produce; fertiliser use; soil erosion; farming technology; lack of knowledge about organic farming; agriculture marketing; lack of dairy farming
  3. Health: Issues related to lack of healthcare infrastructure; lack of adequate nutrition for women and children; increase in HIV and TB cases; high cancer incidence
  4. Social issues
    a. Gender: Issues due to gender discrimination; violence against women and children; issues related to children (child marriage; child abuse, drug abuse, and mobile usage)
    b. Youth: Youth related issues such as unemployment, lack of local industries
    c. Caste issues: Caste issues, including prohibition of entry into temples; need for 2011 caste census to be used d. Old age and alcoholism
  5. Environmental: Issues due to mining and sand mafia; air pollution; and issues related to animal husbandry; bee keeping; issues due to Eucalyptus trees
  6. Forests: Destruction of forests
  7. Local governance: Access to government schemes; corruption in the bureaucracy;
    underutilisation of programmes
  8. Politics: Lack of women’s participation; stronghold of certain powerful centres
  9. Education: Lack of educational infrastructure; lack of education policy; school dropouts;
    inefficient management of Anganwaadis; education of children of migrant workers
  10. NGOs: Lack of facilitation in NGOs; lack of control over NGOs on their own vision; lack of
    leadership and administration; lack of Human Resources
  11. Culture: Decrease in folklore culture

The way the issues were framed speak to the imagination of the participants when it comes to Kolar. Given that the issues centre around water and agriculture primarily, the context emerges as a largely agricultural dependent society with issues related to caste and gender, and challenges related to the local government.

Key Insights from Activity 2 - Classification of Issues

Across groups, the main issues identified under environment were related to water and groundwater, as was evident in the earlier activity too, as water was a separate category of issue that was identified earlier. Illegal mining was also identified as a key issue. A few other issues that were classified under the environmental category were plastic waste and recycling issues.

Under social, issues related to child welfare (child marriage, quality education), young people (unemployment), and gender-related issues were key issues mapped. Lack of infrastructure for health and education were also classified under the social category. Though caste related issues were raised by one group in the earlier activity, those were not considered for further activities.

The issues mapped under the economic category were sparse. All groups mapped issues of smallscale industries here, and issues related to increase in incomes and controlling loans.

The ‘Other’ category could be seen as issues related to local administration and governance. All
groups included issues here related to improper working of the administration; in accessibility of
schemes and programmes; and allied issues.

Key Insights from Activity 3 - Classification of Initiatives

As mainly issues related to water were identified in the environment category, the existing initiatives mapped dealt with lake renovation, rainwater harvesting. Sustainable farming and addressing soil erosion were included too.

The initiatives under the ‘social’ category involved building awareness and capacity building; in other words, building capabilities of women, children, and young people. Initiatives such as skill training and development programmes; women leadership training; legal services for women; and various awareness building programmes on quality education, and social issues were included. One group included building capabilities for older people, people who are homeless under this category.

The economic initiatives listed targeted farmers, small-scale organisations, women, and young people. These took the form of skill development for young people and women, and access to schemes and provision of material support such as solar pump sets for farmers. Certain initiatives such as multi-crop agriculture was listed as a change in ways of functioning to support economic growth.

The main initiative listed to improve local governance and administration was capacity building and training for elected members, and a programme to improve government scheme utilisation by one group. The number of initiatives listed to engage with the government apart from capacity building modules was negligible.

Key Insights from Activity 4 - Discussion with the Simulation Model

In order to provoke discussions on potential pathways for the future, a simulation was created to explore different strategies to tackle different situations in Kolar. The simulation was built using publicly available data on Kolar. The scenarios provided in the simulation were as follows:

  1. Worsening quality of ground water
  2. Revival of Japanese encephalitis
  3. Push for industrialisation
  4. District-wide desertification
  5. Growing eucalyptus plantations
  6. Waste (mis)management

While two groups chose ‘Worsening quality of ground water’, some groups chose to play with more than one scenario, such as district-wide desertification, waste (mis) management, and growing eucalyptus plantations. The two scenarios that were not chosen were that of Japanese encephalitis and push for industrialisation. The discussions centred around the data available in the public domain and the experiences on the ground, and how there was a dissonance between the data and the experiences were. The affinity in the room seemed to be for scenarios dealing with groundwater and water issues.

