About Praja.in

What is Praja.in?

Yathaa Raja Tathaa Praja, so we read in certain ancient texts. Times have changed. In these modern democratic days, Yathaa Praja Tatha Rajaa is more like it. Today, Raja only reflects Praja. The so called politicians and everyone else we blame no end only mirror our society and us.

Do you think we know and care enough about developments taking place in all our localities? Do you think the Praja truly participates in the way she is governed? We think not. What if we - the Praja - made efforts to know, care and participate? And it is not that our democratic leaders and appointed administrators don’t care at all. Many do, and they try, but lack of interest and participation from us makes their job a lot harder.

Praja.in aims to be a bridge between those who serve us and those amongst us who care and want to participate. Towards that, it aims to establish an Internet driven community to help make the connection at local levels. It wants to be a networking platform for active and concerned citizens.

Long term goals will always sound lofty and dreamy. But as a start, Praja.in aims to capture voices and opinions from the ground via web based tools of blogs and discussion forums. Once the community expands and builds credibility, we will take the next step of participation via RTI queries, town hall meetings, suggestions, complaints or PILs. Some examples of what we can do in future:

Please come join us, and help build an active networking-platform for responsible and caring yet concerned citizens.

About us

We really wish there was a way to put up a mirror here. Praja is all about "us", and in the true spirit of "us", there are going to be no credit rolls here.

To sound Utopian is not the idea. But to be able to convince folks to move up from their individual efforts and join in, we think it is best not to mention names here. Or else this citizen-networking platform would be seen as X, Y and Z's site and not a community.

However, the site has four sets of people working behind the scenes.
  1. Caring Citizens - These budding activists and enthusiasts keep the community buzzing by posting their analysis, complaints and experiences. If you'd like to join in, just register and get started. Or, use the contact form with the option 'Join as a content creator' and mention your relevant credentials.
  2. Moderators - These are active members of the site who have volunteered to help moderate content posted on this site.
  3. Activists - These folks take discussions a bit further by taking them on-ground. We promote on-ground projects that involve civic participation and tracking of public organizations as well as projects.
  4. Tech-heads - These folks keep the site running and focus on making it easy to view and use. If you'd like to join and help, please use the contact form with the option 'Join the technical team' and your interests and abilities on that front.

About the banner

Praja members Narayan82 and Santsub offered to help with the banner and logo. After looking at a few suggestions from them, Narayan's creation won the nod for banner as well as logo images. Narayan's banner creatively captures some of Bangalore landmarks, and the logo (holding hands) symbolizes networking.

FAQ

Frequently asked questions about Praja.in

What exactly is Praja.in, alternate media or an NGO?

A> We are neither trying to be alternate media, nor yet another NGO. There is some wide and serious space between journalism and activism that we are trying to fill and bridge. Our dream is to create a platform where citizens highlight their local issues, then network with like minded people to evolve possible solutions, and find ways of engaging with local government bodies to get things fixed. How does this system work with media or NGOs?

  • From Media - Highlighted issues could be triggered by newspaper reports. Also, Media reports, at times, don't present the full picture.
  • To Media - Members could bring media's attention to some local issues.
  • From NGOs - Existing NGOs could bring events, projects and proposals to attract or recruit like minded members, or simply promote their cause.
  • To NGOs - Members interested in doing more than just highlighting the issues could be directed to relevant NGOs

What exactly does Praja.in do?

A> Praja.in is gearing to be the networking place for active and caring citizens. We are building a platform with Internet based tools to be the breeding ground for modern day and constructive activism. Constructive activism involves knowing, caring and participating, and can be a mix of online and on-ground activities.

I am only interested in discussions, and not on-ground projects. Am I still welcome on Praja.in?

A> Yes, because willingness to highlight and discuss your local issues is the first sure sign that you have the interest. We encourage discussions, provided they are local, fact based and constructively engaging. There will never be any pressure or moral extortion to push you towards volunteering for on-ground projects.

How do you plan to mix the online and on-ground activities?

A> One reality is that to get good participation in on-ground activities, you need a bigger pool of citizens to draw from. Further, many don't realize that sharing and discussing full context is the only way to get more friends and volunteers for your on-ground projects. We have seen many NGOs and individuals who expects volunteers just like that.

From our experience, 2-5% tends to be the conversion rate - if 100 folks say "I will help", 2-5 will end up coming to the event or campaign.

