5 May 2017, Kotagiri: As of April 2017, Keystone has started following a new structure of programmes. The main reason to undertake this restructuring was because the older programme structure was unable to capture the new things that Keystone was involved in; and besides, the older work had taken form in terms of action, research papers, new institutions like Last Forest Enterprises (LFE), Nilgiri Natural History Society (NNHS), and Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited (APPCL). Another important factor was the maturing of the work of Culture and People in the last decade into the Indigenous Peoples’ Programme and an understanding that tribal culture, identity and leadership is with the communities now to take forward. Many programmes needed a new agenda and others needed to expand/adapt to take in new environmental issues. Some changes in community social structure and wellness, also led to more emphasis on those programmes. Stretching the old programme structure meant closing new options and new leadership.

The Directors’ Retreat in Mahabalipuram last year where personal and professional trajectories of the Directors were discussed as well as ideas of handing over, building new leaders, mentoring and coaching staff, building some financial security and infrastructure were discussed and subsequent retreats with senior and middle management teams from Keystone, LFE and NNHS and ‘dreams’ sessions with the rest of the Keystone staff helped build a new programme structure.

New Programme Areas of Keystone

The new structure defines 8 Core Programmes of Climate Change, Advocacy & Media, Network Management, and Field Courses & Research as those that would be done through knowledge and strategic networks. Field situation still requires us to focus on Community Wellbeing, Biodiversity Management & Restoration, Apiculture, and Water& Sanitation. Common Team Programmes and New Initiatives were added as efforts to practically implement what we believe in, work together and break out of our usual slots.

These programmes are assisted by 8 Support Programmes of Finance, Field Areas, Administration, Human Resource, Infrastructure, Legal, Fundraising, and Communications.

Keystone will also function as Data or Knowledge Hub for Designs, Markets and Outreach. This will be support for APPCL, LFE and NNHS.

Scope of work of the new core programme areas as envisioned by the Keystone team is described below.

  1. Climate Change: Keystone’s Climate Change programme is currently working with the Green Climate Fund (GCF) on Enhanced Direct Access (EDA) to ensure that communities have a say in the decisions that directly impact them. The programme will also be compiling data on traditional knowledge related to climate as it applies to agriculture, water resources, seasonal forest foods and animal (especially pollinator) behaviour, etc. and developing adaption strategies; all of this leading to the establishment of a Climate Change Centre for Communities at the Keystone campus with resources on resilience that is accessible to all.
  2. Advocacy & Media: The proposed Advocacy Platform is already working on select policy briefs starting with water (Village Water Security Plans). The Media platform is set to increase interactions with press (both print and digital) to ensure sensitive reporting, while building on Radio Kotagiri’s rapport with the communities to turn it into a significant component of the proposed Climate Change Centre for Communities.
  3. Network Management: Keystone is currently coordinating for India networks of NGOs related to Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), Non-Timber Forest Produce Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP)-India, Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA), Tribal Empowerment networks. The People & Nature Fund and Keystone’s own Grant Management Service is to develop into a Funding Hub for grassroots projects in India.
  4. Field Courses & Research: Thus far, trainings have been the purview of individual programme areas. Under the new structure, Field Courses & Research will have the responsibility to consolidate resources and develop structured training modules for courses that can be incorporated into school and college curricula as well as standalone courses that are open to communities. The prestigious Nilgiri Field Learning Course, in affiliation with Cornell University is housed under this programme and has finished 3 years recently. The field course is due to get an extension in 2018.
  5. Water & Sanitation: Current localised views of linkages between water resources and sanitation are to be developed into a landscape approach where both upstream and downstream dynamics are addressed. Our current projects of TNUSSP and the Water project in The Nilgiris will integrate into the larger objective of safe water and sanitation in the area of work.
  6. Apiculture: Apiculture’s current focus of practical training on various aspects of beekeeping and disseminating information through the Pollinators Network and Honey Portal is set to expand into developing structured trainings and certified courses in apiculture; establishing a Pollen Library, creating bee sanctuaries/habitats; and building a Honey Hunters Network. This is one of the flagship strengths of Keystone and needs focus and integration
  7. Biodiversity Management & Restoration: Existing activities of conservation education, biodiversity research, human-wildlife interactions, nurseries and information centres are to go hands-on with tangible conservation outcomes and impacts – an active field station in Satyamangalam, a botanical garden of native species, rescue centres for animals and plants, increased forest cover in the Keystone campus and. linking habitat restoration to water source conservation
  8. Community Empowerment: This programme will actively work towards the holistic wellbeing of indigenous communities addressing issues relating to health and nutrition, mental health, gender equality, livelihood, human rights and indigenous culture and tradition.