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?