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WOSCA: An Emulative Saga of Social Enterprise*

ET Cases - GSMC, 23 Pages
AUTHOR(S) : Shobana Sivaraman and Dr. K. R. Pillai, School of Management, Manipal University

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WOSCA: An Emulative Saga of Social Enterprise


When passion is cemented to determination, any engagement can unfold seamless avenues of accomplishments. A group of educated young women, in the early 1990s, decided to consecrate their life and skill in an endeavor to improve the lot of marginalized and impoverished women in their locality. Driven by an emulative altruistic benevolence, these youngsters flocked together for a social cause, by venturing into an untrodden path by mobilizing their neighborhood women and started imparting some training on alternative income generation activities in one among the most-backward areas in the country. As they scaled up their activities, the requirement of an institutional mechanism was felt to gain credibility and to smoothen its networking process. This led to the establishment of Women’s Organization for Socio-Cultural Awareness (WOSCA), which was registered under Charitable Society’s Act in Keonjhar district of Odisha in 1993. An NGO, with a humble  eginning, became a major catalyst of socio-economic upliftment of the poor in that district.

The spark of forming a women-oriented organization is for enhancing the quality of life of rural women by ensuring livelihood, security and empowerment. It was their fundamental belief that every human being on the planet must be able to access their basic requirements, irrespective of their assumed socio-economic status and deserved to be treated with dignity. The humane benevolence rolled out around 22 years ago has, now, metamorphosed itself into a social enterprise propelling the rural growth trajectory and socio-economic equity. What made this initiative special was their focus on rural and tribal women in their operational jurisdiction.

Various developmental projects were facilitated by WOSCA to address the pertinent issues in the district, especially the marginalized women folk in the rural hinterland. The effort to bring about any change would substantially be challenging, when it disrupts the status quo and precedence, and so was the with WOSCA initially. Despite umpteen schemes for the socio-economic betterment, the target group remained impoverished....................

The Locale

Keonjhar, one of the backward districts in Odisha state in the peninsular India, is densely populated with scheduled tribes (0.7 million) and scheduled caste (0.18 million), covering a geographical area of 8240 sq. kms. Though Keonjhar is known for its rich mineral resources, surprisingly 80% of rural population ekes out their livelihood primarily on forest products, agriculture, non-timber forest produces and other secondary agricultural and forest-based activities. The district is attributed with a striking contrast with respect to agricultural land. While much of the fertile land was kept unutilized and thereby infested with weeds, farmers used to struggle to raise crop in barren lands causing agrarian distress.............

The Voyage

The small step moved by seven women, now, progressed into an eventful journey expanding into various blocks of Keonjhar district with a cluster of 140 members in the organogram (Exhibit I). WOSCA rolled out its auspicious journey by mobilizing and channelizing the talent potential and skills of women and adolescent girls, as they were the most vulnerable gender segment. Massive awareness programmes were conducted on financial literacy, resource management, communicable diseases, nutrition, sanitation, health and hygiene. The State Institute of Rural Development had collaborated to launch “thrift and credit awareness programme.”...............

WOSCA’s Community Patronage

WOSCA facilitated various projects to enhance rural livelihood and empower the deprived community. Every programme that WOSCA patronized attempted to address the issues pertaining to livelihood, social security, health and environment (Exhibit II)..............

Retrieval of Tradition

Two villages of Keonjhar were known for their traditional craftsmanship and artistic distinction once, but lost its market grip for want of innovativeness. WOSCA decided to retrieve the artistic legacy of the village craftsmen, when they identified that the unique handmade artifacts drew only very few customers and, thereby, the artisans were eking out a bare living and many even transmigrated into other odd and erratic jobs. An effective intervention was required to restore their artistic heritage. Considering all the odds, WOSCA evolved an integrated strategy to address the issue by involving rural women, adolescent girls, children and men through various livelihood and governance projects................

