An evaluation of a CSR intervention was recently conducted by Team CauseBecause (CB) with regard to Max India Foundation’s (MIF) adoption of Dhakrani village in Uttarakhand. The assessment was done to evaluate the impact of interventions carried out in the operational area and to understand the nature and volume of deliverables as claimed by MIF as well as their relationship with the community at large.
The Max Group has a significant presence in Uttarakhand and particularly Dehradun. So it made sense for the Group to serve the local communities of this area. MIF is the CSR arm of the Max Group. One of its CSR focus areas is health and environment. It has taken up multiple projects that provide quality healthcare to improve the wellbeing of underserved communities.
As part of its intervention in rural areas, MIF adopted Dhakrani village in 2015. Priority was given to health, waste management, sanitation and hygiene, and life-skills education. Dhakrani is the largest village cluster in Uttarakhand and suffers from severe underdevelopment and has a lower literacy rate as compared to the rest of Uttarakhand.
Located just about one-and-a-half hours from Dehradun, Dhakrani is easily accessible. The area’s population is heterogeneous and can be quite tricky to navigate as the level of trust among the different groups is low. Political affiliations are strong and can cause divisions in the Gram Sabha.
CB conducted the impact assessment through background/secondary research and interactions with Team MIF. The overall objective was to conduct an impact study in the project area, collect and analyse verifiable data, and produce the key findings on predefined outcome indicators. Case studies and testimonies of beneficiaries were also collated. The methodology used was a combination of participatory assessment of 15 per cent of beneficiary households, individual interviews, case studies, and a focus-group discussion with each of the NGO project staff.
MIF has been conducting extensive CSR activities in the village since the last few years and has been regularly monitoring the impact of the same following standard procedures and set parameters. The overall objective is to improve the lives of the villagers by turning their habitat into a disease-free model village.
As mentioned in the baseline studies as well as underlined by MIF’s project managers, the primary aim of the project was to develop Dhakrani into a ‘model village’ with contemporary standards of health, hygiene and sanitation. While MIF did not ask for any monetary support from the government, whenever requested, local government officials extended their support.
Some of the key findings follow.
1. Solid-waste management (SWM) and sewage-treatment plant (STP)
MIF conceptualised the SWM and STP project to establish a sustainable waste-management system. The initial review found that Dhakrani had inappropriate collection routes and no availability of collection vehicles and bins. Besides, local villagers lacked knowledge and trained manpower.
The ongoing interventions are: garbage collection from households, segregation and composting, reuse of plastic, and a sustainable underground sewerage-treatment project that is being executed in five phases.
For evaluation, CB gave inputs on the following parameters: quantity of municipal solid waste and the human excreta generated, disposal system, collection capacity, common waste bins, and sweeping of public roads.
- Awareness and attitudes: While there were varied responses from community members on the definition of waste or garbage, they had lots of ideas about hazardous waste. They were grateful that the issue of SWM and construction of STPs were taken up by MIF. Many participants expressed the need and importance of collecting, sorting, reusing, and recycling waste, with MIF making a considerable contribution to this change in attitudes.
- Direct impact of SWM and STP: Most respondents felt that after the SWM and STP the area was less waterlogged and more clean, resulting in substantial decrease in diseases like dengue and malaria.
- Community participation and ownership: Community ownership of the project is inadequate. There is a need to coordinate efforts among the community, implementing agencies, and the government.
Some of the positive outcomes are: overall solid-waste collection of 90 per cent, setting up of common waste bins across 15 wards, and a site for the municipal solid waste about 2 km away from the village.
As per initial reviews, the villagers of Dhakrani have limited access to quality healthcare facilities. Accordingly, the health interventions include multi-speciality health camps, general health camps and awareness exercise, eye-care camps and immunisation camps. From the start of these projects till the period of assessment, over 34,000 beneficiaries had been reached through 291 health camps; 1,245 children immunised against MMR; 1,387 children immunised for typhoid; and 493 patients with vision impairments provided free eyeglasses.
