Sunday, July 25, 2010

Driving the folkswagon

Kalamandir started with "a vision to foster necessity and accessibility of arts and aesthetics in our day to day social life. Countering the mono culture, the venture looks for a creative, dynamic and diversified environment for the young minds among tribes and non-tribes of Jharkhand - who are fiull of finer senses."

In doing so, it has not only revived the dying tribal arts, but also now supports 2500 families, and has built up a "social business venture" with a turnover of Rs.1crores.

This story about Kalamandir was published a few months back:

It was a visit to the workshop of an impoverished stone sculptor in 1980 that chiselled out Amitava Ghosh's mission in life. The young banker and amateur theatre artist had just arrived in Jamshedpur, then a part of Bihar. Three decades on, villagers in the Singhbhum-Kolhan region hail him as the man who has revived four dying art forms, bankrolling a clutch of struggling artists, providing livelihood to 2,500 families, and inspiring hundreds to live by their art. "I met this sculptor named Guntha Laik on a visit to Chandil village. He had lost his house and farmland to the Subarnarekha dam project," Ghosh said. Moved by his plight, Ghosh started making regular trips to Chandil to explore ways of aiding Laik. "I tried to help him with funds, but couldn't do much."

The failure haunted Ghosh, then a 21-yearold fresh out of Kolkata's Scottish Church college, for years. His chance for redemption came in the mid- '90s, when he learnt about the dying tribal metal art of Dokra. "I visited Chakulia's Bend village to meet the last surviving Dokra artist. Phatik Rana had recently given up the trade to earn his living by working in farms," said Ghosh. "It was depressing to see an artist working the plough."

It took Ghosh five years to goad Rana back into his trade. Today, Rana is recognised for his skills - his products fetch him up to Rs 9,000 per month - and he is an icon for a generation of younger artists. In his village alone, more than 100 youngsters now make Dokra and earn almost as much as Rana does.

Ghosh also walked an extra mile for Kedar Nath Sahu, the Chhau dancer of Saraikela. The art, once the toast of tribal performances at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and stages in China and Russia, tottered on the brink of extinction while Sahu himself was plunged in poverty. Ghosh got Sahu to draw up a blueprint for a profitable revival of the mask dance. In 2001, he organised the first Chhau Mahotsav - the pivot on which the dance made a turnaround. Ghosh subsequently set up the State Chhau Centre at Saraikela to lend institutional support to the artists. Sahu, meanwhile, went on to bag the Padma Shri in 2004.

Ghosh took up another challenge - the revival of Firkal, a traditional war dance. He trained Potka village's womenfolk to make products from grass and bamboo to support their dancer husbands. Over the last four years, more than 500 wives have coaxed their men to perform Firkal and leave the earning to the women.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How I became a social entrepreneur? - The "Dream a Dream" Story

Vishal Talreja, an Ashoka Fellow, founded Dream A Dream in 1999 at the age of 20. The venture seeks to empower children from vulnerable backgrounds by developing life skills and at the same time sensitizing the community through active volunteering leading to a non-discriminatory society where unique differences are appreciated. Over the years, Dream a Dream has enhanced the lives of about 3000 children from vulnerable backgrounds and engaged over 1500 active volunteers who represent an increasingly sensitive community.

Here is the story of "how I became a social entrepreneur" from the horse's mouth:

...and what Dream a Dream does, and How:

Friday, July 09, 2010

5 Social Entrepreneurs @ XLRI - what did we learn?

A follow-up on the previous post

So here we had two interactions - "On Becoming a Social Entrepreneur" & "Issues in Social Engagement" - with 5 people with a "track-record" for their engagement/contribution to make a social impact on July 7th:

  • someone who started with 67 clothes in 1998, and built and organisation which now collects, sorts and reaches 50,000kg of wearable clothes to villages in more than 20 states across the country

  • someone who started with an idea and an internet "pledge-campaign" and built the largest public library in the state

  • someone who started with running a vocational training in a local college for students, and has now scaled up to run 20-odd centers which provide employability skills training in the region to the less-privileged and get them into mainstream...

  • someone who started with an intention to "give back to the society" and has helped the local community to start many initiatives

  • someone who started with a turnover of Rs.4000/- in 2001 trying to provide livelihoods to rural communities, so that he can help preserving the local tribal art, and now has an organisation with a turnover of Rs.1 crores

    So what did we learn?!!

    The best I could think was to invite the students of the ISE (Intro to Social Entrepreneurship) class (including me:) to send their short description of take-away from these interactions...

    (and ...though we had a gathering of more than the 35-odd class size in these 2-sessions - those not in the course.. some actually not even from XL:) - and they would have taken their learning with them)...and much of our life-changing learning is 'implicit" than "explicit"...) is a compilation of our take-aways - what we learned - which I could get from some of those 35+... what they (and I) remembered and learned from the interaction


  • "I never even knew how many e's are there in "entrepreneurship" when I started. I was just following an idea I was passionate about."

  • If you have to think about jumping into the social sector, then you're probably not ready for it.

  • If you start early, you have more time to make mistakes and learn from them... There is no escaping from making mistakes, if you want to become an entrepreneur.

  • Entrepreneurship is like proposing a girl. You need passion, guts and you need to be crazy enough to do it.

  • India has huge population, therefore huge number of problems., therefore solutions required for those problems will be huge, therefore social entrepreneurs required for solving the problems will be huge in number.

  • Think big but act small. Every action, big or small, shall eventually help in scaling up. Don't allow the overall vision to hamper your daily progress.