Eliminating Debt Trap and Ensuring Financial Security

The rural population of Keonjhar was under the grip of unscrupulous money lenders. Money lenders expropriated the hard-earned assets of the socially vulnerable and economically deprived people in the district, by capitalizing their illiteracy and predicament as they were totally dependent on money lenders for their financial needs.Rural people were unaware as well as hesitant to approach mainstream credit channels and remained blindfolded for a significantly long time. Analyzing this grave situation, WOSCA was the pioneer to form women groups, formally, to make them economically sustainable. It formed groups which consist of around 15 women in each group. It conducted a baseline survey to identify and prioritize the blocks in Keonjhar district prior to the formation of civil society groups.............

Promoting Panchayat Raj Initiatives

WOSCA demonstrated a great competency in strengthening grass root level governance. One such effort was to promote Panchayat Raj initiatives implemented by WOSCA in partnership with Center for World Solidarity (CWS), in a phased manner between 2004 and 2015. WOSCA actively took up the role of a facilitator of promoting the three tier governance system (Gram panchayat at village level, Panchayat Samiti at block level and Zilla Parishad at district Level) even since its inception in the country. However, the major focus was on Gram panchayat as they did not want to divert their attention from rural areas as the empowerment of rural areas would resonate in other levels as well..............

Food Security and Empowerment of Poor

Food Security and empowerment project was implemented in the year 2003 with the patronage of Concern Worldwide; an Ireland based non-governmental humanitarian organization, in addressing the dire needs of the society and to bring about a perceptible desirable change in social power index. This programme was commissioned in a phased manner. In the first phase, a comprehensive survey was conducted to explore the livelihood status of the community, through a door to door visit to the target group. Data were analyzed and interpreted to prioritize the resources and the project was pilot tested...........

Cluster Development Project in Jute Craft and Terracotta

This programme was an integrated effort to promote handicrafts from designing to marketing. WOSCA identified Haladhapur and Mareigaon cluster in Keonjhar district which are densely populated by the rural and tribal artisans whose primary source of living was designing and jute crafts and terracotta products for generations. Around 530-550 artisans reside in these clusters. Their products failed to generate ample demand for want of market stipulations. Artisans were pretty ignorant to adapt to the evolving changes in the market trends. Native artisans were neither embedded into new technology nor could meet market expectations. The artisans were skilled in designing jute materials, earthenware pottery, household utensils, etc................

Community Media Project

Visual communication will have more impact than verbal communication. Leveraging the technological advantage, WOSCA decided to form a pack of citizen journalists as a lens towards the socio-political dynamics to capture, unfold and deter corruption and other illegal activities in the area. In September 2007, WOSCA launched community media project in Ghatagaon block of Keonjhar district with the aim of educating the community about their rights and entitlements. WOSCA trained 24 development reporters from six villages out of which 17 were women..............

WADI Livelihood Development Project

Basically WOSCA concentrated more towards enhancing the livelihood of the people. One project which received overwhelming response from the community was WADI (orchard). Supported by NABARD and other government agencies, WADI is basically an integrated project for livelihood development, mainly orchard based/dry land horticulture, a comprehensive approach; to uplift the socio-economic status of the people. Tribes who have less capital and barren lands with scarce water resources are supported under this project where they are encouraged and financially supported to develop tree based farming systems. This project acts as a platform to bring the community together and to promote awareness among the tribes about micro credit schemes, kitchen gardening techniques, sanitation, health and hygiene.............

OTELP – PLUS (Odisha Tribal Empowerment & Livelihood Programme) Project

OTELP – Plus is a newly extended programme of the existing OTELP Project to improve the livelihood status of the tribal families. Objective of this project is to involve the community in every stage of the process and improve their socio economic status through farm, non-farm, off farm and micro watershed planning and implementation. WOSCA launched OTELP – Plus project in the year 2013 with the support of ITDA in Harichandpur block covering 3636 households of Keonjhar district. Through this project WOSCA educated the community to utilize available resources optimally, to identify the problems and to discuss possible solutions to frame innovative methods for micro watershed management thereby improving the physical infrastructure of the village.............

MGNREGA-NRLM-CFT Convergence Project for Livelihood Development

WOSCA launched cluster facilitation programme on MGNREGA and NRLM, supported by Ministry of Rural Development in June 2014. Aim of this project was to increase awareness of MGNREGA and to empower the tribal people to claim their rights and entitlements. A total number of 25 GPs, in Harichandanpur blocks were covered under this project...........

