Sarathi: Connecting local needs with local government

Sarathi: Connecting local needs with local government

Sarathi Development Organization is a recipient of our 2015 Feedback Fund. This is a summary of how they close the feedback loop between local people and local governments.

This organization gathers information about what local people need and facilitates its flow from village level to the government in Uttar Pradesh, India. Sarathi begins by mapping out shared community goals over 5 days.


Define shared goals

It begins when people describe what they want to see happen (what NGOs call outcomes). What things that would make the biggest difference in their lives?

In parallel, Sarathi talks to local governments and finds out what these bureaucrats are personally responsible for doing.

These community needs and feedback are brought to the attention of local government offices and merged with their own itemized lists of internal goals. Slowly, Sarathi figures out how to align these two sets of goals. This means that government workers can see the value of feedback, and local people are “heard” because they can see how their needs are part of the government’s plan. This step is a human version of the “map-reduce” algorithm – popular in big data.

Recruit and train local village volunteers

In the next stage, Sarathi recruits 4 to 6 volunteers per village or slum block and trains them on how to collect feedback. They are then assigned 25 households to visit each cycle. The open-ended feedback process involves families (usually women) drawing a map of the village and showing what services are working or not working for them.


Community maps are a technique many organizations are using to summarize local needs.

Then the volunteer summarizes each piece of feedback and writes it on a slip of colored paper. The colors represent which department needs to follow-up on this issue. The feedback is translated into the bureaucracy language – it is already encoded into the checkbox format that defines already-agreed-to goals.

Track and resolve issues

In the third stage, that volunteer brings the slip to the appropriate office and follows it through many layers of Indian bureaucracy until it is resolved.

In 2015 Sarathi had already replicated this improvement process in over 1000 communities, both rural villages and urban slums. They are using their Feedback Fund to incorporate a simple one-question survey into the process. Specifically, asking people, on a scale from 0 to 10, how satisfied are you with how this issue was resolved? Then they can look across all departments and issues and have a bit more color on how resolved things are.

More about this to come, as Sarathi finds out whether they can incorporate feedback in some way that lives beyond the paper slips.

This is an example of a GlobalGiving organization that Listens, Acts, and Learns. A longer write up appeared previously.


Marc Maxmeister is part of GlobalGiving's impact team.

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