[TC-I Call to Action]: SEED Awards for Sustainable Development

InfoDev helps announce the SEED Awards for Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Development, an award recognizing partnerships in developing countries that are working on environmental and social issues.   The approach to the award is interesting, however, because winners do not receive the normal cash prize; instead, they will receive something that many enterprises need: support services, catered for the specific need.

Note that eligibility means that at least three partner organizations are involved – a great way to encourage collaboration for social impact.

The SEED Awards for Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Development is an annual international competition, designed to support locally-led, innovative, entrepreneurial partnerships in developing countries, which have the potential to make real improvements in poverty eradication and environmental sustainability.

The SEED Initiative assists young and promising initiatives in strengthening and scaling up the impact of their activities. This is not a cash award. Instead, a comprehensive package of tailor-made support services, with a value of US$25,000, will be provided to Winners.

Applications will be available online soon, so be sure to keep your eye on the SEED website.

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.”

Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2008 Finalists [Updated]

This week has had no shortage of announcements of accepting nominations for some competitions and the unveiling of winners from others. Today, IndiaPRwire reports that the Nand & Jeet Khemka Foundation, Schwab Foundation, and UNDP has picked finalists for the 2008 Social Entrepreneurship of the Year Award.

The Award recognizes individuals who offer the most innovative and sustainable solutions to society’s impending social problems. The ‘Social Entrepreneur of the Year’ Award over the last few years has risen to prominence among social entrepreneurs with applicant’s immensely valuing the benefits the award brings. The steady increase in the number of nominations filed for this award is proof of it growing significance

Here are the three finalists:

Access to Safe Drinking Water, the Sustainable Way

PepsiCo Foundation has awarded two grants, totaling $76 million, to sustainable water and sanitation efforts by WaterPartners and Safe Water Network. The PR release describes each program. WaterPartners will use the award to implement their WaterCredit program:

The WaterCredit program in India has two main components: first, to provide traditional grant funding directly to local non-government organizations to install pipes, faucets and storage cellars in impoverished communities, reaching some 60, 000 people. The second component is to establish a loan fund that will empower communities to expand access to safe water for an additional 60, 000 people over the course of the three-year project. This model produces a “multiplier effect” for impact based on a single source of funding and is the first time PepsiCo Foundation has applied micro finance as a strategic vehicle to advance water and sanitation improvements.

The idea of building community-based water supply projects through a combination of grants and loans is new to the water sector. Until now, nearly all water projects facilitated by other organizations have been funded entirely by grants, even when the individuals served by the project have the means to share costs.

Bridging microfinance and water is a topic that NextBillion.net covered earlier this year, so this is a connection that is working well in some regions and with the support of different organizations, such as ACCESS Development Services and Hindustan Unilever Limited. The vision behind this is that communities may not be able to afford methods that purify water and make it safe for drinking, but using microfinance models allows them to collectively take a loan and repay until they eventually purchase the system. Continue reading

Helpyourbody, a Piramal Healthcare Campaign

The Piramal Group, a research and diagnostics firm based in Mumbai, is partnering with the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), NGOs, and more than 25,000 doctors across India to create a new campaign called “helpyourbody.” As LiveMint reports, helpyourbody is a

crusade against chronic diseases, aiming to provide affordable medicines in rural areas.

The programme… will emphasize on imparting knowledge on healthy food for healthy body and target each and every individual.

Through the three phases of knowledge, action, and care (which is the Piramal tagline), the campaign will first work to partner with thousands of doctors, then make “helpyourbody” tests available and employ detection camps, and finally build communities and involve local NGOs.

Dr. Swati Piramal, Director of the Piramal Group, is quoted as explaining the dire need for this CSR initiative:

India is expected to be the chronic disease capital of the world with 70 million diabetics, 213 million hypertensive patients and 60 million suffering from arthritis by 2025. According to the WHO, the cost of chronic diseases, including welfare losses, is estimated to be Rs 15,01,200 crore by 2015.

With those those numbers providing motiviation, the campaign, according to the helpyourbody website, aims to minimize “economic loss by 2% every year and [earn]  the nation Rs. 67,500 crores by 2015,” as well as save about 1 million human lives.

