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.

mKrishi – More power at farmers’ hands

The Hindu reports about mKrishi (mobile Krishi) a mobile agro advisory system launched by Tata.  It can help farmers get personalized advise and updated information on their mobile phones about factors that may affect their crops such as weather.

Prima facie, this looks very similar to Nokia’s LifeTools that ThinkChange India reported a few days earlier.  However, there is one critical aspect in which mKrishi goes one step further. mKrishi mobile phones, that run on Tata Indicom’s network, are equipped with sensors that can read and send data about the current status of their crops.  This combined with an on-phone camera, should help agricultural experts provide specific advise experts understanding the on-field situation correctly.

According to K. Ananth Krishnan, vice-president and chief technology officer, TCS, personalised information and advice are given after farmers submit the soil nutrient and farming pattern data (The Hindu)

Further, it is also usable by illiterate farmers to make a query from a cell phone using voice-specific functions and get a response as an audio message.

This initiative has fetched TCS Wall Street Journal Global Innovation Technology Award for 2008. As I researched further to form my own opinion, I came across Ramesh Jain’s post on mKrishi.  He is a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at University of Michgan, Ann Arbor and an entrepreneur.  I suppose his testimony should have better credibility than mine!

This project is truly revolutionary — it goes farther than most similar projects do.

Kubera-Edelweiss Social Innovation Honours awards 3 Indian organizations

Anjali, Azad Foundation and Samata are the winners for their innovative and outstanding work for the Girl Child in the fields of Health, Employability and Education. Here are the descriptions of each social entrepreneurship organization:

Anjali: Focusing on mental health issues of mothers and daughters in Kolkata, Anjali has been awarded top honors in Health.

Azad Foundation: Located in Delhi, Azad nabbed the Employability category by training girls from the slums to become professional taxi drivers.

Samata: Finally, Samata provides an innovative education and research curriculum for tribal girls in Andhra Pradesh.

For more information on the Kubera-Edelweiss Social Innovation Honours, check out their website here.

India’s First Social Enterprise and Investment Forum: Sankalp 2009

Shital had written in last November about Sankalp 2009, a business plan competiton for Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) organized by India Development Gateway, in partnership with Rural Innovations Network (RIN) and National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).

Turns out the business plan competition has now developed into India’s first ever Social Enterprise and Investment Forum, with additional support from the Rockefeller Foundation. Continue reading

[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.

TATA NEN Hottest Startup Nominees

The TATA NEN Hottest Startup Awards recognizes high-potential startup organizations in India. Startups seems to be a dime a dozen these days, so beating out hundreds of other new ventures is quite a feat. I’ve picked out some nominees that have a social twist to their operations.

Three startups are featured after the jump, but if you are interested in voting, check out the shortlist (a login is required to vote). The five startups that win the most votes by December 23 will win. Continue reading

Microfinance Process Excellence Awards

Nirantara Community Services, Arohan, and Sanghamithra Rural Financial Services have been announced winners of Royal Bank of Scotland and PlaNet Finance’s India’s Microfinance Process Excellence Awards .

They were the third annual awards and the winners for the awards were selected from a pool of 67 nominees, which were shortlisted after receiving applications from the initial pool of applicants. The award winners were announced at the Microfinance India Summit 2008, held Nov. 11th to 13th in New Delhi. National winners for the three categories of awards were Nirantara Community ServicesArohan, andSanghamithra.

[Source: Microcapital.org]

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:

Tech Winners Starting Small, Scaling Up

Remember the Tech Museum Awards? The award “honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity.” The 25 winners were announced yesterday, with two innovators from India. MercuryNews.com covered the ceremony in San Jose, California and met with the winners, including DESI Power and Digital StudyHall.

First, DESI Power is based in Bangalore and utilizes affordable and reliable electricity:

Hari Sharan employs 19th-century biomass gasification technology to bring electricity to rural Indian villages. His company, DESI Power, converts vegetation — such as rice hulls and corn husks — into energy. Not only does that provide power to poor communities, it also creates opportunities for micro-enterprises that keep residents from migrating to the slums of big cities.

