Reflections on innovation, assessment and social change processes: A SPARC case study, India

This paper, written by Sheela Patel, provides a case study of the development of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) in India.

The paper is divided into three sections: The first section describes the evolution of SPARC's approach and how learning and assessment are embedded within the development process. The next section describes the methodology and partnerships that underpin the change process. Section 3 describes in some detail illustrates the non-linear, dynamic, unpredictable, long-term nature of change that challenges conventional assessment approaches.


"Building on local knowledge and priorities. We used women’s own experiences of surviving in the city as a starting point for dialogue. We shared the stories of our own choices and how we had come to what we were doing now. Women shared their lives on the pavements and their daily survival challenges. The trust emerging from the exchange formed a firm basis for our relationship and for the women, who began to see themselves as a collective. Their shared strategies began to expand each woman’s repertoire of action in the face of crisis and established the specific issues they wanted to take on to test the power of their collective action.

In those early days, women were very specific about what they wanted: to get ration cards, to deal with the police without fear, to avoid the demolition of their houses by the municipality, to be able to go to the hospital and be treated as human beings, to register their children in schools which was only possible with the birth certificates that they did not have. In each instance, we explored together what they did presently, what they believed the solution might be, what procedure state policy prescribed; then we went collectively to demonstrate that this procedure was applicable to them. Once the first group achieved some goal, they supported and assisted the next group to do the same. Our challenge was not to create the expectation that we would give them anything and not to allow our past expertise to determine the focus of our dialogue." (Patel, 2007)


Patel, S. (2007). Reflections on innovation, assessment and social change processes: a SPARC case study, India, SPARC. Retrieved from:

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