Register NOW for the Harvard International Development Conference

This year, I’m helping to run the Harvard International Development Conference (IDC) at the Harvard Kennedy School.  It promises to be an exciting event, with panel topics ranging from the role of mobile technology as a means of alleviating poverty to private sector-led, entrepreuneurial models for development.  If you intend on attending the conference, please do let me know – I would love to meet members of our readership in person!

More information follows below:

The 15th Annual Harvard International Development Conference
April 3 – 4, 2009   |   Harvard Kennedy School

Register Now!  www.HARVARD-IDC.com

We would like to introduce you to the 15th Annual Harvard International Development Conference (IDC) at the Harvard Kennedy School.  In light of an increasingly challenging global context, this year’s theme, “IMPACT: Turning Global Challenges into Opportunities,” delves into the need for the reconceptualization of existing development paradigms, as well as the importance of cross-sector, entrepreneurial partnerships.

We are especially pleased to present our keynote speakers for this year’s conference:

Mr. John Wood, Founder, Room to Read; Author, ‘Leaving Microsoft to Change the World’
Dr. Kyung-Wha Kang, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
Dr. Howard Zucker, Former Assistant Director General, World Health Organization

The core programmatic elements of the IDC are our 13 Panels and 4 Workshops under 4 Topics, each consisting of four to five leading development experts from a multitude of sectors: government, private sector, academia and international organizations.  This year’s topics include:

A.    International Trade & Finance
B.    Science & Technology for Development
C.    Human Rights & Human Security
D.    Private Sector & Entrepreneurial Solutions for Development

Three (yes, 3!) Exciting Upcoming Conferences!

Looking for interesting conferences to attend over the course of the next two months? Well, look no further! Below are three upcoming conferences that we recommend you attend – The Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Conference (March 1, 2009), The Harvard Business School India Business Conference (March 15, 2009), and the Harvard Kennedy School International Development Conference (April 3-4, 2009). ThinkChange India will be live blogging at all three conferences, so if you are unable to attend, we will be sure to update you with key highlights from the three respective conferences!

Some brief information about each of the conferences follows below:

HBS Social Enterprise Conference – March 1, 2009

The Social Enterprise Conference provides a forum for exploring the synergies between for-profit, non-profit, and public sector approaches to addressing critical social issues. This goal lies at the heart of the Harvard Business School mission “to educate leaders who make a difference in the world” and the Kennedy School of Government mission “to prepare leaders for service to democratic societies.” The Conference is entirely run by students from these two schools.

Exciting speakers include Priya Haji, CEO of World of Good, Inc., Linda Rottenberg, CEO of Endeavour, and Bill Drayton, CEO of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. Expect to also see panelists from organizations such as the Clinton Foundation, Agora Partnerships, the Acumen Fund, One Laptop Per Child, IDEO, Skoll Foundation, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, TechnoServe, ACCION International, and many more! Click here if you would like to see the agenda in its entirety.

HBS India Business Conference – March 15, 2009

The HBS India Conference is one of the largest student-run conferences in the US and has a strong legacy of creating a platform to allow business men and women, policymakers, and those involved in academia to meaningfully debate and discuss how India can fulfill her global potential.

This year’s conference will feature presentations by prominent keynote speakers as well as twelve panel discussions / debates on the following areas: Building Brands in India, Energy, Entrepreneurship, Global Indians, Healthcare, Infrastructure, Knowledge Economy, Media and Entertainment, Private Equity, Retail, Social Enterprise and Venture Capital. In addition, the Conference will provide an opportunity for the attendees to network and interact closely with prominent members of the Indian business community and to learn about their industries and companies as well as gain insights on potential career opportunities.

HKS International Development Conference – April 3-4th, 2009 (website is yet to be updated)

15th Annual International Development Conference at Harvard University, which will be held at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts from April 3rd to 4th, 2009. The International Development Conference is a student-run event providing a world-class inter-disciplinary forum on global sustainable development. Each year the Conference attracts over 400 participants and serves as a forum to foster dialogue among various stakeholders, including senior level policy makers, academics, and practitioners.

Laptops and Local Trains

When I first heard the news, I was reminded of chaiwalas on local trains who chant, “chaiiii, chaiiiii, chaiiiii” and sell just the right amount of delectable tea in earthen cups for a very sweet price. Has the day come? Will a new army of “laptopwalas” soon be chanting, “laptopppp, laptopppp, laptopppp,” on local trains and markets, especially given the recent media flurry that the Indian government is getting ready to launch a $10 laptop as part of its e-learning campaign?