Small Steps, Big Possibilities

In the past week, I’ve come across several stories that highlight isolated successes or intriguing ideas that are being implemented on a small scale. Here’s a quick recap:

  • In the Chandni Chowk area of old Delhi, iGovernment reports the introduction of greener rickshaws, run by solar batteries. Obviously such vehicles can only go short distances and for short periods of time, but in an congested area like Chandni Chowk, greener autos may make a large impact on the surrounding environment:

It would be run by a solar battery, which would suffice for a journey of 70 km. The battery would take five hours to be charged with the help of solar panels in the charging unit which will be functional above the Delhi metro stations, an official of the city government said.

  • A waste management system (an issue we’ve covered here and here) in Maharastra shows a PPP at work – a privatized system in a city named Latur requires residents to pay Rs 20 per month for garbage pick up. This case shows that the involvement of both an NGO and a private system can result in efficiency:

Of the 183 who have been employed, around 75 per cent are women. Rather than a monthly salary, the women are paid per tonne of garbage collected. As an added incentive, they can sell the recyclable material of the garbage in the market.

But is the system fair (especially to the rag pickers)? The article paints a rosy picture, and it would be interesting get a sense of what the reality is on the ground.

  • Community radio has been making waves in Jharkhand with a program called “Chalo Ho Gaon Mein,” which is narrated in the local language and touches on a number of issues. A project manager at the NGO AID (Alternative for India Development) explains in this article by The Hoot:

We realized that all these problems were stemmed from the fact that the people of the region were unable to express themselves and speak freely about the problems that they were facing. So, setting up a radio programme seemed like a good way to give a voice to the voiceless. A programme for the villagers and by the villagers that would not only address their issues and make them more aware, but would also reach out to other people who could make a difference to their lives.

As with many solutions to social issues, these approaches are taking place as pilots or for specific regions and populations – but all are encouraging and may shed light for the bigger picture.

World’s Largest Solar Project Proposed in Gujarat

Solar power may go on the wide-scale in the western state of Gujarat as the Clinton Foundation is currently considering an “Integrated Solar City” in the Kutch or Banaskantha region.  If followed through, the investment would create the world’s largest solar project and will involve a number of players in the private sector.

The project, tagged as one of the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) into the state, will also be a landmark project as the cost of power generation is likely to be 70 per cent less — around Rs 20,000 crore — than the conventional cost of generation, say sources close to the development.

The project envisages an integrated solar city wherein all the raw materials including glass and panels will be produced by them, bringing down the cost substantially, said a senior government official.

Source: Business Standard

Bolstering Rural Industries

The comments from a previous post questioning the value of urbanization discussed the need of developing rural industries and services. According to iGovernment, the government has made a real step toward this with the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the Khadi and Village Industry Commission (KVIC), a non-profit, working together to promote the Rural Business Hubs (RBH) initiative.

Under this initiative, Panchayats and KVIC will jointly identify potential projects that can be supported under KVIC schemes and also extend marketing support through the corporate members of industry working on the RBH initiative.

Wherever required, skill development and skill upgradation training will be provided to the potential beneficiaries by KVIC through accredited training agencies.

Considering the fact that RBH has been in place for three years, I wonder how successful programs under the initiative really are. In addition, there is a barrage of other questions that come to mind: Do the MoUs actually become operational? Are the rural areas in which they enact MoUs seeing an increase in economic development? And more importantly, does the development of rural industries allow for self-sustaining local economies, or does it make them more dependent (in an arguably negative way) on global markets?

Outsourcing Health and Education Knowledge: This Time India is the Sender

Update from the Editors: This project has actually be reported on before by Prerna. You can read it here. What is new is the inclusion of an education component.

In an interesting role reversal, The Government of India along with its technical partner for the project HCL Infosystems, will be “setting up an e-networking infrastructure in 53 African nations to share its expertise in the field of medicine and education.” [iGovernment]. The initiative will remotely connect twelve hospitals within India to five of their African counterparts in order to disseminate best practices for medical care. Additionally, seven Indian universities will establish linkages with five African universities for tele-education services.

