Saturday, May 30, 2009

Detailed analysis of "Empowering the underprivileged through innovations"

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I attended the workshop on Empowering the underprivileged through innovations, not only as an alumnus of CSIM, but also as an editor covering the event for ThinkChange-India.

I have presented a detailed two-part analysis of the event in the portal. Here are the links

Part-1: Pre-lunch session

Part-2: Post-lunch session and conclusion

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Workshop on "Empowering the Underprivileged through Innovations"

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Center for Social Initiative & Management presents

One day workshop on

"Empowering the Underprivileged through Innovations"

24th May, 2009 Sunday

Venue and Timings
Auditorium of Center for Economic and Social Studies (CESS), Ameerpet, Hyderabad
9:00am - 6:00pm
Registration of participants starts at 9:00am

Who can attend
Anyone interested in learning about the Innovations that drive the Empowerment of the Underprivileged are invited to attend this workshop.

Registration Fees
Rs. 200/- per participant
Rs. 100/- for college students with their college ID cards
(The fees includes a lunch and two tea/snacks and a workshop kit)

About the Workshop

This Workshop will bring together experts in varied aspects of societal development. These experts could be social entrepreneurs – experienced or budding; One common characteristic running through all of them is that they will talk about innovations that are either being used or have the potential to be used as a potent tool to address prevalent social issues.

Themes for the Workshop

Healthcare and Nutrition
Water and Sanitation
Literacy and Education
Livelihood
Shelter
(Micro) Finance

Need for a Workshop

India has leaped when it comes to numbers like the GDP growth rate; it has crawled, in fact slipped, on key parameters like the Human Development Index. This has further widened the chasm between the haves and have-nots.

White collar employment opportunities created in the last decade have led to the formation of a self-reliant and socially aware section in our society. This part of society, having freed itself of questions of bare necessities, recognizes the existence of a vast populace which is disadvantaged when it comes to access to even the most basic of necessities; and it wishes to be a part of the solution to this imbalance.

Many professionals want to volunteer but do not know for whom. Some want to donate but do not know where. Some want to implement ideas but do not know how. Most importantly, some just want to do “something” but do now know what! Answers to such questions can be found out if there is a platform which can “Develop” the social consciousness among people, which can “Inform” those in need of answers and which can “Empower” those in need of support for their ideas.

Today we stand at a juncture where innumerable innovations have lowered the barrier for serving the disadvantaged. These innovations could be technological, financial or process-related in nature. The need of the hour is to ensure that knowledge of such innovations reaches every socially conscious individual who in turn can leverage it to progress on his/her mission.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

We all are responsible!!!

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Recently two days back “World Earth Day” was celebrated. On a large scale, activities were conducted in various corporate offices, govt sector and colleges. I believe it is good way to boost ourselves to pledge to protect environment. But, there is a question which bothers me again and again “who will take the responsibility of maintaining the environment once you are done with the day?". Who will take out the time and water the plants once they are planted on a specific day. Do bureaucrats who plant the trees and get there photos clicked go and water them, protect from stray cattles and other climate changes?

I agree it is not one person job to commit for environmental protection but, how many of us really think with respect of environment than as per our convenience. How many of us appreciate car pooling, riding a cycle or walking if the work place is closer, regularly check our vehicles, get the leaking taps fix, save water during our regular activities and ask our maids to save the environment. Most of the people do save the water and other things when they are short of it. If a day water supply is limited then every one tend to save every drop of water but rest of days it is used as per their convenience.

Other major area is teaching the maids and uneducated people to understand the importance of the environmental protection. Daily I tell my maids to close taps when not required but it seems they are deaf. Switching off the fans and lights are big jobs for which they need extra money. On road the maximum pollution is created by the auto, cabs and old state vehicles. But, surprising they all have pollution certificate.

It is said that one person can make a difference but I believe this is such a big problem that one person can’t do much. We all have to share our responsibility and then we can make a difference.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Marching towards the Conceptual Age...

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This is my first post on CSIM Vision. I am happy to get a new platform to share my ideas about the world.

