In this edition, we have curated a broad spectrum of experiences in social innovation and social entrepreneurship. Dr. Madhav Sathe, an anaesthetist with over 37 years of experience and with over three decades working at Bombay Mothers and Children Welfare Society, conceptualizes the lessons he has learnt from transforming a dying NGO to a self-sustaining social enterprise through his ideas on ‘thought process investment’ and ‘strategic philanthropy’.
Trisha Apurva Jhaveri, currently in the second year of the PGP program at IIM Calcutta, shares her lessons from her work on Project Saarthi at Ahmedabad that was directed towards spreading awareness and improving implementation of the Right To Education Act. Onkar Shaligram, also in the second year of the PGP program, writes about his experience as a student committee member in organizing the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2016.
Do read on and write to us with your views.
By Dr Madhav Narayan Sathe
Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas to effect far-reaching change.
Instead of leaving societal needs to the government or the business sector, social entrepreneurs take it upon themselves to identify what is not working and offer solutions to the problems by changing/altering /supporting the system. Not content with that, they also persuade all sections of society to move in a different direction. I call it WALKING THE LAST MILE WITH THE GOVERNMENT. Finding the gaps in the system is a crucial aspect of this process. The rest is like filling in the blanks. They go beyond the political borders with which the programs have been designed.
Social organizations and social entrepreneurs doa great job of fulfilling society’s needs. They are charged with a tremendous urge to change the community, despite being handicapped by the fact that they cannot afford a highly educated talented resource pool with the necessary skills (due to lower paying capacity and meager opportunities for growth). The vision to reach the mission goals is understandably stifled.
Is it in any way possible to transform an NGO into a sustainable enterprise with a little help from outside? Can we create a meaningful volunteer structure to support the organization? Can social immersion during early education towards ground realities encourage learned minds to apply their knowledge to social realities and attempt to change them? Should such intervention also be a meaningful part of higher education? Will that help broaden the vision of future leaders of the corporate sector and encourage them to participate in social activities – either by taking a sabbatical or by spending some hours a week with the staff of an NGO – to give them the direction to design, develop and execute the projects? The need of the hour is active support to social innovators, be they individual or organization. Offering them a thought process which can help to march on the difficult but wonderful path of social engineering needed to transform the community. Can thought process investment help leadership development? Leadership is the most essential intangible needed for creating sustainable organizations. Involving corporate leaders will certainly bring the metric of leadership development on the radar of social organizations.
Strategic philanthropy – the game changer
I am a practicing anesthetist at the Bombay Hospital in Mumbai. A few decades ago, I got an opportunity to serve as the Secretary of an NGO which was on the verge of closure due to bad management. This trust, established in 1919, enjoyed huge goodwill till 1967. After the death of its founder, the successors were unable to handle it. The downslide was so bad that there was no other alternative except closure. At this juncture, a group of likeminded people came together and decided to take over and try to revive it. I was the youngest in the group and was appointed as the secretary.
I was very reluctant to accept the responsibility as I never had an exposure to administration, finance, and social work. After getting over the initial misgivings and fear of failure, I decided to give it a shot. The journey began in 1985. The concept of social entrepreneurship was a new one then. I had not even heart of the term. I was not forperpetual fund raising to sustain the Organization. I just wanted to work on a mission to develop a sustainable organization which gave me a little freedom to start on new programs on my own. What I began with was a trust with a huge land bank, unbelievable goodwill but an idle work force and empty bank accounts. This triggered the THOUGHT PROCESS which I invested into the venture. I continue to do so till today.
Today, it is a sustainable NGO with its own CSR. We have never lost our focus on philanthropy even as we changed over to STRATEGIC PHILANTHROPY -AN INVESTMENT FOR CHANGE. Today, our actions have tremendous impact on the community but are run on business principles.
Sustainability – the keystone
We educate ourselves, specialize and gain expertise in a subject. But the logical application of our basic education can be done in a variety of different fields of our liking, even as we continue to continue our profession. I am an anesthetist by profession and practice at Bombay Hospital. But I use my spare time as the honorary secretary of a Trust.
This organization was on its deathbed when I got an opportunity to work for it. It was a very difficult and testing time for me as well as the Trust. For a novice like me who had no formal education in administration, accounting, finance and social work, it was an uphill and daunting task. Did it turn out to be a blessing in disguise? Was it an opportunity to apply basic knowledge in a very simple form in order to innovate? Did this trigger the entrepreneur in me? Was the decision making process made easy thanks to a complete lack of theoretical knowledge or did this impede our progress?
