Some field observations on cultivating communities of purpose

In an attempt to observe the formation and cultivation of communities of purpose to enhance market opportunities of rural producers, we undertook a pre-pilot study with the rural producers of Kandi, a remote village in India. For the pre-pilot study we used social technology-enabled platforms to establish purposive collaborations between rural producers of Kandi, urban consumers and other relevant actors in the supply-chain. This experimentation was the continuation of our research attempt, undertaken in Kandi, to build community of practice among rural-urban entities. To transcend practice-oriented exchange, we attempted to cultivate community of purpose for these rural producers to enable them to take part in collaborative creation, and subsequently enhance their market prospects.

Objective of the study

The objective of this study is to investigate the potential of communities of purpose to enhance market opportunities of rural producers. Cultivation of community of purpose has been identified as an effective strategy to solve the problem of market linkage to boost the rural economy. The economic impoverishment of rural producers and the reasons for the sustenance of such impoverishment is well known. The marginalized status of rural producers further prevents them participating in the production process, where urban markets primarily treat them as mute entities or a passive labour force. Facilitating effective collaboration through formation of community of purpose not only has the capacity to enhance market performance of rural producers but, by ensuring their active involvement, also accredits a sense of creative worth among rural producers.

Background of the study

The women of Kandi, who were involved with us in our prior research drive of cultivating community of practice (described in the previous chapter), explicitly recorded that, in spite of possessing basic productive skills, they lack market opportunities to sell their produce. Being members of a SHG (self-help group) federation, these women were involved in producing garments, soft toys, fabric painting on clothes, etc., and they were in search of non-local market opportunities to earn more by cultivating their creative skills. Lack of adequate knowledge regarding contemporary market trends, coupled with lack of direct access to urban market sites, heavily hinders the market prospects of these rural producers. We attempted to cultivate community of practice by distributing 50 smartphones to 50 women of Kandi, who underwent phases of skill-upgradation training in blended mode from urban-based experts (discussed in detail in Chapter 11). From this group, 12 women, who were more skilful and had good creative senses, were selected through purposive sampling. The selected group of women comprised mainly non-farm producers who possessed basic cutting, stitching, tailoring and painting skills. The selection was based on three criteria: the motivation level of the members to engage in productive activities; their performance in the prior skill upgradation training; and their familiarity with the digital device. Before a community of purpose was formed with these rural craft producers and other relevant market agents a qualitative pre-study was conducted among the women, which tried to capture the market hindrances faced by them. The resultant community of purpose was cultivated in accordance to the hindrances cited, so that the purposive exchange was suited to address the needs of the rural producers.

Insights from field work

In an attempt to explore the potential that community of purpose has to offer in boosting market possibilities of rural producers, we attempted to link virtually the selected group of rural producers from Kandi with urban consumers and other relevant agents of the supply-chain (raw-material suppliers, logistics providers, etc.). Social technology-enabled platforms (promoting both synchronous and asynchronous interactions) were used to trigger collaborative creation via blended mode among the above-mentioned agents. The rural producers received the market orders from urban consumers digitally. Provisions were made for easy communication among rural producers, urban consumers and other actors of the supply-chain using both synchronous and asynchronous mode. Such communications were aimed at enabling each entity to perform their role-specific task in accordance with the needs of the others, thereby achieving perfect execution of the customized order through the spirit of collaboration. Following, we will discuss instances of two real market orders, which were fulfilled by facilitating community of purpose among rural urban entities.

Puja (name changed) is a semi-skilled producer residing in Kandi who is proficient in basic tailoring, cutting and stitching skills. She participated in our prior research and was an active member of our cultivated community of practice. She was a very enthusiastic member and expressed a high motivation level in employing newly acquired skills to make innovative products. In order to enable Puja’s enthusiasm to yield concrete outcomes, our team procured a series of time-bound real customer orders (using online channels) that were offered to and accepted by Puja. The raw materials required for the order were either given by the customer or were supplied by designated raw-material providers. The timeliness and quality of the produce were monitored periodically. The primary objective of this study was to understand and demonstrate how online community of purpose could be created to cultivate purposive collaborations among rural—urban members. We used the digital platform to remotely drive every aspect of order fulfilment, including order procurement, raw-materials sourcing, design input, production scheduling, monitoring, logistics and order fulfilment.

The assigned order required Puja to make earrings as part of a wedding gift. The urban-based customer gave specificities of the designs to her during synchronous online sessions. The synchronous sessions between the urban-based consumer and Puja were conducted using online video-conferencing tools. An asynchronous messaging tool played a big role in conducting conversations between the buyer and the producer during the course of production. WhatsApp, as a messaging tool, was used in this context. A group was formed — comprising Puja, members of our research group, the customer who placed the order and some local community members of Kandi who could act as potential logistics providers — to keep the provision of easy communication during the course of production.

Doubts arising during the course of production were resolved with the aid of blended mode. iMost of the queries arising in the process were solved through discussion in asynchronous mode. We dealt with the more complex issues in synchronous online sessions. The customer also requested that Puja make videos explaining the problem she was having and to send the same through WhatsApp. The customer drew the specificities of the designs and sent the image via WhatsApp, which Puja could refer to at her convenience. Instances of such asynchronous conversations are depicted in Figure 12.5.

