Thursday, December 25, 2008

Focus on delivery methods

During one of the sessions I attended in Centre for Social Initiative and Management (CSIM) I had a discussion with the visiting instructor Dr. Vishnupriya, a freelance educational consultant. She said that she deals research and consultation for organizations dealing with educating school students.

Given that our team has interest in child education, I briefed her about our teaching module and expressed to her that there are quite a few "teaching modules" that are packaged as science kits that can be used, but our module is different in that we concentrate more on "how to teach" to the students using the teaching module, rather than just disseminating the module to be used by the children if and when they need it.

Basically the discussion with Dr. Vishnupriya and later on with Aishwarya crystallized to the following fundamental point:

Focus on delivery methods is more crucial to achieving the goals of the teaching module we are putting together than the infrastructure we use for the same.

On an aside, she has said that she is open to further investigating our idea, our current delivery methodologies and the schools we target and provide us with consultation. However she has made it clear that this may come at a fee since she is a professional as against a social worker. The fee would depend upon the duration for which she is associated with us and our affordability.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Is targeting the poor alone always efficacious?

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.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Global imbalance

A very nice lecture on the crisis that looms over the US dollar and the current practice of globalization.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Majora Carter: Greening the ghetto

What she presents here applies to any city in this world. Being from Chennai, I have literally witnessed the degradation of its ecology. One example I often quote is the degradation of River Adayar. If you have seen the river 10 or 15 years before you will understand what I mean.

Sustainable design ideas

Posting a talk about sustainable design ideas derived from nature may not be a proper post given the theme of this blog. But if you look at the title of the blog, I guess I am not way off from the target by posting it here. Instead of me telling it, I would like you to watch the video and decide it for yourself.

This amazing and eye-opening talk was given by Janine Benyus at one of TED conferences on green technology. Enjoy this talk!

NOTE: Click on "Player 7" or "Player 8" to view the video. Incase if you had problems the talk can be viewed at: Janine Benyus: 12 sustainable design ideas from nature

Dr. Jane Goodall on hope for the future!

This amazing talk is from the outstanding researcher Dr. Jane Goodall given at one of the TED conferences.

NOTE: In case if you had problems viewing the video here you can get it from the source at: Jane Goodall: What separates us from the apes?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

SE session 11: Social accounting and auditing

Today’s session was on an interesting topic called social accounting and auditing. Financial accounting and auditing are tried and tested methods for tracking and verifying the financial status of an organization and finding out if the financial goals are met are violated. Social accounting and auditing is a parallel concept developed on the lines of financial accounting and auditing in order to measure and verify the social goals of a social enterprise.

In case of a business enterprise, when a project is taken up, one sets a financial goal for the project. As the project progresses one tracks certain financial metrics of the project that will help assess the financial performance of the project when financial audit is done.

However a social enterprise has a double bottom line of financial profit and a social impact. So, when a project is taken up in a social enterprise, similar to having a standardized financial accounting procedure that can be used for enterprises catering to different sectors, one may have standard social accounting procedure that can be used be social enterprises irrespective of the sectors they are catering to.

In social accounting, one will set a social objective that complies to the mission of the enterprise, and plan activities that achieve the social objective, while upholding the values of the organization. For each activity planned, social metrics has to be measured that provides feedback about the social impact of the activities when a social audit is conducted. This is the basic idea behind social accounting and auditing. One difference between financial and social accounting is, for the former, quantitative metrics will suffice to accurately assess the financial performance of the enterprise. But for the latter, the both quantitative and qualitative measure has to be captured to assess the social impact.

Social accounting has three steps

  1. Getting ready: Social accounting is process that has to be assimilated as an inherent part of the social activity and is effective in giving a measure of social impact only in a long term (3 years). So, it is important for the members of the enterprise and stakeholders to understand the importance of the accounting. Steps have to be taken to get everyone’s approval to adopt social accounting as part of the enterprise’s initiatives.
  2. Social, Economic and environmental planning: We went through a case study of a social enterprise called Good Crafts that trains women from a Mumbai slum in employment related skills like making baskets, wall-hangings, soft-toys etc., and procures their products to sell it in overseas markets and shares the profit with the women. From the case study write-up we identified the
    1. mission statement of Good Crafts that addresses the purpose for which the organization is formed

Example: Good crafts aims to empower women and thus build sustainable and self-reliant communities in slums of Mumbai.

    1. the values it has to uphold in the organization as it strives to achieve its mission

Example: Being non-discriminatory to the beneficiaries (slum women), etc

    1. Objectives that are aligned towards the mission statement and the activities that achieve the objectives

Example: To empower women through training and creating of employment by

a) Providing relevant skill training

b) Encouraging and supporting self-employment

c) Providing crèche facilities for the working women’s children

    1. Metrics that measure the effectiveness of the activities

a)      Number of courses provided (quantitative)

b)      Number of self-employed women (quantitative) and how satisfactory to the women is the quality of support provided (qualitative)

c)      Number women whose kids are enrolled in the crèche.

During the exercise we learnt that

-         the mission statement should be specific, clear and should remain the same through the completion of the project

-         each activity taken up must  be tied to a specific objective. This is because; the metric that we measure should provide us feedback about the efficacy of the activity in achieving the objective.

  1. Social Economic and environmental implementation: This amounts to ensuring that relevant metrics are measured and qualitative data collected during the activity. Standard ways of collecting qualitative metrics are focus group discussions, questionnaires, surveys, and analyzing the minutes-of-meetings and status reports
  2. Social, Economic and environmental auditing: Once the data is collected, a social auditor may audit the accounted metrics to analyze the social, economic and environmental impact that the social enterprise has caused and provide feedback on how much the objectives are achieved.  Based on the inputs the implementation strategy may be modified for the better. Then the social audit may be repeated the next cycle to measure the efficacy of the modified strategy. So, the minimum recommended period for the audit is two years.


1.      It’s a standard auditing based on a proven model. It can be applied to all sorts of social enterprise, irrespective of their area of interest

2.      Scalable: Can be applied to a whole organization or just one program of the organization

3.      It is a process. It can accommodate other tools of measurement like “Social return on Investment” within itself to make social auditing complete.

4.      Can  be used as a strategic tool; can sell the results of the audit to stakeholders and to generate more support (money or the like)


  1. Need to allocate time, finances and resources
  2. Inaccuracy of surveys or scanty response to questionnaires
  3. Long term project, needs change in business model to accommodate the process

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

SE session 10: Writing fund-raising proposal

I couldn't attend this class. So, this post owes its credit to my classmate, Manmohan Jain.

