Who We Are

Our Origin

PRADAN was created in 1983 by two young professionals, Deep Joshi and Vijay Mahajan, who were convinced that even the stubborn, endemic poverty of rural India can be solved. They believed that well-educated professionals working within communities can bring both the empathy and knowledge needed to help poor people improve their lives.

Deep and Vijay also believed that grassroots work in the spirit of pradan, or giving back to society, can be a fulfilling and viable vocation for educated men and women. They created Professional Assistance for Development Action (Pradan), to systematically groom and enable professionals with empathy towards the poor to work at the grassroots level.

In 1987 PRADAN began working with the government and over the years we have played a major role in developing such programs as IRDP, SGSY, and the National Rural Livelihood Mission. We continue to work for change that is sustainable and self-perpetuating, bringing skills and systems that help women, families and communities gain confidence and take charge of their own lives.

“As we move forward, society needs to engage with compassion and empathy with those who are left behind, treating them as equals.”

Since the very beginning, Deep has strongly believed that the ‘best and the brightest’ were needed to work with the weakest sections of society to help them discover their strength and voice. A graduate of
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“Pradan is a deeply held belief for me.”

Deep Joshi
Co-founder

“As we move forward, society needs to engage with compassion and empathy with those who are left behind, treating them as equals.”

Since the very beginning, Deep has believed that the ‘best and the brightest’ were needed to work with the weakest sections of society to help them discover their strength and voice. A graduate of MIT’s School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management, Deep has lived this philosophy.

According to Deep, “Development professionals need both head and heart. If all you have is a bleeding heart, it wouldn’t work. If you only have a strong head, then you are going to dictate solutions which do not touch a human chord.” He believes that PRADAN has institutionalised a way to communicate this belief to young Indians.

But there is still plenty to be done. Given the scale of Indian poverty, what PRADAN does is a drop in the ocean. Deep says, “To fill the ocean is a big challenge as it requires joining hands with people who are different from you.”

“Pradan is a deeply held belief for me.”

“I think it is very worrying for a nation when their elite lose touch with the weakest. PRADAN provides a way to bridge this disconnect.”

An alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad, Vijay’s first job at an MNC left him wanting to do more for the community. In 1983, Vijay met Deep Joshi and the idea of PRADAN evolved in less than hour. They believed Read More...

“I wanted to change the India I lived in.”

Vijay Mahajan
Co-founder

“I think it is very worrying for a nation when their elite lose touch with the weakest. PRADAN provides a way to bridge this disconnect.”

An alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad, Vijay’s first job at an MNC left him wanting to do more for the community. In 1983, Vijay met Deep Joshi and the idea of PRADAN evolved in less than hour. They believed that the only way to create change at the grassroots was by getting well educated and motivated young people to work with poor communities. Thirty years later, this remains the core philosophy of PRADAN.

Vijay believes that PRADAN’s ethos lies in being where the action is – living with poor communities, interacting with them, contributing to their dreams and making them a reality.

In his view, PRADAN’s contribution goes beyond individual success stories. It is an NGO that creates new models of development, that have been replicated across the country by others. “PRADAN’s effectiveness lies in the fact that its successes go beyond individuals and even beyond PRADAN!”

“I wanted to change the India I lived in.”

Our Team

We work to strengthen the ability of the rural poor to earn a decent living. We are organized into field-based teams of three-to-five young professionals, under the leadership of a mid-career team coordinator and the guidance of a team of integrators

More than 426 young professionals are working in 9,127 remote villages of India, immersing themselves directly with target communities across seven of the poorest states. They are recruited from universities and hold degrees in subjects like management, engineering, agriculture, and the social sciences. A majority of the 963,324 families we work with belongs to marginalized communities.

Our Board

The governing board provides oversight and counsel to PRADAN. It comprises up to nine independent members with distinguished records of public service and three leaders from PRADAN, including the executive director.

Retired Senior Rural, Development Specialist, World Bank

Biswajit retired as senior rural development specialist with the World Bank. He has worked with UNICEF, MacArthur Foundation USA and Swiss Development Cooperation. Currently he is a visiting scholar at the Indian Institute of Management, Udaipur. He was one of the initial team members of PRADAN who went on to set up several other rural development organizations such as GDS, Nalanda and IIMPACT. He has a management degree from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He lives in Jaipur with his family.

Director of Social Security at SEWA

Mirai is currently Director of Social Security at Self Employed Women Association (SEWA). She is also Chairperson of the SEWA Cooperative Federation and the National Insurance VimoSEWA Cooperative. She was appointed a member of the National Advisory Council in June 2010. She has a B.A. from Harvard University in History and Science and a Masters from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She lives in Ahmedabad with her family.

