Participatory Institute for Development Alternatives (PIDA)
( 1982 , Sri Lanka )

...for developing exemplary processes of self-reliant, participatory development among the poor in Asia.

Bringing out the creativity and the potential of the people is the means as well as the end of development.


PIDA is a non-governmental development organisation, which was established in 1980 for the purpose of initiating and promoting grassroots participatory development processes in Sri Lanka. PIDA’s approach to development grew out of pioneering work in the mid-70s by South Asian scholars who started a process of reflection on Asian poverty and the failure of past development efforts. They attempted to develop a conceptual framework for an alternative development in Asia.

Contact

PIDA
32 Gotami Lane
Colombo 8
SRI LANKA

Susil Sirivardana
PIDA
c/o 10 Bullers Lane
Colombo 7
SRI LANKA

Biography

PIDA is a non-governmental development organisation, which was established in 1980 for the purpose of initiating and promoting grassroots participatory development processes in Sri Lanka. PIDA’s approach to development grew out of pioneering work in the mid-70s by South Asian scholars who started a process of reflection on Asian poverty and the failure of past development efforts. They attempted to develop a conceptual framework for an alternative development in Asia.

To turn this theoretical work into practice, the Sri Lanka government and the United Nations Development Programme began a Change Agents Programme in 1978, which in turn led to PIDA’s foundation.

From its very inception, PIDA has been working together with SAPNA (South Asian Perspectives Network Association), a South Asian NGO with its headquarters in Sri Lanka. The two networks have been enriching and supporting each other.

PIDA’s vision of development perceives it as a process of holistic human improvement led and managed by the people concerned in their own communities. To start the process, PIDA initiators go to live in the villages and seek out the poor with whom they wish to work. They then engage with them in a process of heightening awareness of the political, economic and social realities of their condition and how it can b …

PIDA is a non-governmental development organisation, which was established in 1980 for the purpose of initiating and promoting grassroots participatory development processes in Sri Lanka. PIDA’s approach to development grew out of pioneering work in the mid-70s by South Asian scholars who started a process of reflection on Asian poverty and the failure of past development efforts. They attempted to develop a conceptual framework for an alternative development in Asia.

To turn this theoretical work into practice, the Sri Lanka government and the United Nations Development Programme began a Change Agents Programme in 1978, which in turn led to PIDA’s foundation.

From its very inception, PIDA has been working together with SAPNA (South Asian Perspectives Network Association), a South Asian NGO with its headquarters in Sri Lanka. The two networks have been enriching and supporting each other.

PIDA’s vision of development perceives it as a process of holistic human improvement led and managed by the people concerned in their own communities. To start the process, PIDA initiators go to live in the villages and seek out the poor with whom they wish to work. They then engage with them in a process of heightening awareness of the political, economic and social realities of their condition and how it can be bettered through a combination of mutual self-help and collective organisation. They then encourage such organisation for the achievement of specific objectives, such as improved access to credit, access to farm inputs, improvements in the marketing of produce and the formation of informal consumer cooperatives. This conscientisation dimension is at the core of the PIDA methodology of rigorous social mobilisation. In this way PIDA has repeatedly proved that the social and material position of both the rural and urban poor, who are nearly always marginalised by conventional development efforts, can be considerably improved largely through their own efforts, given the necessary stimulus and encouragement. PIDA is also involved in training trainers and networking with other grassroots groups in South Asia.

Over the past decades PIDA has expanded and multiplied its coverage from small village to district level, through a three-pronged approach:

  • expansion through groups organised by PIDA itself;
  • training of development workers of other community-based organisations and mid-size NGOs in order to widen their vision about development and also to build their capacity;
  • playing a consultancy role in state sector development efforts to make development more meaningful to the community and minimise any harmful effects resulting from such programmes.

A fourth South Asian tier has been established in cooperation with SAPNA. PIDA’s cases on the ground have been extensively used in SAPNA’s several book length publications, e.g. Pro-Poor Growth and Governance in South Asia, Decentralisation and Participatory Development, (SAGE, 2004).

 
 

FAQ about PIDA

asked in 2005
answered by Susil Sirivardana

1. How do you finance PIDA and who are your supporters?

1. From an Endowment Fund, which was started with help of the money from the RLA
2. From project work done through decentralised PIDA institutions.
3. By doing partnerships with the Government, when invited to do so
4. From collaboration with SAPNA (South Asian Perspective Network Association)

2. Did the Tsunami-catastrophe in 2004 bring more attention to the situation of the poor people of South Asia?

Attention and also active involvement. But here was a negative aspect to this involvement. Several external actors were acting insensitively to local community culture and national development norms. They were exercising a hegemony, which was unacceptable.

3. PIDA gives stimulus, encouragement and initial support to the poor. When do you step back and let them fly on their own?

At the stage when a community has:
1. thrown up its own Internal Animators to guide the community
2. when the conscientisation process has reached a stage of self-confidence to proceed on one’s own
3. when they have built up sufficient financial resources to be able to sustain themselves.

4. What is your most important achievement?

The fact that we pioneered a method of rigorous social mobilisation, which has been both sustained for over two decades and re-validated on the ground. As a result, we have been able to transfer this methodology, and build up similar centres in Kerala in India, Baluchistan in Pakistan, at SAPPROS in Nepal and also in BRAC in Bangladesh.

5. How has the government related to PIDA?

It entirely depends on the individual Minister in charge of Poverty Alleviation in a government. There have been two instances when Government has collaborated with PIDA – first, from 1990-93; second, from April 2005, when major reforms took place in the relevant ministry.

6. What effect has the RLA had on your work?

1. Major positive evaluation of our work and strategies
2. Powerful source of a legitimisation and inspiration
3. Increased our standing in the Sri Lankan community
4. The RLA funding enabled us to do two invaluable things:
a) start an Endowment Fund
b) buy land in Colombo and put up our own training centre

Publications

Pro-poor growth and governance in South Asia: decentralization and participatory development. Ponna Wignaraja, Susil Sirivardana (eds.), Sage Publications India, 2004.