On my part, I decided to apply my education and experiences to this new field and I think it was a beautiful experience. I succeeded in not only breathing life back in an organization, but turned it into a sustainable one by acting as an entrepreneur. Today, this is a unique Hybrid NGO with its own CSR.
Perpetually depending on support from donors is not a sustainable idea. Organizations should not only have a minimum capacity to sustain themselves, but also for the projects created. I personally wanted this organization to achieve this goal sooner than later and started working on it as a long term goal.
Funds are always a problem for non-profit organizations. The word ‘profit’ is not supposed to exist in the dictionary of an NGO or a not for profit institution. But I am convinced that creating a Hybrid model is a solution for many problems faced by NGOs or Not for profit institutions.
Hybrid model – an exercise in profitability
A Hybrid Nonprofit model can be built in a variety of ways. We have demonstrated this by creating profitable, not subsidized, state of the art crèches. These are located in middle class or higher middle class localities, are the best in their category but still charge only 30% of what other crèches in the locality do. The profit earned is pumped back to make all other operations sustainable. This not only makes the organization sustainable but also gives elbow room to initiate other small projects. This in turn, creates positive energy amongst all stakeholders. Investments for change (donations) get easier as investors (donors) are happy to know that 100% of their money will reach the target group. A Zero interest, unsecured loan from friends was the model we used to create Crèches and utilize the space by making it habitable for the purpose of earning money by addressing pressing sciatica needs. Money earned was used to repay the loan in equated monthly installments.
Highly trained manpower is an equally big issue for organizations. Positive efforts for capacity building are necessary and should be a priority. We trained our watchmen and peons in different skills like hardware and networking, hospital management and as X-ray technicians.
Passion is a core requirement for social work. We have successfully trained our gardeners and drivers to participate in social welfare activities, as we identified in them a huge passion to develop their own community.
The Trust also runs three low cost, ultra modern hospitals in urban and rural Maharashtra. We run professionaly managed child friendly creches with comprehensive developmental activities. This enables a child to develop on all fronts and obviously, eases the guilt in a mother’s mind to a great extent. We closed down one of the Trust’s hospitals due to financial problems and converted it to a cancer patient convalescent home. This was a judicious decision to convert a high service utility to a low service utility. It not only helped to reduce staff and enable us to optimize the output, but also instantly started giving a cash flow to a cash deprived organisation. The facility now houses 100 cancer patients during their chemo and radio therapy.
We are also working in 91 villages in the Rajgurunagar block of Pune district for the last 10 years and cover a population of five lacs. This is a very low cost, comprehensive, innovative, modular and scalable program. It was started as a RCH program with government grants for the first two years. After the funds stopped after two years, we continued it as our own CSR project. We work in the sectors of
We also undertake innovative programs like – under the banner of Walking the last mile with the government, Reverse Risk Mitigation (Non materialistic) planting of fruit trees in the backyard of all families living below the poverty line, Nutritional Support Program for tribal children kids and Door Step Training in different vocations. There are several other programs we manage in a diversified field.
In addition, whenever we found any gaps in government led programs, we intervened with innovative and sustainable methods to solve the problem. A glaring example is that of improving rural education scenario.
The government has created schools and provided teachers in inaccessible areas, where we do not imagine human settlements. Needless to say, the government is unable to maintain them. Teaching aids are missing. The schools are not habitable 24/7. So, we took it upon ourselves to make them habitable, painted them. We took the help of local talent to make them more attractive by painting lovely picture stories on the walls of 12 tribal schools, provided E-Learning (No Internet required) with animated and Digitized Curriculum (Blended Education). 72 schools, equipped with E-Learning for the last three years, have shown excellent results in all subjects, and show a 7-15% change over non e learning schools in learning abilities. This has provided a huge opportunity to use techno platform in rural India, much before urban India.
Tribal schools now have 100% attendance and the other schools have enhanced admissions.
Another successful program is the Nutritional Support Program for tribal children. Almost 96% of tribal children have very low BMI. The government provides mid-day meals to all primary school children and it is very regular. But it is served at 1.30 pm, which is inconvenient for these children from very poor families who have neither sufficient dinner nor breakfast. So, we started filling this gap with a breakfast at 9 am. Teachers were involved in the project. All the teachers agreed to collect the weekly quota of food items from our centre on Monday mornings. We chose uncooked and non perishable food items which were easy to carry – one banana each for two days, Jagary and groundnut laddu for two days and Parle G biscuits (small pack) for two days. The idea behind the exercise was to enhance the caloric value of each meal. The cost of this support is Rs.4/- per kid/per day. Encouraged with inputs from teachers and proven by physical checks, this venture has favorably impacted the health of the children. We have decided to continue the program under our initiative – Walking the last mile with the Government – Small interventions, Big Impact. This program is well supported by many investors for change.
