[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.

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[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.