Case Study

Taking an Ecosystems Approach: Samarthan’s Work on Rural Poverty in India

September 2016 | by Brendan Halloran, IBP (adapted from a longer study by Padmaja Nair)

Despite years of strong economic growth in India, rural poverty still affects tens of millions of households. In 2005, the government created the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to address rural poverty. The scheme, which commits the government to providing adult members of rural households with 100 days of paid work, should provide a revolutionary safety net for rural households. Yet corruption, insufficient administrative capacity, a lack of awareness among many rural inhabitants, and manipulation by influential political and economic actors have undermined it.

Samarthan, an organization dedicated to pursuing more inclusive development in the state of Madhya Pradesh, has worked to realize the scheme’s potentially transformative promise. It has pursued this aim through an evolving understanding of the challenges and opportunities inherent in the complex system of actors, processes, and tools. This case study summarizes Samarthan’s approach, the role of IBP in supporting the organization, and describes the impacts and lessons learned.

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Authors

Brendan Halloran

Manager, SALT,

Brendan Halloran is International Budget Partnership’s Head of Strategy and Learning. In this role, Brendan facilitates strategy and learning processes at IBP – both the internal production of learning insights and drawing on evidence and ideas from broader research and practice in the governance space. He’s particularly interested in complex change dynamics, and how to support organizations to both navigate and strengthen their accountability ecosystems.

Prior to joining IBP in 2016, Brendan lead the learning work of the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, where he played a role in shaping and interpreting evidence about what works, as well as supporting collective learning spaces, such as the TALEARN network. Before that, Brendan spent five years living, researching and working in Guatemala, most recently as a Governance Advisor for USAID.  Brendan has a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech, and has published work in a variety of journals, think pieces, and blogs, including his own — Politics, Governance, and Development.

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