ComMutiny — the Youth Collective (CYC)

Project: Educating Social Activists
Location: Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan
Category: Education and Training

Training Programs for Social Activists

IDS funding supported two of ComMutiny’s social activists, Navendu and Lokesh, in 2017. Both young men work in rural schools “to identify, facilitate, and mentor young social activists,” in the words of ComMutiny’s progress report.

Navendu works in Seoni, Madhya Pradesh, at Agrini. The IDS project was established by Agrini in 2017 in eight villages of the Kurai block. Agrini believes that if rural students have access to relevant high-quality education, then they will collectively create an aware and sensitive rural community.

Agrini met separately with the 12 teachers who’d been selected for the project in order to orient them and train them. Next, meetings with the 30 teenage students were conducted, and the leaders soon realized that long sessions were not productive, as the students lost focus over time. The team decided to incorporate activities and “mind jogs” into these sessions to make them more accessible and fun. Conflict resolution and civic responsibilities were among the topics taught, but the team ran into another challenge: the discussions were not working for the group because they had little relation to the adolescents’ life experiences. As a result, the curriculum was reworked to make it more relevant to the students’ lives.

ALFA Education Society
Lokesh works for ALFA (Alliance for Liberty, Fraternity, and Advancement) in Udaipur district, a predominantly tribal district in Rajasthan. ALFA’s mission is to provide opportunities for self-exploration and self-expression to youth from backward districts.

The IDS project is based in ten villages of Kherwara block in Udaipur district. From the 50 students who applied, ten were chosen; ten teachers were selected from a field of 16 who came forward. Getting buy-in from teachers was, at first, difficult; this was a completely new program for them. The orientation meeting brought teachers and students together to give everyone an idea of what the year ahead would be like, to understand the objectives, and to plan for the expected outcomes. A four-day workshop on conflict management and resolution was held for teachers who then facilitated the same session with the youth of their villages.

IDS Coordinator: Jagjit Jain
Project Manager: Divya Mukand

–2017 IDS annual report

In 2016, IDS continued to support the work of young people in India who want to do social work in their communities. ComMutiny – the Youth Collective (CYC) is an organization that provides mentorship as well as skills and leadership training to young people they call “Changeloomers.”

In 2016, CYC partnered with three youth-led organizations:

  • Agrini (Seoni, Madhya Pradesh)
  • ALFA Educational Society (Udaipur, Rajasthan)
  • Synergy Sansthan (Harda, Madhya Pradesh)

The common strategy was to mentor at least 100 youth leaders, providing young people a platform where they could explore, engage, and empower themselves via experiential learning journeys and thereby contribute to society.

Each of these organizations worked on different issues that were prevalent in their respective context and realities. All three designed and planned their intervention with a focus on creating an empowering space for young people to undertake a leadership transition.

At Agrini, the focus in 2016 was on the youth and governance program. The young people engaged with 30 panchayats (village councils) to create an opportunity for 100 young people to undergo an experiential learning process and encourage active participation in local self-governance processes. The core group of volunteers consisted of 40 young people; the indirect outreach was to 500 people, including community members of various age groups.

ALFA Educational Society strengthened their three youth resource centers in Kherwara Block in three different villages where youth from marginalized communities (predominantly from tribal and Muslim minorities) came together and created cross-learning spaces. With a total direct outreach to 750 young people and indirect outreach to 3,000 (both on-ground and online), ALFA engaged youth via the creative media of sports tournaments, exposure visits, government policies camps, and health camps.

Synergy Sansthan has been working with marginalized communities on the issues of child rights, youth development, and livelihoods since 2007. In 2016, the team revamped and revitalized the overall youth engagement strategies in two youth resource centers in Harda, inspiring young leaders to work with the local community in village anganwadis, schools, and semi-urban slum areas. The team’s direct outreach went to 370 young people; they reached 700 more community members of all ages indirectly through various events.

IDS Coordinator: Jagjit Jain
Project Manager: Ashraf Patel

–2016 IDS annual report

Many young people in India want to do social work in their communities. Unfortunately, they lack the resources and/or access to the needed skills. ComMutiny – The Youth Collective (CYC) is an organization that provides mentorship as well as skills and leadership training to young aspiring social workers and activists. These young people are called “Changeloomers.”

IDS has been funding three Changeloomers every year. This year, the three activists were able to deepen their engagement with a “5th space” program which facilitates the journey from self to society.

Some accomplishments of the IDS-sponsored Changeloomers include:

Lokesh Kalal set up Alfa Educational Society in Kherwara District near Udaipur. This is a tribal block where the main occupation is agriculture, and individuals receive very low daily wages.

  • Alfa worked in 10 villages with 300 young people to develop their leadership ability through issue-based and skill-building workshops.
  • These 300 trainees reached out to another 425 young people, empowering them to access government schemes and engaging them in local panchayat (village government) elections.
  • Alfa is also publishing a quarterly magazine—Aaina (mirror)— which plays a vital role in generating knowledge and awareness in the community.
    The youth are also learning to access information through the Right to Information Act.