Advocate, Supreme Court of India Founder, Enviro Legal Defence Firm

Sanjay is an advocate at the Supreme Court of India. He is also the founder and Managing Director of India's first environmental law firm, the Enviro Legal Defence Firm. He was an India Visiting Fellow at the Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, Global Fellow at Duke Marine Lab, Duke University, USA and a legal intern to the Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund, San Francisco. He lives in New Delhi with his family.

Chief Executive Officer of Pratham Education Foundation

Trained as an economist in India, Rukmini completed a BA at St Stephen’s College and attended Delhi School of Economics. She was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and later earned her Ph. D at the University of Chicago. She returned to India in 1996 and has been with Pratham ever since. Rukmini has extensive experience in the field - working directly with rural and urban communities as well as in designing and implementing large scale partnerships with governments. She led Pratham’s research and assessment efforts including the well-known ASER initiative (Annual Status of Education Report) from 2005 to 2014. Originally from Bihar, Rukmini now is based in Delhi. She enjoys telling and writing stories for children and loves being a grandmother.

Ex-IAS officer

A 1981-batch IAS officer, Mr. S. M. Vijayanand cleared his Civil Services examination securing seventh rank. During his 11 years as Secretary, Local Self-Government, Government of Kerala, Mr. Vijayanand pioneered the People’s Plan movement. Subsequently he has held many important positions in the Government of Kerala, including as the Director, Institute of Management in Government, and as Chairman, KILA.
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Ex-IAS officer

A 1981-batch IAS officer, Mr. S. M. Vijayanand cleared his Civil Services examination securing seventh rank. During his 11 years as Secretary, Local Self-Government, Government of Kerala, Mr. Vijayanand pioneered the People’s Plan movement. Subsequently he has held many important positions in the Government of Kerala, including as the Director, Institute of Management in Government, and as Chairman, KILA. He also conceptualised and operationalised 'Kudumbashree', the women's self-help group movement in Kerala. He became the Chief Secretary in 2016. Post retirement, he has also been active in the academic field as Visiting Professor in Gandhigram Rural University and Expert Faculty of National Institute of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj (NIRD&PR), Hyderabad. Presently he is the Chairperson of the 6th Finance Commission of Kerala. A passionate crusader on the matter of democratic decentralisation and local self-governance, Mr Vijayanand is constantly pursuing the cause of Panchayats and Panchayati Raj in the country. Mr. Vijayanand lives in Thiruvananthapuram with his family.

Bala Devi Ningthoujam joined PRADAN in 2002 after completing Masters in Social Work from Delhi University. Since then she has worked on programs related to Community Institutions, livelihood, Gender Equality, Governance and Natural Resource Management in Jharkhand. During last five years, she spearheaded operations across 35 micro watersheds covering 15,000 Hectare of land area under flagship scheme of PMKSY by Government of India. She anchors ‘National Resource Centre for Livelihoods’ (NRCL), Jharkhand, a knowledge partner to National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM). As Integrator, Bala specifically oversees function of a Development Cluster comprising of Four districts based at Ranchi, Jharkhand.

Alak has done masters in agriculture in Genetics and Plant Breeding. In 2018, he has received the Australia Awards Fellowships program for study on nutrition-sensitive agriculture. In the year 2012, Alak worked with IDE- Ethiopia to identify innovative solutions for water management. In the year 2011, he was invited by Rockfeller foundation for a collaborative practitioner residency on women Self Help Groups & their institutions. Alak has widespread experience in community-led livelihood enhancement, in particular on the development of natural resource management and sustainable farming systems.

PRADAN

Saroj Kr. Mahapatra has more than 26 years of experience of working with State Government Projects, multi-stakeholder networks, and several projects of WFP, IFAD, UNICEF, MGNREGA and NRLM with focus on participatory planning process involving the marginalised households in remotest area of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. He directly worked with poor communities of Central India tribal pocket and has been instrumental in preparing the Integrated Natural Resource Management manual for MGNREGA implementation of Ministry of Rural Development, GoI. Saroj holds a Master of Engineering in Hydraulics and Irrigation Engineering from UCE, Burla.

Our Management Unit Members

For most of her 23-years career, Archana has remained engaged in on-ground development practice with tribal communities in one of the poorest pockets of Madhya Pradesh, India. She is empanelled as National Resource Person (Gender) at NRLM Resource Cell, National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), Hyderabad, India. She was selected by UNWomen as a delegate advocate for rural women’s economic rights at 61st and 62nd sessions of CSW (Commission for Status of Women) held in New York in March 2017 and March 2018. She is a member of National Facilitation Team (NFT) of MAKAAM – Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch (www.makaam.in). Archana holds a Ph.D. in Development Communication and has completed graduation and post-graduation in Agriculture Science.

