Community development programmes have been active ever since Independence in India. Research into sustainability of those projects and enquiries into why mostly the impacts are short lived also date back to 1980s. Most studies recognise important psychological factors underlying non sustainability of many development projects such as lack of motivation, lack of community participation etc. It is quite clear by now that sustainability depends heavily on investment in human and social development and not just economic development, nonetheless, there is a huge gap even after decades, in understanding and more so in implementing the psychological and psychosocial acumen. Even though psychology and social sciences have grown so much and there is such a vast and deep understanding of human mind available - individual as well as about groups and the experience and impact of various psychosocial vulnerabilities, yet it is rarely applied in the field of community development in an organised way. (Dalal 2006)
From World Bank to top academics of the country like Amartya Sen, have recognised and developed and contributed to the idea in the economic and social science field that deprivation is a phenomenon of several vulnerabilities but most importantly a complex experience which can not be reduced only to an economic lack. While one of the goals of development can be said to be most importantly to work with the communities to enable their participatory capacity in their own growth yet this cannot be done without understanding the unconscious psychological forces at play in the work of the development organisations and professionals working for them alongside the communities they are working for. This is because most of our actions and behaviours and expectations are actually heavily influenced all time by these emotional factors which are complex and not always represented in the conscious waking mind in a linear way. The ‘waking subject’ of social sciences needs to be studied and understood beyond the usual questionnaires and opinion surveys because conscious questions lead to conscious answers (Stamenova and Hinshelwood, 2019) which are not a true representation nor a good predictor of our actual potentialities.
Incorporating the psychoanalytic lens and the psychoanalytic method which particularly engages with unconscious forces informing our behaviours and decisions as a discipline and as a professional field would therefore give space to our own and the community’s complex and dynamic experiences which are very crucial to navigate and factor in, in order to have a real sense of how things are likely to work. For example, it is important to note here that ‘community’ in community development is not incidental by simply entering into the community or providing some services there even though it is assumed as such by many. The idea of a community (in a way of bringing together people for collective welfare) is importantly first abstract and wishful and develops as a reality in the mind rather than as a concrete external presence (Koh and Twemlow, 2019). It is not incidental simply by forming a group but is an outcome of several complex interactions which are psychologically determined more than the overt reasons of its formation in the first place. Hence the kind of psychological functioning of a group then determines whether a community will be a resilient and cohesive one or more prone to fragmentation or disintegration. This needs to be observed mindfully and developed through the kind of engagement we are interested to offer as collaborations.
The goal of our work is to serve as a backbone to support development programs in various community development areas (education, health, marginalisation, gender etc.) through capacity building, community mental health, implementation and evaluation of projects through psychoanalytic method, and research. The work will benefit the work of development in India by infusing it with cutting edge technology developed to study this area from a psychoanalytic lens and develop further methodology and action potentials in the area of well being and sustainability informed by the expanse and depths of psychoanalysis. It will enable those working in communities as well as communities themselves to engage and participate with their experience of ‘development’ as well as to engage with the struggles and contradictions inherent in this endeavour, thereby opening up a reflective and generative space for allowing a development which is emerging mindfully from within the community and ensuring thereby its sustainability.