This case study traces the journey of Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA), an NGO which was co-founded in Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay) in 1984 by a young graduate Minar Pimple along with a group of his lecturers and peers from the Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work, together looking to evolve an indigenous model of social work practice. To say that times have changed in India since YUVA’s inception 38 years ago would be an understatement. Despite this, the organisation’s spirit continues to echo its founding purpose and values, and provide a space in which the most marginalised of young and like-minded people can come together, understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens, and work together towards shared ideals. Even today, the majority of the people who work with YUVA (meaning “youth”) come from marginalised backgrounds. Such talent composition is not the norm, even in civil society.
Seeded with feminist ideals—in particular that of nurturing a careful and life-long sensitivity for the socio-politically marginalised, and standing by them in their strive for social justice—YUVA’s historical record is a statement of how a steadfast commitment to principles can eventually find home in a settled and satisfying practice. This case study lays out both what that historical record speaks and what it speaks between the lines. What the record directly speaks of is the radical milieu in which YUVA came into being, how it became a significant civil society presence in its own right, how it multiplied new initiatives, and how it underwent a difficult leadership transition and financial stresses, yet strived hard to remain relevant. Between the lines, the record hints at how an alert, attuned and active academic milieu constitutes a real treasure—a reminder that perhaps seems appropriate for the times; and narrates the story of how a feminist organisation deeply committed to social justice operates from the inside, of the people who make it and how they make and remake it.
Organisations of this nature have an important place in the annals of Indian civil society but have not received a proportionate space within the documented field of organisational development and talent management. This case study provides an opportunity for learners to explore the idea, relevance and practices of a feminist organisation, through the travails and triumphs of one of the oldest ones in India.
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