Now, most self-help groups today will work primarily with this on-ground activist set (maximum 5% of the "interested" pool), and not have much for other 95% who have the interest, but couldn't show up often enough. But here, we won't belittle those who prefer discussions. That is because we know and recognize that not everyone is open to sacrificing weekends and evenings on a regular basis to do things on-ground. But, if we have a bigger pool of, say 5000 members, then, any call for "lets do this" should attract 40-50 folks. Every next event might see a different set 40-50 people - but is that a problem? Its not, provided we do these things:

  • Be transparent in all activities. Dump all context on the website, so that the next set of people can just pick up from where the last set of people left.
  • However, there should be a group of at least 3-4 people who'd be willing to 'lead', which means that they be present at most events for their pet cause.
  • There may be virtual ways of helping as well - filing online complaints, doing background research work, sharing past experiences are some examples.

Hope this explains what we are chasing here at praja.in.

But there are so many other self-help groups ...

A> Must clarify once again that we are not trying to be yet another NGO. There are plenty of NGOs and activist groups around, we are not trying to re-create or eclipse any of them or be the umbrella of any sort. We are only trying to provide a transparent, and Internet based platform for existing, or new self help groups. Here is how this platform is different:

  • Use Internet to the hilt - share your knowledge, log all your activities, (some day soon) extend all your meetings online etc etc as well.
  • No disrespect for those who prefer to discuss but may not be ready (no time, family situation, etc) for on-ground action. Hopefully, with time, the circumstances, or peer pressure from the rest of us will make many convert into "activists"
  • Democratic nature - Admins don't push their pet causes. Come find friends for your favourite cause, and if it sticks, and more members join in, we will set you up with the tools on the website. For example, it might be that while a group of people runs the campaign to privatize BMTC (via PIL), another group seeks to keep it public but make it more responsible.
  • However, we will do a little moderation for things like foul language, uncivil behavior, and strong arguments backed neither by facts nor by positive or constructive intent.

I am a policy maker / journalist / business, how can I help, or do you have anything for me?

A> Here are some messages for members with special profiles:

  • Policy makers - Please get in touch if you want to connect with any of us, or soon-to-be formed "engagement groups" here on praja.in.
  • Journalists - We are not here to compete with the newspapers. We feed on you, and direct people to you for more. If you can help drive some publicity for us, that will be great. If you want tighter associations, do contact us.
  • Members of existing activist or self-help groups - Praja.in is not trying to eclipse or represent you. We only want to bring all like minded folks in one big virtual hall. Consider making Praja.in your "online" home, that's all.
  • Businesses wanting to help (ex: with CSR funds) - We are still working on 'financial' structure for our operations. If you want to help, please contact us, and we will queue you up for later interaction when we finalize our workings.
  • Businesses willing to run ads - Same as above. However, do stay in touch.
  • All of above - we promise confidentiality of all contact communications.

Hope this explains and answers the most common questions that are asked about praja.in. Comments are most welcome, do help shape and refine this community's thoughts.

How does this platform work? How do I get started?

A> Read this help topic to know more, and to get started on Praja.in

How do you operate, who funds all this?

A> We are in the process of registering as a Society. More details will be published soon, but here is a quick overview. The Society will consist of some donor members who pool in funds to pay for technology and day to day operations of this website. An executive committee of this Society will be governing non-technical behavior (as in, the use) of Praja.in platform.

Are there any vested interests, any big name donors? I want to support this platform, what do I do?

A> There are no dominating big names, no media houses, neither any established NGOs as donors. Donors are all ordinary citizens who see the need for such localized modern day Internet driven citizen networking platform. Donors are currently a closed group, and we add more only by invitation. But we will soon set ourselves to open up to receive support from any registered member.

 

My Interests User Manual:

 

1.       My Posts/My Comments: Automatically come

2.       Friends Posts: Go to the Post you like. Click on Flag User link to check your friend posts.

3.       My Interests Posts: To add, go to the post you are interested and click Add favorite content link  to add to your interest posts.

4.       My Terms: Go to My Praja à My Account & Choose àAll Categories Tab

·         All terms of the category vocabulary will be displayed with a corresponding flag. Click on Add Favorite Term and all articles tagged with this term will come under My Terms.

·         One can also add to favorite term under the term node display

Ex: To add bus as your favorite term, type http://praja.in/en/tags/bus

& then on top, click Add Favorite Term

Discussions about Praja.in itself

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Placeholder book to group together some past discussions that have happened about Praja.in itself. These discussions are initiated once in a while to hear back from members. Responses to such discussions initiated by site admin generate more private messages and emails than comments.

Do read: An FAQ about Praja.in

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[Please Note: Contents of this post have been moved to a page under "About" section of the website. The FAQ will be maintained there]

Let us be clear here. We are building Praja.in to be the breeding ground for citizen activism. Activism involves knowing, caring and particpating, and can be a mix of online and on-ground activities. One reality is that to get good participation in on-ground activities, you need a bigger pool of citizens to draw from. From our experience, 2-5% tends to be the conversion rate - if 100 folks say "I will help", 2-5 will end up coming to the event.

