In the past few days we have been discussing the nature of how this project will continue. The feedback has been incredible and the implications of the project are growing rapidly.
On Friday Jess, Kate and I went to meet with Virin at Manav Sahdna to discuss options for the future and how the new design would be incorporated into the ngo and into the community. From this conversation three aspects were clarified:
Longevity of project and continuing innovation
We discussed the way in which we would structure a loan or alternative rental scheme. The amount the riders pay at the moment to rent is Rs.20/day, 6 days/ week hence around Rs.480/month. The current cost of a rickshaw is Rs.6500 (the cost we are working to) so they would be able to pay it off in approximately 7 months. At this point a continuing scheme would be offered either as a savings strategy or as an ongoing payment for upgrade every three years. These trikes need ongoing maintenance and the conditions of working are so harsh that their life should be around three years… of course it is not and you still see rickshaws out and about that have been around for twenty-thirty years. The trade off is the driver’s health.
The phased system allows them to continue to invest and will have the added income of selling/trading in their old rickshaw every three years. This also acts as a driver for innovation in the design. This means that the unit cost can be raised which allows for the parameters to change; one can then look at human powered batteries, changing the materials (get rid of steel!) and creating ongoing community facillitation. This will be an adaptive process within the community. Another added benefit is that this creates added income as a livelihood investment rather than straight profit, dealing with issues of alcoholism and how one makes sure the benefit is transferred to the whole community.
There are reactionary arguments with this of overly controlling a community and taking power away from them to create their own future. Implementing a comprehensive “plan” is plied full of your own beliefs of what is good and what is development; let alone many assumptions of the community and ways of living. The implied concern within this is that the community does not evolve and sustain itself, and who are we to say we know what is best?
I think the only avenue to deal with this is by making the project community based, at every point asking and transferring the local knowledge and ways of living into enhancing the design of the rickshaw and the socal innovation objectives.
Method of Initial Implementation
The major question that arose was who is the middle man? (see kate’s post)…particularly issues of heavying, police protection and other benefits provided by the mysterious middle man. According to the food delivery man Kalpesh, the middle man was not so bad, the police did not harrass the rickshaw wallahs however questions do arise…
How do you move away from the existing system and how do you factor in the non-transparent elements of culture and community? How do you factor in the things you do not understand? What are the repercussions of entering the social dynamics?
Viren’s response was we provide this service to three or four guys to test out then offer it to others. By starting small you avoid threatening the middle man and can dampen repercussions. If it is a better deal they will choose it and the social shift will occur simultaneously. If not then the initiative keeps getting tweaked… until it becomes the better option!
We then discussed the idea of a cooperative involving government as a project interest in non-organised labour. This may create benefits such as government ID’s thus giving some element of protection through legitimacy to the riders.
We discussed with Viren the handover of the project and fleshed out that we had a few ways of carrying on the project. These are through Indicorp (US based) – posting the project on the Manav Sahdna global group and getting a dedicated volunteer to come and do the project for a year. There is also an Australian volunter who continues coming back and forward to India who may be interested in taking over the project.
In regards to design, we discussed continuing NID involvement and suggested the ongoing involvement of RMIT through the continuing exchange program. Viren did raise the point that there is a problem within people shifting and not having one person overseeing the project.
Viren’s organisation is growing at an exponential rate, and is doing incredible work. He is in charge of 35 projects as is so cannot take on another project (however exciting it may be). We agreed to creating a document scope to provide to those interested in recycle wallah.
This conversation was great and allayed our fears of how we could do this project without rushing it or it becoming tokenistic. We are really happy with the way in which it is heading.