1. Most NGOs overseas average about 51% earned income. The percentage for Indian NGOs is much lower. Earned income is income generated by the NGO. It could be either by
- sales of goods (T-shirts, auction of paintings by hearing-impaired children)
- volunteer activities e.g organizing a qawali nite / music concert
- beneficiary created products (hand made carpets or some other handicraft of a particular community)
2. People give to People -
At the end of the day it is a person that you are making the appeal to. It may be a foundation that makes grants, or a government body or a corporate that you are seeking funds from, but eventually the pitch is made to a person - for e.g a trustee or board member.
Similarly when making their decision they are considering you, your credibility etc. You may have a great cause, your NPO may have good track record, but still it does matter in terms who is the person appealing to them.
A fraction of funds raised may be impersonal but any large grants - the "people to people" principle applies.
3. Understand donor - what appeals to them, what is important to them, what is their process for selection.
4. Pareto principle - how 80 % efforts might only give 20% returns and often it is core 20% activities that give most of the Return Of Investments so focus on those.
5. Acronym for sources of income - GGCIE (you can refer to the slide on this)
6. Fund raising cycle - PDCA Plan -> Do -> Check -> Act
Or on similar lines
Need -> Sources -> Method -> Select / Evaluate
with the last step feeding back into the first in each case. For example, you evaluate you results and re assess/replan your needs.
A good question to answer is "How will you sustain the work after the grant runs out?"

Plan: Research sources - who will you target? Refer to GGCIE. If it is Government what schemes and programmes are available?
V K Puri's "Government funding schemes for NGOs/NPOs in India" lists several hundred schemes and can be very useful resource.
7. We went over SSA proposal format and some of the sections in that.

If applying to Companies and CSR departments, they will certainly need metrics/measures

8. A good exercise in planning phase is to project the need over time and match to appropriate sources. For example
- quick or short term needs - selling T-shirts, individual volunteer donations of small amounts
- long term needs - grants from foundations/governments. This will have long lead time and typically be larger amounts.

9. Objectives of CSR:
- branding
- employee motivation and feel good factor
- shared objective e.g KidSmart ?
- good business
- social responsibility
Went through exercise in actual writing of funding proposal. The template used is in slides 10 to 14 The class broke up into 4 groups of 2 each and spent about 30 mins preparing a proposal and then presented to rest of class.

Each was critiqued by Prof Bhargava, pointing out what was good and what needed improvement.
Some key points
- be specific in your title if you can
- have facts, clear breakdown of expenses/projected needs
- shows you have done your homework
- have measures or impact - short term/long term, even can mention associated/corollary impact
e.g rehabilitation of street children addicted to drugs will reduce crime in the locality - in 1 year impact can be seen

After the exercise we saw short video where a trustee/grant making body official talked about how they decide and how it is never a cut and dry Yes/NO answer.
- donors would want to review and evaluate
- they would want to visit and assess
- they are assessing the individual /invidividuals making the application, what is their credibility, integrity, commitment etc
- the decision takes time and combines several factors
So it is not black and white - yes/no.
Caution: Never put any fact or any statistic that is not real or cannot be substantiated

We then saw a real proposal example . Hindi Martin Institute and went over its salient points. It was a real life actual proposal that got funding.
Finally he touched briefly on results versus indicators and the LFA - problem solving technique. (I need to learn more about this).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

SE session 9: Project Management

I have been attending a certification course in social entrepreneurship in CSIM and have been posting on the proceedings of each session in my personal blog. I think it is more appropriate to post it here, so will do so from this post on. For earlier post, please visit my blog!

I would like to start off at the last! My take home of the day! (more of a suggestion than a rule of thumb though)
Identify what your beneficiaries need, sensitize the beneficiaries about their need and your solution, involve the beneficiaries of the social initiative to participate and if possible manage the initiative.

Project planning should be approached from a mixture of top-down and a bottom-up approach. Top-down, as in using "from the book" ideas like management and leadership principles, business models etc. Bottom-up as in getting to know what the beneficiaries (or end users) want and forming strategy based on that.

The class started off with some basics about project management. It is not only a science, as it involves rational thinking, data analysis and decision-making, but also an art since it involves getting the job done using your wits.

We moved on to a brief analysis of the difference between a program and a project.

Program: Long-term or on-going activity, continually funded and has regular allocation of budget. Example: National literacy mission

Project: Usually short-term, one-time funding. Usually a program is made up of a lot of projects that achieve the purpose of a program

Following this, we discussed a questionnaire, answering which one may have planned an entire project well considering all aspects and would be ready to hit the road. This took us all the way up to the break and formed a very important learning session of the class (so, don't skip the link!)

During the second half of the session, the instructor presented the way his initiatives in eliminating rural poverty made an impact in the livelihood of the rural society. He devised and designed various initiatives for the benefit of rural poor in various sectors like agriculture, education, micro-finance, health, income generation.

He talked about the federated model of self-help group (summarized by slide-3 of the PDF doc) in Andhra Pradesh, which was a run-away hit in the whole of the country. The success of the model was summarized by the fact that about 42% of all the money allocated by the Indian government is used by AP, while the repayment rate is 98%, unmatched by any other SHG anywhere else. Delegates from other states and even countries like Vietnam visit AP to study the SHG model.

Since this post is not about singing the praise of AP's SHG models, I move beyond to aspects that are common to all the government projects (including SHGs) that he was involved.
  • All project involved formation of Village organizations (VOs) which essentially is a representative body of the village. They were legally registered as co-operatives. All SHGs and VO are composed of women from the village
  • The relevant govt. representatives train and sensitize them about the need of the co-operative. (If it is agriculture.. training is on retaining profit and eliminating middle-men during procurement... if it is micro-finance, training is on how important savings is etc..)
  • Once training is done, the initiative is implemented and the outcomes are measured!
The model of sensitizing and involving the beneficiaries in various levels from management to volunteering has largely produced good results (will be evident from the slides of the session that I will post once they are available to me). But few do fail to scale up after initial success.

The whole session was finally summarized by the discussion titled "Why do projects succeed?"
highlighting the points user involvement as a participant, continuous funding, Clear understanding of goals, effective planning and setting realistic expectations of scope, quality and time involved.

By the then, we were about half-an-hour past time and we didn't even realized it. (I was especially mesmerized by the facts and figures he presented by the success stories of SERP's rural development initiatives). But he left us with a mention that goals should be SMART

Specific: Well-defined and clear to project managers
Measurable in terms of qualitative parameters
Agreed upon by all stakeholders
Realistic, as in set within the availability of resources

Brief Profile of Mr B. Ravi Shankar 

Mr. B. Ravi Shankar has completed Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Applications and also in Management (Rural development) from Xavier’s Institute, Ranchi.

Earlier he worked as a project officer in the Society for Rural Industrialization, Ranchi, Jharkhand, as a Community Coordinator in Girijan Cooperative Corporation, AP, and as a Project Director of Leather Industries Development Corporation of AP. He also has the experience of working in IT sector for sometime. Presently he is the Project Manager of Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP), (IKP-VELUGU project), AP.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Building your own lab each year!