Admittedly, the idea of laptops being sold on local trains is somewhat preposterous. Unfortunately, the amount being quoted through the media – $10 – seems equally as preposterous. First, some background, courtesy of the Guardian:

The computer, known as Sakshat, which translates as “before your eyes”, will be launched as part of a new Rs46bn “national mission for education.” This envisages a network of laptops from which students can access lectures, coursework and specialist help from anywhere in India, triggering a revolution in education. A number of publishers have reportedly agreed to upload portions of their textbooks on to the system

There are plenty of skeptics, however, including Atanu Dey:

So what’s wrong with a $10 laptop? What’s wrong is that it flies in the face of all reasonable expectations about the world. It is disconnected with reality. The reality is that Nicholas Negroponte’s OLPC project tried desperately to build a $100 laptop and despite having access to considerable talent and expertise, the best it could do was a machine that costs around $200. What this tells us is that hardware costs, though they have fallen dramatically over time, are still high enough that it is virtually impossible to produce a laptop for around $100. If it were possible, they would have done it.

Regardless of whether this innovation is as cost-effective as it claims to be, which is doubtful, it is still important to keep in mind that technology is simply a tool, not the ends itself. I can’t say emphasize this point enough – should the Indian government roll out a shiny, new, cost-effective laptop with Wi-Fi and 2 GB ram (which I highly doubt), I hope they also have plans to actually implement the technology effectively. Most difficult is not the “what,” but rather, the “how,” which is, in this case, unclear in both respects.

[Check our previous coverage on the topic: Prerna’s Op-Ed on the Logic of Laptops in Education, Story featuring affordable PC maker NComputing, OLPC’s entry into India]

Upcoming Conference: “Microfinance from Below,” Tufts Fletcher

This upcoming March 26th – 28th, 2009, the Tufts Fletcher School will be holding a conference entitled, “Microfinance from Below: The Power of Savings and Savings Groups in Frontier Economies.” Registration is free. More details follow below:

The Center for Emerging Market Enterprises (CEME) at The Fletcher School, Tufts University—with support from Oxfam America and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—will host a conference in March 2009 that explores the dual nature of savings groups. As a subject of debate within the microfinance sector, groups constitute both a target of and shield against exploitation, a market for and competitor to commercial alternatives, and a means of both communal unity and division. The “Microfinance from Below: The Power of Savings and Savings Groups in Frontier Economies” conference will examine the potential and limits of financial self-service, the social nature of savings groups, and the best ways for institutions to form, strengthen, and serve them—and then let them go.

Changing the Face of Public Health: Click Diagnostics

This winter, through the gracious support of the Social Equity Venture Fund (S.E.VEN), I will be working in Cairo, Egypt with Click Diagnostics, a mobile tele-health social enterprise venture that recently won the $100K Entrepreneurship Competition hosted yearly at MIT. As mentioned in previous posts relating to cellphones and development, mobile technology seems to be the next frontier in terms of poverty alleviation. In this case, the focus is on the delivery of high-quality, affordable healthcare to rural populations in developing countries.

Currently, the organization is in the start-up stage, and is piloting its implementation model in several areas, including Egypt. For the benefit of those who would like to learn more about Click Diagnostics’ for-profit model, a more detailed description follows:

The Need: The confluence of four critical factors has led to what Click Diagnostics believes is a global health mandate – 1) a severe scarcity of doctors in rural areas, 2) the relative abundance of medical expertise in urban areas, 3) the presence of trainable community health workers and local-level micro-entrepreneurs, and 4) the rapid penetration of relatively inexpensive mobile technology into the markets of developing countries.

The Model:
Click Diagnostics employs a mobile tele-health model to connect locally trained community health workers with a remote, web-based network of medical specialists. Through the integration of inexpensive technology, locally trained community health workers, and remote medical expertise, Click Diagnostics aims to provide a sophisticated end-to-end healthcare service delivery chain for “remote diagnosis and consultation, health risks screening, early warning systems, and health data analysis.”

The Vision: Click Diagnostics aims to “provide quality medical advice to every household in disadvantaged regions of the world at an affordable price, and develop cost-effective solutions for gathering critical data needed for planning and executing public health interventions.”

[TC-I Call-to-Action]: Monitor Inclusive Markets

Monitor Inclusive Markets is looking for a new Chief-of-Staff! More information follows:

Monitor Inclusive Markets a new practice within the India office that aims to establish Monitor as a thought leader, both in India and globally, within the realm of market-based solutions for social change. We will do this by identifying commercially viable business models that have the potential to address some of the enormous social challenges that face India and similar emerging economies at scale – for instance, low cost health care, low income housing, high quality education for the poor, the enhancement of agricultural livelihood’s, and more.

