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12,000km on cycles for adequacy in rural India

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Thanks, Thomas

W. Koch
W. Koch schrieb am 25.05.2011

Thank you, Thomas, for sensing that we could do with a booster of our km budget ;-). Indeed, we've completed over 5,162 km in 3 months already of which 2,800 km had been fully sponsored (some contributions coming directly into our Indian NGO account can't be visualised on this platform) despite our rare communication from on the road. You guys just simply rock!!!


So, what's happened so far: We have had amazing opportunities to learn what, in the meantime, has significantly changed our perspectives towards development. The people we have met along our journey have collectively



  • afforested over 100,000 hectares of wasteland and thus raised food security and income generation opportunities through agriculture;

  • transformed over 25 villages into prospering villages with staggering improvements in overall income, health, education, etc;

  • played a major role in creating the Right to Information (RTI) Act and more recently, forced the government to design a new bill to deal effectively with official corruption;

  • set up dozens of schools and created innovative, inspiring learning spaces;

  • started a voluntary (!!) bloodbank;

  • rehabilitated thousands of HIV positive prostitute mothers and their kids;

  • built scores of affordable rural technologies – many of them with an open-source/copy left philosophy of sharing their insights;

  • divised eco-systems that truly integrated stakeholders in a National Park and its surroundings to combine ecological goals like saving the last Asian lions with the needs of the communities living amongst them in harmony;

  • developed disaster management systems that include blueprints for innovative traditional do-it-yourself shelter options;

  • helped illiterate rural women setup and run million rupee enterprises;

  • revived nearly lost traditions in handicraft to empower tribal communities as artisan entrepreneurs as a means to develop an entire region;

  • worked relentlessly for over a decade to promote sustainable practices like organic farming; or

  • assisted people to get their health and balance back by setting up nature cure clinics;


to name only a few examples.This is by no means all that we wanted to learn. But we are so excited about some of the things we have learned – particularly in terms of understanding the importance ofs traditional socio-economic patterns in a rural system – that we decided to extend our ‘offroad break’ to put this learning into practice.Right at this very moment, a unique opportunity to do this at tghf’s sister initiative ProtoVillage emerged. And it makes so much sense: here, we have substantial local support, the lessons learnt are very much needed and what better way of sharing with you all than by collaboratively implementing them in the field.The pattern we are thinking of at the moment is that every 3 months of tghf journey across various parts of India will be followed up with a period of 3-6 months of implementation. This will not only gradually enrich the quality of our journeys, but will also provide a live and dynamic environment where it is all collaboratively realized through practice.When we took a break, we were very happy listing things that worked. For example, our approach of ‘traveliving’ – traveling and living with the natives & locals – won us many friends. They so easily and trustfully let us in into their lives and we are convinced, we learned more through observation and conversations naturally evolving than we could have with our initial structured questionnaires. At the end of visiting one region, after being ‘handed around’ from one changemaker to the next, we always ended up with quite a rounded picture of its particular characteristics and the perspectives of the various stakeholders (including the subjects of each intervention) on development.Also, having spoken to so many people from various villages about their conditions along our 12 dimensions of adequacy, our conversations became much more refined towards the end of the first leg. And it is only now that we think we can confidently take the next steps towards developing a somewhat standardised format for mapping the current conditions in rural India as well as the perspectives of the changemakers who act to improve them. Only  now it seems realistic to aim towards building an analytical framework that is powerful enough to go beyond statistics to derive actionable perspectives, firmly grounded in our philosophy of sustainable development. This will happen through an iterative process, again with ample opportunity for all of you who’d love to contribute.And having such a system in place, this will ultimately make mapping India’s current conditions and social landscape independent of us…


How amazing would it be if you too would travel through the country with the same mission, consequently contributing to the common pool of knowledge? Or to join us and get your hands dirty implementing the insights derived??


Very excitedly yours,Kalyan + Wiebke


PS: Check out our tghf Photo Gallery of the first 3 months of our journey