Not our usual tradition at Vertiver, but this year requires some serious reflecting back, if for nothing other than to give ourselves a huge pat on the back for having survived it, So, here goes…
January 2020 began with several activities under our behavior change work in East Delhi. We were able to implement a waste-to-wealth pilot with full community support and catalyze many community members to begin composting their household waste under the Su-Dhara program.
Within two days of the March 22nd 1-day lockdown in India, Vertiver had begun working on creating the first guidelines on mask usage formally issued by any country. Working closely with the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, we researched, designed and launched India’s seminal advisory on the use of masks to prevent COVID-19 spread. It is hard to believe today, but at the time, even the WHO and the CDC were still insisting on mask use only by medical workers. We translated the mask manual in Hindi and then worked with IIT-Mumbai and Gubby Labs to have it translated into 14 regional languages. After the mask guidelines were issued on March 30th, the WHO and the CDC changed their advisory to extend their recommendation to all citizens. Turning around the research, content, narrative and design of this humble yet decisive advisory on making and using DIY masks under severe lockdown conditions, makes it Vertiver’s proudest projects EVER!
We have continued to promote mask adoption since then through various initiatives. Our founder, Chhaya Bhanti, conducted a webinar with pan India Village Level Entrepreneurs to teach them about the best processes and methods for making masks.
Here’s a simple poster we developed for an NGO, Dharavi Diary in Mumbai as a tool for visual communication.
We had a chance to support the PSA’s trailblazing work once again mid-year through developing an advisory on building Positive Mental Health. In working closely with the very inspiring Lt. Gen. Madhuri Kanitkar and the HOD of Psychiatry at the Armed Forces Medical College, we learnt about an entirely new and vital field. It also gave us a chance to identify the many gaps in communications and advocacy that exist and which we hope to contribute to bridging in the future.
By June, team Vertiver had trained itself to virtually handle the complex task of visual and content coordination in urgent timelines. With members dispersed across the country, our team’s resilience proved remarkable as we kept ploughing through the fear and chaos of the year.
Specifically, we continued to work on challenges of waste management throughout 2020.
We facilitated and moderated a bi-lateral dialogue on developing circular economy approaches between Sweden and India. We developed a comprehensive waste management plan for Uttarakhand Forest Department’s Shiwalik Biodiversity Park and Medicinal Garden being built in Muni-Ki-Reti.
Our community members under Su-Dhara embraced our online training on composting and we had more than 150 women join us from across E. Delhi in our online training on making compost at home. In August we began our new Kachre-se-sampada initiative by enlisting community champions to promote waste segregation and waste-to-value approaches in E. Delhi and held a Hindi Creative Writing competition to engage people on issues of waste management. We worked with the community members to scale up our efforts at more temples in E. Delhi and installed bio-digester drums in another two temples to stop the flower waste from ending up in landfills.
We ended the year working with the World Bank Group to translate technical recommendations on Nature Based Solutions for Landslide Risk Reduction and Sediment management into engaging visualizations and e-books, that will soon be up online for practitioners to access.
There is much to be grateful for in the year that challenged our very existence! We were able to deliver many challenging projects successfully without having to downsize, we held on to our beautiful office space in Delhi (sadly still lying almost barren) and most importantly, our team members continued to go into the field in East Delhi (despite C-19 risks) to mobilize communities and other stakeholders on various aspects of Behaviour Change on waste management under the Su-Dhara program.
The recent news of the new virus strain entering India, may mean 2021 will see many of the same challenges of the previous year, but we are as committed and enthusiastic as ever to apply all our creative energy and skill to navigate this labyrinth together with you, our esteemed colleagues and fellow crusaders to ensure the well-being of our social and natural ecosystems and precious biodiversity.
Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful 2021 and a joyful new decade!