Archive for the ‘NGO’ Category

Teach a man how to fish, and he’ll never be hungry again

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Inclusive Growth!

As they say, ‘Either you provide every meal for a man , or teach him how to fish, and he’ll never be hungry again’.

The dilemma in any social intervention is how long to remain engaged with a community? The longer you remain engaged, the more difficult it is for the community to become self-reliant, while other equally or more-needy communities are deprived of support. Creating sustainable intervention programs is the key. To make this happen, a crucial aspect is to train community leaders and volunteers to take charge of their own future, and empower them to demand services from the government machinery.

When Growth-For-All faced this question at Savda Ghevra, one of the strategies we chose recently was to launch a 18-month long legal awareness program in collaboration with specialist NGO, Multiple Action Research Group (MARG).

MARG legal expert training community volunteers

As a part of this program, funded by my friend, Kanika Mathur, 16 Para-legals and 45 Community leaders are undergoing intensive legal awareness training within the colony.  They will learn necessary information and skills so that they are able to discover answers to most problems faced by them. One of the volunteers, Kamna, speaks about how she was often chased away by various government departments. Now, with adequate information, she is confidently able to articulate her problems, and also makes sure that government  officials are accountable to her. Simple things such as keeping a copy or proof for applications filed in government offices, were not something that people from Savda Ghevra were aware of. Getting trained on matters pertaining to Police, their Fundamental Rights, the Constitution, about government departments, etc will help equip them in matters concerning their daily lives.

Growth-For-All’s Integrated Model at Work: Profile of a beneficiary

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Remarkable People!

Kamna lives at house number A-6, in Savda Ghevra, along with her 3 children and husband. When their former home at Laxmi Nagar slums got demolished, they were allotted a 12 sq.m plot in Savda Ghevra, for Rs 7000; they then constructed a pucca house here. Kamna’s husband is a government employee and works as grade IV worker in Anand Vihar. He leaves his house at 6am only to return at 11 at night. Kamna’s children seldom see their father.

The children go to the local government school. Kamna herself runs a small tea shop from her house, with erratic earnings. Her. husband earns a salary of Rs 3000 but most of his earning is spent on commuting.

 Profile of a beneficiary

Kamna speaks about how inadequate medical services in the colony were, when she arrived here in 2005. She would rush to Laxmi Nagar, to see her old doctor in case of medical emergencies. She also complained about distance of Savda from the main city, making life for her husband extremely difficult.
She has also filed many complaints to government officers for non-issuance of voter’s card and also complains about the lack of quality of ration provided from the PDS shop. She agrees though, that things have improved over time, but much more progress still has to be made.

The private doctor working in the government clinic (as part of a health project carried out by Child Survival India and Growth for All) has helped her access medical treatment faster and in cheaper ways.  She also speaks about the sweet nature of the doctor.
Even though, she herself has not used the ambulance service provided by this project, Kamna knows about neighbors who used the van to go for institutional deliveries in hospital. Ambulance is something which has benefited people a lot as they can now go to hospital without facing much hassle.

She is also thankful to this initiative which has made the hospital accessible, and somewhat welcoming. Earlier, she used to be afraid to communicate with the doctors. Now, regular interaction with government hospital has made Savda Ghevra a known name amongst doctors and therefore they are now more than willing to help patients coming from there.
She also benefits by attending meetings of the ‘Swasthya Samoohs’ (groups of women on health issues). Information is thus not beyond her reach. This has also helped her gained more clarity about work in other areas, e.g. government services, responsibility of government officials and so on. She eagerly waits for the monthly sessions on legal awareness training provided by MARG(Multiple Action Research Group) and Growth for All, which will help her consolidate her knowledge and train her on how to solve her legal and administrative problems.

