New Delhi, INDIA
It is affiliated to the WG5 editorial team, working group related to the 5th Report on civic participation.
Born in a middle class family in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India, on 14 February 1951, Dr. Tandon is an extremely affable person. He occasionally refers to himself as ‘Kanpuria’, perhaps in a lighter mood, repeatedly indicating his Kanpur origin. A post- modern semiotic might link this to his being nostalgic about his roots, a possible longing to return to his pastures. Incidentally, he also passionately advocates urban centres to be considered as permanent dwellings, and not mere transit places for migrants in search of job and ‘relevance’.
This search for relevance took him to unchartered territories. After completing Electronic Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, Dr. Tandon obtained a Gold Medal in his graduation in Management from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta.
During his IIT days, when he was the General Secretary of Students’ Union, he opposed the then US ambassador as a protest against the Indo- Pak War. An unheard event in the IIT history, as the United States was and till date is considered to be the most favoured destination of IITians.
Dr. Tandon later pursued his PhD at Cleveland University in Organisational Science, a marked departure from Physical Science subjects. Commenting on his transition from science background to the non-profit sector, he points at hereditary and circumstantial factors shaping one’s destiny.
During his PhD work in the US, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared Emergency in India. Cutting short his programme, he returned to India and moved between various jobs, cities and towns before establishing the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) at Delhi.
For his distinguished work on gender issues, the Government of India honoured Dr. Tandon with the Prestigious Award in Social Justice in March 2007. The University of Victoria, Canada, awarded him the ‘Doctor of Laws’ (Honoris Causa) in June 2008 in recognition of his pioneering work in the area of civic engagement, governance and community based research, and the key role played by him in bringing visibility to the vast network of non- governmental and voluntary associations throughout the world.
Rajesh Bhai, as communities and their associations fondly call him, always inspires confidence in poor and excluded communities guiding and giving strength to global voices of civil society. As one of pioneers of Participatory Research, he has given new meaning to academic research by redefining relationship between the researcher and researched subjects. A firm believer in innate capacities of individuals and democratic institutions, he has founded and nurtured many institutions, including PRIA.
Emphasising ‘Knowledge is Power’, he has built a huge network of relationships, associations and institutions enabling capacity building and strengthening initiatives. Under his leadership, PRIA and thousands of civil society organisations (CSOs) across India and abroad have redefined relationships between the haves and have- nots. Dr. Tandon spearheaded campaigns for participation policies of governments and multilaterals. He was one of the first to call for the convergence of participation of marginalised with respect to ‘Power’. At PRIA, his initiatives have enabled the marginalised to assert their role in governance and demand their rights. He has brought forth the importance of each citizen’s role in governance.
Doctoral degree, Organisational Science
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Dr. Tandon’s contribution over the years has transcended from issue to issue including safe workplace, right to know, control over natural resources, gender mainstreaming, citizen leadership, accountable local self-governance, global solidarity and responsive civil society in India, South Asia and beyond. Building alliances and partnerships among diverse sectors in societal development is another current area of his work.
Over the last 27 years, he has engaged in major research, training and educational work over a wide range of themes to strengthen the capacities and institutional mechanisms of voluntary development organisations (VDOs) in India and other developing countries. His specialisation with regard to capacity building is on the following themes:
Dr Tandon has been named by the United Nations as one of the significant social leaders of our times.