Small is Beautiful Campaign
Women mazdoors at SPSS office

Women mazdoors at SPSS office


हर आदमी अपने आप  में एक एक्टिविस्ट है


Our new model of mobilization and development is captured by our belief that every person is an independent activist. In keeping with this, we have decided to focus on smaller and more decentralized units, moving from the Panchayat to villages to, now, the wards. Eventually, we hope to organically arrive at a scenario where every person can function independently.

What do we mean by ward-level mobilization?

  • On an average, we have about 5000 persons in each Panchayat.
  • Usually, at this level, people tend to free-ride – always hoping for someone else to take up the cudgels on their behalf. Even when such a leader or person is found, the population is too large for these leader-activists to handle.
  • By decentralizing to the ward level, we allow people to function in smaller teams, thereby reducing their tendency to depend on others. People tend to take ownership of their teams, since these groups constitute members who are often close, bound by family or community-solidarity.
  • So, the system is essentially self-financing – ward teams collect money from themselves and fund their activities.
  • Our ideology and model extends beyond mere schemes – these ward-level teams are not restricted to working only on state-funded schemes, but in solving any of the issues that arise within these wards. We believe – and indeed, have shown – that individuals can be motivated and trained to look out for themselves: the idea is to spread this mesksage and training across villages in the country.



Reports of Small is Beautiful in Action:


From Adhip Amin, intern 2015, SPSS

[Adhip Amin, a recent undergraduate from Christ College Bangalore, lived in Mahant Maniyari at the SPSS headquarters in July 2015. In this excerpt from his field notes, he describes the philosophy of SPSS and encountering the Small if Beautiful campaign before it was called that.]

Here lies the brilliance of SPSS: collective action not only for achieving a political and economic end, but also for self – improvement and for strengthening the individual – to enable each one to stand on her own feet, and be independent. Participation in SPSS in not restricted to only activism but also to teaching and learning. Sanjay believes in constantly talking and persuading people –  “bas mein har roz sirf bolta hun’’ [“I only spend all day talking”]. Time and again, one can hear Sanjay reiterate: ‘’mein sirf rasta dikhatha hun, mein unka kam nahi kartha hun, na karna chatha hun. Mera lakshya yeh hai ki log mere upar depend hi na kare.’’ [I only show the kpath; I don’t their work nor do I want to. My goal is that people must not depend on me”].This was not simply a political statement, when I got there, Sanjay was in the midst of reforming and decentralizing the SPSS to smaller and smaller units, a lot of his functions had been allocated to a number of veterans within the organization. His wish was to decentralize it to the level of the individual. This is now called the ‘Small is Beautiful Campaign’ –Har aadmi aapne aap mein ek karyakartha hai.Every person is an independent activist.


From Kunal Mangal, SPSS supporter:

[Kunal Mangal, a graduate student at Harvard Kennedy School, spent a few days at SPSS in July 2015. The following excerpt is a paraphrased version of his field notes from his time there]

During my stint there, Sanjay spoke of two practical reasons for the Small is Beautiful campaign: one, previously, the mazdoors sat around waiting for the Mukhiya, now they sit around waiting for a Sanjay or an SPSS, that is not right; two, it is not possible for one person to do everything.   


Quotes From a discussion between SPSS mazdoors on Small is Beautiful:  

“SPSS mein Neta Nahi rakhenge.” [We will not have any leaders within SPSS.]

“We can’t afford full-timers. Instead we are all full-timers.”

“If SPSS wants to help another 20 villagers, we may have to hire another 10 full-timers. This is just not feasible in the scheme of things.”

“Hamara haq ab hum Sab [khud] lenge” [We will ourselves get our rights]

“We initially started at the panchayat level, but we further decentralized to the village and now function at the ward-level.”