These are just a few of the innovative success stories where the thought process played a strategic role in turning around apparently non – sustainable initiatives. There are many more such stories to share.
I do feel that there is a bigger role to be played by intellectuals in developing the communities. Large, highly educated and learned communities which are stuck in corporations . They will have to look into this new form of investment “THOUGHT PROCESS INVESTMENT.” Application of knowledge to reform the society will surely go a long way in uplifting the Bottom line. Shaking of the Pyramid is a very strong need of an hour.
By Trisha Apurva Jhaveri
The education system in India, though improving, lacks significantly in terms of access to and quality of education. While we try to improve the infrastructure and teaching quality of government schools, we cannot let kids dreaming of starting school just wait. Motivated to bring about some change in the city’s primary education situation, a team of undergraduate and graduate students in Ahmedabad came together to figure out a way to give aspiring students the chance they have never got.
This is when we learnt about Right To Education Section 12 (1)(c) which “mandates a minimum of 25% free seats for children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in all private unaided primary schools”, leading to the foundation of Project Saarthi, under the guidance of IIM Ahmedabad’s Right To Education Resource Centre.
The first step was to understand the existing state of implementation. Hardly any admissions were taking place under this provision. Very few parents of eligible children were aware of this right. Those who were, were discouraged by the private schools they approached or by the documents that were needed to secure admission.
So, we formulated a simple model to spread awareness and encourage implementation of the act. In order to make an impact, we needed to cover as many areas as we could. For the same we approached various undergraduate colleges in Ahmedabad, and got around 200 student volunteers on board. In the first phase, we visited various slums and rural areas and established contact with angandwadi workers, who helped us gather the parents of all kids who would be entering 1rst grade next year. We then communicated the provision to them and took details of all those who wanted to send their kids to private schools, including which schools they would prefer and be willing to send their kids to. In the next phase, along with the government’s support, our volunteers assisted eligible families to get all relevant documents (such as income and caste certificates) in place, as there is usually no time to do so once distribution of the RTE forms is announced.
The third phase started once the forms were made available. We helped in distributing the forms and assisting parents to correctly fill and submit the same. The fourth phase is all about mentoring of kids admitted under RTE to ensure their social and academic progress and prevent drop outs. Community workers along with volunteers help students, especially those who haven’t attended pre-primary classes, with their coursework and at the same time track the kids’ overall progress and indirectly identify whether any discrimination is taking place at school. If the school and parents are okay with it, these mentors also serve as a point of contact between the teachers and kids’ parents as usually they are unable to visit school.
The combined efforts of everyone supporting this project lead to 5150 admissions under the provision as opposed to 602 in 2014 and 32 in 2013! This encouraged RTERC to continue with this model as well as expand it to other cities. Currently the Saarthi Network includes 9 student teams from JNU, SRCC (New Delhi), IIM Calcutta, IIEST Kolkata, AMU (Aligarh), SJD Int. Surat, KIIT Bhuvaneshwar, JSS Noida and IIM Ahmedabad.
The project also gave the entire team a memorable experience full of learning and gaining deep insights into grass root issues. One interesting observation was that many communities had volunteers amongst itself who approached problems in simple ways that we couldn’t even think of. Many parents had formed their own networks to ensure their kids work as a team while studying in a private school. Some kids who were facing classroom learning for the first time, turned out to be very bright and put in extra efforts to maintain the class pace with the help of elder kids of the same community. Of course, there was a dark side too. A few schools were discouraging kids admitted under RTE from continuing in the school. This included scaring parents, not including these students in extracurricular activities, forcing them to sit at the back of the class and so on. Also, many communities still hesitate in sending girls to school. At first we thought it was just a preconceived notion, but eventually we learnt they had some genuine concerns. For instance those living in slightly unsafe areas were not comfortable sending their girls to a private school 2km away. Many families were also worried about the books and transportation expenses and felt the entire provision is a trap. In some communities we were able to help them with transport issues by coordinating with auto drivers within the community, but still a lot of problems were unsolved. Further, sometimes someone would come up with other problems they feel the government needs to urgently look into and ask for help for the same. Unfortunately, most of the times we would be helpless except for giving out contact details and pushing for follow ups. But we did realize that only once the serious issues which have short term threats are solved, could we expect everyone to collectively work towards long term actions.