Bala Devi Ningthoujam joined PRADAN in 2002 after completing Masters in Social Work from Delhi University. Since then she has worked on programs related to Community Institutions, livelihood, Gender Equality, Governance and Natural Resource Management in Jharkhand. During last five years, she spearheaded operations across 35 micro watersheds covering 15,000 Hectare of land area under flagship scheme of PMKSY by Government of India. She anchors ‘National Resource Centre for Livelihoods’ (NRCL), Jharkhand, a knowledge partner to National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM). As Integrator, Bala specifically oversees function of a Development Cluster comprising of Four districts based at Ranchi, Jharkhand.

Avijit is a Masters in Economics from Kalyani University, West Bengal. He joined PRADAN in 1997. He has extensive grassroots experience working with women Self Help Groups on Integrated Natural Resource Management (INRM), agriculture, forest-based livelihoods and local governance. He has led action research partnerships with international organisations and pioneered new thematic areas in PRADAN like Adult Functional Literacy & Child protection, WATSAN and Nutrition. Currently he leads the Resource Mobilisation, Communications and Partnerships efforts of PRADAN. As Nutrition thematic anchor, he continues to build knowledge, internal human resource, competencies and evidence base for the work.

Yoganand joined PRADAN in 1994. In between, he also worked for 2 Years with Jharkhand Water Resource Department in capacity of a Consultant. He has extensive experience of promoting Livelihoods, TASAR Development, and Integrated Natural Resource Management (INRM). In PRADAN, Yoganand successfully pioneered a pilot demonstration with ICRISAT for Pigeon pea (Arhar Daal) cultivation. He also has elaborate Project Management Experience. From 2015 onwards, he has been heading Finance, Accounts & Administration unit at PRADAN’s Corporate/Head Office (the unit comprises Procurement function as well). Additionally, he’s also a member of the Management Unit. He holds a bachelor’s degree in B. Tech. Civil Engineering and PGDM from IIM Ranchi.

He has been with PRADAN since 1997. He is a graduate in Agricultural Engineering from Orissa University of Agriculture & Technology, Bhubaneswar. He has pioneered the Agriculture Production Clusters with small and marginal farmers as an approach for livelihood enhancement of rural poor in India. He served in many senior management positions. Currently he is integrating PRADAN’s operation in South Odisha region, and also a member of Management Committee which oversees the overall management of PRADAN. He is also in the board of PRADAN.

She is a senior grassroots development professional with more than two decades of experience. She spearheaded the use of ICT for streamlining SHG financial management systems. She has extensive experience in working with tribal women collectives around their livelihoods and gender aspects. In the past few years, she co-created several community process toolkits which are extensively used in capacity building programs for the marginalized. She is also a skilled trainer of Achievement Motivation and Entrepreneurship, Group Processes, Gender Equality, and Human Process Laboratories. Tamali possesses a Master's degree in Biophysics from the University of Kalyani, West Bengal.

Alak has done masters in agriculture in Genetics and Plant Breeding. In 2018, he has received the Australia Awards Fellowships program for study on nutrition-sensitive agriculture. In the year 2012, Alak worked with IDE- Ethiopia to identify innovative solutions for water management. In the year 2011, he was invited by Rockfeller foundation for a collaborative practitioner residency on women Self Help Groups & their institutions. Alak has widespread experience in community-led livelihood enhancement, in particular on the development of natural resource management and sustainable farming systems.

Arnab has more than 28 years’ experience in working with and for institutions of smallholder women farmers and leading collaborative projects with government and civil society organizations. His expertise lies in developing community-based organizations, integrated natural resource management, farm-based livelihoods, and enhancing income opportunities for smallholder women farmers. Contributing to development research is one of his core interest areas. A Master in Agricultural Economics, Arnab was the recipient of the Rotary Peace Fellowship by The Rotary Foundation for International Studies in the peace and conflict resolution program, in 2014. The same year, he was appointed as an Australian Award Mentor by the Honourable Australian High commissioner. Arnab is also the recipient of the John Dillion Fellowship from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) in 2008.

Sahana has 24 years of experience working on gender, sustainable agriculture, and natural resource management. She has worked extensively in building women collectives for their socio-economic-political empowerment. Sahana has worked closely with government departments in MP, Odisha, and Bihar. She is skilled in designing and implementing large-scale development projects at the grassroots in partnership with government and non-government agencies. She is a Graduate in Economics and has a Post Graduate Diploma in Rural Management and was a fellow in the Leadership Development Program at McCain Institute of International Leadership in the USA. Currently, she integrates the operations of Bihar and works closely with Govt. of Bihar on issues of gender and agriculture.

Saroj Kr. Mahapatra has more than 26 years of experience of working with State Government Projects, multi-stakeholder networks, and several projects of WFP, IFAD, UNICEF, MGNREGA and NRLM with focus on participatory planning process involving the marginalised households in remotest area of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. He directly worked with poor communities of Central India tribal pocket and has been instrumental in preparing the Integrated Natural Resource Management manual for MGNREGA implementation of Ministry of Rural Development, GoI. Saroj holds a Master of Engineering in Hydraulics and Irrigation Engineering from UCE, Burla.