Socio-economic development in Auroville
|Published in October 2009||
The socio-economic department of L'avenir has started a survey of young people and business units in Auroville as a first step to create a link between the educational system of Auroville and job creation opportunities. This is a first initiative of a wider and more inclusive approach that aims to develop the industrial zone of Auroville and generally speaking the income generating sector of Auroville by strengthening the human resources. Harini, Martin and Vikram are part of a team that is collaborating with L'avenir in conducting socio-economic analysis and they have given a presentation on Saturday the 19 th of September about the survey which was carried out over the last few months.
Units in Auroville
We first conducted an online “warm up” survey of 42 commercial units to determine if the base assumptions we were making were valid. Findings are given below:
> 86% of the surveyed units stated that their unit is interested in expanding
> 70% agreed that Aurovilians and newcomers are willing to join their unit
> 70% mentioned that their unit wants Aurovilians and newcomers to work with them
> 90% believed that Auroville needs more successful units for its growth
34 units agreed to participate in one on one interviews
For interviews, we chose 12 of these units from different sectors, of different sizes and age to better understand their experiences and concerns. This helped us identify the following pain points that some units currently face in their operations. Each of these provides a possible improvement of the Auroville economy.
lack of clarity regarding the Auroville Unity Fund
lack of support from the ABC
Dissatisfaction regarding the working of L'avenir (town planning and communication)
Lack of awareness and clarity of Auroville policies and guidelines
Lack of efficiency in the Auroville administration
Attitude of Entry Group towards newcomers working in commercial enterprises
Lack of sufficient incentives to start a new unit
Obstacles in setting up a unit
Difficulty to get loans for starting new units
Lack of coordinated marketing initiatives for Auroville units
Lack of business hubs and incubators
Obstacles for some units to export
Lack of a structure for apprenticeships
Missing skill sets for units in areas of
accounting and administration
marketing and communication
Indian law (labour, sales tax, etc.)
Negative attitude of Aurovilians
Towards commercial unit holders
Towards outside investors
Towards work in commercial units. We asked unit holders what enterprises/activities they would suggest for Auroville, and their suggestions are given below
an organic food cooperation
food processing in Auroville
database of construction suppliers for builders and architects
heavy construction machinery (concrete plant and crane)
collective marketing for Auroville products
collective purchasing for eateries
collective purchasing for builders and architects
more Auroville boutiques in and around India
Health and wellness
Training centre for health therapies
Spa's and health resorts
Education and training
centres to host conferences and workshops
centres to host volunteers and interns
seminars, workshops and courses
Knowledge based businesses and consultancies in
alternative farming methods
Working Group Members of Auroville
We spoke with seven members of working groups to get their perspective; these were members of FAMC, BCC, ABC Support Group and AV UF
Feedback from WG members
Need of the hour is HR and the economy
Auroville's strengths: it's multilingual and multicultural population in its global networking
labor intensive production will come to an end - not sustainable
ABC has no time to take up the concerns of units
It's easy to get a loan in Auroville
maintenance is too low
negative attitude towards commercial units can be resolved if there is more transparency
Succession as an issue for unit holders / working group members has not been planned
Suggestions from Working Group Members
Pattern of production
new units should be less labour intensive
existing units to try and reduce dependence on labour
2. Support structures
more business hubs, and even service hubs are needed
divide ABC into two – for big units and small units
ABC to act as an advisory body for units; should be equipped with core management skills
large units to share experience and resources with new and small units
large units to set up a fund till the new small ones get afloat
outlets that bring all small activities together - commercial / service outlets
On new types of enterprises
food production and processing
4. Collective efforts
marketing service for commercial enterprises
5. Health and hospitality
hotels/ hospitality tie-ups
tie up with universities
guest educational programs
7. IT/ITES sector
Youth of Auroville
We surveyed a total of 278 youth in and around Auroville to better understand their education and work aspirations. The focus group includes senior students of Future School, Outreach schools, schools outside Auroville, youth in Auroville and youth living outside Auroville (but born and/or studied in Auroville). Key findings from the surveys of youth are given below
Senior students of Future School, Outreach schools and schools outside Auroville
Auroville students are interested mainly in Arts, Green work and Technology.
Kodai, Lycee and Pondy students are interested more in New technology, Green work and Humanities, followed by Business and Engineering.
90% of the respondents from the Outreach schools want to study further-.Degree courses (Humanities, Science, Computers, Business Administration and Commerce) is most popular for these students. Only 11% plan to fund their studies by taking a loan.
Many respondents want Auroville to focus on education and youth facilities.
Majority of students want to live in Auroville mainly due to family and friends rather than for work related reasons.
Youth living in Auroville
Highest level of education for the majority is High School education.
Some seem frustrated with Auroville, with decision making in particular, or the lack of it.
“Learning” plays a very big role with this group, and in what they do.
Majority mention that Auroville needs to focus on education and training, (also voiced by students), followed by infrastructure and housing. Surprisingly, this group is not concerned with the economics of Auroville.
Majority have not left Auroville for more than a year, and majority of those who did, left for education and training.
This group is most interested in Technology followed by Communication and Business. They want to see ventures related to new technologies (solar energy, electrical bike, etc.) in Auroville.
25% have stated that Auroville's current greatest challenge is politics and governance, followed by a conscious movement towards Auroville's ideals and security of land.
Youth living outside Auroville
This group has lived for a median of 14 years in Auroville and almost all of the respondents regularly visit Auroville. Majority are currently living in Europe, followed by NA and India .
Highest level of education for is High School (for 37%), followed by Bachelors (23%).
77% mention that the main reason for leaving Auroville was for further education and training. Family and work related reasons were cited by 20%.
Many (over 65%) wish to return to Auroville at some point in the future. The main reason being Auroville by itself followed by family and friends (59%). Work opportunities do not appear to motivate this group to return to Auroville.
Green work, Business, Humanities and Arts are the main areas they would like to be involved with when they return.
Education, finances and Auroville ideals are reasons holding this group back from returning to Auroville.
The majority of this group wish to see ventures in New technologies (solar energy, electrical bike etc.), Green work and Humanities in Auroville. They also believe that Auroville should focus on further education, youth facilities and research.
Only 21 respondents (out of 64) believe that Auroville provided enough support for their personal development (in terms of education, infrastructure and employment opportunities).
64% said that Auroville ideals are what inspire them most about Auroville, followed by nature (33%).
Suggestions from Youth
free internet / Wi-Fi all over Auroville
clean energy supply
women's issue centre
a sound proof area
Education and work
higher education: tie up with Pondy University
professional training centre for music and/or dance
internationally recognized apprenticeships
job recruitment facility
support to start a unit/project
Interest-free loans for youth
waiver of housing service charges
financial support for young mothers
AV to focus on businesses based on it's own internal needs
Higher maintenance needed: - people who have money can survive comfortably while young people with little or no savings, debts from study outside and the desire to live in AV find it difficult.
Auroville to become self-sufficient in organic agriculture
Auroville to become environmentally sustainable
Suggestions from the team
an integrated marketing service
discussion about the split between services and units
working group members visit all auroville units
regular meetings for all units
added value initiatives such as labeling (organic, fair trade, socially accountable, eco friendly etc.)
an advisory board for units
online database of human resources in auroville
catalog of auroville products and services
a more in depth study on a larger sample is needed
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