Our takeaways from the project are quite simple. One, there is a lot do and a far way to go, but even starting a simple model with routine volunteers giving a few hours of their time on a weekly basis could create a significant initial impact. Two, most communities are different and families within communities diverse. Thus, a general model cannot be mechanically implemented – we need a lot of patience, grass root understanding and basic creativity. Three, it is not possible to proceed without the support of the community. Else we will end up solving problems with a disoriented perspective or problems which we feel are an issue but actually are not. Four, the primary education of our country – whether formal or informal, public or private, needs a lot of improvement. Just blaming the government is not a solution till we actually channelize active efforts and contribute in whatever ways we can. Five, keep learning.
By Shivam Singh, Onkar Shaligram and Odapalli Keerthi Priya - IIM Calcutta
As a first year PGDM student at IIM Calcutta I had an opportunity to be a part of the organizing committee for the 4th edition of the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge.
During the organization of the event, I understood different aspects such as marketing, promotion, logistics and hospitality which is required to conduct the event. Interacting with some of the top 20 teams provided me with a different perspective as to how various entrepreneurs think about solving challenging social problems.
In the preliminary rounds, I also had a chance to act as a buddy to one of the teams. I learnt about the different challenges they were facing and provided my inputs to solve some of the challenges based on my classroom learnings and my prior work experience.
Hearing about the life stories of different social entrepreneurs, the evolution of their social enterprises and the sheer quantum of challenges they had to overcome to turn their ideas into reality was an overwhelming experience. Also, being able to interact with the different angel investors and VCs trying to understand the rationale behind how they make a funding decision was a delightful experience, to say the least.
The highlight of the whole experience for me was to be able to attend the pitches made by the finalist teams. There was great learning regarding understanding how a pitch was made in a stipulated time and the line of questioning made by the jury consisting of professors and Angel investors. We also had the opportunity to interact with some of the distinguished guests who were well known in the social sector.
Overall, the opportunity to interact with a diverse set of passionate people working in different fields trying to create an impact in the society was the best part of the experience. This has helped me learn concepts beyond the classroom experience and made me understand how to apply some of the concepts used in classroom in solving social problems. It also has motivated me to think about different ways in which I can contribute in solving some of the social issues post my education.
By Gopal Paul, Founder - Izifiso
True Learning may be found in the Great Outdoors.
Izifiso, a start-up begun as a collective effort by students of esteemed institutions all over India, aims to make the above statement a reality. There is a marked lack of creativity in the prevalent educational system of India, with knowledge being attained in a drab, boring way through books alone. While books are admittedly the backbone of learning, Izifiso aims to enhance this by organizing trips to different places all over the country, with highlighted themes of learning(such as fossil hunting and star photography), experts being present with proper equipment to guide the students. It must be noted that this start-up caters principally to students, especially school-goers, although any person interested is welcome to join.
What Izifiso intends to do is to make education a fun experience. Students who plan to become archeologists later on are expected to learn much more from an actual experience of looking for fossils than simply reading about it. Students interested in astronomy may look at the night sky and even try to spot actual galaxies in areas free from the pollution of the cities. This is especially difficult in a state like West Bengal, where most people do not even think star gazing to be possible within the state. As an organization from Bengal, Izifiso plans to focus on the state at present, planning trips both within the main city of Kolkata, as well as other places throughout the state. Bengal has the unique advantage of having access to both the sea and the hills, and this is an advantage Izifiso plans to utilize. Interesting events such as musical treks, fossil hunting expeditions, star-gazing trips, historical trips to name but a few are on the table. Music is something everybody is interested in, and reviving the dying genres of the vibrant musical cultures of Bengal is on the agenda of Izifiso. This organization does not believe in tourism for the sake of it, and every trip it plans has a purpose. Fun learning experiences along with mainstream education is what this start-up hopes to create.
Izifiso also has another goal it plans to achieve. Izifiso hope to generate employment through responsible tourism. We plan to introduce travelers to relatively remote places and to train local people in vocations that will help them deal with the incoming influx of travelers. The beauty of these places has been preserved to a great extent by the fact that they are not known. This organization has the conservation of these places as one of its top priorities. The plan is to generate employment for the local people of the regions where trips will be organized.
Through our activities, Izifiso appeals to the inherent desire for travelling as well as our eagerness for knowledge. Moreover, there are several aspects of local culture that are at risk of being forgotten. Izifiso plans to attempt to revive these cultures that, at the end of the day, make us who we are.
To pitch your plan at Unconvention Delhi visit: http://unconvention.co.in/registration