Since the inception of Aarohana EcoSocial Developments in 2013 and now reCharkha - the EcoSocial Tribe in 2020, we have grown multifold ..we are 24 of us now (at the time of writing this blog)!
The first few years went in developing our unique concept of ECOSOCIAL development.. Identifying our location, setting up the workshop, training the tribals into becoming good artisans, developing designs, improving product quality, building market, gathering loads of outside support, streamlining financials and so on.. However, now that we are getting a little settled on those points, questions of operational efficiency started making rounds of our admin team.. So, since the past few months, we have started tracking production efficiency, a bit more seriously.. We realized that because we are personally present in the city workshop, things get tracked easily in Pune and operational efficiency is easier to manage.
But the story at our tribal workshop was different, the statistics were inconsistent.. sometimes the production was great, sometimes it slacked. Quality of work was always good, but the numbers were inconsistent. So I decided to study, why is it so? I watched the team very closely and tried to study various metrics.. in the village, we have a team of 12 members right now, all young tribals, 90% women/girls. Many ideas of improving efficiency were bounced back and forth within the admin team, such as the common 'Carrot and stick approach' i.e rewarding them for meeting the production goal, and penalizing for not meeting the target.. Giving training on efficiency improvements, motivation (or scolding) sessions to the team, so on and so forth.. They all worked, but not on the long run. And the best part was, even after multiple sessions of me blasting them for inefficiency, there was very little attrition in the team. Those who joined stuck around.. it was such a puzzle for me! Such a mystery!
Last month, when I went on my routine visit, I took a very different approach for a change, I just sat behind quietly watching them work, without giving my inputs at all.. and I realized something very very important:
I saw that they came on time, did their job properly, left for their lunch break, came back and continued their work and left in the evening.. They were chatting, laughing, teasing each other, working very playfully ... there was chaos in the way they worked, a little bit of indiscipline as well... yes, it slowed down the efficiency a little bit.. but hey, when I think of the best part, one important aspect was missing...STRESS.. they weren't stressed at all.. It was as if, they had come there to play, and by-the-way, working and earning an income... The financial motivation worked very little on them. For them, their basic pace of life is of utmost importance to them.. their relationships are their highest priority.. They don't mind bunking a day or two of work, if their parents are sick, or their family needs help on the farm if they need to go get some firewood from forest.. all that is a high priority. And work is fun, where they meet their friends and get to gossip about others in the village.. what a fun way to work?
And I started thinking, what are we doing under our vision of LIVELIHOOD generation.. are we creating another stressed-out workforce in the village, as we all have in the cities? Or are we truly enhancing their lives, without changing their foundation... are we training them to live a more meaningful life, or are we going to them to learn how to live life stress-free?
It has now become extremely important for me to find the answers for the following questions.. and more!!!
What is efficiency? What is the time? What is independence? What is life?
The SEARCH begins!