During week-ends, Kamna sends her children to music, dancing and singing classes provided by Hasmukh Kala and Growth for All in the community. She would like her children to continue their practice at an advanced level.
She definitely wants to provide the best to her children, and monitors their education closely.  This according to her “will help them not become like her”. Kamna herself is a model as she has shown exemplary dedication in her personal development. She was the most regular member of the TCS-supported adult literacy classes while the project lasted. Though, at the end of it, she was only able to read and write a little, she proudly says that she can now read most important thing in her daily life, which is the “bus numbers and destination”.

Gandhian School of Management or C.K Prahlad B-School?

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Inclusive Growth!

Can social change be achieved by selfless, not-for-profit NGOs, or are businesses inspired by bottom-of-the-pyramid model better equipped to do so?

I had the opportunity to chair a discussion on ‘High-Impact Social Entrepreneurs’ at the recent TiEcon, in Delhi, where we assembled a panel comprising these diverse actors. It was a fascinating experience not only because of this diversity, but also for the discussion it provoked.  
On the one hand was Anshu Gupta of Goonj who chucked up his corp comm job many years ago, and has focused on collecting and recycling old clothing from urban areas to make sure that it reaches the needy in villages( over 30 tonnes/month!). On the other hand was Varun Sahni of Acumen Fund( leading global VC for social sector), and two young for-profit entrepreneurs, Sam Goldman( of D’Lite Design) & Amir Alexander Hasson( of United Villages)• 

Anshu Gupta is in the classical Gandhian mould, and believes that mass involvement and commitment are sufficient to take his ‘clothing for the poor’ mission to greater heights. Over the last decade or so, he has succeeded in this mission, although with great personal hardship.

Sam Goldman, the young CEO of D’Lite Design, like an Apple or Intel, is using strategies that combine great product design, high-volume manufacturing, global sales & distribution to create scale. His mission is to replace the ubiquitous kerosene lantern by clean, safe and bright lighting for the poor, in millions of rural homes. Like Sam, Amir is using a steeped-in-capitalism, though low-cost model, to take consumer products and services to rural markets, through a technology-based supply chain. Amir’s United Villages is currently operating in villages of Orissa and Rajasthan by creating rural ‘E-shops’ that sell everything from soaps to mobile phones.

Both Sam and Amir believe that scale-based businesses that provide affordable, good-quality products & services are the real answer to underdevelopment.

Varun’s Acumen Fund is of a similar view. It has raised USD 80 mn of ‘patient capital’ so far, and has already invested about Rs 100 cr in 12 businesses. The most striking example is the ‘Lifespring‘ chain of maternity hospitals across South India. These 20 to 30-bed hospitals have been set up at a low investment of Rs 40 lacs, and offer low-priced services( e.g. delivery at Rs 2000/-). A new hospital is being added every 35 days. Other Acumen-invested ventures include emergency medical services(Zikitsa, Mumbai); drip irrigation for marginal farmers;  and clean drinking water systems.

While Goonj and the others disagree strongly on the means, i.e. for-profit or not-for-profit, however what’s common to them all is their belief that real impact can be made by finding innovative answers to age-old problems that the government has been slow to solve. Roti, kapda, makaan, bijli, paani, dawai, and many others.

In the coming months, TiE, Delhi will get increasingly involved with this entire ecosystem, and that’s worth looking forward to.

Growth-For-All helps CII anchor a hugely-successful CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Corporate Social Responsibility!

When Growth-For-All was invited by CII Northern Region to be the Knowledge Partner for the CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet, one of our key recommendations was focus! Focus on the specific needs of the ‘home’ states of a majority of the delegates, viz. Punjab, Haryana and HP. And, more important, focus on some real action, instead of just listening and discussions.

We were delighted when other CII members agreed to go down this path.

That brought us to the real question: do these ostensibly-prosperous states have any real challenges at all?  After all, Punjab, HP & Haryana are ranked 1,3 and 6 respectively in India Today’s 2008 ‘Ranking of States’. We spent time talking to NGOs and government officers to debate this. Simultaneously, we also commissioned a researcher to scan through all available published information.