According to HCL’ CEO Ajai Chowdhry,

“We have to understand the challenges complex markets like India and Africa face and work towards enabling IT as a means for development. This pan-Africa e-network project is a significant step towards allowing this expertise to benefit African countries in their developmental efforts.”

The efforts do not end there, however, as these seventeen hospitals (12 India, 5 African) will then connect to 53 remote facilities across Africa. “The tele-medicine and video conferencing capabilities will enable e-diagnosis and advice for patients at these facilities.” A similar scope will be implemented for the universities as well.

My reaction is after the jump.

Continue reading

From Basic Elements to Useful Technology

Raja Sekhar Malapati shares a piece on water technology that is not as popular or known in the quest for safe, accessible drinking water everywhere. A company known as Aqua Sciences developed a way to extract water not from the ground, but from the air – even in dry regions. According to a Wall Street Journal article published last year, “the technology uses a blend of salts to collect water, then employs a combination of heat, chemistry and mechanics to extract the water from the salts.” Employing a 40-foot trailer, the generator can produce about 1,200 gallons of water a day from moisture captured in the air.

Currently, the company’s products are in use by the U.S. government for emergency situations and troops in Iraq. Malapati wonders if this technology could be implemented in India, with its vast dry regions and serious water issues in rural areas. The 40-foot trailer may be a bit of an eyesore, but the technology is nonetheless exciting and certainly one to watch and see in which ways it can contribute to solving water challenges.

TC-I FundWatch

Here is a recap of the major investment activity in India’s social venture space and also traditional investment that will directly affect the poor:

Social

  • Chennai based Equitas will secure $12.5 million in funding from two private equity firms over the next few months. The organization intends to use the money to expand its branch office footprint in Southern India.
  • Building upon the increasing interest by both domestic and foreign capital in top tier MFIs, the Ford Foundation and Intellecap have created “Making My MFI Investment Worthy” that will identify and handhold 10 MFIs over the next 2 years to scale them up to where they are attractive to commercial investors.
  • While this story is a little unrelated, Citi — the major US bank — has committed $1.5 million to the Indian School of Business to promote financial inclusion for small investors and enterprise.

Traditional

  • The Indian government is investing a $2 billion fund for expanding broadband internet to rural India. $1.5 billion should come from the private sector.
  • Intel Capital has invested $2.5 million in a new online education company titled Vriti Infocom.

Global Water Challenge Winners

I previously posted about voting in the Global Water Challenge – well, the winners are in, and all three are from India! (There must be something in the water there… ) The projects are highlighted below for their groundbreaking work in water and sanitation.

The water and environmental sanitation infrastructure in turn stimulates massive community investment in its own shelter. We have demonstrated that the `poor’ can, in conducive circumstances, mobilise huge resources, especially when coupled with constructive partnerships with the government and the private sector. This latent strength is tapped to remove aid dependency. The knock on impact on health, education and incomes is substantial and rapid.

  • Naandi Foundation: Their project uses a public-private partnership model that focuses on behavioral change, technology, and user fees to stimulate community buy-in.

Naandi Foundation has developed and is implementing a holistic model that recognizes that demand for quality water and sanitation services exists and that by capitalizing on communities’ willingness to pay, accountability can be enforced through a contractual relationship between service providers and the local government.

  • Swayam Shikshan Prayog: This work is based on grassroots and participatory mechanisms. Through capacity building of community members and working with local leadership, the organization is able to empower communities to enact change themselves.

SSP’s work follows a grassroots participatory development model, whereby grassroots rural communities, especially women, are mobilized and given tools to develop their own as Total Sanitation Communities.The innovation is in the approach which SSP takes to achieve the goal of ensuring safe and reliable access to water and safe sanitation standards for all.

Congratulations to all three winners for their innovative approaches to a pressing crisis.