In order to ensure perfect customization, Puja sent through WhatsApp pictures of her daily work, which was then ratified by the customer who had placed the order. Here we can see how Puja actively participated in the production process, instead of being a passive source of labour, which indicates the collaborative nature of production in this case. Production taking place through dialogue between buyer and producer makes it a collaborative creation. When the deadline approached, Puja had to hire a women artisan from her

Asynchronous discussions over WhatsApp during production process neighbourhood, who was also a member in the messaging group, to complete the job within deadline

Figure 12.5 Asynchronous discussions over WhatsApp during production process neighbourhood, who was also a member in the messaging group, to complete the job within deadline. Discussions in the messaging group regarding shortage of time prompted the artisan to offer her help, and she got paid by Puja on an on-demand basis. Finally, Puja’s brother, who was also enlisted in the messaging group, acted as logistics provider and travelled to the city to deliver the products. The customer feedback was very positive and the customer’s payment ensured reasonable profitability. After completion of other similar orders, we helped Puja set up an online shop on Instagram where she displayed her new products. We continued sending her new designs and product ideas and trained her wherever needed. We also observed that she slowly started improvising and creating her own designs, quite in tune to urban demands and trends.

The second experiment narrates Riya’s experience from the real order she secured via our cultivated community of purpose. A middle-aged woman, Riya, possessing cutting, stitching and designing skills, has been a consistent participant in all the programmes we have conducted at Kandi. After attending the online vocational training organized by our research group, her upgraded skill set made her a potential producer capable of carrying out real orders. Consequently we connected Riya virtually with an urban-based entrepreneur involved in the production of eco-friendly items out of jute. After providing an online synchronous training, where the urban micro-entrepreneur explained to the rural producer the details of the customization, a WhatsApp group was created with the entrepreneur, Riya and other members, including members from our unit. The WhatsApp group was created to ensure smooth communication between involved parties during the course of production. The rural producer periodically posted images of work completed, on which the urban entrepreneur added his corrective insights in an attempt to achieve perfect customization.

On completion of the assigned order within the stipulated time, the rural producer used a logistics provider to deliver the finished goods. A subsequent WhatsApp group was formed with the urban entrepreneur, rural producer and the logistics provider in order to track every step of delivery through necessary communication within relevant agents. The delivery was successful, marking the completion of the collaborative production process.

A qualitative post-production study was conducted to assess the sentiments of both the producer and buyer towards the production. While both the entities explicitly recorded satisfaction pertaining to the production, they additionally stated how the innovative usage of both synchronous and asynchronous modes of communication (online sessions coupled with communication over WhatsApp) had eased the production process and helped both the parties achieve perfect customization by working together. In a qualitative interview, Riya stated, “I have never used digital medium before to cater to orders. Now, after using it, 1 have realized its worth. I could produce from home and get deserving wages, more than the wage I can get by selling locally ... Sharing images through WhatsApp helped me to get instructions and produce accordingly, which helped me in learning better and faster, anytime, anywhere.” The urban- based micro-entrepreneur expressed a similar satisfaction. He said, “With

WhatsApp, it has been easier to instruct my rural producer on specificities of my demand. Moreover, the provision of communicating with my producer anytime, anywhere helped both of us in producing together; where Riya helped me in executing my ideas and gave a concrete shape to my dream production.”

Findings from field work

The experiments with Puja and Riya explicitly show their positive market experiences from the cultivated community of purpose. The response of the other executed orders, using similar pathways with the selected group of women in Kandi, also recorded a satisfying post-production experience from both ends; the urban consumers and the rural producers. In order to chart the experience after the completion of every transaction, we conducted a qualitative post-production study to record production-related sentiments of both the urban consumer and rural producer.

In the following table (Table 12.1) we will present a comparative analysis of the responses of rural producers obtained from the pre- and post-study. The comparative analysis of responses articulated prior to cultivation of community of purpose, as compared to the ones posted since cultivation, will highlight the impact that purposive collaborations had on the lives of rural producers.

The responses of Kandi’s rural producers attained in the post-study, when compared with their pre-study responses, explicitly highlight the positive influence cultivated community of purpose ushered in to boost their business prospects. As Table 12.1 narrates, purposive collaborations facilitated through cultivated community of purpose enhanced the market-related prospects of these producers. Effective networking also explicitly improved civic and social aspects of the selected group of rural producers, thereby having a holistic impact in the process of empowering them. The positive response attained through this pre-pilot field observation inspired us to cultivate community of purpose for rural producers on a larger scale. While the observation included a small group of 12 women, who are craft producers, the hindrances faced by them can be considered as generic and suffered by most rural producers (both farm and non-farm). Hence the experience of rural non-farm producers of Kandi can be considered a proper premise on which we can attempt to utilize an integrated and scalable digital platform to cultivate community of purpose.


