[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.


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.


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.


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.