[TC-I Call to Action]: Rewarding Good Governance through Gram Panchayat Puruskar

Calling all gram panchayats in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka – Google.org‘s Inform and Empower Initiative wants to know the top five panchayats in each of these two states that are using innovation and good governance. According to the Google.org blog,

The prize will be awarded in one of six areas: education, health and nutrition, water supply, rural infrastructure, rural electrification, and resource mobilization. The winning panchayat must include a wide variety of social and income groups, share information with villagers, respond to citizen feedback, and track the quality of programs.

The competition is an opportunity to recognize good, effective governance and encourage quality public services. And if that’s not reason enough, the winning panchayats will receive a cash prize of Rs.5 lakhs (approximately $10,000 USD).

The contest is open for entries from December 12, 2008 through January 25, 2009. For more information, please see the FAQs and Rules.

Inching towards ending polio

The Final Inch is a documentary funded by Google.org and produced by Vermilion Pictures, chronicling the final stages of the global fight to end polio. A large chunk of the movie was filmed in India, given that the country is the final frontier in the global effort to eradicate polio. There were 496 confirmed cases of polio in 2008 in India, accounting for 35 percent of all cases worldwide.

The documentary profiles the real heroes – the foot soldiers who are mobilized to deliver the doses of polio vaccine to young children.  India’s progress towards eradicating polio also highlights the relentless effort of the Indian government in undertaking the largest vaccination program in the world.

The Final Inch will be screened on HBO in 2009, and you can expect the DVDs to be out soon. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer:

TC-I Fundwatch: Omidyar Network and Unitus invest Rs. 60 Crore in Comat Technologies

The market for double bottom-line investments in India is becoming hotter and hotter. Interestingly, its not just the microfinance institutions who are attracting the capital. We reported earlier in TC-I about MokshaYug Access, securing $2 million in funding from Unitus and the ISB based SME fund set-up by Google.org in partnership with Omidyar Network and Soros Economic Development Fund. 

This time it is Comat Techonologies, a Bangalore based social enterprise dedicated to providing easy access to essential information and transformational services to Rural India. Comat just secured Rs. 60 crore in funding from Omidyar Network and Unitus Equity Fund (UEF)

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TC-I Call to Action

Our weekly review of opportunities. Please send along any other opportunities to info@thinkchangeindia.org


  • UnLtd India, an organization that exists to find, fund and support early stage social entrepreneurs to enable them to develop as leaders, start up sustainable, high-impact initiatives, and prepare their fledgling organizations for further investment, currently looking for exceptional individuals in Mumbai, with ideas/initiatives and the drive to make a positive change in their communities, to support as part of our incubation support program. The program offers a combination of start up funding, hands-on assistance and connections to peers, experts and leaders to the selected individuals. Applications are due 31st July, and applicants are screened on an ongoing basis. More information is available here, here and here
  • Unitus Entrepreneur in Residence Program [via NextBillion.net]: Unitus is seeking highly motivated social entrepreneurs to participate in the Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program for 2008. EIRs at Unitus spend up to one year launching their venture with the deep support of a dynamic community of socially-committed business professionals with passion for alleviating poverty through microfinance.

    The EIR program will provide strategic support to entrepreneurs dedicated to building social businesses that can scale to improve income generation potential of millions of disadvantaged people in emerging markets. Deadline: June 15, 2008

Jobs and Internships

  • Google.org is looking for a Strategic Investment Principal to be based in India to be a part of their Fueling the Growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) initiative. They are looking for a are seeking a Strategic Investments Principal (SIP) to implement and help revise the SME strategy in India. The SIP will develop and manage relationships, identify and implement ideas, and be able to assess the strategy and change course as necessary to meet Google.org’s overall objective. More details are available here

Studying the Right to Information

Google.org is supporting a study focused on the Right to Information Act as part of their Inform and Empower Initiative. From their blog:

To help us better understand how to make the Right to Information (RTI) more effective in India, we are delighted that Shekhar Singh who is an active member of the people’s movement for the right to information has agreed to conduct a study of the use and implementation of the Act across various stakeholders in India (including public authorities, information commissions, media, judiciary, NGOs and corporate sector). The objective of this study is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the Act, the constraints preventing effective implementation and the ways in which access to information affects people’s lives.