We may all remember the post that I did on Teaching module. Well it may seem to be sleeping, but it is only moving at a snail's pace. I was discussing this with my third-level manager today and he gave his ideas on it. One idea which made my bulb glow was this statement of his:

"You have people working on preparing science experiments anyway. You are doing it right out of their books anyway, why don't you prepare a set of labs for the entire academic year for the kids and donate it to them? Better still, you can sell it to the school district by which it reaches all the schools in the district instead of just one school"
That is a good idea which was so near yet so far from us. One thing that these kids government school lacks is lab. If we can work on each chapter and come up with a set of labs, it would set up a lab for them for the whole year. But better still, if we can fully document the way using which the models are built, we can make the students build their own labs year after year instead of just giving them the  experiments preset. An activity based learning. So, the teaching module changes thus...

Teach kids to make their own notebooks.
How does this help?
  • non-availability of free notebooks @ govt schools
  • potential means to earn
Teach kids of appropriate age about technologies related to clean energy like solar energy
  • How tap solar energy
  • How the market is growing etc
How does this help?
    • creating experts in a market of demand for the future
Setup a model to allow kids to construct the labs themselves
How does this help?
  • Sets up a lab for themselves
  • Does incorporates activity-based learning.
All the soft-skills appreciated in a corporate environment
  • committing to a task of reasonable difficulty and completing it on time
  • being regular with work taken up and establishing proper communication about updates/possible delays
How does this help?
  • time-management, probably study better while being good at extra-curricular
  • develops proper attitude and work-ethics and improves job-prospects
  • Basic fire-safety
  • First-aid and emergency response
  • Details of phone numbers, addresses of hospitals in vicinity.
How does this help?
  • Duhh......!
Community activity
  • Some kind of an activity that sensitized them to importance of sanitation, public health, environment etc.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Field visit to Bhumi

In this session, we made a field visit to Government High School at the heart of Rasoolpura, known as the largest slum in Hyderabad (some say in AP). This school was adopted by Bhumi, an NGO that aims at large scale, holistic, sustainable transformation for the slum (and for the larger society in a long term).

Bhumi's members Sai and Pallavi (one of CSIMs students too!) greeted us and gave an outline of their flagship Dhronacharya and Ekalavya program (DNE) in which Bhumi trains and deploys volunteers to mentor the school children on a weekly basis on academics and extra-curricular activities. The program seems to spring from the notion that kids in the slum study better when they are exposed to an "elder-brother-cum-role model" who can inspire and provide them a regular learning environment.

Abdul Mujib Khan, one of the founding members of Bhumi, provided a brief account of their history. Rasoolpura, like any other urban slum, faced multiple interlinked problems. Poverty resulting in child labour, in turn resulting in low academic performance and high dropouts. Poor conditions resulting in poor health problems, in turn resulting in loss of wage which compounds the problem of child labour and education. Further, the cynicism of the slum dwellers towards the "outsiders in Proline T-shirts" posed another layer challenge.

To address the first problem, Bhumi has divided its task in Rasoolpura into four domains viz., Livelihood, Education, Healthcare and Water & Sanitation. Then it adopted the then dilapidated Govt. High school. and with funding from Sarva Shikhsa Abhiyan and Hyderabad Round table, they renovated the school, hired teachers and got the school back up and running. This automatically helped Bhumi address the second problem too as the promise kept acted as a good testimony to their commitment to area. With more kids in school on a regular basis, the DNE program was launched in an effort to improve the pass percentage (then a dismal 13%) among 10th std kids. To improve the livelihood, Bhumi used the trust built to constitute about 6 self-help groups among the womenfolk (headed by a slum-dweller named Razia).

A crucial aspect that needs addressing in improving this society, they said, is the mentality slum-dwellers towards the SHG in general and using the loaned money in particular. As expected, the primary modes of income to people in the slum are fruit and vegetable hawking, house-help, working as a driver or running an autorickshaw. Since the livelihood is always hand-to-mouth, the mentality to save and planning for the longer term was lacking and took repeated counselling to attain a decent awareness level present now. Further, when Razia tried to spread the idea of forming a "group" the first question they usually asked was "How much money will I get?".

Bhumi is also involved in improving the other dimensions of the problem that affects education. Health. One school of thought suggests that children brought up with inadequate nutrition till the age of 5 show learning disabilities that affect them for the rest of their life. They took the initiative to bring in some students of medicine to conduct "Bailey's test" and found that about 20% of them fail the test. However, since medical treatment needs to be sustained over a long term for improvement, it is challenging to keep the respective families interested.

With the slum-dwellers increasingly placing their trust on them, Bhumi is also working on slowly training and transfering the control of their initiatives to the local slum-dwellers, though this seems to be a long objective.

A few other takeaways from the field visit
  • Their initiatives, especially with respect to education, are modeled in such a way that it can be "sold" to the government to adopt as an accepted model of education (am a bit confused about this, asked for clarification, will update!)
  • Bhumi seems to have extensively used the help of CSIM, who I have found myself are larger directory of contacts than "YellowPages" if you are a social entrepreneur. They have also helped Bhumi is redesigning their DNE mentoring program.
  • Most of their successful initiatives have been field tested on a smaller scale (say, applied to a smalller section of the slum) and then have been scaled up. Probably a good point to remember.
Overall, Bhumi provides quite a few lessons to learn the easier way. The biggest lesson of it all is probably the way they have conquered the trust of the slum-dwellers by delivering on the promise of renovating and bringing the school alive, which seems to have had an immediate effect on families the students hail from and those who live in the adjoining areas.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Andhra Pradesh - Hyderabad NGO forum calls for hike in funds for healthcare

Hyderabad - An NGO-civil society forum has stressed the need for a coordinated effort of public, private sectors and NGOs to ensure increase in the budgetary allocations for health in developing countries. Addressing the first session at the 39th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) here on Wednesday, WHO director (Health Systems Financing), David B. Evans, lamented that a majority of developing countries spent less than $50 per capita on health. "The per capita spending in as many as 30 member countries is less than US $ 40 a year," he said. Gopi Gopalakrishnan, Country Director of DKT International (Vietnam), pointed out that monopolistic structures (public sector) rarely delivered quality care and the public sector mechanism never cared for measuring outputs. "If you can't monitor, you can't monitor," he said. Despite high visibility, the contribution of NGOs to service delivery was negligible. There were over 1.3 million NGOs in India but contribute less than 0.7 per cent of total healthcare needs. Nemat Hajebhoy of Aga Khan Foundation, and others also spoke.

- By Special Correspondent (The Hindu)

Was browsing over some information where i bumped into this piece of news..(the text marked in red color specifically). Well, firstly I was wondering what could be the hurdles for 1.3 Million NGOs (if not all striving for better health) together to deliver a substantial result.(0.7 is nothing holding the current indian population in mind). Further opinions are welcome!!! My second concern is there are 1.3 Million NGOs in India...(again considering the stats) what is the percentage development achieved by them in overall, health, poverty, women, children etc etc...!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

In conversation with NGOpost

Today I arranged a phone call with Parul Gupta and Nitin Gupta, the founders of NGOpost and I found something that amazed me.

