Article on Atlas Corps and Deadline for Fellows April 1st

Here is an excerpt from a Washington Post article on Scott Beale and the Atlas Corps, an organization we have written on numerous times in the past:

His creation is Atlas Corps, which lures highly-skilled non-profit decision-makers from India and Colombia to the United States for a year, running Sept. 1 to Aug. 30.

He concentrates on India and Colombia because he speaks the languages and because they have highly-developed non-profit sectors. They also have a high opinion of the United States, Beale said.

To join this program, go here before April 1st, which is when the applications are due.

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Pizzas are good for these senior citizens

What do the words “new start-up”  and “garage” bring to your mind? The old stories about how all the tech companies started off to make today’s Silicon Valley? If that sounds a little too boring now, here is something as appetizing as a pizza. Started right here in India’s Silicon Valley by by Padma Srinivasan, 73 and Jayalakshmi Sreenivasan, 75 (as against in The Silicon Valley by a bunch of youngsters), Pizza Haven pumps in the revenues that it earns by catering to school kids and software companies (like HP, now that is some coincidence!) to running an old age home – Vishranti.

“Granny’s pizzas are a hit among the software professionals, not just because they are delicious, but also because they are sold for a cause,” said Padma.

The profit from pizzas and generous donations from some well-wishers have helped in completing the home for the eldely, named Vishranthi (Rest), in June 2008 (news from newkerala.com)

What is there to be learnt from this story? Of course, a for-profit model makes this home’s future secure. But there is a more important lesson. Sustaining a social initiative doesn’t always need a complex innovation! All it needs is for one to look around yourself and identify what they are looking for!

With the current model up and running, is the Vishranthi executive team looking for expansion? Absolutely!

“In Vishranthi, I am also planning to start an orphanage and vocational training centre for poor rural women. And again our pizzas will come in handy to finance all our projects.”

NYT Profiles Ela Bhatt and SEWA

The New York Times carried a Saturday profile of Ela Bhatt and the remarkable organization she founded thirty-five years ago, SEWA. Here is an excerpt:

Mrs. Bhatt’s Gandhian approach is most evident in the way she lives. Her two-bedroom bungalow is small and spare. The one bit of whimsy is a white swing that hangs from the ceiling in the center of the living room. She uses her bed as a desk chair. Her grandson has painted a child’s pastoral mural on the bedroom wall. She is known for having no indulgences.

Read the entire story here. TC-I’s previous coverage of SEWA can be found here

You don’t have to be an expert to make a difference

K.M. Basheer’s educational qualifications make him an unlikely leader of a medical movement. He has not studied beyond Class X. But this farmer from Nilambur in Kerala’s Malappuram district heads a society that arranges for home and neighbourhood-level care for the chronically ill. His venture, the Nilambur Palliative Care Society, has inspired several other groups.

This story is one that reminds us that you can become a successful social entrepreneur even in a space where you may not know everything there is to know. The entire story can be read here on OneWorld.

Books for the village – Granthayan

[Story Source: Livemint]

While browsing through a blog, The Better India, I came across this Livemint report about a bookstore on wheels. Started by Pankaj Kurulkar, the project has been kicked off in Maharashtra. Kurulkar expects to take it to more states. The article goes further and talks about the challenges that a project of this nature faces:

There could be several rough patches to negotiate. Only 59% of India’s rural population can read, according to the 2001 census, and reading material itself is limited outside the cities. Local languages have also had to face the growing popularity of English. “The situation is pathetic. People are migrating from vernacular language to English medium, and not at all passionate about reading Marathi,” says Kurulkar, who writes novels and short stories as well…

…Part of the problem, though, is that regional language literature itself is in short supply. “Printed work will have its own place, but a very small place, especially in the regional languages,” says Granthali’s Gangal, who points out that the first Marathi book was only published 200 years ago. “There was no written tradition, it is an oral tradition.”…

…Kurulkar cites labour as his biggest challenge. “Skilled manpower is too low,” he says, “those who are passionate about selling books. We are not getting quality staff.”

However, Granthayan has created a record of sorts by selling about 100,000 in first three months of its operation. The project also leverages in latest technologies like GPS to track routes of its trucks and the inventory.

Livemint, recently, also carried an article on new age reading libraries. Umesh Malhotra and his venture Hippocampus were one of the projects mentioned in that article. I had the opportunity to hear Umesh’s experiences while setting up and running Hippocampus at the International Conference on Social Entrepreneurship held in December.

Lack of proper public libraries has adversely affected the reading habits and culture in India especially in rural areas and among the urban poor. Access to good books is one of the many cogs in the wheels of society that help it raise its standard of living – not to mention instilling of scientific temper among its citizens.

Buses and trains have been widely used in India to reach to remote corners e.g. Lifeline Express, Science Express, Google Internet Bus Project. We hope to see more innovative ways of using buses and trains to reach the as yet unconnected populace.

[TC-I Call to Action]: Indicorps August 2009 Fellowship

As some of our readers may know, Prerna and I are both Indicorps alums.  My fellowship with Indicorps is too involved to explain in a short post, but the experience is definitely one of the contributing factors to my continued interest and involvement with development in India.  The on-the-ground experience is extremely valuable,  both in terms of understanding the issues at hand, and also for the resulting effects on personal growth.   I am excited that this opportunity is available for more people in the Indian Diaspora to make lasting change:

Indicorps eagerly announces over 30 competitive new projects for the August 2009 Indicorps Diaspora Fellowship.  Indicorps seeks a few dozen dedicated young Indian leaders who are willing to challenge themselves and “be the change.”  Tackle real issues in education, microfinance, social entrepreneurship, environmental conservation, public health, urban infrastructure, and much more.  Live simply and dig deep to learn about real India (and yourself); projects span from Kanpur to Pondicherry, Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh.  To learn more, visit http://apply.indicorps.org.

In the spirit of Obama’s campaign to create “Change you can believe in,” Indicorps is a real opportunity for CHANGE YOU MAKE HAPPEN.  The August 2009 Fellowship model will mobilize passionate, sincere fellows to become strong team players and leaders who will build sustainable new initiatives.

About Indicorps: Indicorps offers prestigious grassroots public service fellowship to implement sustainable development projects with community-based organizations across India.  As a total-immersion leadership program, Indicorps will encourage you to explore your role as a catalyst of change.  Fellowship projects promote both personal growth and collective action towards a secular India that is inclusive, peaceful, and participatory.  The program requires a minimum commitment of one year.

Applications are due 15 March 2009.

Ready to take on one of these interesting projects, from working with youth to social entrepreneurship to health issues? If you are eligible and interested, I cannot urge you enough to apply.

The Emergence of GovTech?

This is an excerpt from an email from Gunjan Sinha of SiliconIndia. He sent this to me the other day, and one part triggered some of my own feelings and thoughts that arose as a result of Obama’s recent inauguration.

In this new era, I see a strong role for entrepreneurs in reinventing our governments, and opportunities galore for those who are brave to take the plunge. Many here in Silicon Valley talk about mammoth opportunities in CleanTech, BioTech, and NanoTech; I personally see an equally substantial opportunity in what I would call ‘GovTech’ – the confluence of Government and Technology. The time is now to retool the government with creative entrepreneurial genius. Examples of business opportunities in this trillion-dollar market are abundant.

What Gunjan speaks of is even more important today, where we have witnessed the election in the US of a president who is in effect a social entrepreneur. In running his campaign, Obama utilized the power of community activism and grassroots organization to reach an astounding 1.5 million donors across the country and world. With initiatives like transparency.gov, he hopes to extend this new approach to governance beyond just his pioneering campaign.