Thursday, November 27, 2008

Look beside you for faster social change


I have been associated with the movement for social change in my own small way, both at my work place and outside. I have interacted with NGOs catering to the same "social sector" (say education, public health). Each of the organizations I have worked with have numerous achievements under their belt and undoubted credibility. However I find one critical aspect missing. Probably THE critical aspect that prevents the respective interventions in the "social sector" from adding up, synergize and emerge into a global movement. The missing aspect I am talking about is "sharing best practices".

To put my point into context, let me elaborate my observation. Hyderbad, a fast growing tier-I city in India, has around a thousand government schools and a large percentage of such schools ail from shortcomings such as poor basic infrastructure, lack of teachers (good or bad) and poor attendence rate. There are also quite a few NGOs working with the schools to mend these problems. Many of these NGOs have come up with very similar initiatives (for example taking volunteers from corporates to teach Spoken English in schools to improve job prospects). Yet, when I speak to the representatives of each of these NGOs, they are completely ignorant of the initiatives of the other.

This leaves a lot to ponder. If there are 1000 schools, and 10 NGOs doing the same thing, and if each of them cater to 70 schools, that leaves 300 schools with absolutely no help and nobody would know! Further different NGOs may use different models to deliver the same services. One model may be more efficient than the other. This provides for an opportunity for other NGOs to learn from their peers to improve their operational efficiency. But only if they spend some time and resources to research the whos, whats and hows of their peers. But sadly that doesn't seem to be happening in a scale that is required.

There are a few initiatives like NGOpost that work towards encouraging peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. But even they have a few limitations. Though the participation in the forum is very encouraging, often the purpose of the initiative is misunderstood.

In my opinion, looking beside at your peers, knowing them well and co-ordinating your efforts to achieve a common social goal are critical aspects to achive a tangible social change in a much shorter duration.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Social Equity and Development Vision


At the outset, let me welcome all those who envision social equity, cohesion, prosperity, ecological regeneration and sustainable development in India!

Our economic growth engine and social and political processes and institutions should ideally work for the benefit of everyone rather than only for a few. The history, however, shows that this idealism is not something new. As a matter of fact, this ideal has inspired several thinkers and leaders in the past as well, and the quest of realising this ideal continues even today. Is it just an utopian dream? Or is it possible to make significant progress towards realsing this vision in a considerable measure by applying some practical concepts and tools in real life situations in the Indian context? What are the obstacles on this road? Are we limited by our thought processes and imagination? Or we becoming the prisoners of the past?
Our scientific, technological and management capabilities have increased significantly in the recent decades. The processes of globalisation have created opportunities as well as problems for equitable development. How can we tackle the problems and benefit from these opportunities in our march towards our vision? In particular, what is the role of NGOs and educational processes in realsing this vision?

This blog is an opportunity to explore different dimensions and viewpoints pertaining to the questions mentioned above.