They felt that NGOs working on the same social issue rarely talk to each other with to share knowledge and exchange best practices. From her prior experience working with various NGOs related to education and women's development, Parul feels that there is a pressing need to enable such an exchange of information between the various entities of social sector to combat the social problems effectively. Does all this sound at least vaguely familiar? Well, this precisely what we at Targeting the Roots set out to find out too (as one of our objectives). In NGOpost, we have a credible testimonial that supports our understanding.

When asked about their opinion about the idea that we, Targeting The Roots, one (distant) day conduct a conference that woos NGOs of feather to flock together and share best practices, they had differing views (from what I perceived). Parul opined that, though it would be monetarily and logistically very difficult for a small team to successfully conduct such a conference, the idea will be productive. Nitin on the other hand highlighted the possibility that NGOs may actively participate in such a conference, but soon would forget the about the discussion and continue with their business as usual once the conference is over. Parul, agrees with Nitin's opinion, but felt that it is a matter of sustained "drilling down" into the NGOs mind and eventually such an initiative will move them to see that adopting best practices from their peers will prove to be more effective in fostering social change.

Who among the two is right may be just a matter of opinion. But I found that the idea of "NGOs talking to one another" no longer needs to be verified. The question is no longer seems to be "If knowledge sharing will be effective", but "How to make knowledge sharing effective".

Parul said that though such conferences among NGOs do happen, they are relatively rare (her estimate was about 10 per year all over India), and they are not usually well publicised. I have asked her to intimate me when she comes across one.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Let's keep going - but stay focused !!

In conversation with Badhri I found each of us have a passion towards society. Our group seem to have the right thoughts and spirit. Essense for any powerful team to achieve their set goal. We have a goal ! Let's refine it further.. Well should I say prioritise ! Technically speaking we have planned our architecture, lets get into implementation. Module by module...
Out of the nutrients we have planned to inject into the roots, let's continue to focus on education and further strengthen it. Strong reason is this being a comfort zone.
The teaching module is a good starting point. Let's extend this a little further. Lets say 5-10 schools for this year & accomplish this. While doing so we should also train the willing teachers in this method so that they will continue to train future batches. Well as an incentive may be we can pay some renumerative. It works trust me !! This has dual advantages. One it relieves us to seek new avenues/schools , second the already trained place continues to adopt our method.
Coming to targeted effort lets say 5-10 schools a year has another merit. This will give us a feel on what it takes to conduct this & also how it has affected the students. Unless we do this there is no way we can find this out. No other way to learn swimming unless your are in water !!
One quick point on the effort involved. The teaching science module is HR intensive unlike the "Deploy teachers" model which India Sudar does. We adpoted this because upfront we knew we could not put in the demand volunteer modules would put. I mention this to highlight the point that there is no right & wrong method.

These are just quick points which came to mind & leave it open to discussion. As I said expereince(read it as field work) is the best teacher. No amount ot R&D can teach us that. been our experience my personal experience :-) !

So what are waiting for .. Lets keep the spirit going !! Lets start focussed. Experience will take you to places we would not dreamt of .... First we started giving education to orphanage homes .. then govt schools .. rural schools .. migrant children education .. paying inidividual fee to arrest droupout .. u never know what is in store .. stay tuned !!!!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Access to notebooks at government schools

I was in conversation with our team-mate and member of India Sudar, Shiva about the education for students from the lower-economic section of the society.

I came to know from him that while the government provides textbooks and uniforms for free, they don't have the capability provide notebooks. This unsurprisingly turns out to be a severe limitation to learning. When inquired, the government officials respond,

"Even the government has limited resources. To offset our limitations we have empowered the school's headmasters and senior teachers to partner local NGOs and philanthropists to receive the relevant aid".

Makes sense doesn't it? But I think, and Shiva agrees, that this is not a sustainable model. So, what do we have? Even when ills like hunger and child-labor are removed from poor kids' way to the school, the good work is undone by the absence of guaranteed access to something as trivial as notebooks. I think this is a good idea for social entrepreneurship. Notebooks are available everywhere. Can be made from recycled paper too! Making notebooks is a good small-scale business. All it needs is an entrepreneurial idea that takes care of the economics and connects the demand and supply. Are you aware of any already existing models? (not donation of notebooks of course).

My raw and partial stab at social entrepreneurship:
Notebooks can be bound from papers. I was thinking if we can catch hold of someone who does the binding on a regular basis, and give a training session to school kids (or their parents) for a small fee, they can make their own notebooks.

Now that they know how to make notebooks, they (hopefully) can find their own ways of getting paper. A paper mart nearby, or unused paper from a relatively well off home

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hitting the Road: Teaching module - Draft 1

Idea generated for schools so far
  • Teach kids to make their own notebooks.
How does this help?
    • non-availability of free notebooks @ govt schools
    • potential means to earn
  • Teach kids of appropriate age about technologies related to clean energy like solar energy
    • How tap solar energy
    • How the market is growing etc
How does this help?
    • creating experts in a market of demand for the future
  • All the soft-skills appreciated in a corporate environment
    • committing to a task of reasonable difficulty and completing it on time
    • being regular with work taken up and establishing proper communication about updates/possible delays
How does this help?
    • time-management, probably study better while being good at extra-curricular
    • develops proper attitude and work-ethics and improves job-prospects
  • Safety
    • Basic fire-safety
    • First-aid and emergency response
    • Details of phone numbers, addresses of hospitals in vicinity.
How does this help?
    • Duhh......!
  • Community activity
    • Some kind of an activity that sensitized them
  • Community activity
    • Some kind of an activity that sensitized them to importance of sanitation, public health, environment etc.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

"Let there d.light!"

A picture says a thousand words. So...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What are we waiting for?

Here is an outline of what has been happening over the last few months.
  • OUR OBJECTIVE is officially posted on Targeting the Roots
  • Aish, Badhri, Jagan, Ranjit, Shashi, Shabnam, Dhaval agree to it.
  • Priya, Sarathy, Krishnakanth have officially taken a "sabatical" for their current personal commitments
  • A comprehensive teaching module aimed at imparting the following to underprivileged kids was proposed and agreed to by the members in general (any disagrements by the members welcome!)
    • academic education based on demonstration filling up the void of lack of labs
    • civic sense and commitment to the society
    • (other ideas! The link to UNICEF will help in this regard.)
  • Shiva Narayan, of India Sudar, an experienced person in education inducted into the team
  • Badhri sent his initial draft of science demo material to the group

After months of enthusiastic discussions, distractions due to personal commitments, feeling lost mid-way an objective is commonly agreed upon. The time has come to move to the next step. Implementation. What are we waiting for?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Child Labour

Most of us may have discussed and thought of how the Child Labour Laws in India are strong enough but leave much to be desired when it comes to implementation of the laws and rehabilitation of the 'rescued' children. A start has obviously been made with the government recognizing the problem and amending the earlier Child Labour Act 1986 and bringing more professions under the purview of the act.

