The Story of Samvada

The Story of Samvada

The Beginnings


In 1986, a bunch of people at the Indo-German Social Service Society in Delhi designed a programme called SMILE (Student Mobilization Initiative for Learning through Exposure) to introduce young Indians from elite educational institutions to the realities of rural and urban poverty. NGOs, trade unions and social movements became new learning environments aka classrooms in the field. It was for the first time that urban college students met marginalized communities like fisherfolk, forest-dwellers, construction workers, bonded labourers, devadasis, weavers, artisans, scavengers and other forgotten people.

Most of the students came back disturbed, inspired and determined to learn more and  “do something”.

Some joined existing NGOs, a few began their own organizations  and a majority integrated  social justice issues into their professions,  as teachers, film-makers, writers, doctors, architects, lawyers or academics.
One of them, Anita, joined the SMILE team to help expand the programme to different parts of the country. So, began the Bangalore SMILE centre, which would later become its own, autonomous organization, by the name of Samvada.

The First Twenty Years


The focus was on discussions through exposures to help urban students realize that there was “another India out there”, an India that was often dismissed as marginal. These experiences were so powerful that some of them decided to work with NGOs and social movements while some others embarked on a journey of re-affirming their personal choices..

Exposures alone were confusing. Workshops and one-to-one discussions were introduced on the mentoring path to help make sense of disruptive experiences where students encountered a whole range of activists inspired by Gandhi, Ambedkar, Marx, Savitri Bai Phule among other revolutionary thinkers.

Samvada’s start into mentoring rural youth in 1992 led to the formation of different youth resource centres (Yuva Samvada Kendras) in 1994, the year Samvada was registered as a trust. The centres were set up in several taluks of Bangalore rural district and in Trissur and Ernakulum, in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.

In 2000, the SMILE network of 22 youth-focused organizations, became the
National Youth Foundation.

Alternative Livelihoods

(2007 Onwards)

It was in 2007 that Samvada was confronted with the necessity to carve out livelihoods and professions that were sensitive to the social and ecological challenges of our times.

Exciting, pioneering careers cannot be only for the rich.
We wanted to develop meaningful livelihoods for young people that assure financial stability, dignity, excitement, challenge and avenues to contribute towards social change.

This gave birth to Baduku Community College.

Till 2010, Samvada also hosted the central coordination unit of the National Youth Foundation.

Youth Work Promotion

(2010 Onwards)

Through the years,

Samvada has gathered a vast body of knowledge in mentoring youth from diverse backgrounds.

We have been offering a capacity-building certificate course in youth work for 3 years now.
Through that, we have initiated new Yuva Samvada Kendras as we found new partners in our youth work mentees.

In 2012, the Youth Work Resource Center was the newest addition to Samvada. The YWRC mentors the youth mentors (existing and new) at YSKs and strengthens the collective leadership programme. It also incubates new mini-YSKs, runs the youth work certificate course, and believes in networking and collaborations with youth-work organizations and youth workers across the state.