Extending Foundations comprehensive COVID 19 support to the neighbourhood

Azim Premji University established the Community Engagement Initiative (CEI) with the following objectives:

  • To use the knowledge and expertise of the University, Field institutes of the Azim Premji Foundation, and the Philanthropy arm of the Foundation to contribute to improving human conditions and sustainability in the villages around the campus.
  • To provide opportunities for students, faculty members, and others to contribute to and learn from the community engagements.
  • To build a harmonious relationship between the University and the villages around the campus.
  • To contribute towards building social and cultural capital for marginalised communities.

Our neighbourhood

The University is located in the Burugunte village of Billapura Panchayat, Anekal taluk, Bengaluru. Our engagement area falls within a 10 km radius of the University campus. 

Currently, we engage with seven Gram Panchayats: Billapura, Handenahalli, Sarjapura, Mugaluru, Yamare, Dommasandra and Bidraguppe. 

These Gram Panchayats consist of 40 villages and 23 wards, with a population of 1.20 lakh, with a substantial portion of migrant labourers, farming communities, and petty businesses that are dependent on surrounding industries and residential apartments. 

There are two Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and eight Health Sub-Centres in the neighbourhood of the campus. 

46 government schools, 5 panchayat libraries, and 2 veterinary hospitals are also present in this geography.

Also, there are around 50 lakes in these Gram Panchayats ranging from 10 acres to 200 acres in size.

Engagements during 2021 – 22

Strengthening Local Democracy

In August 2021, the Presidents and Panchayat Development Officers (PDOs) of all the seven panchayats took part in an introductory meeting organised by the CEI at the University. 

This meeting oriented the representatives about the vision of the Azim Premji Foundation and the Azim Premji University. Their development plans for their panchayats and challenges were also discussed.

This was followed by an introduction of the Foundation for Ecological Security’s (FES) work with rural panchayats in another joint meeting – in collaboration with our Local Democracy team; followed by field visits and individual interactions. 

On 23 March 2022, representatives from all seven panchayats went for an exposure visit to Sidlaghatta in Chikkaballapur District, Karnataka (a model example of good panchayat developed with the help of FES and supported by the Foundation.)

  • CEI meeting with community in a room within our campus

Community Libraries

The CEI and the University library team have collaborated to capacitate 5 Panchayat librarians for the effective functioning of the library spaces. Few School of Education (SOE) faculty members will join in that effort.

Strengthening Public schools

The CEI has collaborated with CARE India, an NGO, to set up 5 innovators’ laboratories in the government schools to support 500+ children in the age group of 11 – 14 years to build their higher-order skills like research skills, problem-solving skills, computational thinking skills, and digital literacy through community-based youth educators. This project will also involve our faculties as well as students.

With an overarching vision of empowering panchayats and community members to own their public institutions, we have teamed with the District Institute (DI) team to build another layer of engagement with the 46 schools.

This will be done through a comprehensive understanding of these schools and to create a mechanism for schools and communities to interact and further build confidence amongst the community about government schools.

  • CEI children with books in hand

Community Youth Engagement

Today’s youth form the future of the country and it is essential to provide them with appropriate skills so that they are able to contribute to nation-building and to social change. 

There are certain economic and social factors influencing their lives because of which they may not be able to fulfil their dreams.

This is CEI’s attempt to reach out to the community youth and identify their future needs. Based on the frequent discussions with the youth, we made a few observations and created three categories:

  • Some of the youth have just completed standard XII or graduation and are seeking jobs. 
  • Some of the youth are interested in higher education.
  • A few of the youth are keen to join public services.

The CEI engages with the youth community with available resources at the University. Faculty members and other resource personnel plan to engage in the initiative so that the youth are able to build their skills. These skills can help them build their career perspectives.

The CEI’s vision is to create community leaders who can take up development work in their own areas, build greater awareness and sensitivity towards society, and be confident learners as well as an inspiration for others.

With the help of our University Resource Centre and English Language Support Centre, we are providing regular workshops on campus to selected youth from the community in soft skills and English proficiency, to strengthen their foundation for future jobs and build a continuous process of engagement with them.

  • Sessions for youths from neighbourhood on soft skills English proficiency to build confidence 2

Sessions for youth from the neighbourhood on Soft skills and English proficiency to build confidence

The CEI has started interaction with the youth from our neighbourhood villages. After continuous discussion with them, the CEI realised that majority of the youth are demanding English language support, hence the CEI started sessions on Spoken English and Life Skills for community youth every Sunday, at the University.