Key Insights from Activity 5 – Classification of Initiatives According to Goals

In this Activity, participants were asked to map existing initiatives to the area of impact, be it household well-being, participation in governance, or preservation of natural resources. The initiatives for household well-being centre largely around increasing access to basic services at the household level. The ambit of the ‘household well-being’ was interpreted broadly by one group to include individual well-being too, and participants in different groups included initiatives for the well-being of vulnerable groups such as people who are homeless, older people, and orphaned children. The initiatives centred around direct interventions in improving capabilities or access to government schemes and services.

In terms of participation in governance, the groups listed initiatives that could improve the dialogue between citizens and governments, and most of the initiatives listed were framed as ‘should be there’, rather than existing initiatives. For the preservation of natural resources, the initiatives listed largely dealt with improving lakes, and groundwater levels, and organic farming. Certain groups included broader initiatives to address gender and caste discrimination in the other category.

Key insights from Activity 6 – Newspaper of the Future

The stories from the future participants came up with envisaged a healthy and vibrant future for Kolar, for its people, environment, as well as the governance and accountability mechanisms. One group deemed it as ‘Socially Balanced Development’ achieved in Kolar. The way the statistics for the future were framed spoke of aspiration, as well as a pragmatic view of the future. For instance, one group hoped that ‘Kolar stands in 3rd place in the state according to the health department statistics and 6 th place in Karnataka in terms of economic development, and that literacy rate would be 96 per cent. There were speculative futures dreamed of too, such as ‘CAN Technology is a smart irrigation control technology that uses local weather date to determine when and how much of water supply, due to which 30% of lakes and ponds store water efficiently the entire year.’ Some participants wanted a more radical change in the future and hoped for ‘abolition of child marriage and child labour’ and ‘abolition of caste system from the grassroots’.

Reflections and Potential Pathways

The picture that emerges of Kolar, both in the present and in the future is that of a predominantly agricultural society tackling challenges emerging from structural inequalities and ineffective institutional mechanisms. The government emerges as a key powerful actor in the landscape and is looked as the provider of services and infrastructure and as a critical instrument to effect social change. The private sector, on the other hand, plays a diminished role in the imagination of Kolar as envisioned by the participants.

In order to synthesize the outcomes of the activities, we use Douglas North’s framework that weaves together the complementary strengths of institutional theory, capabilities approach, and technological/infrastructure initiatives to guide pathways for the future. From the outcomes of the activities done for the visioning, the following reflections emerge to guide pathways for the future:

  1. From coordination to collaboration
    The existing initiatives focused on vulnerable groups such as women, children, older people, people who are homeless, are focused on building capabilities, such as awareness programmes, capacity building programmes, and access to basic services and entitlements. The initiatives undertaken are built on strong community ties and are enmeshed within, having a high degree of legitimacy among the people being focused upon. The initiatives largely operate independently and while there is awareness about other initiatives, there is a potential to move to the next stage of collaboration. As shown below in the 4C framework for building collaborations, now, the organisations in the network are at the coordination stage, where they come together for tactical reasons to achieve a tangible objective. This could transform to more long-term engagement, and the context of such engagement can be to weave together different threads of activities to stitch a more robust social protection for vulnerable groups, such that there is more long-term and sustained resilience built in the communities.

  1. Actionable research and implementation with academia
    There have been three key developments in the context of local self-governments. First, the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution accorded a constitutional status to Panchayats. Decentralised planning and governance thus were institutionalised with these amendments. Alongside this development, there has been a push for more financial autonomy of Panchayats. Meanwhile different initiatives have been introduced to leverage information and communication technologies for improving service delivery, under which different initiatives to collect and make available different kinds of data have begun. How much do these three developments align with and inform each other? A key question that remains unexamined and unanswered can shed some light on the same, which is: How actionable is the data collected for planning, governance, and servicedelivery at the local-level? Who has access and who is empowered to use the data? As shown in the outcome of the activities, the kind of data available and used for decisionmaking does not speak to the realities on the ground. Therefore, a potential pathway forward is to align these different objectives:

Academic and research organisations such as APU and ATREE are already looking at questions related to data and governance, and the goal of creating actionable data provides a tangible context for the grassroots organisations to collaborate with academic partners, such that both of them can play to their respective strengths to achieve more transparent and responsive governance mechanisms.

