Livelihoods of people in rural India have been under severe stress over the last decade due to the effects of globalization. Locally-made products compete with imported products, locally-grown food competes with mass-produced food, and human labor competes with machines. These changes have resulted in natural resources being neglected and overexploited, concentration of human resources toward mass production as cheap labour, and rural communities losing their traditional bonds maintained by localized economies. All of this has contributed to an overall degeneration of quality of life.
The National Rural Livelihood Mission was set up by the Government of India to address these issues by supporting rural livelihoods, under which each state has its own State Rural Livelihood Mission. These bodies design and implement locally relevant livelihood-enhancing and -supporting schemes through community organizations. The programmes have been successful in some ways but are ultimately unsustainable in that these local enterprises end up dependent on the larger markets. They also often lack an integral perspective of livelihood in terms of health, ecology and longevity. The state government recognizes this as a huge challenge.
To this end, in 2014, the Tamilnadu State Rural Livelihood Mission took steps to launch a Sustainable Livelihood Institute (SLI) that would equip State Government functionaries as well as rural communities to think and work from a sustainable paradigm. It invited Auroville to be its partner in this venture. Thus SLI was to be developed and managed as a joint project by the state Rural Livelihood Mission and Auroville.
The state government requested that Auroville design and deliver regular programmes and agreed to fund the creation of a physical facility to house SLI. From this facility participants would use wider Auroville as a campus. The design of the insitute should showcase the best of Auroville architecture, design, technologies, and conservation practices.
A consortium of three architecture firms from Auroville under the working name of Architects Collaborative was formed and followed a process of Dreamweaving – a process evolved in Auroville - which consciously aims for the Highest Common Factor rather than the Lowest Common Denominator in a team work. Link to Dreamcatchers pdf. The Master Plan of SLI on the designated site near Irumbai Lake was thus finalised in a harmonious and collaborative manner, after which the project didnot go further in its physical manifestation. However SLI continued to conduct field workshops within Auroville and its bio region till 2019, delivering some important milestones in the realisation of the aims set up TNRLM.
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Principal Architect: Mona Doctor-Pingel
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