These youth (aged between 18 to 30 years) are from different villages and socio-economic backgrounds. It’s a heterogeneous group, with graduates, women participants in various occupations like running beauty parlours, working in the garment factory, etc. They come from Sarjapura, Dommasandra, Billapura, Handenalli and Yamare. There are nearly 20 participants.

The University English language support team conducts a spoken English session where the youth is involved in learning, speaking, and writing. These sessions are interactive and activity-based.

The University Resource Centre conducts a Personality Development session where the youth gets to learn about teamwork and also identify their area of interest and leadership skills.

This initiative was started in December 2021, till June 2022. So far, 22 sessions have been held. The action plan for the upcoming sessions will be formed based on the feedback we receive from the youth.

We are also engaging the youth at the University Library in reading and participating in a few in-house seminars for knowledge building.

  • CEI meeting with small group of youth in a govt building

Our healthcare work during the COVID-19 pandemic

Since 2020, after the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, we are actively engaged in on-ground support for the marginalised communities. In that process, we began to engage closely with the two Primary Health Centres (PHCs) as well. This is an extension of Azim Premji Foundation’s comprehensive healthcare response work in Bengaluru.

We have collaborated with Gubbachi (a bridge school founded by five alumni members of Azim Premji University, aiming to translate their learnings into practice by working with government schools), to support both the Panchayats and PHCs to handle the COVID-19 crisis by carrying out more testing and awareness, proper data entry, vaccination awareness, and provision of safety materials for all frontline workers, including ASHA workers and anganwadi teachers.

We have also conducted vaccination drives in select locations in collaboration with Narayana Hrudayalaya and ACT Sattva (3,600+ dosages given).

Additional nutrition support is being provided to 30 tuberculosis patients in the neighbourhood, who are susceptible to COVID-19.

In all our programmes, we have started involving students in a structured manner.

  • Extending Foundations comprehensive COVID 19 support to the neighbourhood 2

Extending Foundation’s comprehensive COVID-19 support to the neighbourhood

Mapping, Documentation and Dissemination

The CEI is extensively carrying out the mapping of social, cultural, and ecological resources in the community. This involves the identification of various occupational groups, livelihood practices, religious spaces and groups, mapping all the common pool and natural resources in the seven Gram panchayats.

Currently, in collaboration with School of Development faculty members, we are building a model to engage with farmers in the neighbourhood to encourage region-specific cropping, collectivisation, scaling market opportunities, and addressing farming challenges through support and network.

The 5‑year vision of our agriculture intervention is to identify farmers in this geography, understand their challenges, help them stick to farming and get benefits, helping to form both farmer’s collectives as well as consumer groups so that better marketing can happen within a small, bounded geography.

The CEI is collaborating with faculty members and students to document 125 Ashwath Kattes (informal public spaces around the Peepal tree, known as Ashvattha in Sanskrit literature. The platform around the tree is the katte) in the seven panchayats. 

This activity will be carried out by the youth in the community and the University’s students to enhance their documentation skills, and train them to translate information into books and other materials.

Collaboration with our Arts and Aesthetics group

The Community Radio team at the University will disseminate best practices in the community – stories from our neighbourhood, stories of key individuals like panchayat leaders, community leaders, teachers, farmers, and weavers.

Way forward – next 3 to 5 years

Relationship Building

The University is keen to build a harmonious relationship with the communities in all the seven Panchayats.

Indicator: The community leaders perceive the University members as collaborators in resolving specific issues.

Outputs:

  1. Community Mobilisation: Various communities and stakeholders in the panchayats are mobilised under interest groups including youth, farmers, labourers, women, children, etc. 
  2. Events and Celebrations: Organisation of melas/​events at the village and the University level in the areas of sports, arts, literature, crafts, livelihoods, local culture, etc., and involving representatives from the village level interest groups and the University members.
  3. Internal Capacity Building: Organisation of training, workshops, and exposure visits for the CEI members to build their capacities. 

Institution Building

The University will facilitate the effective functioning of Government and Community Institutions in the panchayats around the campus.

Indicator: The majority of functionaries of various institutions are able to clearly articulate their roles and responsibilities and share the challenges faced by them in service delivery.

Outputs:

  1. Public Schools: Strengthening School Development and Monitoring Committees (SDMCs), Anganwadi Level Monitoring and Support Committees (ALMSCs), Panchayat Libraries, and parents’ groups in collaboration with District Institutes (DI), University members, panchayats, and other resource organisations.
  2. Gram Panchayats: Creating awareness of their roles and responsibilities, building capacities of elected as well as executive members of Panchayat, and building their perspectives towards Panchayat-specific development issues in collaboration with resource organisations, Local Democracy team, University members, and block/​district level authorities. 
  3. Health Institutions: Strengthening PHCs, health workers’ groups (ASHA {Accredited Social Health Activist} workers, ANMs {Auxiliary Nurse Midwives}) in collaboration with our Healthcare team, University members, panchayats, and other resource organisations.
  4. Community Based Organisations (CBOs): Facilitating the CBOs to achieve their objectives in collaboration with resource organisations, University members, and panchayats. 

