In June 2009, the Collective initiated a two-year project to develop a business management course which is relevant, accessible and affordable for leadership and staff of NGOs, producer owned business enterprises and entrepreneurs who can plan and operate commercially viable rural businesses.
Its objectives include building a cadre of trained rural business managers, developing a course relevant to rural businesses and ensuring that the target group has access to a training system that is appropriate in terms of costs, language, duration and location. The project had been financially supported by ICCO, Netherlands and developed by a group of business management and development professionals with first-hand experience, either as managers or volunteers, with a wide variety of rural development interventions across India.
The first phase of the programme spanned over two years and involved development of the CREAM concept, delivery of pilot courses at 5 different locations across the country. The intent was to test the applicability of CREAM concepts to different geographies and demography. This was successfully achieved. It led to a series of reviews based on the learning and feedback from the course delivery. This helped with consolidation of the CREAM concept and establishment of a firm baseline for the material.
The CREAM project originally envisaged undertaking three pilots during the two-year period. By February 2011, the project had successfully completed these pilots at Timbaktu, A.P. (for 3 NGOs TC, SEDS & AF), Thiruvananathpuram, Kerala (for Kudumbashree) and Ranchi, Jharkhand (for Vikas Bazar.Net). It was then able to commit to a fourth pilot with Seva Mandir, Rajasthan starting in March 2011.
The project period ended in June 2011. However, ICCO was been kind enough to extend the project period to October 2011 on a “no extra cost” basis. With this in mind CREAM committed to train the directors and staff of the Mahasakthi Federation of Women’s thrift Cooperatives, Anantapur, starting in May 2011 and the directors and leaders of the Dharani FaM Coop ltd, Anantapur, starting in September 2011, both promoted by the Collective. These pilots tested the CREAM concept by taking it to people with very low level of academic education. This required substantial changes in both the pedagogy and materials. The CREAM team first conducted a two-day introductory course for potential participants and they were convinced that they could deliver CREAM to this group. They were indeed able to learn from this and deliver the actual program for the intended audience with a reasonable degree of success.
Over the last two years, CREAM has also made substantial progress in terms of expanding the faculty pool. The team conducted several new faculty orientation programmes. The first program was held at Timbaktu in October 2010, then in Delhi during December 2010 and a third one in Mumbai in February 2011. As a result of these exercises, 12 persons have signed up to join the CREAM team, taking the total strength of the faculty pool to 22. The team expects that a few more people will join in during the coming months. The enlarged faculty pool is also spread geographically, with new members coming in from cities such as Delhi and Kolkata.
With the pilot project coming to an end it became imperative that CREAM becomes an independent organization so that it could grow and go beyond the mandate of the Timbaktu Collective that promoted the idea. As per plan, the CREAM team registered itself as a Society (Training Resources for Enabling Enterprises Society – TREES) in Thiruvananathpuram, Kerala in February 2011.
Some of these developments were not foreseen when the original CREAM idea was mooted. It has been a tremendous journey so far and in order to take the programme to a logical conclusion, the CREAM team also conducted a thorough review of the two-year project with the help of an external consultant. This brought in some new insights into the material as well as the pedagogy.
Since 2013, the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) under the auspices of ministry of rural development took at active interest in the Kudumbashree’s model of microenterprises and the support structure of micro-enterprise consultants (MECs). CREAM program was an integral part of this framework. NRLM began the process of implementing this framework in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand under a pilot basis. Kudumbashree was chosen as a nodal agency to implement the framework. They in turn invited Timbaktu Collective and TREE Society to roll-out CREAM in the “train the trainer” mode. These recent developments have taken the CREAM program to a pan-national level with many more exciting opportunities in store for the next few years.