As reported by Bella Healthcare, MIF’s local partner NGO, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of individuals using contraceptives for family planning. In the baseline survey (2013–14), only 41 per cent of the respondents were using it and that went up to 64 per cent in 2017. The number of people who prefer institutional delivery over home delivery for child birth has also increased – from 50 per cent to 59 per cent for institutional facilities and 73 per cent for private doctors. In 2013, only 27 per cent of respondents had ANC/PNC (ante-natal and pre-natal care) visits. This increased to 91 per cent in 2017. Women’s health is now a priority area for all respondents, up from zero in the baseline survey.
3. Sanitary napkins production unit
To provide subsidised sanitary pads for women from poor and marginalised backgrounds, MIF set up a complete manufacturing unit, run by local women who were trained for the purpose and are now employed by MIF. Once manufactured, the pads are sold under the brand name Maitri. A pack of five napkins costs an affordable Rs 10. The products are primarily being sold door-to-door without any middlemen.
As per Team CB’s observation, the project has the ability to ensure accessibility of napkins for a majority of women in the area. Positive outcomes include decreasing symptoms of RTI and UTI among girls and fewer women missing work due to menstruation. However, more efforts towards social marketing, awareness, and community involvement are needed. The unit is not self-sustaining due to high manufacturing and operational costs.
4. Life-skills education
In partnership with Head Held High (HHH), a Bengaluru-based NGO, MIF set up a training centre at Dhakrani in November 2017. The first batch had 32 young students with a trainer who had already been extensively trained at the HHH training centre. The programme was launched with an agreement to train and support 60 rural youth over two batches in year one. The goal is to help young people from poor socioeconomic areas through employment and entrepreneurial and higher education opportunities. The training content focuses on English, Maths, computer skills, and confidence/personality development. The centre has 10 computers, projectors, furniture, etc. Within 90 days of completing their training, participants are provided with suitable work opportunities. In all, 26 boys and girls have successfully passed out (15 and 17 respectively). Currently, 12 boys and 16 girls are being trained. Month-on-month improvements can be seen for most students as per the performance matrix.
Measured on dimensions such as self-awareness, communication, creative and critical thinking, and problem solving, most students are in the low-to-average range with no one scoring high or very high. The course content and skills need to be customised for the local community.
5. Other social interventions
Various short-term programmes for students, senior citizens and the local community have been implemented for quick and visible impact. These include projects such as repairing pipelines for clean drinking water, developing a small park, a planting drive, upgrading school infrastructure, and community outreach by MIF volunteers. All of these have been received positively by the local villagers, who mostly have words of praise for such efforts.
Team CB has observed that MIF’s social programmes in Dhakrani have met their intended goals and all its initiatives are ‘steps in the right direction with a holistic development approach.’ There is scope for improvement, though. The multiple interventions need to complement each other. For example, life-skills training and health camp can be linked. It has also been observed that most partners are staffed on different project components and work in silos, rarely engaging with each other.
Other critical success factors are meaningful, relevant and ongoing consultations with important stakeholders and the community, along with proper and timely disclosure of information. More importantly, the community needs to start taking ownership of all initiatives so that MIF can gradually start pulling out from certain interventions, especially the sewage pipeline and treatment plant. Eventually, the village panchayat and local government bodies should take charge of these projects.
MIF has stated that it has an exit plan in place and will withdraw gradually, after ensuring that all systems are in place for a smooth handover to the various committees of the new panchayat. As per Mohini Daljeet Singh, chief executive, Max India Foundation, ‘There is a lot to be done as we all know, so let’s just do what best we can. The major challenges are cleanliness, waste management, hygiene and sanitation. This will impact health, the critical cog in the wheel of development. We, the CSR community, must educate the population but the government must also take giant definite steps to provide the means to implement. Only then can we do the much needed leapfrog.’