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.