Founded in 1972 by Sanjit "Bunker" Roy
Tilonia, Rajasthan, India
The Barefoot College connects rural communities to solar, water, education, professions and advocacy to help communities and individuals take control of their lives and the wellbeing of their communities.
A large number of communities in rural India have prevalent poverty and inequality issues. However, rarely are members of these rural communities – who possess outstanding traditional knowledge and local experience – are collaborators in designing solutions to community challenges. In 1972, Bunker Roy and a group of like minded individuals of Tilonia, a small village in rural Rajasthan (India), shared a dream of grafting together formal urban learning with rural wisdom and knowledge, allowing the voices of the rural poor to be at the heart of creating their own solutions. This vision carried on the ideas shared and spread by Mahatma Gandhi.
Barefoot College was built by and exclusively for the poor. Since its inception, this innovative rural college has worked with marginalized, exploited and impoverished rural poor who live on less than $1 a day. The program helps lift them over the poverty line with dignity and self-respect, with the leadership comprised of almost entirely non-formally educated barefoot professionals.
Solution and innovation
The Barefoot College teaches rural women and men to become solar engineers, artisans, dentists and doctors in their own villages. The model works on leveraging the power, resourcefulness, inventiveness or rural people to not just solve local challenges, but also ‘export’ their ideas and solutions to other parts of the country and world. Barefoot College is driven by principles based on village wisdom, village based solutions, women first, dynamic education, and appropriate technology. The College serves as a hub for running a number of programs that are all based on these five principles. The Barefoot College also runs an online marketplace to promote and sell local products. The College’s non-negotiable values are: equality, collective decision making, decentralization, self-reliance and austerity.
Since its start in 1972 The Barefoot College has spread to more than 70 countries, and exemplified a model that works on nurturing the power, resourcefulness and inventiveness of rural villages to not only solve local challenges, but also to export these locally generated ideas to other, “more developed” parts of the country and the world.
“Our relationship with Barefoot College is a core part of our commitment to Empowering Girls and Women. Our work together is literally life-changing and I’m particularly pleased that we’ve been able to collaborate with clients to meet barefoot business needs and achieve results," said Patrick Sherrington, Regional Managing Partner Asia Pacific Middle East.
Read here the strategic plan of Barefoot College.
Watch the TED talk of Sanjit Bunker Roy.