In February 2020, 11 people from the U.K. set off to India to study what we call Self-Reliant Groups, an idea born in India. There they are variously called Self-help Affinity Groups -producing an unfortunate acronym- or Self-Help Groups, which in the U.K. suggests recovery from alcoholism.
There have been other study tours like this. Noel Matthias, an Indian by birth, brought a group of women to learn from his home country nearly a decade ago. The result was WEvolution, an organisation to promote the movement in the U.K. Roughly 100 Self-Reliant Groups have emerged since.
In India the number of groups cannot reliably be determined, but the count is in millions not hundreds. The purpose of the 2020 visit was to learn about scale.
Our number comprised four women in Self-Reliant Groups in Scotland, two staff members from WEvolution, two funders of innovation, a government policy maker, an expert from the third sector, and me, a research scientist.
During the trip I jotted down a few stories to remind me of the flavour of the experience. I also noted some reflections intended to be useful to WEvolution as it scales the model in the U.K. There are also podcasts giving first hand observations of the study tour participants.
It should go without saying that this is an unreliable record. A study tour is something akin to being dropped into a cold lake. The assault on the senses clouds the ability to think straight. At one moment everything we saw and heard seemed vitally important, but at the next not relevant at all. What follows are a series of impressions, nothing more.