Dr. Akhter Hameed Khan (1914-1999) was a Pakistani social scientist and development practioner in the areas of rural development, farmer’s cooperatives, models of self-help in urban squatter settlements, and microfinance. His founding of and work at Bangladesh Academy of Rural Development (www.bard.gov.bd, 1959 Comilla Cooperatives Pilot) and the Orangi Pilot Project (www.opp.org.pk, 1980 Karachi) are considered as sustainable models of bottom up development, and earned him worldwide recognition. He is the recipient of awards like Sitara Pakistan (1961), Ramon Magsaysay (1963), Honorary Doctorate Michigan State University (1965), and posthumously for service to people the Nishan-e-Imitiaz (2001), and Jinnah Award (2004).
Popularly known as Doctor Sahib, he was a man of simple living and high thinking. His approach to development was bottom up and participatory relaying on research (to identify local needs and solutions) and extension (adaptation and expansion) model to incrementally enable self-sufficiency among the people and impoverished communities. His philosophy has directly inspired organizations like the Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP www.akrsp.org ), National Rural Support Program (NRSP www.nrsp.org ), and the Rural Support Program Network (RSPN www.rspn.org) to create large scale movements in poverty reduction and is the guiding vision behind AHKRC formation.
AHKRC was started in 2000, Doctor Sahib’s most beloved and distinguished protégé, Mr. Shoaib Sultan Khan to honor the memory AHK. Promote the vision of his mentor for the next generation of development practioners, Housed within the IRM-NRSP premises, the initial mandate of AHKRC was to serve as a i) knowledge resource repository for AHK’s extensive written body of work and development lessons and ii) to be a research center for Universities, faculty and students to engage in grass-root development research, and iii) to promote evidence-based advocacy for development best practices.
From 2000-2013, AHKRC established a Digital library of nearly 11,000 written works of AHK and SSK; collaborated with local and international Universities such as Fatima Jinnah Women’s University, NUST, Georgetown University (USA), Wellesley College (USA), American Institute of Pakistan Studies to hold scholarly exchanges and sessions on developmental issues; and conducted 28 action research studies or small scale interventions on community organization, local governance, water and sanitation, municipal services, and health.
With changing times and new leadership in 2015, the need was felt for re-focusing AHKRC role to meet the emerging challenges of urbanization using a “women-centered” household poverty reduction approach in low income urban settlements and slums.
The idea of an Urban Development and Research Institute based on the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) model started to take form. Like OPP, the AHKRC, was seeking to learn from communities local solutions to local problems and serve as the facilitation hub for technical information, financial resources and public or private sector opportunities. Using Doctor Sahib’s research and extension approach of action research and scale up, AHKRC envisions itself as a platform for innovations, sustainable people-centered solutions and evidence generation that government, donors and other NGOs can use.
Going forward AHKRC’s vision is to focus on urban development models that demonstrate learning and evidence on how the bottom up approach actually works, finding means through which urban slums can be part of inclusive development and enabling economic empowerment of women and households. AHKRC will be the “facilitation hub” to test out innovative models, documents success (and failures) as part of learning, bring together communities, academic institutions, markets, civil society activists, government and donors to engage in meaningful debate on urban solutions, and connect communities to resources in their journey towards self-sufficiency and independence.