Going by definitions, there are more than 94 for the word 'community'. Communities can range from a few mud huts on a single patch of ground to a trans-continental virtual Internet group. A community can refer to a centuries-old business partnership, or to the temporary kinship felt by fans at a football match. What is common though, is the sense of belonging.
The sense of belonging is what's integral to the SEDS definition of a community. And the community development program itself is the umbrella under which all SEDS activities are organized. The basic unit of the community-based organizations (CBOs) is the women's self-help group (SHG). SHGs generally consist of ten to fifteen members who organize savings and loan activities. SHGs also spread awareness of various social issues. One or two women of each SHG are nominated to represent their group at a village organization (VO) that handles village issues. VO leaders then become a part of a mandal samakya which deals with things at a mandal (akin to a county) level. Finally, there are mandal facilitation centres (MFCs) that take up legal and government programs, with lobbying and advocacy issues at the Divisional level.
SEDS is involved in each stage of the community organization, delivering facilities and training a village staff of about 400 people, including volunteers, health workers, and teachers. From the mid-1980's when SEDS started Sanghams in the villages, the main effort has been to make the community organizations efficient, sustainable and, in the long term, independent.
[The article originally written by Amit Manikoth, for SEDS's 30 years celebration. This is simply a reproduction.]