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Participatory Lunch Unfolded

Col. V.P. Gupta, Director (Operations) writes about how the Participatory Lunch in PRIA represents the power of participation.

Sometime back we carried out a brief survey as to which of PRIA’s internal events was the most popular among alumni and current staff, a total strength of about 100 odd. Almost all hands were raised for ‘Participatory Lunch’. Those who did not raise their hands were not in disagreement, but were perhaps feeling a bit lazy. I have enjoyed each Participatory Lunch I have attended, but I never imagined it to be so popular.

We held another Participatory Lunch on 6 April as part of the review and planning meeting held during that week. As usual, the menu was varied, the food was great and the entertainment team put up a well appreciated skit on the theme of Gender Bender. Why is this event so popular? I thought. What makes it such a success each time?

From the decision to hold Participatory Lunch to its execution, everyone is fully involved, making the event a true reflection of PRIA’s participatory methodology and approach. Some other key observations are:
• Joint decision making process.
• A very wide variety and choice of popular dishes and menu decided by participants.
• Joint planning and preparations involving various teams who hold several informal discussions and distribute responsibilities.
• All voices are heard in planning, and the execution reflects everyone’s involvement, cooperation and team spirit. People learn from each other, new talents are acquired and all work is done in a time-bound manner.
• The entire event is planned and conducted jointly. There are no specific instructions, controls or restrictions from the institution, yet everything happens smoothly. Mistakes and problems get sorted out automatically; all disputes over utensils, gas stoves, etc, get resolved without any complaints or anybody’s intervention.
• Everyone enjoys the lunch with lots of fun, frolic, chatter and conversation.
• Everyone serves the other willingly, offering all help.
• The kitchen and housekeeping staff mixes freely, enjoying the event and helping where needed.

Actually the list seems endless. There is tremendous mutual respect, equity and willing cooperation, healthy competition, even disagreements. But, at the end, everyone seems happy and satisfied and starts looking forward to the next Participatory Lunch.

PRIA’s Participatory Lunch reminds me of the statement ‘Democracy for the People, by the People’. A participatory approach and ‘power to the people’ has always proved successful when adopted in any development endeavour anywhere in the world. Therefore, I wonder, why is it not adopted more often and in more endeavours by politicians, corporates and others who matter for betterment of society as a whole?

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