VOPs: The ‘eyes and ears’ of PHDMA 2.0

Bhubaneswar: The Poverty and Human Development Monitoring Agency (PHDMA), an autonomous organisation under Planning and Convergence Department, Government of Odisha, believes in a non-linear organisational structure which is focused on creating an ecosystem way of change making. As part of its burgeoning ecosystem, the Voice of PHDMA (VOP), which includes a large number of Panchayat level officers, functionaries and volunteers, have become its ‘ears and eyes’ in the monitoring process at the ground for the last one and half years.

As PHDMA 2.0 shifted its monitoring, evaluation and documentation process from mere data collection to stories that speak about the lived realities of people of Odisha, the agency extended its framework to the last mile connect by adopting the field functionaries from 6798 Panchayats of the state into its extended organisational structure.

These VOPs that comprise the Panchayat Extension Officers (PEO), Gram Rozgar Sevaks (GRS), Anganwadi Workers (AWW), Village Agriculture Workers (VAW), Revenue Inspectors (RI), Junior Engineers (JE) and several other government functionaries working at the grassroot level, are known as “PHDMA Ra Swara” or “Voice of PHDMA”. These officials and functionaries engage with communities and households on a daily basis and are on the forefront of delivering various welfare schemes. Since they have deep understandings of grassroot implementation of policies and programmes and challenges encountered at the ground, it’s from them PHDMA seeks to get its institutional strength.

“We have been working at the grassroot in implementing schemes. Becoming a VOP has given me a different perspective. I have now learnt how to tell the stories of people. I personally feel it’s a unique attempt by PHDMA,” said Sabyasachi Dansana, VOP from Sambalpur.

When they are part of a renewed, modern-in-its-approach and one-of-its-kind monitoring and evaluation agency, they have been trained to adapt to its standard and approach towards M&E. In the words of Roopa Roshan Sahoo, Member Secretary, PHDMA, “In its endeavour, PHDMA 2.0 attempts at using new age tools for understanding and presentation of reality that can assist, empower policy makers towards addressing issues that exist unique to Odisha.”

 The cadre of field functionaries have been imparted with appropriate training regarding their roles, responsibilities and the importance they yield for the system. They have been educated about various tools of M&E, the process of documentation and differentiating between Human Interest Stories and testimonials through numerous orientation programmes at the district and block level using training materials prepared by sectoral experts.

“We had undergone an online training around six months ago. We were trained about how to collect information and listen to people’s version and tell these stories. I have sent some stories from the field to PHDMA as part of its monitoring, evaluation and documentation practice,” described Namita Rani Ghosh, a VOP from Mayurbhanj.

I am a VOP, I tell stories” is the mantra that has been imbibed into them and it’s helped creating a network of functionaries who see a state of aspirations as they document stories of impact, stories of aspirational Odisha from the point of view of its people, various stakeholders.

Over the last one and half years, VOPs have sent several stories to PHDMA’s “Prarambha Lab” that’s meant for narratives and lived realities, to create a repository of more than 10,000 captures of beneficiary profiling, and understanding who are the cutting edge staff that bring in change and what forms of IEC work.

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