Growth-For-All at CII’s CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet

A closer look revealed that Punjab itself had real problems. Its economic development is now the second-slowest, while its human-development indices for health and education are comparable to backward states. Livelihoods is a real challenge: while Punjab and Haryana face unemployment and underemployment on account of crisis in agriculture, HP’s problem is to meet the aspirations of its educated youth. The gender challenge is serious in all three states.

We now had our direction. And set about creating three highly-focused Panel Discussions: on livelihoods, gender and CSR. These, we knew, would provide delegates with ample food-for-thought on the real challenges facing their states. At the same time, we wanted to ensure that delegates ended the day with a clear, actionable CSR plan. So, we invited Mumbai-based Green Kettle Consulting to do a workshop-format session which would provide delegates with a framework within which to plan their own CSR.

I am delighted to announce that everything went as per plan, and we had a very-successful CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet.

Growth-For-All’s ‘Knowledge Paper’ released by Union Minister Meira Kumar; gets great reviews

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Inclusive Growth!

As many as 113 books, papers and articles were reviewed in order to take stock of the entire body of knowledge available in the public domain. The result is a comprehensive ‘Knowledge Paper’ focused on the challenges faced by Punjab, Haryana and HP. Union Minister, Ms Meira Kumar, released the Paper at CII’s ‘CSR Best Practices’ Meet recently.

Knowledge Paper being released by Union Minister

Having been through a common, lived history, the three states have somewhat common trajectories of growth as well as challenges faced.

Meira Kumar addressing the audience

An important focus of the Knowledge Paper is on Livelihoods. It would come as a surprise to many that Punjab & Haryana, considered as the grain-bowl of India, are actually faced with a serious crisis in agriculture. Consequently, both unemployment and underemployment are big issues. There is an urgent need for crop diversification and agri-business initiatives, as well as rural, non-farm options. HP has a different problem; with big success in education, the challenge is to have livelihood opportunities keep pace with the inflow of educated youth into the workforce. At the same time, balancing industry, tourism & ecology assume importance.

The ‘gender’ issue, on the other hand, is a problem that cuts across all three states. The most common manifestations being declining sex ratios, poor health, insufficient women in workforce, as well as the deserted NRI brides of Punjab. The Paper analyses failures and successes closely, looks at legislative interventions tried out, as well as other interventions and case-studies.

Beyond ‘livelihood’ and ‘gender’, the Paper looks at a host of other issues in these three states.

The Knowledge Paper got a great response, and the general view being that it would be a good ready-reckoner for any Corporate looking at CSR in these three states.

CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet provides some practical answers to the huge gender challenges in Northern states

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Remarkable People!

It would be no surprise to anyone that the states of Punjab, Haryana and HP face huge gender-related challenges. However, what is surprising is that not enough positive action has been witnessed; in fact, the reality is that this issue is usually brushed under the carpet.

Based on the strong hypothesis that gender discrimination can hinder the pace of development, Growth-For-All worked with CII to assemble a strong panel of speakers to focus on finding practical answers that could be supported and endorsed by CII members. Prof. Pam Rajput( Executive Director, Women’s Resource & Advocacy Center) anchored a spiritied discussion that went way beyond normal expectations. While Mr Anurag Agrawal( IAS; and author of a path-breaking book on the ‘missing girl child) emphasised the need to capture data and build case histories in order to sensitise people, Mr Subhash Mendhapurkar of NGO, Sutra, provided fascinating insights from HP. Dr Ashish Banerjee(Director, Fortis Hospital) & Mr Rajat Ray( UNFP) spoke about successful experiences with women in work-force, and the need for effective communication strategies.

Animated discussion among panelists before the session

What can corporates do to start making a difference?

