We speak about decentralization and empowering multiple stake holders to enhance impact of any kind of work that we plan to do. We may be working in an office or in a village on a project. We keep saying that we need people to own processes, outcomes and impact. We also often find it difficult to let go of the control as we are not sure if everyone else will work with same efficiency, same intentions, same approach as we have. We are also often unsure of the pace at which the project will move forward and are skeptical if decentralization will help us be time bound and professional. Our political system also speaks highly about decentralization but fails to accept it truly because of the same reasons. We all know what really keeps us away from decentralization but we have hardly tried to understand what makes decentralization the key to sustainability.
Being at Rajwadi has helped me identify the center of decentralization. Rajwadi, a small village in Ratnagiri district of the Maharashtra state functions on decentralization. You find that there is no one person in-charge of any work in the village. Many people take lead and anchor various projects but the village has many faces. Every decision is taken mutually after discussion. Every project is implemented after consensus and debate. You will be able to find many leaders and many followers. You will be able to find many thinking souls with opinions which are debated and discarded but always valued.
Examples like Rajwadi are not miracles which happen in split seconds; there is always a long list of mindful actions behind such system. What makes Rajwadi projects perfectly decentralized? How has Rajwadi been able to sustain such high decentralization in spite of all the challenges that they face? They also (like any other society) have people who are disinterested, who have lost hopes, who are complacent, who are complaining etc. What is special about Rajwadi and the people here?
Rajwadi actually functions on trust. No person, representative or leader has work timings, working days but rather has certain roles and responsibilities. Every month the village has a monthly meeting to discuss monthly activities and grievances. Every project group meets once a week to discuss their issues and solutions. No decision is taken by an individual but the community or the group owns the responsibility. Rajwadi is not perfect, we must remember. Nothing is perfect. But it is definite that this imperfection drives us (humans) towards excellence. They have a lot of challenges and tremendous group dynamics but yet they have not lost hope in people; in ‘their’ people. They trust each other and wish the best to each other. They all help each other when they struggle.
Rajwadi culture is different from what we find in traditional companies, factories, offices. Rjwadi culture is actually closer to what professionals’ term as ‘start-up’ culture. It is open, based on trust, morally accountable; with no hierarchy and limited monitoring. These uneducated rural individuals are more progressive than scholars in our cities. We still have the real hope in our villages! We need to be a lot more humble to learn from these humans who work in farms and sleep under trees. These people have taught me the core of decentralization; which no civics text book or political science professor could help me learn.
Decentralization means trusting and being able to trust is difficult but not impossible.