Immediate reason for the post: This article

Friday, May 9, 2008

Like Minded People and a Mine Of Information

I was searching for more information on SABRAS - a company founded by salt pan workers in Gujarat, when I stumbled upon two links.

Think Change India and IndiaCorps

Think Change India, as is clearly mentioned on their website tracks social innovation and social entrepreneurship in India - A topic of great interest to me.

IndiaCorps is a well established organization which takes up social projects in partnership with other NGOs. They also have a fellowship programme for people who want to work in the field of social responsibility.

I am in the process of browsing through the website and collecting useful information but wanted to let you know about these two links. Both these websites link to many more useful and interesting resources.

I find it useful for people in US because both these organizations/groups are centered there. Members over there should see how they can help us in finding our feet.

Follow up on RangDe

Abhishek Khurana and I had a couple of queries which we mailed to They responded promptly. Reproducing the responses here.

Query 1: When I was searching for borrowers whom I could lend to, I realized that the search for borrowers in UP or J&K did not throw up any results but searching in Tamil Nadu gave quite a few. My query is, are you concentrating on a particular state or group of states to start with? Or is there something wrong in the way I was searching?

Response: Thanks for your support to Rang De. The reason why you did not find borrowers in the states that you searched is because we have not been able to reach out to people in these regions due to lack of resources.

RangDe.Org went live on 26th January 2008 and so far our field partners are from Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu (precisely why you found many from TN). We at Rang De hope that we will soon be able to spread to different parts of India with the help of field partners based in these regions. Our field partners are NGOs and non profit microfinance institutions with a committed development approach and values.

We are now moving to other states such as Karnataka and Rajasthan and the moment we find a credible partner in the states you have mentioned, we will be able spread out there as well.

We now also have the advantage of a full fledged team who will be joining us on 5th of May and we are hoping that they will help us enhance our reach in other parts of India sooner rather than later.

Query 2: "There are a lot of women" in the search results. We really do not have anything against this but were wondering if this is something to do with the demographics of that area or is it that you have a focus on women.

Response: Traditional microfinance is aimed mainly at women. You must have noticed that these are unsecured loans. What typically happens is that the money is lent not to an individual but to an inidvidual who is part of a group. These groups ususally consist of not more than 20 women. These groups are either Joint Liability Groups or Self Help Groups. In both the cases the group has an important role to play. In JLG, if a woman does not repay, her peers in the group need to pitch in in which case there is some kind of a peer pressure that builds and the woman is forced to repay. Research says that this peer pressure can work only with women. In case of the SHG, the group has their own savings, and if the woman cannot repay, it comes from her savings.

In both these cases the key features are responsibility and peer pressure. it is considered these work best with women. However, we at Rang De have not given up on men. We are trying to work out different ways in which we can reach out to male borrowers and we will soon be facilitating loan for our first male borrower.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Disruptive Innovation

Apologies for including a jargon here; but Disruptive Innovation(DI) has always interested me. What is DI and why is it on this blog.

DI is the act of innovating which disrupts/stops the current of way of doing things and introduces a radically new way of doing the same things - for the better. It differs from Incremental Innovation (II)as II aims to bring about continuous and small changes to the existing setup without requiring drastic changes. An example could be. Designing faster trains is Incremental Innovation whereas going from trains to airplanes is Disruptive Innovation.

Why is this discussion here? Most of the problems, that we talk about, facing our society are part of a vicious circle and are intertwined with other equally trying problems. Incremental Innovation may fail to make much headway in this case. Disruptive Innovation would seek to break the vicious circle and proceed.

E.g. Incremental Innovation would seek to increase the size of classrooms every year to accommodate more children. Disruptive Innovation to change the way children learn. Maybe, it will come up with something like internet/satellite based learning which will not require the children to be in classroom to learn. They can learn while they are working or when they are at home. Thus drastically reducing the costs in terms of energy, time and of course, money.

Main reason why this discussion is here.
This initiative seeks to make lenders out of ordinary people and that too at a starting amount of Rs 1000 and their multiples. This money is then channeled to the the borrower. Among other things, it achieves a lower operating cost by using the internet as a medium (it does not do away with the traditional person-to-person interaction), it allows ordinary people to lend any amount that they are capable of lending(of course with a minimum amount which is not prohibitive), it provides reliable avenues for the borrower to borrow. A win-win situation I would say.

I remember reading about such an initiative in one of the Stanford KnowledgeBase mails and fished this link out. Find the site of Kiva here and read the article on Stanford KnowledgeBase.

During the course of my search for related information, I also came across dhanaX. It seems to be on the same lines as RangDe and Kiva. I do not want to speculate more on which is older, RangDe or dhanaX as I do not find it important.

The above discussion was mainly about micro finance lending institutions. I am sure disruptive innovations already happening or waiting to happen in other fields.

One size fits all will not work

Henry Ford created history and employment when he pioneered the assembly plant. When all cars of a particular marquee were the same, they can be made using an assembly plant. Path-breaking without doubt, this concept of production has entered into many realms which are better off without it.

Education is one such area. Umpteen articles have been written about how each child is different and needs to be dealt with differently. What set me to write this post was this article "
Unwilling learners pose special problems". (Read the articles listed under the "Related Articles" section too)

Education in itself poses a lot of questions. A few of them, dealing with the purpose of education in general:

1. What is the purpose of education?
2. How do you define education in light of the answer to the above question?

Coming to the point of the less privileged "street" children.

1. How will education change their lives?
2. Based on the answer to the above question - Is education really required for street children who are already earning or do not want to study?

Most, if not all, children brought up in a normal family environment - By normal I mean where kids start schooling at the right age, they mix with kids of their own ilk, are constantly reminded about the need for better marks - do not develop a hatred-to-the-extent-of-dropping towards studies. Peer pressure and constant indoctrination play a big role. They are sedated so heavily with the rote of "Studies are important" that they seldom think about "Why are studies important".

The other children - street children, as has been said in the article - become independent at an early age. Independent thinking, though, does not necessarily result in correct or insightful decisions. It is in their cases that one has to rub in the importance, more importantly - the necessity of education.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Here is "one" for Standard of Living

Hyderabad a very "liberal" attitude when it comes to answering natures calls. Almost everyone seems to think "As long as it is out of your body, it doesn't matter where it goes" :).