Now, most self-help groups today will work primarily with this on-ground activist set (5% of the pool), and not have much for other 95% who have the interest, but couldn't show up often enough. But here, we won't belittle those who prefer discussions. Because, we know and recognize that not everyone is open to sacrificing weekends and evenings on a regular basis to do things on-ground. But, if we have a bigger pool of, say 5000 members, then, any call for "lets do this" should attract 40-50 folks. Every next event may see a different set 40-50 people - but is that a problem? Its not, provided we do these things:

  • Be transparent in our activities. Dump all context on the website, so that the next set of people can just pick up from where the last set of people left.
  • However, there should be a group of at least 3-4 people who'd be willing to 'lead', which means that they be present at most events for their pet cause.
  • There may be virtual ways of helping as well - filing online complaints, doing background research work, sharing past experiences are some examples.

Hope this explains what we are chasing here at praja.in. There are plenty of activist groups around, we are not trying to eclipse any. But, we are trying to provide a transparent, and Internet rooted platform for existing, or new activist groups. Our strength will be:

  • Use Internet to the hilt - knowledge sharing, transparent log of activities, (some day) online meetings as well.
  • No disrespect for those who prefer to discuss but may not be ready (no time, family situation, etc) for on-ground action. Hopefully, with time, the circumstances, or peer pressure from the rest of us will make many convert into "activists"
  • Democratic nature- Admins dont push their pet causes. Come find your friends for your cause, and if it sticks, and more members join in, we will set you up with the tools on the website. For example, it might be that a group of people run the campaign to privatize BMTC (via PIL), while at the same time, another group seeks to keep it public but make it more responsible.
  • However, we will do a little moderation for things like foul language, uncivil behavior, and strong arguments backed neither by facts nor by positive or constructive intent.

Before we close this post, here are some messages to members with special profiles:

  • Policy makers - Please get in touch if you want to connect with any of us, or soon-to-be formed "engagement groups" here on praja.in.
  • Journalists - We are not here to compete with the newspapers. We feed on you, and direct people to you for more. If you can help drive some publicity for us, that will be great. If you want tighter associations, do contact us.
  • Members of existing activist or self-help groups - Praja.in is not trying to eclipse you. We only want to bring all like minded folks in one big virtual hall. Please consider making Praja.in your "online" home, thats all.
  • Businesses wanting to help (ex: with CSR funds) - We are still working on 'financial' structure for our operations. If you want to help, please contact us, and we will queue you up for later interaction when we finalize our workings.
  • Businesses willing to run ads - Same as above. However, do stay in touch.
  • All of above - we promise confidentiality of contact communications.

Hope this explains and answers common questions we may have about praja.in. Comments are most welcome, do help shape and refine this community's thoughts.

Praja.in - whats ahead?

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A "whats next" type discussion has been pending for sometime now, how about we start one. To kick it off, here are the two broad thoughts what got us started in the first place:

=> Need for a platform to enable citizens to be activists in their areas of concern and interest. Platform as in enable and equip, with information, pointers, complaint numbers, contacts of relevant people, success/failure stories and alike.
=> Try to utilize the power of Internet to build a big and strong community. We realize that if easy and online ways of activism are made available, there will be better participation because the reality of present times is - most of us are not willing to give these things serious personal effort and time.

So we took off, with this website Praja.in, and the first goal is to build a sizable community of like minded urban residents. Like minded as in concerned, knowledgeable, aware, and at times willing to indulge in activism.

But, with time if we could supplement the discussions with some field-work, that should bring us visible results and satisfaction. Towards that, we could:
- organize events, like meet with BBMP/BDA officers to ask or to tell.
- File RTI applications on behalf of community
- Few of us participate in town-hall/RWA type meetings and communicate thoughts and ideas on behalf of all of us
- and more (PILs?)

Frankly, converting an active online community to be more meaningful is an area of challenge, and the ideas should come from the community itself.

So let us know what your thoughts are, and help us define goals that fit the broad theme of community driven activism leveraging Internet as the networking and enabling platform.

One more thing. We want to keep and grow Praja.in as a faceless and champion-less group as much as possible. We are not a bunch of publicity seekers or glory hunters. A big and active online-citizen's community is our goal, and we are all stakeholders in building and maintaining it. So while we, the admins run the site and watch after technicalities and moderations on as-needed basis, please contribute, via content now and some field-work later.

- {Praja.in admin team}

Praja: what next and do more - your thoughts?