I am a huge supporter of social media like blogging, social networking sites like Orkut, Facebook and Twitter. It helps me connect and reach more people. I have made so many friends from these platforms which has helped me broaden my vision.

I start off my first flight on CSIM Vision with a "thought".

Human beings as a species has come a long way. We were initially cave people, hunter-gatherers, nomads, took up cultivation and agriculture, cattle rearing, settlements, tools making etc. All this gradually led to the "Industrial revolution". The Industrial revolution phase was transformed into the "Information Age" thanks to internet, books, printing etc.

Are we still in the "Information Age"? This is a serious question.

Daniel Pink the author of the brilliant book "A Whole New Mind" gives a very good answer.

We are slowly moving onto a "Conceptual Age".

Dan says in his book:

We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what's rising in its place, the Conceptual Age

The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind - creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers


We have lot of information on hand. Infact, more information than all of us can handle. The world we are moving into will depend on "how we make use of this information"

The growing awareness of "Social Entrepreneurship" combining the ideas of leadership, innovation, social change, business etc makes me believe that we as the "human race" are taking our first steps towards this new Conceptual Age.

What qualities or tools to use to succeed in this Conceptual Age? Do share your views. Probably we need a "Whole New Mind"

We will explore more about this in my next post.

Environment: Mandates and processes need of the hour!

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I have come across enthusiastic appeals to contribute towards saving the environment by modifying the way I go about my everyday life.

For example, I find it very difficult to avoid using plastics. I buy juice in a carton as against a plastic bottle, only to find that even the cartons use plastic linings to make it waterproof. After little research I come to understand that there is no alternative water-proofing solution to plastics that is affordable to common man. Similarly, I am piling up dozens of used batteries simply because I am yet to find an environmentally safe way of disposing them, even after actively searching for a recycling plant or safe-disposal facility close to Hyderabad . The same predicament applies to anything that can be connected to electricity from cellphone chargers to television sets.

On the other hand even when solutions are available for an environmental problem common man is not effectively sensitized. Consider the case of disposing kitchen wastes. Composting them to manure and using them as manure for plants is a tried and tested solution. However, the process of composting or the fact that such small compost bins are available at affordable prices are known only the to environmentally conscious.

So, good intentions of appeals to be environmental consciousness not withstanding, a tangible impact can be achieved only if proven alternatives are easily available for common man use supplemented by processes and mandates for sensitizing him on the issue.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chronic Poverty and Disability

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According to WHO estimation, approx 10% of population is disabled, and a higher proportion of those living in chronic poverty. These numbers go up for the developing countries and underdeveloped countries than the developed countries. Disabled are disproportionately amongst the poorest.

Disability is considered as stigma to society as well as family. People considered disability as something of past bad deed. A child with disability most likely is excluded from family, education and later from society. They learn less and are less informed about the rights and policies. Lack of knowledge, education, awareness, opportunity and due to discrimination and poor self esteem, they have less chances to sustain.

Every country has developmental plans like universalisation of primary education, gender and economical equality and stability. But, it is not possible without inclusion and acknowledging the disabled needs. Various barriers like attitudinal and environmental results in social exclusion and marginalisation.

There has recently been a shift by some NGO’s, philanthropist and even Government towards considering the issues of disability right. Disabled and society is not aware of rights. There is poor distribution of resources and information among disabled. Other important point is that, rarely disabled could able to reach to power and can influence the policies and laws.

Government, developmental agencies and various others NGOs have tried and created expensive programe for disabled for main streaming, but this is not one or two hands job. It needs every citizen support and acknowledgment, change of attitudinal and communication barrier which results in exclusion and marginalization. Empowering disabled, acceptance and inclusion to society not only reduce the chronic poverty but also assist for global development.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Helping without hurting!

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Vinay, one of the founding editors of ThinkChange India (TC-I) made a casual visit to CSIM Hyderabad on January 10th. We had also invited Rubina Mazhar, a social entrepreneur and alumni of CSIM for an informal chat. His co-editor of TC-I Aishwarya Mishra (who has expressed his willingness to join the SEOP session that starts the February) also joined us. Very soon we slid into a discussion on wide range of topics concerning social equity and development. Though it is next to impossible to capture all the points discussed, quite a few perspectives that may not be taught in any educational center have surfaced during the discussion. I will try to highlight at least one of them in this post.

