Lessons from the Panchayat

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It’s funny how a raft of very ignorant ideas and questions can be generated by a desire to help.

Do they need water? Perhaps they could use a well! What about bicycles so they’re able to travel to work. Do they need to learn english or basic math?

The fact is, none of us have any real experience of setting up something like this, we don’t know what THIS should look like, we don’t really even know what to call it other than the WBC India Project.

So far we have agreed that we want to fund a project by putting aside 5% from the profits of our BFL business and our production partners have agreed to build a 5,000 sq ft ’home’ for our project alongside the factory.

The location has been agreed upon and the intention is committed to by all parties – all we need to know now is what we’re going to actually do. We’ve decided to send David Gould (founding director of Canby bags; from here on out referred to by his Indian adopted name – DG) to Kolkata to speak to the local panchayat and help us work out what we can do to help.

For those, who like us, haven’t heard of a panchayat, wikipedia comes in handy:

The Panchayat raj is a South Asian political system found mainly in the nations of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Trinidad and Tobago, and Nepal. It is the oldest system of local government in the Indian subcontinent. The word raj means “rule” and panchayat means “assembly” (ayat) of five (panch). Traditionally panchayats consisted of wise and respected elders chosen and accepted by the local community. It is the cornerstone of a local self-government organisation in India.

Here’s picture of a local Panchayat gathering in action. Wish all our local council meetings took this format, looks unhurried and relaxed.

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