Though not a domain in itself, building institutions is central to every domain and intervention.

Stemming from our belief that ‘it is not enough to teach people to fish when in most cases they cannot even reach the river’, MYRADA attempts to address fundamental structural barriers that limit poor people’s access to fair wages, markets, opportunities for building assets. The poor therefore have a right to build their own institutions. Building robust institutions is the most effective means of changing oppressive power relations; this also provides an opportunity for the poor to be mainstreamed at their own terms. These institutions are based on people’s strengths (and not their needs). Strengths are based on relations of mutual trust, support and affinity/social capital. MYRADA looks for existing affinity among people and builds on it.

Interventions with the Tibetans had been through cooperative societies. The model that had worked so well for the homogenous Tibetan society was not found equally appropriate for the poor Indian communities that MYRADA began to work with.  The cooperative societies often saw the rich and powerful take over resources. The poor who were part of these societies were unable to articulate themselves confidently. Several cooperative societies that were formed in the early 80’s did not survive. When a group of poor persons from a larger cooperative society broke away in Kadiri (Andhra Pradesh) to form their own group, MYRADA realised that the poor need their own exclusive space where they can meet and discuss issues on their own terms. Such groups get together based on inherent affinities. Thus it was that Credit Management Groups began to be formed for men in the early 80’s gradually moving to Self Help Affinity Groups of women.

The formation and strengthening of Self help Affinity Groups (sAgs) is an important part of MYRADA’s interventions for building appropriate institutions of the poor. For details of the sAg concept please look at this RMS papers 22 , RMS papers 3 here , RMS papers 15 here and RMS papers 40 here

This is a continuous process with the intervener having to constantly dig deeper to reach the poor. No matter how inclusive system may be, continuous efforts are needed to ensure that no poor family is left out of the system. An example of MYRADA’s effort to reach out to the most vulnerable can be seen here

The sAgs provide a forum for the poor to come together to discuss their life goals. They engage in credit and savings activities. The rules and regulations of the groups are set by the members themselves. They borrow from the group for productive and consumption purposes. Most productive loans are either for building assets or livelihood activities – these include agricultural as well as non-farm activities. The table below gives details of sAgs across various MYRADA projects as of 31-03-2014

For details of SHGs please click here

SAGs have federated to form higher level associations for networking, convergence and greater advocacy efforts. A note on MYRADA’s SAGfederations can be found here and here

Community Managed Resource Centres (CMRCs)emerged as membership organisations of the various CBOs as a result of gradual withdrawal of MYRADA’s direct interventions from any areas. CMRCs are registered bodies with governed by members of member CBOs with technical and financial support from MYRADA. MYRADA staff have been deputed to the CMRC; the resource centres have now begun to independently raise resources and implement programmes. In Kolar for instance, all CMRCs are financially independent of MYRADA. All their expenses, such as rent, salaries, etc. are met from their own funds. A note on these institutions can be found here

Click here for details of CMRCs functioning in MYRADA

In every aspect of its work, MYRADA builds and strengthens people’s institutions so that the interventions can be sustained by the people themselves.

For interventions in natural resource management, MYRADA has worked with Watershed Development Associations (WDAs). In watershed based interventions where much of project resource are directed towards the resource rich, viz. Landholders, it is necessary to organise the small & marginal farmers and the landless to ensure that they (a) can articulate their needs (b) can access benefits (c) participate in equal measure in the interventions. Click here

In our work with vulnerable and marginalised groups such as sex workers and devadasis, MYRADA has similarly formed groups of such people and invested in capacity building of such groups.