Gram Shilpi (GS) is a long term commitment of cadre building for sustainable rural development based on Gandhian Philosophy of development in partnership with Gujarat Vidyapith (GV). “Gram” means village and “Shilpi” means an artist who carves the sculpture. In a broader sense, Gram Shilpi is a devoted person, expected to serve the village without any materialistic interest (salary or incentives in cash or kind) and will follow the “simple living and high thinking” with an essence of Gandhian way of working.
There are certain conditions which Gram Shilpi aspirants need to fulfill like, minimum qualification is graduation, it is expected to stay for life long in the village, wearing of Khadi is expected and s/he must have strong willingness to serve in rural areas.
Selection procedure is based on discussion, understanding of attitude & motivation level through personal interview and specially designed activities, village selection by the aspiring GS. Selection for GS is just opposite to conventional one in the sense that if student does not fulfill the formal criteria (except minimum qualification) but have strong willingness to work in village then s/he will be taken as GS provided that s/he will have to prove the same.
Maximum intake per batch per year is 25. Each batch will be trained for two year, and within this period intensive input will given to the Gram Shilpi. At the end of two year s/he will become a Gram Shilpi.
During the two-year programme, Gram Shilpi are provided with in-house and field-based training on capacity and skill development. This training includes project management, proposal writing, NGO management, communication, basics of computer, sustainable agriculture, livelihood options, natural resource management and environment conservation and protection, etc.
Apart from training, students are also exposed to motivational lectures on values and ethics, institutional visits, exposure visits, meetings and stay with renowned person from development sector. Mostly, all the training ends in the first year of programme and from the second year onwards GS start using the knowledge and skill developed in their village of placement.
The whole philosophy of the programme is to capacitate and motivate the students to stay back in rural areas so that knowledge and entrepreneurship can be utilized for rural development and honoring them with the name of Gram Shilpi.
First batch of Gram Shilpi started in July 2007. Out of nine Gram Shilpis seven are still working in the different villages of 5 districts. They established (Self Help Groups) SHG groups, children bank, village library, sanitary units and are working on organic farming, sustainable livelihood, residential school and Kitchen garden, etc.