Sanitation innovator wins Stockholm Water Prize

Sulabh‘s founder, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, was recently named the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate.  Sulabh has been working for decades to address sanitation, health, and hygiene in India and other countries.  Through inventive toilet designs, new biogas technologies, and his struggle for human rights, especially for those of the “untouchable” caste, Dr Pathak is recognized worldwide as an innovator and social reformer. A Business Standard article explains further:

The social reformer, who triggered the revolution against ‘sanitation crisis’, has been the main force behind changing social attitudes towards traditional unsanitary latrine practices in slums, rural villages and dense urban districts, and developed cost-effective toilet systems that have improved daily life and health for millions of people.

Dr Pathak will receive the award in Stockholm during World Water Week in August.

Training programme on “Governance and Management of NGO’s and NPO’s

An announcement in NGOpost calls for application for a six-week full time training programme on “Governance and Management of Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs/NGOs)”, scheduled between 6th July 2009 to 14th August 2009. The training is offered by Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII).

The training cost including accommodation is free for participants belonging to countries listed  in Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC). But participants from countries not listed can attend the training programme for the cost of $1500. Strangely, though the training programme is offered in India in partnership with the Indian’s government, India is not enlisted in ITEC. As a consequence, the fee applies to participants from India too!

Interested people can get more information on applying and information brochure here at EDII’s website.

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.”

Why you should CARE about microinsurance

We have written about microinsurance before, including SKS’s Vikram Akula’s decision to develop a product for his customers. Now, Bajaj-Allianz and CARE India will be developing a product of their own. In an interesting partnership between the charity and a commercial company, this venture will aim to help individuals substantially improve livelihoods through the safety net insurance can provide. On Allianz’s site there is a great interview with RN Mohanty, Chief Operating Officer, CARE India, speaking to this new partnership. Here is an excerpt:

The biggest challenge was definitely educating people that risk protection is an important part of their lives. We do this because we want to inculcate a culture of savings with the community, not just insuring for the time being. The general mindset in rural India is that unless you get something out of it immediately it is not worth investing. If you look at our client list, close to 90 percent are first-time insurers.

The rest of the interview can be read here.

IFC to loan $25 million to WaterHealth India for rural drinking water

Clean drinking water is in my opinion the most critical issue that must be addressed in any area suffering from poverty. So any news like this one gives me hope and a smile on my face. WaterHealth India has recently received a $25 million loan to install more than 600 water filtration systems throughout India. This issue cannot be understated as, 

[m]ore than 25 percent of India’s population does not have access to clean drinking water. Unsafe water is often the cause for waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. As more villages are included, the WaterHealth project will have important health benefits as well as help generate local employment and provide training, which could significantly improve earnings for people in rural areas. [Source: Sreelakshmi24’s Blog]

WaterHealth India has already installed 200 such systems in Andhra Pradesh and so hopefully their experience will result in a significant improvement to clean water access.

Round 2 with CGAP’s Gautam Ivatury

The ThinkChange India staff is committed to providing our readers with interviews with people we believe are at the brink of something special but have for the most part been overlooked by the mainstream media. Readers will be able to see other conversations under our TC-I Changemakers tag.

This week, Vinay sat down (over the phone) with Gautam Ivatury of the global microfinance center CGAP, which works to expand poor people’s access to financial services. Such services include but are not limited to microcredit and branchless banking. This interview is a follow up to one conducted on May 4, 2008, which you can read here.

Vinay Ganti: Could you please review yourself on the following topics, which we discussed in our last conversation?

  • Reaching beyond MFIs:

Gautam Ivatury: This still continues to be a major focus of CGAP’s mission. Across all of CGAP’s work we continue to look for ways to partner with a range of institutions and providers, including but not limited to MFIs, to be able to massively expand financial services for poor people.

GI: With regard to branchless banking, we set out to accomplish a number of goals. Overall we have been happy with the results of CGAP’s work in this area over the last six months, despite the fact that it has taken longer than expected for our project partners (in countries like Pakistan, Kenya, Mongolia, South Africa and elsewhere) to roll-out the branchless banking channels we helped design and finance.

Since our last talk, CGAP has expanded its policy and regulatory diagnostic work in branchless banking. New markets analyzed have included Colombia, Argentina and Indonesia, and we’ve continued to maintain close dialogue with the Reserve Bank of India and regulators elsewhere.

Also, the actual awareness of mobile banking in the field, i.e. what is and how it can work, has increased dramatically in the past. Last May we co-organized the first major annual event on “Mobile Money” for the unbanked in Cairo with the GSM Association (the industry body for the world’s 700+ mobile operators), IFC and DFID. That event got more than 500 paid attendees, most from private industry. And this week at the GSM World Congress in Barcelona, GSMA and other private sector players will announce additional activities in the space. DFID announced its new FAST program to encourage branchless banking this week. Initiatives like these are critical to get widespread adoption of the concept and to achieve scale. Moreover, major consulting and research outfits like Aite, Monitor and McKinsey have started research and published reports on the topic.