Aishwarya and I stay in an apartment adjoining a stream of sewage. Right on the main road, is a long compound wall and a relatively well constructed pavement. These are very attractive places for the "Filled-up and the Restless" :) to relieve themselves. There is also a constructed and decently maintained Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation's (GHMC) public toilet. They have strategically constructed such toilets at various locations in Hyderabad close to such places that are used as public toilet. However, the GHMC toilets are clearly not used properly. I think it is because of the one-rupee that is charged for use. Now this is a problem statement. The solution to conceive a way by which the use of this (or any public) toilet can be enforced.
  1. Aish and Shabnam (or anyone who visited hyderabad), do you think the cause the one-rupee charge?
  2. If, so, is that the only cause?
The questions that remain to be answered is
1. Should we take this up as a task?
2. Whether we do or do not, it is probably still worth investing some time for suggestions. Do you have any suggestions?

On my part, since I feel the money is the problem here, we (or the org. concerned) can create a public fund (whatever that means!) of one rupee coins and allow (meaning persuade) "the Filled-up and the Restless" to use money from the fund for the toilet instead. That is the theory. I do understand practical considerations.
  • How to collect the money?
  • How to safe-guard and disburse the money (vending machine?)
  • How to advertise the fund and advertise against the use of compound wall or sewage.
But before all that
  1. Do you have any alternative/better/easier/more sensible ideas?
  2. If not at least do you think that this idea can be modified/improved?
Please try to answer the numbered questions (and not the bulleted ones!). While trying to answer the question, please keep in mind that the idea may have to be implemented at different places in Hyderabad and elsewhere. This may be a farsighted consideration, but I think it is important nevertheless!

I think this is directly related to Standard of Living, though the benefits can not be easily with the naked eye (intangible!)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Conversation with Mr. Raghuraman

Met Mr. Raghuraman K. (Head – L&D, OD & Corporate Communications of DRF) on 1st April 2008. Few of my inferences listed below, after our conversation:

1. The last batch of LAB school was at Abids, which got completed. Also got a clarity that they target the BPL group who are incapable of earning a livelihood.

2. There are currently no LAB schools in the city. Mostly because they are not getting enough aspirants.

3. Also, we were discussing on how do you trust people if they are below poverty line since; it’s easy for anyone to trick and prove that they are BPL and avail the benefits. Ironically these days, whether they can afford a square meal or not, they must possess a cell phone. Priorities in life have changed for them in the urban area. He cleared that they have to believe them through the word of mouth unlike the government which checks on the credentials through income certificates etc.

4. The focus of DRF is shifted from LABS to rural livelihood programmes to decrease migration and inculcate more opportunities in the rural area. This would help in a way to provide ample opportunities in rural area and help the families there; not get separated from their children especially boys who move out to cities in search of lucrative offers leaving them deserted and distressed. (*Quite a thoughtful point I must say).

5. There’s an Integrated Livelihood Programme called ILP run by DRF which is of a similar objective to Anand Bharati that he brought to my notice.

6. He also said he would introduce me to Ms. Mridula someone who is heading the ILP department so that we can pay a visit to one of the schools sometime and get an experience.

7. Apart from this he said we can visit their primary English medium schools called Pudami too which are built in the slum areas for again the weaker sections.

8. Last week of April with DRF, as head of the committee there’s an NGO meet and Conference for the abilities Mela, which is being conducted at the IAS Officers’. ( I remember last year I had visited one of this and that’s where I met Subba Rao, from Satyam Foundation). We can be a part of this Mela too, some kind of volunteering activity that we may expect out of this. The nature can be discussed later.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Standard of Living

The single common indicator used for Standard of Living in India is purchasing power parity-adjusted gross domestic product. Thats a big term with a lot of words. I tried reading up on it so that I could sound smart when I write this post, but I still couldn't understand. Economic terms have always scared me and they still do. So I looked up the measures that help define that standard of living at an individual level. Essentially, defining the standard of living at an individual level is the same as measuring the quality of life for an individual in the following areas:
employment opportunities
medical care
Of course that is not an all-inclusive list, but certainly covers the basic necessities that affect the quality of life. Other measures that I would add would be psychological and social support. Perhaps, also civic sense. But, irrespective, of what the measures we use to define STANDARD OF LIVING for our purposes, the basic ones would still need to included. Hence, the question that I asked at this point was what do we do with these measures of SOL? The first answer that came to mind was to target each of these measure and help bring about a change for the better. That led to couple follow up questions: how do we go about bringing a change for each of these measure? who is our target population(the population with which we work)? I dont know the answer to either of these questions. My suggestions for the target populations are as follows:
children in orphanage
children in a slum
children in a particular school
children living on the streets
children of sex workers
children of prisoners
I hope the group members discuss the above points as we have agreed on the objective and there is a need to decide:
the definition of SOL
how to change the measures that affect the SOL
the target population
The above are my personal thoughts. It is my hope that it will generate a fruitful discussion on the definition of SOL and how to fulfill our objective.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The following are the criteria that should help us define our Objective:
1) It should be aimed at undertaking projects that help the children of India, who are the future of India.
2) It should be aimed at SOL (Standard of Living).
3) It should be simply worded so that everyone can understand.
4) It should be broad so that we are able to cover all the entities that affect the SOL of those children.

Here's how Aishwar put it:
Our aim is to improve the standard of living of children in India

IF the group members differ or disagree with the above criteria and/or objective please speak up. IF NOT, then we should move beyond and start taking up projects that are adherent to the above objective. This is a very sincere request. Please... please agree or disagree.

Agree: 6members
Others didnt disagree. Per above statement, they did not need to if they AGREED with the OBJECTIVE.

Final Word: Please let this stand as a majority agreement on OUR OBJECTIVE. Words until believed in and worked towards will be just that-words. IF we can unify behind and believe in the above words, the strength of our characters, dreams and abilities will also unify to produce a strong team that will do everything in their power to help the Children Of INDIA. For the dreams and aspirations of those children and for a better future of INDIA, let us stand unified.

My thoughts..!

Guys it may be too lengthy but trust me i couldn't edit it more :-)

Post interactions I understand we had successfully zeroed on children/Women as our target group which needs support or rather our services, but how is what needs to be defined effectively! It's clearly understood that our main objective is to raise the standard of living of people who are below the poverty line, as that's the section which is most deprived of isn't?? It's indeed necessary that we have a good brainstorming session on this but before that I guess we should have the facts in hands before we venture out into something of this big a challenge… It's very essential to have our facts and figures in place as this may involve a lot of legal and non legal affairs in the upcoming times as and when we progress hopefully. And I guess our efforts in whatever ways are not going waste, as we indeed should research this well in advance before plunging into it blindly! Such initiatives always help when it's well researched, aggressively thought and discussed with its pros and cons.

Now I came across this link which is very informative (Visit this page, which may help us connect with them at our current situation)........... (the whole site has to be explored well…yet another informative & interesting page) …not sure how many of you would have come across but, request you all to study this carefully and please think and then come up with your ideas as to how we can constructively frame our OBJECTIVE and achieve them.