Continue reading

Ashoka: Change Agents Urgently Needed!

Ashoka is looking for agents of change. Are you a potential candidate? Read more below:

Ashoka is growing. We are looking for creative, entrepreneurial people to lead major initiatives worldwide. We are looking for people who demonstrate the highest ethical standards, a deep sense of collegiality, and a strong self-image to lead positive change.

If you have started your own endeavor, or significantly transformed the operations of an existing institution – a corporation, media outlet, or a citizen sector organization – then you may be a fit with Ashoka’s culture of entrepreneurship and social innovation.

Ashoka is urgently looking for leaders in the following “emerging hubs”: Europe, India, Brazil, and the United States.

Among the projects that are seeking leadership:

  • Leader of Financial Operations Team (CFO)
  • Global and regional leaders for program enabling Citizen Sector Organizations to build a sustainable base of support (Citizen Base Initiative)
  • Leader for Global Development team
  • Leader for Global Fellowship Selection Program

Apply now at recruit@ashoka.org.

[Op-Ed]: The (Il)Logic of Laptops and Education

At several points during his presentation at MIT yesterday, Nicholas Negroponte mentioned prominent figures in passing – Kofi Annan, Steve Jobs, the Prime Ministers and Presidents of dozens of countries – but at no point did I think he was being self-aggrandizing. His style of speaking was interspersed with personal accounts and anecdotes that shed light on the approach employed by One Laptop Per Child – compassionate, principled, and highly insightful, specifically in terms of technology and distribution. But was there something lacking once the laptop actually reached the classroom?

Before I venture to answer this question, I quickly want to mention 2 points from the presentation that I found particularly fascinating:

1) Why Non-Profit?

This question might not have interested me a few months ago, but after taking a class on entrepreneurship and innovation, I have found that this question is absolutely central to the future of a social venture. In the case of OLPC, Negroponte mentioned three specific reasons for taking the non-profit route (as opposed to for-profit):

a) Clarity of purpose – The label of “non-profit” mitigates fears, and ensures governments that the primary objective of the organization is education, not profits.

b) Outstanding talent at no cost – This was especially interesting. Negroponte mentioned how he was able to attract extremely talented people without having to pay them a single penny. According to him, by choosing to be a non-profit, they were able to get talent that they would otherwise have been unable to afford.

c) Cross-sector partnerships – Negroponte mentioned specifically the extent to which he was able to access heads of state, resulting in the rapid potential for scalability of the venture.

2) Why is scale important?

This seems like a really traditional question, but the answer Negroponte gave was completely untraditional. He relayed a story of meeting with the head of a corporation, where he requested the manufacture of more compact, less complex laptop components for OLPC. The corporation head declined, and said their niche was in the hi-colour, hi-quality, large screen laptop market. At this point, Negroponte said, “Well too bad, especially since I’ll need about a million of these laptops over the course of a few years…” At this point, the corporate head did a double-take. Takeaway point – you can change “corporate strategy” through scale, not through small projects.

More after the break.

Continue reading

[Internship Opportunity]: Indicorps, January 2009

Wondering what you should do this upcoming January 2009? Consider Indicorps’ 4-6 month internships, starting January 2009:

Start the new year with a meaningful commitment to yourself and the world in which you live. Apply NOW for a 4-6 month structured internship with Indicorps starting 10 January 2009.

Internships will focus on strengthening Indicorps core organizational capacity:

  • Create public service announcements for radio and television.
  • Develop & execute strategies to leverage podcasts & social networks for recruiting & promotional campaigns.
  • Build an overarching structure for a global Indicorps alumni association.
  • Facilitate service leadership workshops and much more!

The January 2009 Internships are an amazing opportunity to work in a collaborative team setting, contribute to substantive Indicorps projects, understand Indicorps’ core development philosophy, and build leadership skills by achieving ambitious goals in a short time frame. You also get to partake in a 1-week Orientation Program, Thursday Speaker Series, weekly reflection sessions, the March 2009 Fellows’ Workshop, and much more.

All internships will be based at the Indicorps office in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Unlike the Indicorps fellowship program, January 09 Internships are NOT limited to people of Indian origin. All internships begin on 10 January 2009 with a mandatory one-week orientation program. Only 8-10 positions are available. Application deadline is 15 November or until positions are filled.

