It is a year since the first Ground Level Panel (on Post 2015 development agenda) was pioneered by Praxis in India. A year on, the inputs from the community are still orbiting the various UN processes and there is not much clarity on how much or how deeply those voices will be embedded in the final product brought out by the UN. But what we do know for sure, is that the Ground Level Panel as a strategy and methodology drew immense appeal and acceptance almost immediately – amongst the communities and those wishing to engage seriously on development issues – be it students, development workers, politicians, journalists, activists or even representatives of missions of various countries involved with drafting the post-2015 sustainable development goals.
It was a step closer to removing the intermediary barrier of NGO/ Journalist/ Politician who hitherto spoke on behalf of the poor. Ever since the advent of ‘rapid rural appraisal’ and subsequently ‘participatory rural appraisal’ about 2 ½ decades ago, opportunities for people experiencing poverty and marginalisation to input into global policymaking spaces have been on the increase. However, much of it continued to remain extractive and used by development workers, campaigners and advocates and seldom by the communities themselves. The GLP process broke that barrier and brought communities face to face with the policy maker, journalist and general public with insightful recommendations and development goals of significantly higher quality than those otherwise produced by experts. I recall last year’s GL Panellists’ unequivocal voice; “इनाम नहीं, नाम – not doles, but identity and rights”.
Today, we have many more ‘Direct Talk’ methodologies, in addition to GLPs, to aid us. Digital Story Telling (DST), Participatory Video (PV), etc., are but a few of those. As development workers, we will have no more excuses to keep the community voices from directly engaging. How we make that graph grow steeply up, is in our hands.