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Welcome to Indian Social Institute, Bangalore

Dear Friends,
Indian Social Institute, Bangalore (ISI-B) has concluded its Golden Jubilee Year in December, 2013, celebration of a journey that we began in 1963 with the mission of ‘accompanying the marginalized’ as an Extension centre of Indian Social Institute, New Delhi (ISI-D).

The Beginnings: Extension Services
Already in 1961, Fr. Jim Berna S J and Mr. Ryan had started the work of the Extension Service of ISI-Delhi with a view to support the Diocesan Developmental activities which had just taken off in a big way in most of the dioceses. Lack of trained personnel in the development sector persuaded them to initiate a Training Centre as well.

Training Programmes and evolution of approaches
It was in 1963, with the arrival of Fr. Henry Volken S J, that the training centre took off in its full swing. Till the Extension Service was shifted to Delhi in 1966, the training activities were under the Extension wing. With the separation of the Training Unit, there was a fresh vigour in the unit especially in responding to the massive changes in developmental thinking. Initial focus of the Training Centre was ‘on community building among the poor, skill –courses on simple agriculture, kitchen gardens, poultry-keeping, nutrition and accountancy’. Community Development approach of the Govt. of India added fervor to the efforts of ISI-B. Constant study of the changing environment and reflection on the changes made the team alert to creative ways of training activists. Thus in 1970s, the Freirean philosophy and methodology dominated the trainings of ISI-B.

Structural analysis – the Focus
Soon after Emergency in 1975 and in the context of the Asian Seminar on ‘Structure Analysis’ organized by Houtart and others there was a radical shift in understanding of development work. ‘The economic crisis and the political developments had brought home the fact that the massive poverty of the Indian people had deep roots in the ‘politics’ of the country, and that the solution, had to be of a political nature’.

Fr. Stan Lourdusamy S J took charge of the Institute, as Fr. Volken moved out of the Institute, and there began an intense period of training social activists for political intervention through courses ranging from three months to shorter periods. The participants were activists with grass root contact and deeply conscious of the political dimension of poverty and the need for a structural analysis.

Meanwhile the Documentation Centre of Indian Social Institute also had started functioning from Bangalore giving a massive intellectual input to the activists all over India.

In 1993, ISI-B became independent as a separate registered NGO. ‘Since the nineties, ISI-B geared its activities/programmes based on three related objectives: i. to align with the marginalized people for empowering them ii. to network with sectoral, secular and democratic movements and ii. to collaborate with macro social forces.’

Critique of the emerging social reality
The vision of ‘empowering the powerless towards sustainable development in the context of the market-ushered economic order premised on privatization, liberalization and globalization adversely impacting with dire consequences for the working classes, the poor and weaker section, causing destruction to the eco-systems’ became the dominant view of ISI-B in the 1990s. The emergence of ultra-right wing fundamentalist forces with a communal agenda, operating covertly and overtly, co-opting the marginalized sections poses a threat to the secular and inclusive social fabric of the nation. ISI-B tried to develop critical awareness of these realities in themselves and their trainees thus enabling them to strengthen the Constitutional goals of Socialism, Secularism and Democracy.

In 2000, the Institute initiated a Human Rights Unit focusing on campaign and advocacy at national and international levels. In 2001 the OUTREACH UNITS were initiated to strengthen people’s organizations and movements of marginalized groups. Training programmes and capacity building in vernacular organized in collaboration with local organizations and networks became the core activity. The Women’s Unit came into being with a desire to integrate the gender sensitivity into the social action we were involved in. The Research Unit was initiated with a view to generate knowledge which would help in advocacy efforts.

Re-visioning in 2011 and 2013
The ISI-B periodically meets to re-visit their vision and mission and re-articulate its strategies. In its latest meeting the unique characteristics of the Institute were identified as the following
1. A unique set of training programmes
2. An Institute of Values
3. Effective Extension Work
4. Affordable accommodation facilities for the NGO sector

Golden Jubilee Celebrations and follow up
A yearlong Golden Jubilee celebrations brought together our former team members, collaborators and well wishers for a National Seminar and Inaugural and Valedictory functions along with other programmes. The nostalgia and the challenge generated in the celebrations make us re-commit ourselves to our dream of a ‘Just, Humane, Democratic and Secular Society’.

Our plan of action ahead
1. We would like to contribute in strengthening the plural character of society by training and advocacy.
2. We need to be more critical of the New Economic Policy and how it impacts the poor
3. Contribute to the strengthening of the Dalit Movement so that it becomes dynamic
4. Join on issue of public interest with other people of good will