Aishwarya Mishra, through the Teach India program, volunteers as a tutor in Government High school, Rasoolpura, adopted by Bhumi, outlined their flagship Dhronacharya-Ekalavya (D&E) program. D&E program mainly works by assigning a mentor who acts as an "elder sibling" or a role-model to each of the children that Bhumi covers, so that the child looks up to the mentor and learns to become a responsible person as against growing without a role-model.

While recognizing Bhumi's work on Rasoolpura, Rubina Mazhar pointed out a potential risk that may be ingrained in the mentorship approach in general. She opined that a mentor who is not from the same background as the child (all the children are from a slum and most, if not all the volunteers are not) cannot be "unleashed" on the children without proper training about their culture and way of life, since the mentor's belief system usually consists of a lot of ideas that doesn't fit well with the belief system of the child society. For example, Rubina cited that in a typical family from the lower economic background, the general mentality would be to proscribe girl children beyond a certain age from going out on her own without the oversight of the family. A volunteer from an upcoming middle class family with no or inadequate training about the social psychology of the girl's family, may try to instill "modern ideas" of independence, which may cause her to "revolt" against her parents and face undesired consequences.

While one may or may not subscribe to her quoted example, the general point made is not only valid but also extremely relevant to social development. An initiative for social development should be carefully crafted and implemented so that the existing social fabric (to use Rubina's own words) of the target group doesn't get disturbed. This further lends credibility to why a social initiative should consider a beneficiary as a partner rather than a receiver - a point made in earlier post in order to emphasize sustainability.

This point also shatters another common, but wrong belief that some social initiative is better than no social initiative. On the contrary, a social initiative should be a learning process carefully adjusted to ensure that it helps and doesn't cause another damage elsewhere in the process.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How to ensure sustainability in social sector

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As a continuing subscriber to social change and a student of Social Entrepreneurship Outreach Program (SEOP) offered by CSIM (Hyd), I have come across a few important ideas for sustainability time and again.
Malcolm Warwick Chair, Resource Alliance shared his opinion on sustainability earlier this year when he visited India, which reemphasized during my coursework in CSIM. The traditional approach to NGO, though a commendable democratic movement has a lot of scope for improvement when it comes to sustainability and financial independence. Mr. Warwick said that this is mainly because of their "paternalistic top-down approach" which looks at the beneficiaries as passive receivers rather than making them active participants. The alternative is to trust the beneficiaries to knowing what they need and involving them in the process.
His idea definitely seems to be very sensible considering the success stories of various social enterprises. As suggested by Mr. Warwick, Rural Education and Development builds libraries in Nepal and India by involving the local rural community in planning, conception, construction and maintenance of the libraries. As a result, the local community seems to understand the need for the library and value in maintaining it. This shows from the fact that all the libraries thus constructed are not only functional, but also generate profit.
During one of the sessions held in CSIM by Mr. B. Ravi Shankar, project manager in Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty, he quoted numerous success stories that resulted primarily because of involving the beneficiaries in running the project. For example, to get better profit for their produces, SERP convinced the female members of the farmers to form an organization to compete with middlemen to procure the produces of the farmer and selling it in the market, thus netting the profit that would otherwise have gone to the middlemen. Further, they also learned how to weigh the produces and measure the moisture content of a certain grain (which would determine the pricing of the grain) so that loop holes in ensuring profit is eliminated.
Finding examples that support the same point from totally independent sources convinces me that the only way to ensure maximum and sustained benefit to a beneficiary is to trust him/her to know what he/she wants and involve him/her in the process rather than just a passive recipient.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Is targeting the poor alone always efficacious?

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With my on and off involvement with centers close to social development, I find one attitude that may have to be changed for better efficacy of social initiatives. Let me have the first stab at defining the attitude.

"A social initiative will produce a better impact when it is targeted towards the economically poorer sections of the society. The richer the beneficiaries are, the lesser social impact it has.."