At the same time, our seven branchless banking projects have been slower to launch than we all expected two years ago. There have been some notable achievements — our Philippines partner has entered three new rural provinces and signed up about 80,000 new mobile banking clients, and Telenor bought 51 percent of Tameer Bank (our partner in Pakistan) to jumpstart its mobile banking initiatives. But in general the implementation of mobile / branchless banking has been slower than anticipated.

VG: Why do you think this is? Continue reading

[TC-I Call to Action]: Atlas Corps Fellowship

It’s that time of year again – Atlas Corps is seeking fellows for their 2009-2010 fellowship.  This is a great opportunity for nonprofit/NGO leaders from around the world (including India!) to learn from, experience, and exchange ideas with organizations in Washington, DC or Bogota, Colombia.

Atlas Service Corps seeks nonprofit leaders from around the world to apply for their 2009-2010 fellowship positions in Washington, DC and Bogota, Colombia. All expenses are paid in this prestigious, fellowship program, including a living stipend, health insurance, visa, travel, training, and a $2,500 end of service award. Applicants must have 3 or more years of experience in the nonprofit sector, a college degree, fluency in English (and Spanish if applying to volunteer in Colombia), and a commitment to returning to their home country after one year. Candidates from outside the U.S. are placed at outstanding host organizations in Washington, DC including Ashoka, Asian American LEAD, CentroNía, Grameen Foundation, and Population Action International. Candidates from the U.S. are placed at organizations in Bogota like Give to Colombia and Oxfam GB. In addition to volunteering full time at their host organizations, Fellows are enrolled in a management development training program and join a growing network of nonprofit leaders from around the world. For more details about eligibility requirements and the application process, please visit: www.atlascorps.org/apply.html and watch a short video about the application process here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mx63RKbqoKYThe deadline to apply is April 1, 2009.

[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.

[TC-I Call to Action]: Join InSPIRE College or InSPIRE Young Professional

Thinking of an incredible way to spend your summer this year?  Last year, I helped coordinate InSPIRE College, and the five week journey for 18-24 year olds was full of eye openers, interesting discussions, deep reflections, and lasting relationships.  From Ahmedabad to Kempty, we visited NGOs, spoke with leaders of social movements, gave back through service activities, and explored another side of Inida.

This year, InSPIRE Young Professional is also launching. For those of you between 25 and 35, the two week trip is a great way to spend your vacation days from work, and to step back and refocus on life.

Applications for this year’s trips are now open, and I highly encourage you to apply.

What are you doing this summer? How about doing something meaningful in India?
Applications are due soon! Download yours today.
InSPIRE
In
dia Service Program Inspiring Reflective Exploration
QUESTION assumptions.
EXPLORE your values.
CONNECT to your roots.
RELATE to humanity.
LIVE what you believe.
InSPIRE College is a 5-week long summer program in India for South Asians between the ages of 18 and 24, who are genuinely interested in exploring themselves and India.
Program Dates:    June 26 to August 2, 2009

InSPIRE Young Professional is a 2-week long program in India for South Asians between the ages of 25 and 35, who are looking to re-evaluate their aspirations and find meaningful ways to interact with India.

Program Dates:    July 3 to July 17, 2009

Join the Facebook group for the latest updates: http://www.facebook.com/p.php?i=639910410&k=65EUPZW6PXXMZKCCU132X
Applications are due in March. Download yours today at www.InSPIRE-Now.org.
For more information, please email us at info@inspire-now.org.

Ashoka Focuses on Agricultural and Sustainable Development in India

Last week, Ashoka announced that the organization will use a US$15 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support the placement of Ashoka fellows in Africa and India.  The grant money will specifically target social innovation and entrepreneurship in agriculture and sustainable development.  According to their press release,

Agricultural and rural sustainable development initiatives supported by Ashoka will be oriented around key issues such as new technologies, farmer productivity, key agricultural policies, and connections between smallholder farmers and markets. Ashoka’s network already includes many Fellows working on agriculture and rural development related issues— whether developing markets for small farmers in Kenya, or using local knowledge to regenerate arid land through natural farming and permaculture in India.

The most promising aspect of this partnership is the approach that Ashoka espouses in ensuring that their social innovations become sustainable – a community based approach:

Ashoka realizes that innovations alone do not create sustainable large-scale solutions in agriculture and sustainable rural development. These new solutions endure only when social entrepreneurs have a community-level understanding, build a broad citizen base of support, introduce incentives for participation, and topple traditional barriers to entry or involvement. This partnership will allow Ashoka to launch 90 social entrepreneurs and their powerful, pattern- changing ideas that are built on this bottom up approach. Additionally, as a product of the increased number of entrepreneurs in this area and their broad base of supporters, Ashoka will be able to identify transformative universal principles that will ultimately revolutionize the field.

Looks like this is a great time to become an Ashoka fellow in India.  I’m looking forward to seeing what developments Ashoka comes up with in 2009.