  1. Building financial sustainability
    For sustaining the development programmes in the longer term, financial sustainability is framed as the government taking ownership of the programmes. Alongside, communitydriven pathways to finance programmes can be explored. For instance, given the nature of afforestation programmes and the ground water rejuvenation, the current approaches are largely centred around incorporating these programmes into the Gram Panchayat and state sponsored schemes. However, it would be interesting to approach these from a commercial sustainability lens that other programmes (livelihood for women, composting and natural farming) have already adopted to increase sustainability with the help of the community. Establishing community-led programmes (ensuring better solid waste management through SHGs, etc.) would be an additional move that can ensure long-term sustainability.

  2. Deepening participation
    As the outcomes of the activities showed, the Government is seen as a key and critical actor in terms of both ensuring adequate basic services and for long-term sustainable pathways for developmental interventions. The 73rd and the 74th Constitutional Amendments Acts of 1992 enabled governance structures at the grassroots, the Panchayats and the Municipalities, to make decisions at the local level, as they are best equipped to deal with and respond to local issues and challenges. The Amendments also provided reservation for women and socially disadvantaged groups, to create pathways for them to be included in the decision-making process. Building knowledge and skills to create, plan, and execute governing duties is, therefore, of absolute necessity for local governing bodies.

It is important for Panchayat members as well as representatives of local communities to understand the necessity and repercussions of their actions and examine the long- and short-term impact of these actions. Therefore, it is not enough to devolve power into these spaces, it is also important to build capacities so that they are able to govern well, with an understanding of their responsibilities and duties. Recognising this need, the organisations in Kolar are engaged in capacity building activities at the local government. However, often local governing bodies are treated as implementers of schemes, and governing jargon can be so intimidating that dealing with the particularities of various schemes, in and of itself, starts to dominate their major activities. In addition, though local governance depends on citizen participation, it ends up being exercises conducted to tick off a checklist on the one end, and at the other extreme is non-existent.

Therefore, a more practicable approach to citizen participation is required, which is a twoway process. The participants have identified that the government needs to open more pathways and strengthen existing formal modes of participation. In addition, people too need to develop a civic muscle, and understand different ways in which they can engage with the government and strategically use those paths. In order to examine the current state of citizen participation and plan to improve upon it, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development3 (OECD) provides a practicable framework. The framework provides three stages of participation, which are Information, Consultation, and Active Participation. Now, in Kolar, the situation is at the ‘Information’ stage; there is top-down policy making and the people are informed about the policies. A pathway forward is to strategize to move toward the next stage, which is ‘Consultation’.

Annexure A: Workshop Programme

Activity 1
Issue mapping: All participants have their own views (by virtue of being part of an organisation) of the issues on the ground and the goal of the first activity is to elicit all the problems that they see from their perspective that affect Kolar. The activity also acts as a way for them to build an understanding of each other’s perspectives and will build toward a picture demonstrating the breadth of the problems faced by Kolar.

Activity 2
Issue classification: In this Activity, the participants will classify the issue into three categories: Environmental, Social, and Economic. These categories are kept at a broad level and the participants can choose to interpret where a problem fits or if it fits into more than one category. The objective of Activity 2 is for the participants to see how the problems they identified map into different categories, and how Environment plays a role in the way they conceive of the problems.

Activity 3
Initiative Mapping: In this Activity, the participants will map different initiatives they are doing considering the problems identified. The objective of this activity is for the participants to understand the breadth of the problems and how their initiatives contribute to alleviating it.

Activity 4
Discussion with the simulation model: Now that the participants understand the issues and how their efforts contribute to alleviating it, they will together explore how these initiatives combine to create a future for Kolar. The simulation model will act as a mediator for the discussion, where they can choose between different options and the model will throw up future scenarios. In this way, participants get a stronger sense of how different initiatives work together, and what additional efforts will be required for the overall strategy for Kolar. The goal of this activity is for participants to build together ideas for the future.

Activity 5
Mapping initiatives according to level and nature of goals: In this activity, participants will map existing issues to the level they are focusing on, whether the focus is on the well-being of the household, preservation of natural resources, or participation in governance. Such a mapping provides an insight into how different initiatives contributing to stitching together a more comprehensive effort toward these different goals.

Activity 6
Newspaper of the future: Participants will build together a newspaper of the future. The newspaper of the future is a speculative artefact. It opens possibilities and imaginings of what could happen, including moon-shot ideas.