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The outsider’s factor in CLTS, an example from India

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Triggering session in GP Gvaria, Budni block Last year I spent some months in India doing the field research for my PhD. It was a great and enlightening experience at all levels! Part of the research took place in Budni, a block in the state of Madhya Pradesh. There the national Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) was being implemented by a motivated officer, who had decided to use the CLTS approach progressively all over the block. At the point of time I was there (4 months after implementation started), the results were impressive: some Gram Panchayats (GP) had quickly achieved ODF status and in many more GPs people had started taking actions in order to change the sanitary situation of their GP.

One of the most interesting moments of my research was a workshop with the Master Trainers (MTs) – those who had triggered the GPs and were supporting them in the follow up phase. They were elected or administrative leaders from the GPs in the area that had shown their commitment and abilities during and after the CLTS Training of Trainers.

While talking about their experiences, the MTs explained the challenges they faced for triggering in several GPs where the villagers did not gather to hear what they had arrived for or even reacted against their intention to address the issue of shit!

The MTs felt that most of the tools they learned in the training were not adapted to them… but rather to their trainers or generally to people that would be considered outsiders in the GPs.

An outsider has a powerful identity (eg he comes from Delhi or Bhopal, belongs to an NGO, reaches the GP in a nice car), so he can talk to the villagers quite openly about ‘shit’ and even challenge or provoke them (eg asking “you want to keep on eating each others’ shit?”). Instead, MTs were reaching the GPs by motorbike or by bus and they might have distant relatives there. Their identity is thus less powerful for triggering, as they cannot escape local power dynamics; their caste, religion or political affiliation can be public and affect the predisposition of the villagers towards them. Thus, as one MT said, “you can be quickly thrown out of the villages if you start directly talking about shit!”

Workshop with Master Trainers of Budni, in SalkanpurThe MTs were not paralysed by that, but were innovating, trying new triggering tools and ‘learning by walking’. But possibly, it would be interesting to address this non-outsider identity issue already at the training stage.
Has anyone witnessed similar effects to those described above elsewhere? Do you have ideas on how to address this at the training stage?

Andrés Hueso, Group of Studies in Development, Cooperation and Ethics, Department of Projects Engineering, Technical University of Valencia

Date: 9 May 2012


Submitted by Vinay Tiwari (not verified) on
Triggering under CLTS need to have very much structured process which is always required a group effort. It doesn't matter that a person is coming from outside with a car or a person from a team coming by a motorbike. As far as its been observed in last 7 years of experience in triggering, a person's face should be new for the particular community and can be much more effective if the triggering been done in local dialect rather than by an outsider in standardized language. However, a person is going to trigger should have very good presence of mind and good understanding of community dynamics within a very short span of time. Follow up activity is very much important and it needs to be customized according to the dynamics of the community. Follow up strategy can be in different way within a particular region like a Budhani looking at caste, religion, culture etc


Submitted by Vinod Mishra (not verified) on
I want to say that behavior of communities largely depend on way of facilitation. It could be offending or supporting.It does not matter whether facilitator is outsider or local. Outsider get more importance then local person in Indian communities but local person knows local language,cast and social dynamics,culture & traditions so he could be more effective in doing triggering and follow-up.


Submitted by Sanjay Singh (not verified) on

I dont consider this as a new or different phemomena.It might take place in any part of the world. People are curious to see and hear if some one from outside of their community comes.People are keen and anxious to hear him and its very natural.It reflects in the rural areas more because they are not as polished (pretence) as urban, but it might get diluted very soon if that person is not trained to communicate with that particular community or if he spends more time further with that community without prior strategy.I have come across many such instances that rural people stop paying attention if that outsider starts visiting any place frequently. I consider that CLTS is a process which can be customised according to the need, culture and behaviour of the community which is best known to the trained people in and around that area.I have observed many such MTs who could manage to innovate and implement their ideas without compromising with the core concept of the CLTS though it is difficult but there can not be respite since behaviour change is not a simple 1+1 but a very – very complex process.