TC-I Tidbits

Your daily dose of headlines:

  • Health: India continues to have the world’s highest number of polio cases this year, with the disease having crippled more children till April than it did during the same period in 2007. [Source: Times of India]
  • Children: In a unique lobbying effort, more than 100 ex-child laborers knocked on the doors of Members of Parliament as a reminder about the government’s promise on education for all.
  • PPPs: Several major development projects, worth Rs 7,946 Cr, were approved by the Public Private Partnership Appraisal Committee to build infrastructure in 10 states.
  • Agriculture: For the first time, a grain reserve will be set up for emergency situations. The Food Corporation of India will build up a five million ton grain reserve, a move that comes at a time when food shortages and rising prices are a major concern.

Eco-Wise: Braving New Frontiers in Waste Management

Waste management is a significant challenge for India, specifically in urban areas, where the accumulation of trash leads to the prevalence of preventable diseases in poor, underprivileged populations. In order to address this issue, change is required on both a systemic and individual level, as the cause of the problem is rooted not only in lack of sanitation infrastructure / policies, but culturally accepted behavioral norms as well. In other words, not only do individuals not believe in maintaining the integrity of public spaces, but there is no formalized system in place to ensure that waste is collected and disposed of properly. Unfortunately, if there is no sense of personal responsibility, as well as no concept of proper trash disposal (neither the infrastructure to support this notion), how can we even begin to take the next necessary steps towards recycling and reuse?

As part of its “Climate Connections” series, NPR recently featured India’s first waste-recycling company, EcoWise Waste Management, the “leading provider of waste and environmental services” outside the Delhi area. To date, the company has achieved the following:

Headquartered in Noida, the company’s network of operations includes 15 collection operations, 2 transfer stations, 2 waste-to-compost plants and 5 recycling plants. These assets enable Eco Wise to offer a full range of environmental services to nearly 1.5 lac residential, industrial, municipal and commercial customers. We collect and treat 40 tons of waste on a daily basis, which would otherwise be found lying on the roadside or make its way to the landfill site.

  1. Our activities diverted more than 2,400,000 tons of waste from ending up in land fill sites just last year
  2. With 80 manual rikshaws and 8 trucks running on bio-diesel we operate the cities largest fleet of clean vehicles
  3. Eco Wise is the only company in India that has its own waste segregation and treatment site.
  4. Our operations have permanently shut down more than 15 road side dumps in Noida.

The question, then, is this – if private actors are able to do (efficiently, cost-effectively, scalably) what government entities are supposed to do, how can the government capitalize on the insight of these entities? We’ve talked about PPPs on this site before, but what potential is there for these types of partnerships in the sanitation sector? (More after the break) Continue reading

TC-I Tidbits

Here is your daily dose of headlines about innovative or anti-innovative ideas from around the country:

  • Microfinance
    • ACCESS Development Services and Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development will work to build cooperation between Europe and India to assist 20 MFIs in the country.
    • SKS Microfinance and Bajaj Allianz will form a partnership to provide clients with insurance products.
    • Standard Chartered expects to ramp up its investment in Indian MFIs.
  • Global Trends
    • The lure of high salaries and chance of returning home has encouraged many non-returning Indians to become returning ones.
  • Central Government
    • Power Generation and Transmission
      • In order to address load demands between the two countries, India and Sri Lanka will build a power line between them to help each deal with supply shortages.
      • The centre’s support for private initiatives to produce and provide hydro-electric power has come under scrutiny for whether only the wealthy have enjoyed access to the energy.
      • The government also presented its report on the safety of its proposed civilian nuclear program at the Convention on Nuclear Safety.
    • Climate Change
      • Pushing forward on the way the country will tackle global warming, the federal government looked to split up the effort into three parts.
  • State and Local Governments
    • Andhra Pradesh
    • Maharashtra
      • Education: Proposed rules will prohibit private school teachers from providing tuitions outside of the classroom, in order to eliminate the chance that these teachers favor these tutees over their own students.
    • Pune
      • Health: A NGO here utilizes pets to bring about emotional stimulation in autistic children.
    • Visakhapatnam
      • Housing: The ‘Rajiv Swagruha’ scheme has finally become a reality — promising the ability to own housing for over 10,000 applicants has begun, with the first acquisition of land by the city.