​Self Help Group (SHG), of 10-20 persons in general (5-20 persons in difficult areas) is the primary building block of the NRLM institutional design. NRLM would promote SHGs with exclusive women membership. The idea is to reach out to all family members through women. This is a key lesson from large scale experience within the country and globally. The major source of funds for the livelihoods of the poor is expected to come from the Banks. The Banks in the country are extremely favourable to extending credit to SHGs of women. The SHG serves the purpose of providing women members’ space for self-help, mutual cooperation and collective action for social and economic development. It promotes savings, builds own funds and becomes the local financial institution to provide a range of financial services including providing credit for debt-swapping and livelihoods.

​Some of the key elements of a successful SHG strategy are:                                                                     Indicative development milestones of SHGs are:



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NRLM underlines continuous capacity building of institutions of poor, their leaders, their community service providers and resource persons. The staff in support structures needs very intensive training to internalize NRLM core values and principles, apart from training in social, financial and livelihoods inclusion. Sensitizing and orienting all other stakeholders, including Panchayati Raj Institutions, to be inclusive of the needs of the poor and to have a pro-poor perspective is a must. The capacity building efforts would include: needs assessment; structured training programmes and events; establishing and involving capacity building units and resource agencies at various levels; pilots and demonstration sites to facilitate learning by doing and handholding; exposure visits; and experience sharing through best practitioner resource persons etc. The e-learning, distance learning, self-learning and people’s learning processes would also be part of the capacity building.

Apart from knowledge, skills and tools for managing institutions and participating in institutions, the members would also be provided soft skills and livelihoods skills to improve their existing and new livelihoodsIn the various processes listed above, NRLM would partner with NGOs and other CSOs to achieve these objectives. Further, the existing SHGs of poor women and their federations being nurtured by NGOs would also be supported by NRLM

  • Pre-formation(2-3 months): Profiling and Vulnerability Assessment; initial interactions
    Formation(6 months): Organizing, Developing norms, Practicing Panchasutra (Regular meetings; Regular savings; Regular inter-loaning; Timely repayment; and Up-to-date books of accounts), Developing Micro-Investment Plan (MIP),Leadership development

  • Linkages(6-24 months): Capacity Building, MIP, Linkages with Banks and setting up Primary Federations

  • Beyond(2nd year onwards):Visioning/Plan, Livelihoods, New Products, Social Capital


  • Self-determined/voluntary group membership and group norms;
  • Homogeneity in group membership (through self-selecting process);
  • Group determined savings and intra-lending norms;
  • Initial intra-lending from own savings for smoothing consumption;
  • Social capital for providing support services (like training, book keeping, etc.);
  • Revolving funds and loans from banks to augment capital to meet various credit needs of the members; and
  • Higher order federations of SHGs.



Processes and mechanisms that build self-managed self-reliant institutions of the poor:

NRLM would support existing SHGs and SHG federations, whose membership is mostly (70% and above)from BPL households, to achieve their full potential. It would evolve processes for grading the quality of these existing groups and federations. The grading would identify the institutions, for instance, into three categories :–

  •  Meeting the basic norms;
  • Could be trained; and
  • Could not be worked upon.

NRLM would also develop a methodology for assessing the promoting institutions, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other line departments. NRLM would partner with them to achieve saturation in coverage. A mutually agreeable strategy would be evolved so that investment of time and resources by them are not frittered away and NRLM processes get a head start.


NRLM would invest in creating a large pool of 'social capital' i.e. institutions of the poor, their members and office bearers, community resource persons, community professionals (book keepers, accountants, community animators/facilitators, customer relationship managers in banks etc), to support poor communities. Supply side processes would ensure ‘improved availability’ of services i.e. community agriculture extension workers, para-vets, village health activists, etc. Demand side processes would ensure ‘increased accesses of services through aggregation (e.g. resource persons supporting commodity procurement centres and milk collection centers, ‘bank mitras’ etc.).

The social capital created through the NRLM processes is crucial for scaling up of NRLM and for sustaining NRLM. The poverty eradication strategy under NRLM would be successful only when it is completely driven by the poor themselves. The community resource persons are the “dynamic drivers” of NRLM as far as the horizontal scaling is concerned. The federations of SHGs and community professionals are the “static drivers” as far as deepening of the processes and sustaining them in a given area is concerned.

Through training, handholding and systematic guidance, NRLM would build ownership and control of the members in the institutions. It would build capacities and competencies of members and office bearers, community resource persons and community professionals at each level. It would build the capacity of community institutions. NRLM support structures would facilitate and nurture the institutions of the poor such that they become truly independent, self-managed and sustained on their own, over a period of time.