For additional questions, please email us at intern@indicorps.org.

To apply, please go to their website.

Want to be an Acumen Fund Fellow?

Recently, I attended a talk by Acumen Fund Fellow and Harvard Kennedy School alumna, Catherine Casey, who worked in Kenya with the Sustainable Healthcare Foundation, a micro-franchise healthcare and drug distribution chain based in Nairobi, Kenya. The Acumen Fund fellowship is a relatively new program, with a vast array of opportunities in India. Just this past year, 3 out of 7 of the Acumen Fund Fellows were placed in India:

Chris Walker, Dial 1298 for Ambulance, India

Chris is working with Dial 1298 for Ambulance, the Mumbai-based provider of emergency medical services. Chris is developing and implementing a marketing strategy to raise awareness about the ambulance service as well as providing assistance on business development.

John Tucker, VisionSpring, India

John is developing the vision entrepreneur channel for VisionSpring, Acumen Fund’s investment in low-cost reading glasses in India. In addition, he is designing marketing tools and incentives for micro-franchises.

Tricia Morente, LifeSpring Hospitals, India

Tricia is supporting LifeSpring Hospitals, an expanding chain of hospitals that provide high quality health care to low-income women and children in India. She is creating and implementing LifeSpring’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy, which includes the company’s community outreach work.

Interested?  You have until October 20th to submit your application, so don’t waste another minute re-considering – apply!

Apply to be a StartingBloc Fellow!

Want to be part of a group of emerging leaders and learn about the latest innovations in corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship? Apply to StartingBloc!

StartingBloc’s mission begins by training tomorrow’s most promising young leaders with a new mindset towards value creation. Each year, working with an admission committee composed of MBA admissions directors, we select a cadre of young leaders age 19-26 years old to become StartingBloc Fellows. Once accepted, Fellows participate in our Institute for Social Innovation. Held at our partner graduate schools, the Institute features thought-leading practitioners and academics who train Fellows in the most cutting edge theories and industry best practices towards sustainability, social entrepreneurship, and corporate social innovation. The Institute serves as both calibrator and middle ground for a globally diverse group of young leaders who will work in all three sectors together to drive sustainability. Once Fellows graduate from the Institute, they become part of StartingBloc’s growing global network of young changemakers.

Want to learn more about the program? Meet one of the StartingBloc Fellows – Nitin Rao:

Shortly after the 2007 London Institute, Nitin Rao, a StartingBloc Fellow from India, returned to his country to create and online network called Let Me Know. The website provides young leaders with a platform to share career opportunities, as well as best practices in social innovation. Based on his success, Nitin visited the US in April 2008 to present a paper at Harvard University and reconnect with his StartingBloc peers. Nitin was recently accepted to MIT Sloan School of Management, one of StartingBloc’s founding partners.

Applications for the Greater Boston and Greater New York Institutes will run from September 15 to December 1, 2008. Click here to apply to the 2009 Institute for Social Innovation.

TC-I Call to Action: Exciting Jobs, Fellowships, and Conferences!

Looking for ways to put thought into action? Well, look no further! Below you’ll find our weekly review of opportunities. Please send along any other opportunities to info@thinkchangeindia.org.

Jobs

WaterAid India is currently seeking a Chief Executive to be based out of New Delhi. Responsibilities include “leadership of the Senior Management Team and overall responsibility for all staff members, currently 40 strong.” Interested candidates can send in their CVs with a cover note and 3 references to resumes @thirdsectorpartners.com, or contact +91 22 6660 3558/6660 3559. The last date for applications is 16 September 2008. For more information, go here.

Fellowships

The last day to apply for the Deshpande Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurship, North Karnataka, is 20th September 2008. The program runs from 10 January 2009 to 10 July 2009, with hopes to award a total of 25 fellowships. According to the website,

The Fellowship is an interactive, applied learning experience that aims to foster a generation of successful social entrepreneurs. Participants will learn existing best practices and engage with the foremost social entrepreneurs and local innovators to develop a working knowledge of leading social change models. The program will leverage this theoretical framework to aid each participant in the creation of an individualized proposal for social change.

To apply, check www.deshpandefoundation.org for downloadable applications or email fellowship@dfmail.org with your request for an application. More opportunities follow after the break!

