Skoll Foundation


Gram Vikas

Skoll Awardee(s): Joe Madiath
Award Year: 2007
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Health

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Joe Madiath has spent 30 years working in development among the poorest communities in Orissa, India. Drawn there in 1971 to help communities that had been ravaged by a cyclone, Joe stayed on as an activist focused on sustainable development projects. He founded Gram Vikas in 1979 and has served as executive director ever since, growing Gram Vikas into one of the largest non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Orissa. Gram Vikas originally focused on providing renewable energy for rural communities, building more than 54,000 biogas units. Over time, Gram Vikas developed its more holistic model of development, based on Joe’s conviction that every family in a village must have healthy living practices and an improved quality of life before total development can occur. This model has transformed at least 1,000 villages and has proven that the rural poor can and will pay for better sanitation and water facilities.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2007:

  • Joe, and others like him, are proving a model, providing evidence of success that can influence decision makers and be taken to scale. Gram Vikas has been at the forefront of promoting ‘life with dignity’ for thousands of households in rural Orissa by enabling them to have water and sanitation facilities covering 100% of the village population.
  • Gram Vikas has partnered with more than 70,000 families in more than a thousand villages covering 400,000 poor.
  • Gram Vikas has impacted over 1200 villages in 26 districts in the state of Odisha and has started projects in 5 other states: Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
  • They have trained other like-minded organizations across India to replicate Gram Vikas’ model of development.
  • They scaled their operations internationally and now work in The Gambia and Tanzania.
  • In Dec. 2013, Gram Vikas was selected as a 2013 STARS Impact Award Winner in the category of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene).  They won $100,000 of unrestricted funding, and up to $20,000 of Consultancy Support.
  • The MANTRA program is shaping future policy at the national level. Movement and Action Network for Transformation of Rural Areas is Gram Vikas’ comprehensive habitat development and governance program that uses common concerns regarding clean water and sanitation to unite and empower communities, launch development initiatives, and improve community health. MANTRA is based on inclusion, sustainability, cost sharing and social and gender equity.
  • Watch Joe’s TED Global 2014 talk:



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