In order to expand the reach of purposive community formation across different rural—urban regions we have designed and developed a social knowledge management platform called NCoRe (Next generation Collaborative and Responsive rural community), which has been described in detail in the previous section. The designed platform has the capacity to cultivate community of purpose for rural producers on an integrated scale, by hosting a range of prospects to stimulate blended (synchronous and asynchronous) collaborations

Table 12.1 Comparative analysis of pre- and post-study conducted with rural producers in Kandi







Findings of pre-study

Findings of post-study







producers and urban marketplace

Over 80% of the interviewed women in Kandi recorded extreme dependency on the local market in context of both procuring raw materials and selling finished products. However, lack of information pertaining to the appropriate selling price of their products compel the majority of them to sell their goods at undeserving rates.

All the respondents recorded an enhanced awareness regarding the dynamics of the market because of increased communitarian communication occurring through created community of purpose. Over 95% of them expressed how they have utilized the fruits of collaboration derived through purposive exchange for practical benefits. They now have better knowledge pertaining to selling channels, contemporary market demands and innovative designs, which enhanced the rural producers’ capacity to produce in accordance to market demands.



External assistance for sustaining business ventures

Over 90% of the women interviewed recorded not receiving any governmental assistance to aid their entrepreneurial ventures. At the same time, the same majority expressed willingness to receive external assistance to transform their business initiatives into profitable ventures.

Barring three out of the total number of women interviewed, every one of them expressed strong agreement in favour of receiving innovative business and investment-related ideas from cultivated community of purpose. A big majority of them also recorded practically utilizing those ideas for profitable outcomes. The ability to implement the knowledge acquired for practical benefits paves the path for an elevated confidence level among rural producers.






The majority of the female rural producers interviewed recorded no prior adherence to digital networks to communicate with members of their own community. Intercommunitarian communication was mostly performed by virtue of physical and telephonic connection. As a result, they were mostly unaware of what others in their community were producing.

Findings of post-study recorded widespread usage of social technology platforms among the intervened women of Kandi to communicate with members of their own community, outside their community, in order to establish purposive collaborations. Easy and smooth communication fostered through the cultivation of community of purpose enabled the women to have better knowledge regarding what others in their community are producing and gave them an opportunity to frame their business strategy by learning from others’ success stories and failures.

among relevant rural—urban entities. However, this requires the rural participants to be equipped with sufficient knowledge and confidence to use digital technology. Although the rural participants have some knowledge about smartphone usage, it will take some more time and hand-holding to enable them to use those devices in a smarter way, so that they can take part independently to form and cultivate community of purpose using a full-scale social knowledge management platform like NCoRe. Hence NCoRe, in spite of having immense prospects, must address the following social factors in order to be successful in implementing and operationalizing the platform in a rural context:

  • • Purposive collaborations account to be the premise on which NCoRe attempts to empower rural producers. Securing voluntary participation of rural producers in the production process makes NCoRe adhere to an endogenous model of development. However, building community empowerment and transferring power from the external development agencies to community members requires time, financial resources and appropriate skills. Steiner and Farmer (2017) argue that, to reach endogenous empowerment, exogenous empowerment practices are useful and effective for some communities. Capacity building might be emergent (in endogenous community development) but in some cases it may need to be nurtured via external sources (by exogenous development). Thus successful implementation of a digital platform like NCoRe requires creation of appropriate support structures that enable decentralization of transactional processes.
  • • Even though purposive collaboration accounts to be the premise of NCoRe, it will fail to do justice to its goal if the surrounding environment is not conducive to facilitate such purposive collaboration between rural urban agents. This highlights that, apart from endorsing endogenous developmental initiatives, we are also in dire need of supportive external agencies interested in sustaining ventures undertaken to empower rural community from within. NCoRe can only be successful in mobilizing community of purpose for rural producers in the presence of an inter-connected developmental ecosystem, comprising symbiotic exogenous and endogenous developmental efforts. This has been discussed in Section 4.2, where we have explained six enablers that are needed for successful operationalization of online communities of purpose.


The chapter highlights the importance of cultivating community of purpose to enhance market opportunities of rural producers. Purposive collaborations between relevant rural—urban entities not only contribute in mitigating the market separation of rural producers but also secure allied social benefits for the same. Such community of purpose, going beyond the purview of its immediate objective (economic enhancement in this case), has the potential to holistically empower rural producers by enhancing their knowledge capability by triggering collaborative knowledge transaction. We have also crafted a social knowledge management platform that would assist in formation and cultivation of online communities of purpose.

Communities of both practice and purpose contribute in enhancing knowledge capability of individual rural producers and can be rightly identified as drivers of self-development along a socio-economic axis. However, it is only when the rural community derives collective participatory credentials that they are able to mobilize local resources crucial to achieving resilience through formation of community of circumstance. Communities of practice and purpose, undoubtedly, can be identified as major driving forces to enhance individual credentials and knowledge capability. Community of circumstance, on the other hand, can only be formed if the community develops the desired adaptive capacities on a collective level, transcending individual enhancement.

The following chapter discusses our research efforts undertaken to cultivate community of circumstance among rural urban communities to enhance community resilience. It is by ensuring active participation on a collective level in the process of enhancing communitarian adaptive capacities that cultivating community of circumstance can truly be identified as an important milestone in the process of achieving holistic empowerment.


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13 Cultivating communities of

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