Skoll Foundation


Gram Vikas

Skoll Entrepreneur(s): Joe Madiath
Award Year: 2007
Focus Area(s) Addressed: Education and Economic Opportunity, Water and Sanitation

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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.


  • 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.
  • Recently, 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.
  • Scaling GV model throughout India: In 2011/2012, Joe Madiath chaired the Working Group for Rural Drinking Water and Sanitation for India’s 12th 5 year plan (2012-2017). The Secretary of Drinking Water and Sanitation says Gram Vikas’ approach should be the model for India, and the Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh said, “We must feel that investment in water supply and sanitation is a matter of urgent priority. It is as important as investing in defense.” The Minister has proposed a significant increase to government subsidy for sanitation and 100% inclusion in villages (versus focus on households), consistent with the working group’s recommendation modeled on GV.
  • Direct Village Engagement in FYE 2011: GV helped 7,307 poor families in rural communities access safe drinking water and reliable sanitation, bringing the cumulative total to 55,422 households across more than 1,000 rural and tribal villages.
  • GV identified means to scale its model more rapidly in 2011, including corporate partnerships and incentives for village leaders to promote replication to neighboring villages.
  • Watch Joe’s TED Global 2014 talk:



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