My take on the whole Objective is pretty clear as in we intend to bring a change in the life of an individual by helping him/her get a better standard of living through the means of education, better livelihood ! He should feel one amongst us. The next move is not clear as in how to start off and where to start from…?

A few queries strikes my mind mostly and they are -

* Are we heading towards building another NGO? If yes, then we need to interact with a few NGOs and understand the challenges they face, how they capture much funds are required etc etc etc. We need to build a project on this itself if we intend to form one.

* How much time and efforts or homework we need to invest per day / per week / per person to drive this religiously?

* Should this be treated as a priority in each one of our lives since it's at such a nascent stage…?

* Should we build contacts and seek projects..?(What kind of projects that needs to be addressed… )

* Should we seek some advice from people who have deeper experience? I think we should…as it may open up a lot of our doubts in mind.

* Asking again that we as in the members of this initiative need to identify each one of our strengths to be put in use for our cause!

That's all for now!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Do NGOs talk to each other? iCONGO

This post is the first attempt to find out if the NGOs working on the same social concern talk to one another. Is there an umbrella under which NGOs of similar objectives come together to share knowledge and best practices so that they improve their reach to their beneficiaries? For example, an NGO called Project511 has a programme to train school drop-outs so that they can take sales jobs in retail outlets. Dr. Reddy's Foundation has a programme that almost exactly works on the same. Yet, the former doesn't know of the latter's programme. (I talked to a project co-ordinator of Project511).
So, they may be training too many people for retail sales job requirement and not even know about it. This problem is hypothetical (This is not a subject of discussion) just to point out that, proper interface between NGOs is probably necessary to effectively achieve their individual proposes.
To see if such a initiative already exists, I looked at an organization called Indian Confederation of NGOs (iCONGO) that Aishwaraya Mishra pointed out. I grabbed some time to go through their website to find out what they are upto. Here is my pseudo-research and conclusion

iCONGO: Indian Confederation of NGOs
In their own words "iCONGO is poised to be like the CII or NASSCOM for the NGO sector". Their objective is to help all the NGOs in India (irrespective of their area of concentration) work in an effective manner so that it benefits the beneficiaries to the maximum possible extent. For that, they strive to bridge the gap between two ends, the givers (individuals who donate money) and the takers (the NGOs).
Explanation of Purpose:
A few people give money to NGOs out of sheer emotion, a few donate to NGOs that market themselves well (but retain a larget % of money for their upkeep rather than using it for society). On the other hand a few keep from donating despite their willingness because they don't know how effectively the NGO is using the money. iCONGO strives to ensure that the individual gives the money with full knowledge of what the NGO is doing, how it uses the money (what % goes to the cause). In other words, it wants the individual to "invest" not "donate" for a cause stated by the NGO.
To help individuals to "invest" rather than "donate", iCONGO seems to enlist NGOs that pass certain tests like transparency, accountability, uses less than 20% of the contributed money for its upkeep. This gives the necessary pieces of information to an individual to contribute money to an effective, but less known NGO that works on an issue that is closer to his/her heart (say child education).
Futher it claims to have pioneered certain processes like "direct selling" and it seems to make available to NGOs its infrastructure like direct selling agencies, retail shops, discounted media rates, cause related marketing ideation etc.
I have gone through the website to the extent possible in the last two hours, but found nothing that iCONGO does to make sure that NGOs working on a similar issue talk to each other, share knowledge to improve their collective reach to the beneficiaries.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Trip to one of the Dr. Reddy's Foundation's LABS (Livelihood Advancement Business Schools)

Date and Time: 7th March 2008, Friday @ 11.30 AM.

Place: Dr Reddy's Foundation (DRF) LABS at Abids

Aish and I headed towards an impromptu meeting to abids; where DRF vocational course is running or rather coming to a closure for this particular batch. A handful of guys and gals were present who were undergoing the sessions there. Mr. Devi Prasad (PRO at Reddy Foundations) accompanied us all the way and the interaction begun with the aspirants’ (Reddy Foundations prefer this name for the students joining LABS) brief introduction. With this we got a fair idea about the aspirants’ background…where they are coming from, their family background, what they intend to do next after their programme and how did the course help them so far. Mostly their family backgrounds were financially weak is what I could infer and each one of them were thriving to hone their skills there at LABS center…but, remorsefully the strength of the aspirants was too low.

After this introduction we introduced ourselves and our purpose to visit them. Aish had neatly laid down the links about Anand Bharathi’s kids and their chances of being a part of Reddy’s livelihood plan. He also explained that our visit was also to develop a relation with them informally and see how we can help each other mutually.

Well we didn’t know what to talk about next and what not...but we ended up discussing and motivating them that they need to work upon their grey areas, be consistent in their efforts, improve their communication skills, read and create awareness, and move forward and do something on their own & shape their careers and build a beautiful future for themselves.. Also, we had set a few examples and explained that they could be a part of that league too, where they can set examples in future. Not just this but we encouraged them to spread this amongst their peer members … so that many more like them can benefit a life out of it.

Overall it was a good experience …and there was indeed a good deal of change that we observed in them. Sheer confidence, hope that they would earn a living for themselves and raise the standard of living for themselves and their families too. Some of them were already roped in for some jobs that of a hardware engineer and Data entry operators and rest were in the process of getting placed.

Few things that I guess I extracted out of the whole affair were,

1. If any one of us in our vicinity is aware about anyone who needs an assistance of this kind or an opportunity… we can guide them to take up a course like this though LABS.

2. Try to spread this programme as much we can. I don’t mean that we would sell on behalf of Reddy’s Foundation but just create awareness in the sense that…recently I had discussed about this instance with my home-maid who was enthusiastic for her kids, as she is finding it tough financially, for her girl child is going to some nearby English medium school and she made her plans to stop sending her to the school.

3. Visiting such aspirants once a while can motivate them to an extent. Not sure even if it does but can keep trying until we make an impact J

How to look up, build and sustain a NGO?

most of the ngo databases provide contact information for various ngos.
a database of ngos. u can do a statewise search for ngos
another database to search for ngos in india. they have 13719 in their database. u can do a search based on keyword and states.
u can search ngos based on issues and state districts
u can search database based on ngo name, area of work, state and district
breaks down ngo based on issues, states, districts at the same time providing a table of the breakdown of number of ngos based on issues, state and district with providing the ngos they consider valid. excellent resource.
an excellent resource that has increased flow or resources from high net worth individuals and corporation to ngos.
a ngo dreamer's dream come true. they teach u how to start and sustain an ngo.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

NGOcamp ! Anyone ?

It was during the last Skype meeting that we accidentally stumbled upon the idea of a networking event for NGOs in India. A quick google search for such events doesn't help much which essentially means that there is space for such an event, or not at all !

The idea is to organise a networking cum experience sharing event for NGOs in India. Scale and details have to be decided if we decide to go for it. A possible option is an Unconference styled event on the lines of blogCamp,barcamp etc.

