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Published on: Feb. 7, 2024, 1:16 p.m.
Helping communities help themselves
  • Bala Vikasa’s CWPP projects are well recognised

By Arbind Gupta. Assistant Editor, Business India

Over the past 33 years, Bala Vikasa has grown into one of the leading NGOs in India, pioneering several innovative and successful community-driven sustainable development programmes in over 7,000+ villages across seven Indian states – including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. 

Over the years, the NGO, whose numerous high-impact programmes have inspired Central and state governments to launch several initiatives, like Telangana’s Mission Kakatiya and Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna, has come up with several development projects in fields like women empowerment, water, education, agriculture, environment and model villages, impacting over 8 million lives.

Bala Vikasa’s motto and guiding principle – ‘Helping Communities Help Themselves,’ and ‘Building Communities Before Building Projects’ – coupled with its unique 360° community-driven development approach, has placed communities, especially women, at the heart of all development activities. 

Notably, all these development programmes are aimed at empowering rural communities to steer their development by participating, designing, implementing and managing innovative and highly-sustainable development projects. Besides integrated community development, Bala Vikasa has also focussed on areas like capacity building, social entrepreneurship and business responsibility. 

Hyderabad-based Bala Vikasa has come a long way since it came into being in 1991 in Warrangal, as a sister NGO of the Canada-based NGO Sopar (Societe de Partage, which implements development programmes in India in the field of education, water and shelter through Indian partners). Sopar was founded in 1997 by India-born Bala T. Singareddy and her French-Canadian husband Andre Gingras, with a vision to ’Help Communities Help Themselves in creating an equitable and just societies in India.

Building lasting relationships

Bala Vikasa has built lasting relationships not only with thousands of communities but also over 30 CSR partners and 250 non-profit organisations over the years. It has been working extensively with government agencies, CSOs and several businesses, including reputed multi-national corporations, in conceptualising, designing and implementing high-impact CSR initiatives, since the CSR Act came into force in India in 2014. These partners include names like Franklin Templeton, Amazon, Danfoss, Grundfos, Pernod Ricard, Verizon, NTPC, SBI Foundation, Mahindra, Federal Bank, Aurobindo, HAL and CGI. 

The ISO-certified NGO, which is a winner of the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs Award for the best models for CSR, has donors in UNICEF; Sopar Canada & the US; US Consulates, Hyderabad & Mumbai; Frank Water Projects, UK; Novara Centre Onlus, Italy; Manos Unidas, Spain; and School for Children, Italy.

“At Franklin Templeton, we believe in helping people to achieve the things that are most important in their life,” says Jennifer M. Johnson, president-CEO, Franklin Templeton Investments. “And there is probably nothing more important than having clean water. So, being a part of this programme and partnering with an NGO (Bala Vikasa), knowing that we have helped 150 villages and over 300,000 people get clean water is something that is so core to the values of Franklin Templeton. We are honoured to be part of this programme”.

“Managed by a team of competent development practitioners and supported by an extensive community network, Bala Vikasa has grown to be a formidable community development organisation over the years,” affirms Shoury Reddy, executive director, Bala Vikasa. “The 360-degree community-driven development approach of Bala Vikasa has placed communities at the heart of all development activities. We help them build upon their assets, build their capacities and ensure their active participation in all stages of development”.

  • Reddy: driving community-driven developments

    Reddy: driving community-driven developments

Forging partnership

Reddy holds a masters’ degree in social work and also a diploma in community development from St FX University, Canada. He has been working with Bala Vikasa since inception in 1991 and has played a key role in making the NGO a globally influencing organisation. Over the past three decades of working passionately at Bala Vikasa, he has innovated some of the best community development project models in the country, which have inspired not just the NGOs and social workers but also governments at both state and national level. Many of the projects such as tank de-siltation, water purification, model villages and Sujal ATWs, spearheaded by him, have now become models for replication for the governments. 

He has been instrumental in forging several high value CSR partnerships for Bala Vikasa and has received widespread appreciation for his efforts in turning CSR into a powerful vehicle for social change. Under his leadership, some of Bala Vikasa’s development models have been recognised as the best models for CSR by IICA.

“Ideas like community participation and contribution, grassroots capacity-building (building communities before building projects approach), community ownership, and collective responsibility, which are accorded the highest regard and integrated compulsorily into the project cycle, have ensured the widespread success of all our interventions,” adds Reddy. 

One of Bala Vikasa’s most successful CSR projects is the establishment of Sustainable Community Water Purification Plants (CWPPs) in villages affected by fluoride contamination in five states. Under its water infrastructure programme, the NGO has installed over 1,500 water purification plants at various locations and served over 3 million people, especially from rural poor communities. They access safe drinking water every day from these plants at Rs3-5 per 20 litres. 

These CWPPs, owned, operated and managed by communities, serve as an exceptional model for sustainable development that is highly effective and economically viable. CWPPs reduce incidence of fluorosis and curb the occurrence of water-borne communicable diseases.

Besides, Bala Vikasa’s safe water programme has cumulatively installed 6,700 bore-wells benefitting over 1.1 million people in states of AP, Telangana and Maharashtra. The NGO has also installed 28 Sujal Kiosks in two states. An indigenous innovation and spin-off from CWPPs, these kiosks are the first-of-its-kind water-dispensing machines, supplying one litre of chilled purified water at the drop of Rs2 coin to urban communities. Bala Vikasa’s water purification initiative is recognised by the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

Moreover, Bala Vikasa, under its tank desilting programme, has restored minor irrigation tanks (810 tanks desilted) and thus boosts agriculture productivity. It has been involved in the construction of over 30 check dams; 2,800 farm ponds and over 32,000 soak pits. Besides, it has also carried out restoration of over 20 urban water bodies and recharge of over 500 bore-wells.

  • Bala Vikasa has restored several irrigation tanks

It also promotes organic farming (farmers: 1,575; acres: 1,728 & villages: 212) and empower rural women intellectually, socially and financially (over 237,000 rural women empowered and 23,705 women group formed). The NGO has also been engaged in reconditioning 553 government schools. It is also spear-heading a mass movement advocating social justice for widows (15,458 widows empowered).

Bala Vikasa helps villages turn into model units (over 130 villages). It helps them form village development committees on health, and hygiene, water and sanitation, environment, agriculture, education, social justice and youth development and provides intense training to enable them to plan and implement development programmes towards building model villages. 

Bala Vikasa is amplifying social change by strengthening the global development practice with capacity building programs for development professionals. At the Bala Vikasa People Development Training Centre (PDTC) in Warangal, it is sharing its extensive knowledge and best practice, and over the past two decades, has trained over 21,000 practitioners from 84 countries in a variety of sector-specific subjects and emerging trends in the development practice. 

At the Bala Vikasa Centre for Social and Responsible Business in Hyderabad, distinguished as a Centre of Excellence promoting social entrepreneurship and responsible business, it has incubated over 30 innovative social start-ups, mentored 125 rural women entrepreneurs, inspired 6,000+ professionals, formed 30+ collaborations to foster and create sustainable development models over the past few years.

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