Training the local team

By Dinesh Lodha, IFMR Finance Foundation

Having adopted a design-thinking approach and structured a model that we had outlined in the previous post, we embarked on to executing it in the Ranganatha Nagara area of Srirangapatna.

One of the crucial decisions that we had to take was in identifying and training a team that, in consultation with us, would carry out the model on the ground. The choice of the team and how they are trained and whether they are able to understand the process well were, in hindsight, very important considerations that subsequent posts will elucidate.


Earlier as part of our data generation process for the overall city we had engaged a group of local students. This earlier interaction resulted in the “State of Srirangapatna” report which was a result of a comprehensive data-generation process, that provided detailed spatial maps of Srirangapatna’s infrastructure both at the city level, and more granularly, at the ward level. Having worked with the same team earlier, we had developed a sense of familiarity with them and this made us choose a sub-set of the same group for the execution of the model this time.

As part of Design Thinking’s initial stage where we endeavoured to deeply empathise with the community, we had deployed the local team to conduct a household survey of the area to understand details like demographics, occupation, income, infrastructure quality and access – housing, sanitation, garbage, water supply, daily routines and activity mapping. We had earlier covered this initial survey process and the training provided for the survey stage here and the results of the survey here.

Unlike the initial survey stage where the team had to largely stick to a set of pre-defined questions on their Android tablets, the build-up stage of the model required them to build a sense of familiarity with the whole process and mandated that they have informed interactions with the residents. This step was critical since it would pave the way for rich, meaningful discussions that would enable people to look beyond their everyday chores and visualise their community’s future.

One of the critical barriers that we had as part of our interaction with the local team was language. We weren’t familiar with Kannada and being local students their grasp of English wasn’t perfect. Hence we had to be careful in our communications with them and had to ensure that nothing was lost in translation. Keeping this in mind we had prepared training material copies that we handed out to each of them and had allotted a couple of days to go through the training material in detail and familiarize them with the objectives and desired outcomes of the whole process.

Our team

As a pre-cursor to training on the Model, we had dwelled on the initial results from the survey that we had conducted earlier. This was to familiarize them with the problems and the current state of infrastructure of the area. We felt that this information was necessary in enabling the team to have meaningful conversations with the residents

The training material detailed each step of the process and was reinforced with a set of expectations from the team at each stage. The training revolved around preparing the team for largely two stages of the Model – Build-up & Workshops.

Build-Up & Workshop Training

The Build-up Process

The build-up, stages of which we will detail further in the next post, was a crucial step in empathising with the community, as it gave a chance to visit the households at their doorstep and understand their aspirations better especially in the context of what the residents would like to change, preserve and create in their community going forward.

We had the local team take turns in delivering the presentation – which we planned to give to each household with the objective of informing them about the whole process and how it could benefit them. Along with this, we conducted mock workshop sessions with the team so as to acquaint them with the mechanics of conducting an effective workshop and to reinforce how equally important the behavioural aspects in managing and interacting with people are.

In a group training exercise

While the focus was on preparing the team to execute the model well and generate meaningful discussions among the residents, we realised, that being students they were facing a challenge in understanding some of the concepts and desired outcomes that we were expecting. In this regard we had to undertake a few sessions that were not related to the Model. Like for instance we had two team members interview each other about their families and future dreams and aspirations. Then we had each of them present to a larger group about what the other person had said. Sessions like these, though unconnected, did help in breaking the monotony and allowed the group to refocus on the task at hand.

Interviewing each other about their goals

The training sessions had its fair share of curious onlookers from the nearby areas

In the next post we detail the build-up process and outline our experiences from it.