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Stakeholder Engagement for a Sustainable Initiative: A Case of a Project by ACF Focusing on Women Veterinary Care Providers in Darlaghat, Himachal Pradesh, India

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Document pages: 12 pages

Abstract: The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were ratified in September 2015. They intend to set the development agenda for the next 15 years by deliberating the process of integrating partnerships, thereby achieving goals and ensuring sustainability. It also seeks to magnify the scale to reach its maximum. Partnerships highlight the importance of stakeholder engagement in the process of development planning, implementation and performance review. The Account Ability 1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard defines stakeholders as ‘those groups which affect and or could be affected by an organisation’s activities, products or services and associated performance. This does not include all those who may have knowledge of or views about the organisation. Organisations will have many stakeholders, each with distinct types and levels of involvement, and often with diverse and sometimes conflicting interests and concerns.’ Stakeholder Engagement (SE) is defined as ‘the process used by an organisation to engage relevant stakeholders for a purpose to achieve accepted outcomes.’ (Accountability 2008) Stakeholder Engagement is a critical component in the context of social development projects designed to benefit large section of communities. Sustainability is the key concept in social development and stakeholder engagement plays a vital role in contributing towards sustainability. The available evidence in the literature review indicates positive resultant outcomes in the process of stakeholder engagement. Further, for a project to remain relevant and survive in a challenging environment, it requires sustained interaction with key stakeholders of the project. The process is multifaceted, especially when there are diverse stakeholders involved in the project; and the participation of direct stakeholders play a critical role in ensuring sustainability of the intervention. Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF), an NGO and the CSR arm of Ambuja Cements Ltd. (ACL), is engaged in facilitating holistic development of ACL’s neighbouring communities. With its mission, ‘Energise, involve and enable communities to realise their potential’, ACF has been promoting integrated rural development through its programmatic interventions. ACF started working in Darlaghat, Solan district of Himachal Pradesh, India, in 2005-06. It is a hilly terrain, wherein villages are spread across a wide area. There is a lack of access to transport facilities, information and better opportunities for development. Animal husbandry, though an integral part of the culture, was never considered as a livelihood source. The community as well as the government veterinary department faced serious issues related to service provision. ACF and the local government veterinary department saw an opportunity to strengthen the primary health care access through a planned intervention. The collaborative project attempted to train local women to facilitate the reach of services provided by the government veterinary department. This paper is based on an exploratory qualitative study focusing on stimulating partnership model developed by ACF -- an NGO and the government veterinary department at Darlaghat in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh, India. The study focused on the participation process of Pashu Swasthya Sevikas (PSS) -- the women trained as veterinary service providers at the community level under the partnership model and the resultant outcomes of participation of stakeholders. It uses stakeholder engagement model to review participation of key stakeholders. The paper draws on the data collected through participant observation, in-depth unstructured interviews and group discussion with varied stakeholders. The analysis captured in the paper highlights target communities’ improved access to animal care services as well as change in the animal rearing practices where women veterinary care providers are today connected. The data shows several evidences about project objective being achieved and further crusade towards unanticipated socio-cultural change. The paper, however, particularly focuses on key stakeholders and their participation in the process of project implementation. Interestingly, the process of active engagement of key stakeholders further strengthens the project by broadening its scope. The paper also cites an interesting dimension through incidences of participation of the stakeholders and its extent, resulting in stimulating responsiveness from other stakeholders. The resultant change is multi-faceted. The role of women veterinary care providers broadens to encompass preventive and promotive health care for animal which was unforeseen at the inception of the project. The resulting outcome of effective engagement is witnessed in the area of personal development of participating local women, augmenting economic development, evolving livelihood preference and importantly, in the creation of social capital. The intense engagement of stakeholders led to ownership and adaptability with the changing scope of the project ensuring sustainability of the same. Based on the data available in this study, the paper hence argues the relationship of the key stakeholder engagement and the project sustainability.

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