Thus, external dedicated support structure – Mission structures at various levels and NGOs and other CSOs – would give way for the internal community-owned support structure– institutions of the poor. Put in place right in the beginning, external support structure would nurture the emergence of the institutions of the poor and build their capacities so that they become the internal support structures. As they takeover more and more responsibilities in all the processes and at all stages, the role of the external support structure has to shrink or change. NRLM would facilitate this process, at various levels.

Building and sustaining institutions of the poor at various levels would be for collective action, greater solidarity, bargaining power, economies of scale and larger linkages. Following the principles of subsidiary, the federation at each level would have its own purpose, functionality and identity. These institutions would be independent, yet organically interdependent.

States would determine the levels and locations of federations - village, GP, cluster, block etc., guided by the federating logic and best practices and experience. Primary federation, at the village or Panchayat level, should enable close bonding of the SHGs, with 10-20 SHGs (5- 20 SHGs for tribal areas or thinly populated areas). Its responsibilities would include:-

  • bringing all left-out poor into SHG fold;
  • providing support services like trainings, book keeping, etc. to SHGs;
  • providing higher order financial and livelihood services; and
  • Facilitating access to public services and entitlements.

Building inclusive, participatory and accountable federations is process intensive. It requires sensitivity and active involvement of the constituent units. Federations would be legal entities with their own articles of association to carry on various social, financial and/or business functions. With overall accountability to the general body, executive committee and various sub-committees would function and execute the plans of the federation through their staff, community service providers, professionals and/or and other human resources. Systems/mechanisms of good governance, periodic review, planning and monitoring, accounts and record keeping, internal, statutory and social audit etc., should be in place to sustain the federations. Their capacities would be built in micro-planning, business and marketing linkages, besides creating access to financial services.

Generally, the financial services of the federations would be limited to only members and their families. Only in case of vulnerable like destitute, persons with chronic diseases/ HIV , disabled, single women etc., services would be provided to non-members also. The technical services (dairy, skill training and placement to Youth, marketing etc) may be extended to non-members also.

NRLM would provide for the capacity building and staff costs of the federations, their leaders, professional staff, community professionals and other service providers/resource persons, till they become self-reliant. These federations would be nurtured to become self-reliant in due course of time. The federations would be developed in five phases of pre-formation, formation, functional, growth and sustainability, over 3-5 years.

Federations hold the key to the success of NRLM strategy. They become the support organization for the poor and as their strength increases, the role of external sensitive support organizations would decline. The perspective plans of States should clearly enunciate a “exit strategy” for the external support structure.

Capacity Building of Community and Staff

​In order to ensure that no poor family is left out, NRLM would use differential strategies for social inclusion/mobilization of all identified BPL households into functionally effective and self-managed institutions, with particular focus on more vulnerable sections like scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, particularly vulnerable tribal groups, single women and women headed households, disabled, migrant labour, isolated communities and communities living in disturbed areas. It would identify the poorest and vulnerable amongst the BPL through participatory vulnerability assessment and ranking. The mobilization would begin with them first. The mobilization effort would progress with the satisfactory community readiness and milestones for various stages of mobilization and graduation as evolved and tested in a participatory manner. Existing institutions, their leaders, staff and community resource persons(CRPs) would support the processes of inclusion and mobilization.


ArSRLM will adopt saturation approach, where at least one member from each identified rural poor household, preferably a woman, is brought under the Self Help Group (SHG) network in a time bound manner. The Mission will adopt differential strategies for social inclusion and mobilisation of all identified BPL households into functionally effective and self-managed institutions, with particular focus on inclusion of vulnerable sections like scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, disabled, migrant labour, isolated communities and communities living in disturbed areas. Using participatory vulnerability assessment and ranking methodology it would identify the poorest and the most vulnerable amongst the BPL households. Both men and women from identified households would be organised into institutions of the poor (including farmers' organisations, producers' cooperatives etc.) for addressing livelihood issues. Mobilization of poor to form their ‘own institutions’ is the most important prerequisite and the core investment for large scale poverty reduction. NRLM would organize all poor households (women) into aggregate institutions of the poor that provide them with voice, space and resources. These platforms ‘of the poor’ and ‘for the poor’ would partner with local self-governments, public service providers,banks, private sector and other mainstream institutions to facilitate delivery of social and economic services to the poor. These aggregates would graduate into higher level institutions supported by community resource persons (CRP), which will ensure the processes of inclusion and mobilisation.

​NRLM would support promotion of specialized livelihoods institutions for deriving economies of scale, backward and forward linkages, and access to information, credit, technology, markets etc. They would address the gaps in the production-distribution value-chain with backward-forward linkages and engage in co-production and delivery of livelihoods services to the last mile. These collectives can be in farm – agriculture, livestock, forestry, fisheries –sector, non-farm and service sectors.