The Panel came up with simple, elegant, and practical suggestions that corporates can start with. That corporates should hire more women, and focus on gender diversity was one clear answer.( In fact, Dr Banerjee provide a ringing endorsement when he said quite simply, ” women work better”). The other, equally-simple answer was that corporates should track the health and nutrition standards of their workers’ spouses as a routine practice, thereby driving widespread sensitization and awareness. Likewise, corporates are in a position to monitor incidences of domestic violence as well. Finally, corporates -especially those running factories - can create awareness about gender issues in their immediate neighbourhoods.

Evidence that ‘one size fits all’ prescriptions do not work in the economic development arena

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

On the Road !

Don’t we often wonder why - for reasons other than leakage and corruption, of course - huge sums of money spent on anti-poverty measures do not give desired results?

During our trip into East Singhbhum( Jharkhand), we got to see the cultural issues that adversely impact even the noblest of intentions.

Pradan, one of the best NGOs that one encounters, mentioned 2 projects that failed because of non-compliance with the local culture. When they tried to introduce watermelon as new crop,  the red color of the fruit was a deterrent for the tribes, as red has bad connotations. Similarly, a Dairy project initiated to improve health conditions,and also as an income-generating income activity failed miserably, because the tribal population believed that the milk should exclusively be drunk by the calf and not by humans. They also don’t milk the cow to sell the milk.

The idea of Growth-for-All is now a year old

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Inclusive Growth! 

It was on August 15th 2007, as India turned 60, that the Growth-for-All movement was launched.

In an email to several friends, I had shared my thoughts, “ GROWTH-FOR-ALL will be a significant development-sector initiative  which will involve a large number of individuals & organizations( corporates, NGOs, CII, etc) to see how our collective efforts can achieve a lot more. Over the next year or two, we hope to run some key ‘pilot projects’ focused on urban & rural poor communities.”

A year later, this collective effort has blossomed. The core idea of individuals, corporate and governments working together to focus on inclusive growth and integrated development has taken off. The first ‘pilot’ project in Delhi’s Savda Ghevra resettlement colony is now almost 8 months old. 

When Delhi CM’s office pointed us towards Savda Ghevra a year ago, they knew that they had a problem on their hands. Several thousand slum dwellers had been hastily relocated to a barren patch of 256 acres on the outskirts of Delhi. Growth-for-All’s household census also revealed the other problems. Among the 11,381 residents of Savda Ghevra, there are hundreds of people without livelihood. 655 kids don’t go to school for myriad reasons – admission problems, perceived cost, lack of interest, etc. Almost 1400 adults can’t read or write. No water supply; over 1500 families don’t use the community loo. Only 262 families throw waste in the dumpster. Just one doctor in a 3-hour shift.

Since the Growth-for-All initiative began,  over 100 youth enrolled in a 3-month vocational training by Dr Reddy’s Foundation, and now work at places like Pizza Hut & Spencer’s. 20 women are about to start carpet weaving for Jaipur Rugs Co. Over 2000 patients visit the 3 Suraksha Clinics each month… supported by Samir Arora. Health camps & ambulance service about to start.  15 women enrolled into TCS’ designed Adult Literacy Program. Almost 100 youngsters( mainly girls) learn music and dance over week-ends, at Hasmukh Kala. Computer classes are on the anvil, thanks to PCs contributed by my friend Deven Taneja’s company, PC Solutions. So, that’s the integrated model of Growth-for-All at work, with multiple partners & individuals chipping in what they are good at.

Lot more remains to be done. 468 people want to start their own business, ranging from general stores to tailoring shops & beauty parlours. Over 400 want jobs. 1500 adults want training in areas ranging from computers and English, to construction skills and tailoring. In the absence of running water, arrangements for Rain-water harvesting need to be made so that water becomes available. Kids who can’t go to school need to be nutured via non-formal education; likewise, those who are enrolled still need supplemental education.

Where can individuals & organizations help?

Individuals can help in many ways – either with their ideas, time or financial support. In teaching kids for a few hours each week-Maths, English, computers, Science, etc.. By mentoring adults who want to start their own business.
Corporates and other organizations can help with Rain-water harvesting, Strategies for waste management & sanitation, or by supporting other programs like sports.