My personal experience makes me believe that networking helps in many ways than one, peer learning being one of the most important takeaways. An interesting site that I came across is . It's kind of an association for all NGOs working in rural India. I couldn't find a similiar one for Urban NGOs though.

Junta > Do come up with what you think on this !

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Powerful learning !

I really don't know why I titled the post that way :) , but yes it has got something to do with effective learning , more specifically - ' Effective Teaching '.

Most of us remember some specific teachers more from our school days than the usual ones who used to help us cram up our lessons. The way they used to teach, the methodologies they employed, their conduct in class everything together made sure that the learnings they imparted always had a special place in our brains. Some of course , still rose to higher standards by just making us sit in awe and listen , imparting an inspiration to learn and perform !

I have always been a fan of good delivery methods in teaching (for that matter who isn't ?) I do make it a point to keep a tab on methods used by different teachers & professionals whom I bump into once in a while. I later try to use and test them in my own sessions to see the effectiveness. More recently, I have shifted to the Internet to observe and learn such techniques and have come to believe that the net is going to revolutionize learning in a way none of us could have imagined a couple of years back.

The idea is pretty simple . The net breaks couple of very important barriers (Often repeated, but yes, worth a read ) :
1. Geography.
This doesnt need explanation, the best of the best teachers can come to the student , transcending geographical boundaries.

2. University entry barriers .
While a teacher can be accomplished cos of his individual brilliance, an entire university working towards a common goal can be still more amazing. Some of the best demo videos, curriculum, course materials are increasingly becoming online for free. While you need to clear an exam and a rigorous exam process to get there and see it live, you could settle for a video without any of that effort. I agree that the kick of the live interaction is different, but then thousands of students can anyway never sit in a MIT classroom together, what they can however is logon to a video lecture together. And technologies are at it in increasing the interactive experience.

3. Amazing ideas .
When you see some of the people across the globe using innovative ways of learning and teaching , you tend to know how some simple things can help create powerful impact .A cool example that I learnt from Prof Randy Pausch of CMU is the idea of a 'head fake' - If the learner never knows the real learning that she is being imparted ( which is often boring) and is actually made to go through an experience that is pure fun for her, then the rate of learning & assimilation of ideas is far more superior. Prof Pausch used it in learning, but I can see that some other institutions too are using the same funda in enriching human lives as in the video below.

An interesting work of Prof Randy is in the Alice project where children are taught programming through a fun filled method.

And to conclude, the net's prowess might not end up with just teaching kids and children , it might as well help as in community initiatives like the Digital Green program of Microsoft Research

Monday, February 11, 2008

Being Child-Friendly

The vision for this initiative has become clear: pursue ideas that will help to raise the standard of living of the future of India, namely, the children of India. The most effective strategy to do so, as of today, from our discussions seems to point in the direction of working at the level of school education. Also, we all seem to agree that there are many factors inherent in the idea of uplifting the standard of living that can be added upon as our initiative finds a concrete direction, but, first we must find that concrete direction, aka, a single focus. Hopefully, we are not too far off from achieving that goal. Intermittently, there is another point that might be worth addressing and that is being child-friendly. It encapsulates understanding the effects of parents, community, environment, health and education on a child in order to be effective. As we narrow down, what we specifically pursue, we can orient this concept of being child-friendly towards that goal. But, for now, for the sake of understanding lets say we were trying to establish child-friendly schools, what would that mean. Well, good thing you asked. Here is a framework of UNICEF defining what it means to them to have child-friendly schools:

And, if you actually read the UNICEF's framework, you will see it establishes points that can be generally used for other student related goals. I think this is a valid point to keep a perspective of. Wat say YOU?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The power of One !

Many times we have contrary views.
Sometimes we say one person can change the world.
Sometimes we feel that nothing less than a movement can bring about the change.

The truth may lie somewhere in between.
A movement to bring about change, but started by an individual.
Why am I saying this and why in this blog?

I read a brief account of Hekani Jakhalu, a youth activist. You can read the article at this link.

What amazes me is that she started from many yards behind the start line. Already standing on the wrong side of fixed notions, she strove to bring about a positive change in the lives of her fellow people. The fact that all through she was guided by the emotions for her home state but took a pragmatic (cerebral would be closer to my intended meaning) and thoroughly-researched path deserves commendation.

Wanted to post in this blog just to re-affirm our faith in the Power of One.
May be next time I can write about the power of five fingers together.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Some Hope...!

Badhri, Aish and I have been discussing aggressively on our next steps.. its weird but we have done that over the cups of coffee, .breakfast ;-) and also amidst heavy traffic while walking and talking..! We were just dabbling our hands into this and that when we finally concluded that Reddy Foundation discussion has to be taken forward, a visit to Anand Bharathi for a whole day event and extract some important information from an NGO Naandi.Org in terms of their functions so that we may get some direction for our next motive!

I initiated to fish out the contact numbers of Reddy Foundation, and somehow I felt like talking to them directly…and that’s how I got to speak with Mr. Devi Prasad, Chief of Corporate Communications of Reddy Foundation Group. Well, it turned out to be quite productive and informative too…The summary listed below for your reference:

Reddy Foundations, Hyderabad

Contact Nos: 040-65343424, 040-23304199, 040-23301868

  • Reddy Foundation is focusing chiefly on Livelihood and education programmes for an age-group of 3-25 year olds..
  • They have so far 13 primary schools upto 3rd standard addressing quality education. They provide, meals, uniform and study materials to the children. Also support some govt. schools
  • Their Education Resource Center lays down the course materials.
  • They also cater to vocational courses between 18-35 age group. Theyhave 30 such courses, for 3 months duration. Target Audience being, school dropouts/ below poverty lines/youth). They have a placement cell too which grooms them and prepares them for job.
  • They conduct road shows to create awareness as one of their mediums and then conduct an Interest Elementary Test to identify their skills and counsel them or guide them for an appropriate course.
  • 3 Chief divisions for vocational courses are, ITS (IT Enabled Service), Customer Relations, and White Good Services.
  • They intend to build “Neighborhood Schools” in the coming year, which would upgrade the education from 3rd standard to 12th Standard.
  • They have also tied up with Agha Khan Foundation which aids training to teachers; provide innovative ideas to teachers to motivate children to attend regular schools.
  • They have been successful in providing livelihoods to 1,35000 people across the nation.
  • They also generate lot of rural development programmes.

Well Devi Prasad proposed us to meet up and discuss the possibility to partner with them and can work out a way to mutually benefit in the long run. He also discussed a possibility if we can drive one of their Livelihood Advanced Business School programmes in any area in Hyderabad. All this would be discussed at his end with the Director of Education of Reddy Foundation Group... Hence that introductory email was sent out. Lets see how positively he responds else, would follow up with him on Monday morning if he received the mail etc etc.