November 3, 2015

New Coady graduate fighting poverty in India

Ajaya Kumar Samal is leaving Antigonish with new skills to improve one of the largest non-profit agencies in India.
He leads a team of professionals at PRADAN, which helps thousands of rural families diversify and increase their incomes. The NGO’s reach is staggering; it supports 300,000 families that participate in more than 30,000 self-help groups across seven states. It works mainly with poor women in rural areas.

Ajaya Samal with fellow participant, Learning Organizations and Change certificate.

With scholarship support from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Coady Institute, Samal recently completed the Learning Organizations and Change certificate here in Antigonish.
“The course was insightful in several ways,” says Samal, who holds a masters degree in engineering. “The methodology created a ‘here and now’ experience to help us build a better learning community. Secondly, it is relatively easy to transfer the learning; components of the course can be implemented in our organizations.”
PRADAN collaborates extensively with government agencies, banks, research agencies and volunteer groups. All the more reason, says Samal, to raise the bar when it comes to organizational learning.

His organization has taken a unique approach to community development. It actively recruits qualified university graduates who take part in a year-long apprenticeship program. The results are impressive; more than 350 professionals are working in 5,700 remote villages.
“Development in rural areas can be as complex as high science,” he says. “Our collaboration with universities for research and fieldwork is very unique in India.”
As the first PRADAN employee to attend Coady Institute (his official job title is ‘Integrator’), he hopes colleagues can take advantage of scholarship opportunities to broaden their education.
“We are shifting our organization to play a larger role,” he says. “Microfinance is important but is not enough; we need to change our culture and methods to help move toward a more just and equal society in rural India.”

Ajaya Samal, front centre, with fellow participants, Coady International Institute.