Participatory Biodiversity Conservation Programme

This project was launched by WOSCA in association with Global Environment Facility (GEF) through United Nations Development (UNDP), Small Grant Program (SGP). The main objective was to conserve the forest resources, as consumption of forest resources was increasing at an alarming rate. The tribes were trained on how to utilize the NTFP effectively and thereby facilitating them with alternative ways of income generation. Initially it began its operations across 16 villages of Raghunathpur gram panchayat of Sadar block of Keonjhar district. The project was carried out in three phases during April 2007 – March 2009. WOSCA launched the project systematically by conducting a baseline survey to study the prevailing conditions, interpreted the results, thereby initiating various awareness programmes on methods of conservation of forest resources..............

Odisha Forestry Programme

Odisha Forestry Programme was launched in Maidankel, Talachampei GP of Sadar and Banspal block of Keonjhar district in partnership with Centre for People’s Forestry (CPF) during the period of April 2007 – March 2010. The project followed a holistic approach in addressing multi-dimensional problems such as dealing with endangered species of plants, promoting constitutional entitlements of tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, empowering the village forest committees with their roles and responsibilities in conserving the forest and forest based products. The community was habituated to unsustainable resource forage, as they visualized uninterrupted supply of forest resources...........

Agri-Based Livelihood Program

WOSCA launched an agri-based livelihood programme in 2003 in association with CAPART covering 60 households at Kandasar village, Basantpur GP of Ghatagaon block. Objective of this project was to revamp the agricultural practices of the village by promoting integrated and mixed farming, organic farming and different sustainable land use patterns............

Watershed Development

Keonjhar being covered by dense forest, experiences heavy annual rainfall thus, Watershed management is a major concern in this area. WOSCA has served the community through watershed development and management project in association with ITDA at Nischintpur, Gopalpur villages of Sadar block in 2001 covering 550 hectares of land and 107 vulnerable families. Through the project, WOSCA created a learning platform by developing 10.11 hectares of demonstration plot of Maize, 6.3 hectares of Cashew and 3.1 hectares of mango plantation................

Rural Health Projects

Keonjhar is one district in Odisha where the prevalence of malnutrition was alarmingly high. WOSCA was instrumental to promote the health seeking behavior of the community in the district. Primarily women were not aware of the importance of breastfeeding a new-born baby. The community had a misconception that colostrum was toxic and thus they had the tendency to discard it without feeding it to the baby. In addition to this, the community had very less knowledge about complementary feeding which resulted in mounting number of undernourished children every year. The system of institutional delivery and immunization were also unknown to them..............


WOSCA bagged many laurels in its journey over two decades. A few worth mentioning accolades are:

• Secretary of WOSCA was awarded as the best entrepreneur for the year 1996 by Government of Odisha, Public Relation Department for women empowerment through promotion of SHGs and the services rendered for the need of poor in the rural areas of Keonjhar district

• National Award for outstanding youth club for remarkable contribution towards community welfare, youth and women empowerment and national development through mobilization and involvement of local youth in 2005-2006 by Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports)

• ......................

Grey Areas

The job done by WOSCA in bringing perceptible qualitative improvements in the rural population has covered in leaps and bounds. The journey so far scaled is invariably admirable and impeccable, whilst numerous seemingly impenetrable hurdles. The research team identified certain grey areas that need to be addressed by an organization of this stature for long-term sustainability. They are listed below:...........

Assignment Questions

I. What is the business model of WOSCA? How do its learning experiences give a sense of direction to the institutions of same genre?
II. What do you understand from forging collaborations to address various issues in the society?
III. ..............