Knowledge Building

The University has understood and engaged with the social, cultural, economic, and ecological contexts of our neighbourhood.

Indicator: The University has comprehensive documents for seven Panchayats on all three aspects as listed below. The data is made available for members, students, and resource organisations to access and plan interventions.

Outputs:

  1. Socio-Cultural Mapping: Documenting socio-cultural groups, beliefs, and institutions in collaboration with students, members, resource organisations, and local communities. 
  2. Economic Mapping: Documenting existing livelihoods including agriculture, and markets as well as challenges faced by them, by the students, members, resource organisations, and local communities. 
  3. Ecological Mapping: Documenting natural resources, commons, land-use patterns and trends, cropping patterns in collaboration with students, members, resource organisations, and local communities, and also by using Geographic Information System (GIS) tools.
  • CEI meeting with children

Activity Plan 202223

Few indicative activities/​events planned for the coming year are as follows:

  • FES engagement to begin with interested Panchayats, starting with a few workshops, surveys, and community discussions
  • Three orientation meetings /​workshops with elected women panchayat members from all seven Panchayats

  • Identification of seven schools in the Panchayats and commencement of initial work of strengthening the SDMCs (with DI)

  • Strengthening of community/​school libraries: To increase from the current one to four libraries

  • Sessions with the youth community to continue with more number of attendees

  • Creation of two youth groups for continuous engagement

  • Our involvement with CARE India Labs to commence with the University Resource Centre (URC) team/​School of Education (SOE) and Undergraduate (UG) science faculties joining

  • Organising four parents’ melas to showcase the Science and Mathematics activities of kids coming to the Labs (with CARE India team)

  • Survey of families engaged in farming, land size, and formation of farmers’ groups as well as consumer groups

  • Beginning of Healthcare plans after a meeting with the medical staff of both PHCs and our Health team

  • Initiating a few interactions between apartment dwellers and villagers to decrease the existing trust deficit

  • Capacity building of our team: Workshops with resource organisations/​internal members/​exposure visits, etc.

  • Documentation of Ashwath Kattes with the help of our students and the local youth who will be oriented and trained as community researchers

Events & Celebrations

  • Children’s day event at the University campus: 2022
  • Farmers’ Mela: 2023
  • Local Craft Exhibition: 2023
  • Folk/​Local Arts Exhibition: 2024

Involving our students

There are 2 modes of engagement for our students:

  1. Through regular curriculum-related field components
  • Five groups of Law and Policy Hub students are doing their Hub work in five selected themes – education, local democracy, service delivery, etc. This was developed by the CEI with the faculty group.
  • MA Education faculties are in collaboration to initiate practicums in nearby schools/​anganwadis as well as CARE Labs. 
  • MA Development students to intern with a few selected projects during summer.
  • These engagements will continue and increase with all schools.

2. Student Volunteers (based on their interest, available time, and our mandate)

  • We share specific projects with students where they can volunteer at a dedicated, regular time every week.
  • The areas are (currently) community youth mobilisation, engagement with government schools, library projects, engagement with a local orphanage, mapping projects on religious spaces, biodiversity, pottery makers, etc. 
  • Currently, 35 students are volunteering with the CEI – our team meets them as subgroups every week and the larger group once a month.
  • Regular monitoring and mentoring from our end so that the students can become thoughtful development practitioners in the long run.

Know more about Gubbachi, a bridge school founded by five alumni members of Azim Premji University, aiming to translate their learnings into practice by working with government schools.

  • Sessions for youths from neighbourhood on soft skills English proficiency to build confidence
  • Understanding mental health status of women
  • Supporting hand loom weavers by creating market linkages
  • Meeting NGO partners and Panchayat representatives to discuss Environment with Education related issues of our neighbourhood
  • Meeting all the Panchayat presidents to understand their development plans and challenges
  • Extending Foundations comprehensive COVID 19 support to the neighbourhood 2
  • Discussion with panchayat members to understand the status of lakes
  • CEI
  • CEI manage pool resources
  • Activating panchayat library as community space learning space Biddraguppe library
  • CEI local livelihood handloomweaver
  • CEI children with our members community
  • CEI community meet with our members university campus
  • CEI activating unused library