Studies like this are critical in determining ways forward. Since it has been over two years since the Act’s existence, now is a good time to reflect on its impact and learn from challenges. The video below provides more information about Google.org’s Inform and Empower initiative.

Deaths from Climate Change

The World Health Organization has produced a world map that estimates the number of deaths that can be attributed to climate change. The map estimates anywhere from 40 to 80 million deaths in India can be attributed to climate change.

[Source: Google.org]

Can Market Based Philanthropy Stem Climate Change?

The Progressive Automotive X Prize certainly seems to believe that market-based philanthropy can stimulate innovation on a global scale through handsome monetary packages – in this case, $10 million.  The goal, announced recently at the New York International Auto Show, is an impressive one –

The newly renamed Progressive Automotive X PRIZE is an international competition designed to inspire a new generation of viable, super fuel-efficient vehicles. The independent and technology-neutral competition is open to teams from around the world that can design, build and bring to market 100 MPGe (miles per gallon energy equivalent) vehicles that people want to buy, and that meet market needs for price, size, capability, safety and performance.

This concept, termed “Revolution through Competition”, is not a new one.  In fact, X Prize Foundation has attempted to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit for the benefit of humanity in the past through competitions in the realm of space, the human genome, and energy.  According to Jonathan Greenblatt, senior adviser to the X Prize Foundation,

“It’s a mode that encourages experimentation rather than prescribing solutions. It sets the stage for innovation and dynamism that the grantor can’t anticipate.”

More after the jump. Continue reading

Op-Ed: Microfinance revisited and its role in reaching the missing middle

Two weeks ago I wrote about James Surowiecki’s article in the New Yorker that brought forward the inherent limitations of microfinance to actually generate a substantial number of jobs in a developing country. Since then it seems as if I was not the only one (surprise surprise) to take notice of Surowieki’s conclusions and it has even brought pioneers like Acumen Fund‘s CEO

Novogratz gave some credit to Surowiecki’s argument that not everyone in society is an entrepreneur and that in fact most people simply want a predictable, stable job with defined roles. Novogratz, however, distinguished her stance through her anectdotal experience with women’s access to credit and how throughout her experience they have overwhelmingly been favorable towards it. She says that this desire for credit provides the rest of us with critical lessons on how to address poverty.

However, the desire for credit on its own in no way makes someone an entrepreneur. Every teenager in America has an affinity for credit, but just because they are willing to spend that money somewhere does not make them some sort of innovator. Likewise, Surowieki’s argument highlights that for the most part microloans are not utilized for business expansion, but rather they help tide businesses over during rougher times, a la a bridge financing round. These funds like simple credit cards are used to cover funds that someone has already spent before — not towards future capital investments. It is that ability to reinvest ones funds towards scalability and expansion that is truly entrepreneurial.

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Google SMEs: Internet search company to provide capital to small and medium size businesses in India

One of the ongoing issues that appears to be hindering development in countries like India is the lack of equity based funding for small and medium sized businesses. These entities, which usually are too large to be benefited from a microloan but too small to have the necessary financials to secure corporate debt or private equity backing, are often left to fend on their own.

No more, as Google.org along with two other foundations has announced a fund to help finance such ventures.

From pluGGd.in by

Google.org, Soros Economic Development Fund (SEDF) and Omidyar Network have announced a $17 million Small to Medium Enterprise Investment Company for India to create job opportunities and spur greater economic participation for a larger segment of the population.

This joint Investment Company will provide capital to small and medium businesses in undeserved markets.

SMEs are considered by many as the critical component for poverty alleviation, job creation and the eventual development of a nation as their scalable nature gives them the chance to become a major Fortune 500 player down the road.