Social Entrepreneurship workshop and competition at IIT-Madras

The India chapter of Asia-Pacific Student Entrepreneurship Society (ASES-India) operating out of IIT-Madras is set to conduct workshops running up to a competition in which the best social business plan will be rewarded. Times of India reports,

Participants must submit executive summaries of their business plans by January 25 after which around 15 to 20 teams will be short-listed and mentored.

Results of the first round will be declared on February 1 and the formal mentoring including development of prototypes of short-listed projects will commence on February 15. In all five awards will be given.[Source:

The website created for the competition, named Genesis, indicates that while prizes in the competition bring for good publicity for the winning ideas, the workshops will offer valuable lessons to learn to all the participants, who may also stand to gain from their interaction with people from IIT, Rural Innovations Network, Ashoka, Indian Angel Network, TiE – the partners of ASES-India for this competition.

Hybrid Business Models

The hybrid business model (nonprofit with a profit-earning arm) is a central figure as a certain type of social enterprise, and is a topic of discussion by SocialEdge and books such as “The Power of Unreasonable People” or “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas.”  The Christian Science Monitor covers this movement and uses the example of Industree Crafts in Bangalore to show how there can be two branches of one organization:

Industree has split into two organizations: Industree Crafts Private Limited, a for-profit company that’s opening a new line of stores and products called Mother India; and Industree Crafts Foundation, a nonprofit group that accepts charitable grants to help it train more artisans.

The CSM article also discusses the advantages and challenges of such a model.  Nonprofits which face a crunch for resources may be able to sustain themselves through their associated for-profit.  At the same time, striking the balance between the social mission and generating profit is always a challenge.

Feel free to share information about other successful examples of hybrid models in India, such as Industree.

A Mighty Way to Light Up Rural India

MightyLight, a product created by Cosmos Ignite Innovations, is reaching 15,000 children, thanks to an effort by eBay.  Since children are unable to study at night without a light source, the MightyLight is a way to improve education, among other issues.  eBay employee Anna Sidana and her nonprofit One Million Lights were key drivers in this gift.  MightyLight, according to an IndiaWest article, has many benefits.  The product is:

a solar-powered LED light that is eco-friendly, robust and built specifically for rugged conditions. It can withstand falls on hard surfaces and water or dust without being damaged. The Mighty Light produces ~500 lumens of clean white light versus ~10 lumens of light from a kerosene lamp. Other benefits of the solar light extend to health and the environment with no harmful carbon emissions.

Cosmos Ignite Innovations itself is an interesting venture, as it is a partnership between Cosmos Energy in India and Ignite Innovations in the US.  With millions of people in rural India still using kerosene, the potential for scaling up the environmentally safe and affordable light is substantial.

Aiming for 100 Million

Many people dream, but some people dream big.  Dr. Ashok Khosla is one of those that dream big – but also puts the dream into action.  As founder of Development Alternatives, Khosla plans to bring wide-scale employment to India’s rural areas.  IndiaWest reports:

“Poor people are seeing more products, but have little access to them. The poor do not have purchasing power,” said Khosla, the 2002 winner of the United Nations’ Sasakawa Environmental Prize, and the Schwab Foundation’s outstanding social entrepreneur award in 2004.

The Technology and Action for Rural Advancement (TARA), a partner of Development Alternatives, is a social enterprise focusing on standardizing “technology packages, which offer training, technical support, financing and marketing assistance to small enterprises.”  TARA’s products range from paper to textiles to cyber-kiosks.  Khosla aims to create 100 million jobs by 2018 through these micro-factories – no easy feat, considering that the organization claims to have created 3 million jobs in the last 15 years.

More importantly, the initiatives are created in a way that the villagers benefit above all.

In a typical model, the village will form a cooperative to purchase the equipment needed for the project, and determine wages for the workers, typically slightly above the area’s minimum wage. Development Alternatives’ social enterprise arm, Technology and Action for Rural Advancement, markets the products created by the villagers.

Tracking TARA’s progress in the next decade will be interesting and may provide further evidence of the impact of social enterprises and employment generating activities.

Intl. Conf. on Social Entrepreneurship in India – Day 2

Day 2

The second day started off by getting down to business immediately. Madhav Chavan of Pratham was the first speaker and his mandate was to enlighten the gathering on “How to scale up an organization?”. It really was a treat listening to him. During the course of his talk, he touched upon many other topics related to Social Entrepreneurship. Pratham, as Mr Chavan confessed, was a “monstrous” organization now, and there were special challenges that it faced in its functioning. He reminded us on how increase in scale led to decrease in quality and loss of efficiency. He also opined that scale is not necessarily something that every organization should aspire for. There are organizations that operate in niche sectors. The “one size fits all” policy cannot be applied when it comes to scaling up for social organizations because their scaling up depends on a number of factors that are unique to the organizations area and field of operations. Organizations need to mature by institutionalizing. However, this exercise should be followed without falling in the trap of bureaucracy.

Madhav Chavan photo credit Sonia Rai
Madhav Chavan photo credit Sonia Rai

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