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Praja related

Recent comments and messages from a few members indicate that it may be time for us to take some next steps to "do more". We are trying to see if there are good and practical ideas on "what next" and "do more", this is the place-holder posts to capture your input.

Doing things in consultation with members fits in our culture as we wish to be open and transparent community limited only by practical constraints of time, money and the initial thoughts that started it all. So here is some context before we kick this off.

First, a quick list of the thoughts that bind the set of about a dozen people who joined hands to build what we have today.

  • Praja is neither an NGO, nor a journalistic venture. There is space between polarized NGOs, and pure media. NGOs consist of "converted" people (already know a lot), and media prefers to share information and versions that sell. We don't know enough, and can understand stuff a lot better by sharing our observations.
  • This is primarily a place for aware citizens to "network" and "talk sense". We don't belittle discussions. Talking sense as in showing willingness to understand as opposed to mere cribbing is the critical first step towards becoming active and aware citizen.
  • Going beyond discussions is left to the members. There is no pressure - talk as much sense as you want. On the other hand, you can't come talk, and then demand or expect someone else to do the walking.
  • Talking sense, and creating useful content in terms of requirements or factually bright suggestions can lead to indirect influence. More sense we talk, more chances that we will be heard by those in a position to do something with it. We truly believe that positive and constructive talk tends to find its way.
  • Beyond this, we do our best to make it possible for members to group together and connect with local bodies. These connects are expected to be carried forward by enthusiastic members themselves. Our long term goal is to build creative, loosely structured, transparent and collaborative ways of facilitating these connects. Remember, there is a fine line between "my suggestion" and "our suggestion". Sending links to consolidated quality discussions (representing a group) would work better than each of us sending our personal ideas to govt email addresses.
  • Ideally, with time, we would connect with NGOs, or "do-ers" to direct (or funnel) those who want to go beyond discussions (numbers are usually thin here)
  • For those members who will like to collaborate on projects here itself, we are building project management type systems, with time, we will invite NGOs to make use of our tools to run (and publicize) their projects.

Next, and pretty important, a quick note on how it all works today:

  • An early set of people built the website. They continue to maintain it, on volunteering basis.
  • There is now a Society consisting of donors who pool in money to support 1 full time engineer to help run this Internet based community.
  • Praja "donors" is a closed group right now, but we will soon open it up to all registered users so that Praja lovers can donate to support and keep this community running.

Bottom-line - be aware of the thoughts behind building this place, and think practical aspects of implementing what you would suggest.

Look forward to a healthy discussion, this time about Praja itself.

[Announcement] Working Groups - our first one

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Public Transport

Okay then. Time now to test ourselves, and the theory, that with a bigger pool (1000+ now) of members, we will have correspondingly bigger numbers for on-ground activities. Let us start our first "working group" (or WG) on Praja. Taking the window of opportunity offered by Mr Tripathy, and well aware that the subject is most popular thus far, the first WG will be on Public Transport. Before forming this group, let us figure out this generic concept of WG:

  • WG's objective - Connect Praja members with happenings on public transport front. Take suggestions or reviews to 'them', get 'their' messages and communications to Praja.
  • Essentially, each WG will be the face of Praja in interactions with organizations relevant to WG's theme.
  • In return for the "privilege" of representing Praja members, WG members will have following responsibilities
    • Transparency - log all work and talking you do. Praja.in website will provide tools so that WG's actions can easily be logged (by WG) and tracked (by rest of the members).
    • Absolutely no ranting or personal attacks. Be either constructive or informative, or keep out.
    • Democratic workings - do what majority wants. First, pick action items popular amongst on the website. Next, from this list, pick majority opinion within WG.
    • No permanent members - Once you stop attending meetings or participating, you should vacate your spot.
    • Last, track related news and developments (keep posting here). But this aspect will need help from all.
  • Size: 10 (just a number to start with, lets see the interest first)
  • How does the WG get formed?
    • Right now: Nominate members based on their level of enthusiasm on the site so far. Long time members, who have been posting constructively on the subject, and have shown inclination for on-ground action, they get the first shot.
    • Later: Some established "experts" via nomination, but rest are picked via an online "election" on the site. Basically, it should be like this - do the opinion building o the site, build your credibility on the site, and then you get nominated or elected to a WG in line with your passion.

We will perfect this WG concept as we go along. But post your comments and feedback to this proposal. Once the members are okay with the proposal on structure and workings of Praja WG, we will get going with organized action on the ground.

And BTW, if there isn't enough interest and commitment, no sweat, and no worries :) We will try this again a bit later once we get bigger and broader. Remember, our motto is "Collaborative Activism", and our strength comes from transparent and democratic setup wherever and as much as possible.