Our Approach

Partnership

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Partnership is a fundamental principle of our approach. All the work we support in India is done in partnership with local non-governmental organisations (NGOs).We’re currently working with a range of local partners – organisations of different sizes and backgrounds, each with their own strengths and identity, but each sharing our vision, and sharing key characteristics:
  • operating in remote rural areas;
  • close to the communities they work with;
  • committed to grassroots participatory development;
  • willing to share learning and best practice from their experience;
  • committed to transparency in their project implementation and accounting;
  • officially registered in India to receive funds from abroad.

We provide project-based grant funding to our NGO partners, but for us partnership means more than just a funding relationship. We give our partners opportunities to share best practice, and to build their capacity, to make their work more effective.

We also seek to develop:

  • collaborations with organisations that offer expertise complementary to our own; and
  • co-funding arrangements with other grant-making bodies that share our vision.

 

Local empowerment

Wells for India is an expert organisation, but we never seek to impose solutions, either on our partners or on villagers. We and our partners are committed to bottom-up, grassroots, development. The projects we support are designed using participatory (also known as ‘demand-led’) methods, involving people in planning and taking action for their own future.

We believe that any support we provide must not encourage any sense of dependency among the communities where we work. Since the first projects we supported, villagers have made in-kind contributions to the work, by donating land or, more usually, their labour.

Over time, our experience has shown that people are much more likely to continue looking after assets created during a project if they’ve also made a financial contribution. So we now require villagers to contribute to projects in cash as well as in kind – even though we know they are struggling with precarious livelihoods, entrenched inter-generational poverty, and crippling debt. This may seem harsh, but we are intent on the bigger picture of creating long-term benefits that will be sustained by communities themselves after our support ceases.

All our projects include work to build the capacity of community-based organisations, at village and area level, to engage with local authorities and have a say in how public funds are spent, for the long-term benefit of their communities. Last year, each project that we supported leveraged additional funding from local sources of between 16% and 104% (average 77%) of Wells for India’s contribution.

Sustainability

We believe that a project’s benefits should continue, without further support from us, long after the project has ended. This can only happen when villagers have the knowledge, skills and motivation to maintain the project’s achievements – whether physical structures, social structures, or new ways of doing things. We also firmly believe that progress in people’s development should not come at the expense of destroying nature’s ecosystems.Sustainability has to be built into projects right from the design stage. Some of the ways we do this are:
  • Much of the first year of a project is spent listening to the villagers about their needs, and securing their ‘buy-in’ to the project.
  • Most, or all, of the labour needed in a project is provided by the villagers themselves. They also contribute financially. This encourages a sense of long-term ownership and responsibility, rather than short-term dependency on handouts.
  • We encourage villagers to organise self-help groups. This enables them to build social and financial capital to develop enterprise.
  • We support villagers to form and run village development committees. This enables them to manage natural resources responsibly; to plan collectively for their community’s future; and to access additional resources, such as local government funding, to support future development.
  • Physical structures are built using affordable materials available locally – so they can be easily repaired and maintained.
  • We provide technical expertise to projects to ensure the quality of the design and build of physical structures.
  • Community funds are set up to fund ongoing repairs and maintenance.
  • Villagers receive training to develop skills such as farming and masonry.
  • We encourage the choice of agricultural crops which are suited to where they are being grown; which do not require large inputs of water or expensive pesticides and fertilisers; and whose seeds can be harvested to grow another year.
  • Completed projects are independently evaluated to check whether they have achieved the planned impacts.

Examples of sustainable benefits our projects achieve include:

  • In the areas where we work, rainwater is the best renewable source of water. Rainwater harvesting replenishes groundwater sustainably.
  • More productive farming gives people the option of staying  in their village, reducing the need to migrate in search of work.
  • Increased family incomes lead to more children going to school.
  • Participation in self-help groups encourages women to play a full part in decision-making.
  • Better sanitation and hygiene practices lead to better health.