Continue reading

Tees Ka Dum: Inspiring Children to Learn, the Dave Eggers Way

How could a pirate supply store possibly be connected to a highly successful tutoring program for children? What connection is there between superhero comics and academic excellence? The question baffled me as well, but the answer, 826 Valencia, has served as a source of inspiration for education enthusiasts all over America, and now, India as well. The catalyst for change: Dave Eggers. Watch and be inspired:

Though the model is a quirky one – drawing students into the learning fold through elaborate pirate supply shops (or other local variations like superhero or spy stores) – the basic premise is quite extraordinary in its simplicity: “1) great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and 2) strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.” With this guiding philosophy in the mind, 826 National, the umbrella organization, currently operates out of 7 chapters, and “provides drop-in tutoring, class field trips, writing workshops, and in-schools programs—all free of charge.” In other words, Adults with Free Time + Quirky Learning Center + Fun, Project-Based Writing Activities = A Set of Very Excited Students!

Inspired by this model, aProCh (A Protagonist in Every Child), an initiative dedicated to creating a “sustainable environment of safety, exploration, curiosity and community for the children of Ahmedabad,” plans to launch “Tees Ka Dum.” The premise, similar to 826 National, is as follows:

Research has shown that 30 hours of One on One attention in 1 year results in huge leaps in a child’s learning. Large class sizes in most municipal and public schools have a negative impact on the academic learning of a child. Tees Ka Dum will counter the impact by giving one on one tutoring to these children and improve their academic performance.

Similar to 826 Valencia, this program is “totally dependent on the volunteering spirit of citizens,” and is run free of charge. So far, Tees Ka Dum has received support from “Yuva Unstoppable” and the Riverside School, but more volunteers are required. The first center will be launched in the Sardar Bazaar community on the 15th of August, with 10 more planned by the end of this year.

Want to get involved? Get in touch us, and we’ll forward you more information!

Job Opportunity: Recruitment and Selection Specialist, Teach for India (TFI)

Interested in improving the state of education in India? Want to turn thought into action? Apply for the “Recruitment and Selection Specialist” position through Teach for India. Positions are based out of Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, or Chennai. More details follow:

About Teach For India

Teach For India aims to narrow the education gap in India by placing highly qualified university graduates in India’s neediest schools. TFI will be a national programme, and by its fifth year will aim to place participants in eight metropolitan cities and rural areas in surrounding 4-5 districts. Participants will be recruited largely from the top undergraduate institutions in all fields of study as well as major companies, and will commit to working in low-income primary and upper primary schools (mainly government and some low-end private schools), to improve both academic achievement and retention rates in high-need urban and rural areas.

Summary

TFI aims to place participants in the 2009-10 school-year and seeks recruitment and selection specialists in each recruitment city (Pune, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai) charged with developing, executing and supporting Teach For India’s recruitment and selection efforts. The specialists will serve as the key point of contact between recruits and Teach For India, and will be identify high-potential college students, post-graduate students and young professionals and motivate them to apply to Teach For India. The specialists will also interview and select Fellows based on Teach For India’s selection criteria. The specialists report directly to the VP of recruitment or Regional Executive Directors.

Apply now!

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. Please submit your resume/CV and a one-page cover letter highlighting your interest in applying for this position to sheela@teachforindia.org.

In Theory v. In Practice: The India Development Gateway

In line with its National E-Governance Plan, the Government of India recently launched the India Development Gateway, which seeks to “foster inclusive growth and empower its rural users through relevant information in six languages – Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Bengali and English.” In addition, the portal aims to provide information on agriculture, health, primary education, rural energy and e-governance, namely in the form of government schemes and other services.

Before I go any further, a primer on the National E-Governance Plan:

The Government of India has formulated the National E-Governance Plan with the vision of providing all government services in an integrated manner at the doorstep of the citizen, at an affordable cost. The NeGP initiatives consist of 26 Central, State and Integrated Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) along with 8 other support components for rapid introduction of e-governance in the country. The NeGP envisions a three pillar model for delivery of “web-enabled Anytime, Anywhere access” to information and services in rural India.

According to President Patil, the gateway has the potential to benefit a large swath of the rural population:

“A space has been created in the virtual world where knowledge and experience transcend geographical distances to benefit citizens at the last mile,” said President Patil in her address.

The portal would help connect panchayats across the country, making them “knowledge hubs” and help inform on various government schemes and their benefits, said the President.

This initiative is yet another attempt to harness the untapped power of information technology for the benefit of the rural poor. Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Thiru Raja, “expressed hope the portal would help synergise different government initiatives by becoming a nerve centre of knowledge for the rural masses.”

The question that remains unanswered is this – what vehicle will the rural poor use to access these services?

Continue reading