The summer of 2020 was a strange time, not just in India but across the world. COVID 19 had just changed the face of the world and how we did things. Lives were lost and economies fell.

The MOVE intervention was continuing in SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association), India’s largest organized movement driven towards improving women’s economic outcomes. MOVE is a 5 year project aimed at empowering communities with sustainable social enterprises. MOVE does this through discovery and implementation of interventions that help women-owned collective enterprises achieve the twin goals of financially sustainable growth and improvements of women’s economic well-being and agency. It’s core elements include an enterprise support system, a learning hub and advocacy function.

IMAGO’s support to the MOVE project has three major phases. The first is a needs assessment designed to identify the core challenges faced by the enterprise. The second is designing interventions that work through an agile methodology with the support of mentorship. The third and final part, is using the learnings from the design phase to design protocols that can be scaled to other enterprises.

Being a part of this co-creation process was quite eye opening, and I will share a couple of lessons I learned firsthand.

Lessons on Development

Results take time. IMAGO had been engaging with SEWA for multiple years before they started working on their first project together. It takes time to build this level of trust and cohesiveness with organizations. This was further demonstrated by the long lead time between setting up a project and results. Designing a program, working with the team to set it up, implementation, and scaling take years. I had a very different perspective of how things worked bottom up, especially coming from a management consulting background, where some projects were very short. 

Be bold. IMAGO is adapting agile for grassroots organizations. They are developing an enterprise support system, an accelerator like approach where social enterprises work using agile methods to solve problems, leveraging support such as mentoring. IMAGO is pioneering the work in this field for grassroots organizations and taking bold moves to learn by doing and then share best practice with the rest of the team.

Co-creation. IMAGO and SEWA have such a complementary relationship, that their interactions almost seem seamless. IMAGO was a gentle guide and SEWA took initiative and was avid at implementing. IMAGO brought in structure and a framework and SEWA had great ideas, and the enthusiasm to make things happen. The co-creation process led to great work, but more importantly the client was well equipped to provide the best solutions.

Written by Isabella Maina, Fellow 2020.

MPA-ID Candidate, Harvard Kennedy School