TC-I covered another unique way of converting vegetation to energy via rice husks. There is tremendous potential to scale up with these plants, and DESI Power is already operating four plants and increasing to twenty next year.

Another creative use of technology aims to strengthen education. MercuryNews reports on Digital StudyHall, which is actually a research project out of a US university. Continue reading

Kubera-Edelweiss Social Innovation Honours

We all know the power of prizes to motivate innovation and so this new award will hopefully do just that:

The financial services firm, Edelweiss Capital Ltd is partnering Kubera Partners, a private equity firm based in USA to launch the Kubera-Edelweiss Social Innovation Honoursthree awards totaling US$ 60,000 to felicitate outstanding innovations that positively impact the status of the girl child, through the delivery of services in three areas: education, health and nutrition, and future employability of the girl child. EdelGive Foundation, the not for profit subsidiary of Edelweiss Capital is managing the entire process of these awards.

Deadline for applications is December 1st of this year, so please prepare your applications ASAP.

For further information on the award categories, the broad selection criteria, rules and regulations and the application form, please visit – Kubera-Edelweiss Social Innovation Honours  or contact us at +91 22 23675623/4 and edelgive@edelcap.com

2008 Manthan Award Winners – ICT and Development

Prerna announced the acceptance of nominations for the 2008 Manthan Awards back in March, and Livemint.com now provides highlights of the innovative winners. The full list of winners can be found here.

On first glance, I was amazed by the sheer number of categories (there are 13) and the diversity of tech products out there. Here are a few personal favorites, but I encourage you to look through the list to get the full view:

  • Wall newspaper – broadcast sheet pasted on the walls of milk cooperatives and Panchayat buildings in 40,000 villages, targeting the rural and low literate
  • Safal National Exchange of India Limited (SNX) – pursuing a One India One Market vision, creating an opportunity for small farmers to gain access to national markets through negotiating prices in a transparent way that eliminates as many intermediaries as possible
  • Lipikaar – an e-localization method that allows typing in 16 different languages using a normal keyboard, making it extremely user-friendly for non-English speakers
  • Learn with Fun – making maths an enjoyable subject through satelitte communications in a vernacular language, to reach out to rural areas where drop out rates are high

There are seemingly endless ways to marry technology and development, and these winners provide just a taste of the current landscape.

Right to Livelihood Award Goes to Land Redistribution Efforts

The  2008 Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, was awarded this year to recipients in Germany, Somalia, and India. Krishnammal Jagannathan and Sankaralingam Jagannathan of LAFTI (Land for Tillers’ Freedom) won the prize for their efforts in land redistribution for Dalits. The award’s website provides more information:

Krishnammal Jagannathan and Sankaralingam Jagannathan are two lifelong activists for social justice, and for sustainable human development, working with those who are at the lowest rung of the social ladder. They have carried the Gandhian legacy into the 21st century, never ceasing to serve the needs of Dalits, landless and those threatened by the greed of landlords and multinational corporations.

The roots of this work lie in Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan (land gift) movement. According to LAFTI’s site, their efforts have  resulted in “distributing 11,000 acres of land to 11,000 landless poor families, through non-violent campaigns for the purchase of land at a reasonable price, or the lease of temple or trust land for cultivation by the village community.” It’s always wonderful to see individuals that commit their lives toward a cause, like the Jagannathans, gain international recognition for their work.

[TC-I Call to Action]: NASSCOM Foundation Social Innovation Honours

NASSCOM Foundation, the CSR branch of NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Service Companies), is launching a Social Innovation Honours award.

The annual Honours aim to showcase projects that demonstrate best practices through exemplary use of ICT in areas of social transformation. This honour is a celebration of innovations that bring about social change and development through the application of cutting-edge technology.

There are categories for non-profit, for-profit, and government organizations in India to enter their projects for consideration. If you have a project that uses cutting edge technology to affect education, health, employment, or the environment, this may be a great opportunity to share your success. Applications can be submitted from now until October 20, 2008. The winners will be announced at NASSCOM Foundation’s Leadership Summit in February 2009. You can find more details here and download the application here.

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.

Jobs

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.

Fellowships

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