While in general this point has a validity, it has to be revisited for every specific case. Here is an example. A team of my friends and I conducted a science demo in a private school nearby. When I talked about this, "Don't you think your initiative would be more useful to students of government schools?" was one question that popped up universally. My answer is "In my case doing it in *this* private school is likely to have a higher social impact" . Why?

1. This private school doesn't have a lab infrastructure in spite of the students paying a nominal school fee (Rs. 200/- per month).

2. The students here do have a capability to read, listen to and understand English, Telugu and Hindi which provides us flexibility in our implementation. So, it gets easier for us to get more students to start "thinking and reasoning science" - a better success rate at our initiative. On the other hand, a government school on which we are working on the ability to grasp English is lesser providing us with challenges (lesser number of teachers from our office)

Much more importantly, access to better education sure is relatively much more difficult for the poor. However, schools that fall in the economic category of the one that we are working on also face problems faced by government schools (non-availability of teachers, labs etc.). In addition to that they also suffer the ignorance of NGOs that rush to help poor quality government schools. It is almost as if these students are paying Rs. 200/- per month to be ignored!

Thankfully, in our case, we need to ignite as many minds to think and reason (in science and others..). In our eyes, whether the students have the ability to pay Rs.200/- or not, if their inclination to reason is lacking, they are equally poor! Only the former is equipped with a skill (English language) that offers flexibility for us to make a better impact.

A society, apart from being categorized into economically richer and poorer, can also be categorized into rich and poor based on other criteria. And the economically richer need not be richer (or have better opportunity) in all the other categories. Social upliftment, one must remember, is not only the upliftment of the economically poorest, but the upliftment of the society as a whole.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Social Entrepreneurship in India : Challenge or Solution

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In broader terms poverty ($2 per day per person) is omnipresent. Nearly, half the world’s population (over 3 billion people) lives under poverty line. In India alone, over two-thirds of its one billion plus population is covered under the definition of poverty. Yet, the strategy for alleviating poverty across globe is reformed but practically every developing nation has remained more or less to same.

Various initiatives taken by Govt and philanthropists are not sufficient for India in overall leveraging the quality of life of the underprivileged and disadvantaged community. Philanthropy is taught as a moral value and a large scale requirement in our community increase its demand. But, it is more required as social entrepreneurship not as a charity. It has been found in various researches that social entrepreneurship is the key element for the advanced and developed community and society in addressing the social needs. Since, Govt can’t target and successfully solve all the community challenges, the demand for various social entrepreneurs increases multi-fold.

India has given birth to some of the most advanced and innovative social entrepreneurs. They have developed few innovative and cost effective models which are used world wide. For e.g Child Help line 1098. They are present every where and are into every area of problems. But, because of their willingness to work quietly they are not well recognised.

Advantages of social entrepreneurs are as they work on the grass root level, they know the immediate needs of the community and they also work with the cultural boundaries of the community and hence, they are most acceptable. Now a day NGO are developing business model with triple bottom line of Profit, People and Planet to make there efforts sustainable and reachable to maximum. In other words, social entrepreneurs are linkage between the Govt initiatives and philanthropy. Social Entrepreneurship not only brings social change but create jobs and generate income to carry forward the further activities at different level and scale. Various initiatives like AMUL India, Aravind Eye Hospital, Barefoot College and SEWA are few renowned examples in social sector, but they are few. To cater the Indian population we may need thousands of other Social entrepreneurs who can solve thousands of other existing problems in health, child education and literacy, employment and disability etc areas. For eliminating such problems India needs stronger vision and Entrepreneurial approach.

In recent studies, it is found that India has more NGO’s per capita than other developing countries, but still few of these operating NGO’s have entrepreneurial approach. Lack of proper information, management and collaboration with other NGO’s lead to poor social impact. Transparency and lack of Funds also contribute to failure in generating good results.

Few B Schools like ISB, Hyderabad and TISS, Mumbai have included Social entrepreneurship study in their curriculum to impart better understanding and knowledge about social change.
As India is moving ahead in economic development, citizen sector can contribute a lot at grass root level to build a better base and improving the quality of life.