Exhibit I: Organogram

Exhibit II: Strategic Approach Followed by WOSCA

Exhibit III: Process flow of TERcom system

Exhibit IV: Sustainable Food security and empowerment of Poor – TERcom Results

Exhibit V: Coverage Under WADI Project

Exhibit VI: Involvement of MHA Workers

Exhibit VII: Operational Strategy for Community Transformation

Exhibit VIII: Number of Households Covered Under WOSCA


Annexure I: Milestones: Developmental Interventions Accomplished by WOSCA

Teaching Note Preview

WOSCA: An Emulative Saga of Social Enterprise



There has been little or no improvement in the status of poor and marginalized people despite plethora of programmes and schemes implemented by the government. For a country like India with perceptible rural urban divide the role of a social catalyst to mobilize and move community for a good cause need no emphasis. The underlying motive of such intermediary organization is to work for the welfare of the poor, upliftment of their socio-economic status, to bring changes in their life style by sensitizing them on importance of nutrition, clean and hygienic sanitation practices, etc. For the past two decades, WOSCA has been addressing issues concerned with tribal poor in Keonjhar district. They have implemented various projects and programmes in partnership with Government and  non-governmental organizations. Their main areas of expertise are addressing Governance and livelihood issues, health and nutrition practices, conservation of environment, introduction of modern methods agriculture and various social issues.

The case study highlights the potential mismatch between demand and supply systems of developmental programmes which, stem, acts as an obstacle to bring in the desired changes in the community. The case study aims to underpin the claim that empowering at the grass root level workers is the first step leading to the success of any developmental project or programme. The participants could analyze and understand the potential obstacles that an NGO might confront with, in  terms of skilled manpower, community mobilization, community acceptance, networking and sustainability in the system. Despite all odds, strong determination and passion exhibited by a group of women for the past two decades has truly been impressive. This case broadly outlines about the role and impact created by WOSCA in Keonjhar district. It provokes the participants to critically analyze how such an intermediary organization is able to make a tremendous impact in the community when the government schemes and policies fail to withstand or reach out the beneficiaries. This case also helps the readers to explore the possible building blocks of a non-profit business models. The discussion will kick off the inquisitiveness of those participants who intend to be associated with NGOs in their professional life.

Learning Objectives

This case has comprehensive learning objectives as follows:

  • • The case will give a promising insight about the information of social enterprise and its gradual growth into a compulsory antecedent for socio-economic change
  • • The case envisages to examine the various programmes undertaken by WOSCA to address the contesting issues of development
  • • It is also endeavored to pose certain observed changes in the system that likely to offer challenges to its further momentum


Assignment Questions

  • I. What is the business model of WOSCA? How do its learning experiences give a sense of direction to the institutions of same genre?
  • II. What do you understand from forging collaborations to address various issues in the society?
  • III. ....................


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Product code: ENTP-1-0014, ENTP-1-0014A


**IIM RAIPUR- ET CASES Award (GSMC 2016) – For a Case With Social Initiative/Social Entrepreneurship

Award Winning Case Study

This case study attempts to recount the pro-active interventions of an NGO in one of the remotest and inaccessible terrains of rural India, and their far reaching outcomes. Women’s Organization for Socio-Cultural Awareness (WOSCA), a dedicated NGO, rolled out its activities as a social enterprise since 1993 and has been  instrumental to the welfare of the tribal community in Keonjhar district, Odisha. A pioneer to implement various projects with wider dimensions namely governance livelihood, health, environment and culture, WOSCA has been a catalyst for women empowerment through participatory initiatives and joint accountability in its operational jurisdiction. The case study aims to unravel the organization's stake in terms of rural development strategies by a civil society organization, resource pooling, networking and perpetuating community empowerment for social cause. The case analysis illuminates the patterns of change demonstrated by WOSCA based on community needs, sustaining capacity/sustainable development albeit financial constraints, the latent challenges at the community level to fructify the intended outcomes and the evolving change in the project area/community over a period of time. An appraisal, in retrospective dimension, on its decades-long journey in social sector endorses the significance of such institutions being the channels of socio-economic empowerment of deprived communities. Accordingly, this case study analyzes the constraints faced in grass root level governance, underlying challenges in working with various donors, sustainability in social sector and community building.


Pedagogical Objectives

  • To give an insight about the information of social enterprise and its gradual growth into a compulsory antecedent for socio-economic change
  • To examine the various programmes undertaken by WOSCA to address the contesting issues of development
  • To examine certain observed changes that offer challenges to its further momentum

* GSMC 2016, IIM Raipur

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