MALIWADA: Ten Years After

written by Bruce Robertson for the Spring 1986 issue of Institute of Cultural Affairs HIGHLIGHTS

The following article was contributed by Bruce Robertson, an ICA staff member in Toronto, Canada. It is his interpretation of ICA's human development work in Maliwada, India, based on a model of the 'spectrum of human consciousness' developed by Ken Wilbur. This model is currently the subject of dialogue in ICA's research work as an underlying pattern that can be applied to individual psychological development, the evolutionary process, and, as this article suggests, community development. The model is presented in slightly varying forms in Wilbur's writings.

Maliwada is a village in the state of Maharashtra in central western India. It became the first ICA human development project in India in December 1975. Typifying the drought-ridden rural communities of Maharashtra, it's population at that time was about 2300.

The project became an enormous success, and within two years, a replication scheme, the Nava Gram Prayas, was launched in all of the districts of Maharashtra. The new projects were staffed by graduates of training institutes held in Mailiwada.

In February (1986), I visited Maharashtra as a member of a team to document what had happened in Maliwada and to see what we have learned about human development from our ten years of experience there.

People will tell you that Maliwada is no longer a village. It is a hub. Its population has tripled. Over 150 new buildings, mostly homes, have been built. And it has a reputation of being the place where 'you can go to learn to earn a livelihood.'

The entrepreneurial spirit is thriving. Many new shops and business enterprises exist. About 75 people commute 16 kilometres to Aurangagad for service jobs. Many people own their own trucks and motor rickshaws.

The Muslims in Maliwada have built a mosque at the edge of town and employ a man to call the prayers twice a day and to teach their children the Koran and Urdu. The Buddhists have erected a Buddha in the middle of their compound.

Maliwada's own gram panchayat (council of elders) is four years old. They now guide the development activities of all the many groups. These groups do not resemble the structures ICA initiated, but instead look like families, cultural-religious groups or occupational groups.

Maliwada is now in the mainstream of development in India, if not leading it in some aspects. It continues to progress at a pace that is congruent with government services, local resources and business growth.

The biggest story is that the people are truly different. Confidence and self-assurance are two words that people continually used to describe the people of Maliwada. People say that the great gifts we gave to them were order, discipline, and the ability to follow-though. Outsiders respect the Maliwada leadership and entrepreneurial spirit.

I think the real human dvelopment story in Maliwada has something to do with moving people from one of Wilbur's 'spectrum of consciousness' categories to another. Maybe in some cases several transformations occurred. This is real evidence of how human tranformation can be accelerated on a more than one person basis.

In 1975, when ICA first started the Maliwada project, we encountered what Wilbur would call the 'emotional-reactive' mode. This was basically a subsistance mindset where people responded to the situation of their lives as their fate, to which they could only react.

The project did three things at the same time. We infused community through structures like guilds (task units), stakes (geographical units), preschools, a community kitchen. These structures provided a new level of stability and security and a sense of shared risk. In other words, the villagers began to see themselves as part of a community.

We provided a "more than reality" myth, or context, for the project through songs, slogans, and symbols. "The villages of India are on the move. Maliwada is the sign." The symbol of the sun rising again represented past and future glory. The new community structures and story enabled them to move into Wilbur's 'mystic-membership' category.

At the same time, we assaulted the community with rationality--Wilbur's 'rational' mode. This occured through training in decision-making processes, ordering space and time, planning and carrying out workdays, skills training, curriculum building, and literacy projects. By challenging "fate" with these skills, the people realized that it is possible to take initiative and create a new scenario of daily life.

At this point, the process of human development had set up a dialogue between the 'mythic-membership' indentification and the 'rational' level of consciousness, and people could move back and forth between them. The 'rational' enabled people to take a self-consicious relationship to the community; they could decide to act and reform the community. The 'mythic-membership' consciousness, or sense of community identity, provded the stability needed to appropriate the risk of the 'rational.'

'Existential heroes' arose among the people of Maliwada--people who can and do take risks, who are creative and can operate on an intuitive level. While they do not necessarily operate out of a common plan now, they are 'aligned.' That is, they are moving intuitively in the same direction toward the same images of the future needed for Maliwada and the state of Maharashtra. Wilbur refers to this as the 'psychic-intuitive' level of consciousness.

Ten years ago, we may have thought we were putting historical models in place. Today, few of the original human development project structures are left. We see that we facilitated the process of community transformation by injecting the dynamics of rationality, structure and myth. Most importantly, the people have reformed and re-created their own village and have themselves been transformed in the process--and they know it!

-- SharonFisher - 02 Jul 2006
Topic revision: r1 - 02 Jul 2006, SharonFisher
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