The power of Growth-for-All’s collective model lies in large-scale participation. Big or small, everything helps. Ideas, time or financial support.

As the idea of Growth-for-All becomes a year old, and the successes are visible, we look forward to active participation from many more.

Bill Gates writes on ‘Creative Capitalism’; Delhi government adopts Brazil’s Bolsa Familia project; and Kalam to teach at IIMA

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Weekly Review

The week started with Time magazine’s cover story, “How to Help Those Left Behind”, where Bill Gates expounds his views on how a new creative capitalism can make the world better for all.

Midway through the week, Indian Express reported Delhi government’s plans to implement Brazil’s Bolsa Familia project( search for a link), which apparently brought down poverty by 27%.
And fittingly, the week ended with an announcement that Prof Kalam would teach a new course at IIMA, “Globalising a Resurgent India through Innovative Transformation”

In their own way, each of these developments have the potential to make a huge difference to the way India runs its development and anti-poverty efforts.

Gates firmly believes that corporations can use market forces and innovations to complement what governments and non-profits do. Apart from tailoring products & services that reaches the poorest( think C.K. Prahlad!), he believes that corporations can do a lot more provided the right incentives are offered, e.g. recognition, fast-track approvals.
Gates’ heart and wallet are certainly in the right place, and he is already making a difference with his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; but, I reckon that capitalism’s participation in social development will always be controversial. After all, where do you draw a line between a “Buy One, We’ll give the poor a Free One” promotional offer, and a genuinely participative effort.

Be that as it may, I certainly see – and have seen( in Gates Foundation-supported Khushi Clinics)- the impact of importing professional business best-practices in the social sector. So, if creative capitalism causes controversy, we can live with that, as long as it makes a difference. At Growth-for-All, we have already seen this while working with Dr Reddy’s Foundation & TCS.

Likewise, the Delhi government’s effort to provide a single-window access to beneficiaries who want to access 42 social schemes run by various departments, will certainly make life simpler. While the revelation that Brazil’s Bolsa Familia project- which is the inspiration for Delhi- achieved 27% reduction in poverty, seems like hyperbole, I can imagine how much simpler things would be, if a single window were available. Just recently, Growth-for-All has been witness to the utter confusion and opacity that Savda Ghevra residents face, while grappling with school admissions for their kids.
Why didn’t anyone think of this before?

Ex-President Kalam’s course at IIMA aims to fill this gap beautifully. By getting B-School students to think about issues of governance and policy-making, we will hopefully have a cadre of business professionals who can inspire Creative Capitalism, besides driving ideas like Bolsa Familia indigeneously.

India is alive & kicking at the grassroots: Unicef’s amazing Village Planning process

Friday, August 8th, 2008

On the road!
I had the chance to see a fascinating experiment in grassroots-level village planning process when I travelled to Latur district( Maharashtra), in June. Latur is one of the 17 districts where Unicef has been testing its integrated approach to addressing health and social issues.  

Program display at the ‘Village Information Centre’
From small beginnings in 2002, this effort now covers ALL the 1000-odd villages in the district. The starting point is a 5-day workshop in these villages, that involves village volunteers, Gram Panchayat members, Anganwadi workers, etc. The group collectively debates and identifies the top issues that need to be addressed in the coming years. These issues range from the predictable ones like child marriage and infant health, to surprising ones like alcohol being fed to crying babies!

Be that as it may, the wonderful thing is that the village takes these challenges and targets in their own heads, and track progress in the ensuing years.
Unicef, as the nodal agency, has put together a dedicated band of local NGOs who take charge of co-ordinating and facilitating this on-going effort in a couple of Blocks each.
My local guides during this trip were the two sisters- Zia and Shanno – from NGO ‘Saath’, which is responsible for Ausa and Ahmedpur blocks.