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Small is Beautiful

In 2017 we received an opportunity to conduct capacity building and leadership development for Setco Foundation. Setco Foundation started out as a CSR initiative of the Setco Auto Limited (SAL), a market leader in the manufacture of automotive clutches.

When Urja SHah, the creative and strategic thinking President of the Foundation invited us to work with them, she had done the necessary due diligence. Our client list included St. Jude Childcare Centres (SJCC) doing exemplary work with the cause of children with cancer. She conducted reference checks with our clients and was ready to engage us. We went for an immersion into the communities and conducted interviews with the SF team.

And what clinched it for us were two things: Setco Automotive’s manufacturing presence in Panchmahal in east Gujarat and their intent to give back to the community. And the second, the sports development programme with inclusive judo for the children of the village was different with Coach Chetan Shelokar. Children were participating and winning medals at state and national competitions. As we watched girls and boys practice and demonstrate judo, we knew we were privy to something beautiful and magical. We heard stories of struggle, wins, losses. We spoke with women in the community and listened to stories of impact. SF has created best practice via their model for sustainable rural development. A committed, passionate, empowered team with a strong sense of partnership with the community and the government.

Small is Beautiful

We invited Urja Shah is President & Managing Trustee of Setco Foundation (SF) to the Lumiere Learning Monday to tell her story and of the twelve years of SF.

Urja talks about her academic and professional journey and the life cycle approach with “the personal and professional intersection impacting community development“. Her background is blend research in science and design and she has helped successfully build a self-sustaining development model for the community.

The SF journey brings to mind E. F Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful.

The foundation – Blend of Science & Arts

Urja went away to boarding school to study, which is her starting point to becoming independent. She studied science in St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai and went on to do higher studies in Biochemistry in the United States. She was accepted as a PhD scholar to study how living biological systems can neutralize the effect of pollution. When the grant did not come through, her professor urged Urja to take other courses. Urja sat in classes for Economics and Public policy. She obtained a degree in International Development and Policy at Duke University, and a Masters in Design at Parsons.

Urja’s home environment was steeped in the arts, and she grew up appreciating art & design. An opportunity to intern with DKNY laid the foundation of interdependence and systems thinking. As study of Chikankari of Lucknow during her internship led her to understand the power of handicrafts to support local artisans and their families

Life cycle approach

The SF started off by supporting anganwadis in rural and urban environments, Urja delved into adaptive work in the community helping women, mothers and grandmothers, become aware about their own health. She sought expertise from SNEHA Mumbai and the Sunflower school, where her son was a preschooler. This informed approach helped build trust within the community.

All that Urja was experiencing in her personal life, she started to apply into the work of SF. She saw the opportunity to introduce martial arts in the community. Little did she know the far reaching effects of the sports program and its power to pave the way to build self-confidence and inclusion for girls.

This started a two way transformation, with Urja learning more through the experience of different programs with the community. Thus began the SF journey to support the community, by creating self-sustaining models for the community development, addressing different needs, and including everyone in the village.

Story of Successful Empowerment

SF met the member of the Madhvas cluster a few years ago. The women expressed their wish to do more, know more, be more. Slowly began a journey of this local self-help group, keeping up their “credit-worthiness”. They used their cooking skills to prepare foods at stalls and in local fairs. In time the women set up a small home-based tiffins business. They learned to manage orders, procurements and deliveries through WhatsApp and build the financial backend.

Gender inclusion happened when the women could see the value of bringing their husbands into the fold. A fierce advocate of women’s right to self determination, this mandal inspires and leads an entire cluster. The group received a grant of Rs. four lakhs to begin a full-fledged small business from the government finance schemes. SF played the role of catalyst by eliciting community needs, providing support via training and skill building, and becoming a bridge to access Government funds.

May be an image of 9 people, people standing and outdoors

A self help group receives Government funding

Building process to enable self-governance

Models to learn and participate

Every experience should be beautiful

– Urja Shah

The session

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