Ajay Pandit is co-founder of Synergy Sansthan (SS) in the Harda District of Madhya Pradesh. Through the work of Synergy Sansthan, Ajay has gained experience working with marginalized communities on the issues of child rights, youth development, and livelihoods.

  • Synergy Sansthan has established two locations that reach out to 20 villages and work with 250 young people to develop critical thinking and analytical ability.
    SS presented 10 film screenings on issues of social inclusion that were attended by 150 young people.
  • SS worked with 30 young social advocates in 15 villages on issues like water, girls’ education, and gender discrimination.
  • Ten young people joined Pravah’s SMILE Internships and have undertaken social action projects in their communities.

Navendu Mishra has been associated with Agrini since 2010. For the past few years, Navendu has worked with the youth of Seoni District on community issues.

  • Agrini undertook to build leadership skills in 400 young people so they could participate in 20 panchayats of two districts of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Agrini participated in panchayat meetings in six villages and was able to build awareness in 500 villagers.
  • Agrini facilitated the election of two young people as sarpanch (elected head) and two as panchayat samite (middle level panchayat) members.

–2015 IDS annual report

Changeloomers Learning and Leadership Journey

There are many young people in India who want to do social work in their communities. Unfortunately, they lack the resources or access to resources that would help them acquire the needed skills. The ComMutiny Youth Collective (CYC) is an organization that provides mentorship as well as skills and leadership training to young people they call “Changeloomers.”

CYC’s program allows the Changeloomers to put their ideas into action and get a head start in leading social change; it encourages a culture of social entrepreneurship amongst the young people.

IDS continued funding for three Changeloomers to extend their training and make them stronger social entrepreneurs through the Community Youth Collective/Pravah. In fact, one of the Changeloomers was elected to the local panchayat in the area where he has been working. This will allow him to bring in change at the grass-roots level and from the inside. IDS is looking forward to working with these Changeloomers as they grow and start their own development projects.

WBEZ-FM’s Jerome McDonnell (center front) and his producer Steve Bynum pose with Changeloomers. This photo was taken during Jerome and Steve’s tour of IDS projects in February 2015.

The collective impact of these Changeloomers has been encouraging. They have worked with different constituencies including teachers, rural youth, slum youth, urban youth, and middle class youth.

Some of their accomplishments include:

  • Training of 3,095 young people in Rajasthan, Delhi, and West Bengal in understanding the issue of gender-based violence.
  • Summer camp attendance by 405 students in Itarsi, Madhya Pradesh and university applications completed by 160 students.
  • These students are typically first-generation learners whose families earn less than 30,000 rupees (about $500) per year. Their parents work as laborers, and 40% of them have never boarded a train.
  • Government scholarships for 43 Manipuri students who will take professional and technical courses.
  • Training in entrepreneurship development for 72 students; four of them have started their own pig-rearing enterprise in rural Meghalaya.
  • Substance abuse awareness programs attended by 500 students and 150 adults (both addicts and non-addicts).

–2014 IDS annual report

With the first IDS grant to Pravah in 2009, we supported young activists through a program called ComMutiny Learning and Leadership Journey. In this program, young people from different parts of India were taken through an experiential journey of discovering and strengthening themselves as leaders. They learned from real-time internship experiences and finally, through mentoring support, implemented their own ideas for social change through on-ground experiments.

This program was intended to discover and strengthen young social activists and, of course, their impact on their communities. While some of these young activists moved away from running their own initiatives, most of them continued to work in the devel­opment sector. The skills and qualities they honed through the program continue to strengthen the work they do and impact the communities they work with.

In 2012, CYC and Pravah collaborated to run Changelooms Learning and Leadership Journey. Changelooms differed from the earlier program in that it engaged young activists who had already set up and were running their own social initiative or organization. Through financial, educational, and mentoring support, activists were able to transform their ventures into sustainable and impactful initiatives.

The risk involved in any program targeting young people is that a certain number of par­ticipants will not see their initiatives through. However, our strategic shift to Changelooms Learning and Leadership Journey was the outgrowth of a desire to work with youth who had a long-term vision for social change and a strong plan for bringing about a sustainable shift in their communities.

Communiteers engaged in several initiatives such as the following:

  • Promoting organic farming
  • Founding a performing arts initiative
  • Working with local NGOs, anganwadis, and schools to help adolescent girls
  • Establishing a primary school for underprivileged children in the area and vol­unteering there
  • Strengthening social entrepreneurship among young people
  • Introducing multimedia tools and the use of technology to educate children in anganwadis
  • Empowering women leaders of the panchayats through workshops, meetings, capacity-building training

Attracting students to discover the meaning of active citizenship Changeloomers run the following organizations:

  • Bharat Calling helps connect young people from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) to educational opportunities.
  • Shikshalaya, a youth resource center, offers instruction in computer skills.
  • Swapno, a mostly male youth group, works on gender equality in the extremely remote area of Namkhana in West Bengal.
  • Donbok Kharmujai addresses the issue of unemployment in the northeast of India by organizing workshops on entrepreneurship and connecting young people to government schemes and loans.

–2013 IDS annual report