  • Teach poor children who cant pay their school's fee. Feed the hungry every year (around 500-1000 people), atleast twice during festivals. Doing these things doesn't require much time, doesn't require you to leave your job (for which we have also worked hard) and doesn't deplete you of your hard earned money much. It doesn't make you famous, but it will make a difference!!

  • Every one wants to be an Entrepreneur first and then think about social cause. 1.2 million NGO's (that's what I heard, I think) and numerous entrepreneurs and still the country's not improving. Lets be dedicated to the social cause not to our cause.

  • Stop Talking Start Doing

  • "Dont try to solve India's or world's problems. Start by solving problems which you see around you."

  • Somehow gave me a feeling that entrepreneurship lies in the "possible domain" and not the "impossible domain"...

  • Try to get rid of "Escapism": today I have to pay my education loan, tomorrow I have to pay my housing loan and so on.... this is a trap from which a person would not be able to come... act now, and if one is passionate about his idea, then in a period of year or so, he would definitely find some way to overcome his other liabilities.

  • Where there is a will there is a way

  • "Yes, you need to pay the 'education loan' when you get a job. If you jump into entrepreneurship, why start with an assumption that you won't be able to pay it after a year?"

  • Think big but there is no harm in starting small... Don't let the hurdles stop you.. they will be taken care of once you jump in! .. You learn to improvise...

  • "We are country of volumes , problems are in volume, solutions required are in volumes and people required to address these problems are in volumes"

  • I have never understood entrepreneurship - forget what is "social entrepreneurship"... In a way, we are all social entrepreneurs; I think the only entrepreneurial act is proposing to a girl - it has risks, hope... sometimes even a "business plan" :)

  • No matter what one's way of doing good is (profit or non-profit), as long as the end result remains 'good', the value of the effort always justifies the whatever form it be.

  • One major learning I had, about being a social entrepreneur is that, it’s a matter of following what you really want deep inside... if you recollect, every speaker mentioned about ‘giving back something to the society’, and getting a mental satisfaction... I think most people have that urge, but are plainly not bold enough to leave our comfort zone and to do something that challenges your foundations. And there lies the difference between being mediocre and being someone who can bring a change in the lives of at least a handful of people, at the same time making it sustainable for yourself. Only once you get out of that zone, & start doing something which gives you inner fruits ( internal satisfaction-which i think, only money can never bring in ) and initiate or be part of a change for good, you will understand that by helping the society- I’m helping myself like never before... All these leads to an understanding that, Social entrepreneurship is – ‘helping others to help yourself’

  • Most of us don't want to leave the comfort zone of security(money, family etc). Though to some extent moving into Social Sector can test you in these aspects but with a viable model one can easily overcome this. Sujit and Anshu makes one feel that if not now, then when. There are lots of opportunities to be tapped and market is huge. :-) enough for everyone to accommodate to make a mark and contribute.
    Everyone can start in their own small way.


    and of course, we also had the inauguration of "Udaan"- XLRI's Children's Public Library after the sessions :0))

  • Tuesday, July 06, 2010

    Social Entrepreneurs to visit XLRI - July 7th '10

    7th July is going to be an eventful day at XLRI Jamshedpur.

    We have two discussions - "One Becoming a Social Entrepreneur" and "Issues in Social Engagement" scheduled with with some of the most committed social entrepreneurs of different hues and "models". They are for-profit, not-for-profit, volunteerism-based, hybrid models... but have one common base: Their purpose is to create constructive and inclusive social change.

    Somewhere in between, we will also inaugurate the Children's Public Library, Udaan, which SIGMA has created for the kids of our maintenance staff and domestic helps... actually for all campus kids (and we hope that this becomes a replicable model for various colonies, campuses, housing complexes)...

    ...and we top it with the first meeting of the "core group" to discuss the 2nd edition of "Jamshedpur JoyFest - The Joy of Giving Week 2010" (Sept 26- Oct 2, 2010) in the evening.

    So, who all are the social entrepreneurs visiting XLRI?

    Amitava Ghosh
    Founder/Director, Kala Mandir,

    Kala Mandir works to preserve and promote tribal arts in Jharkhand by creating local communities, and providing them with sustainable livelihood options through micro-enterprise development, market-linkages, education, opportunities for eco-tourism, etc.

    Anshu Gupta
    Founder/Director, GOONJ
    New Delhi

    GOONJ works with the issue of clothing, and recycles anything which is discarded as urban waste into resources for others, and works across 20 states. The venture has been internationally recognized for its work and has been the recipient of Changemakers Innovation Award 2004 &2006, World Bank’s Development Marketplace Award 2007 and NGO of the Year Award 2007.

    Ronny D'Costa
    Regional Governer, Rotary International

    Rotary International has been a fore-runner in promoting constructive social engagement and volunteerism across different sections of society. As a committed Rotarian, Ronny has been instrumental in the implementation of a number of projects, e.g., rainwater harvesting, clothes bank, healthcare, education and literacy, etc.

    Santanu “Sunny” Bhattacharya
    Founder/Director, Technable Solutions Pvt Ltd,

    Technable Solutions Provides employability skill training to youth, and runs about 20 centers in WB and North-East. For its work, Technable Solutions was selected as the finalist for the Sankalp Awards 2010, and was awarded the Social Enterprise Leadership Award (International) by Social Enterprise Alliance (USA).

    Sujit Mahapatra
    Founder/Director, Bakul Foundation

    Bakul Foundation works to promote education, volunteerism and social engagement among youth. The Bakul Library, is the largest public library in Orissa, and is supported entirely by volunteers. It campaigns to promote environmental consciousness, art, etc. have received wide recognition.

    Sunday, July 04, 2010

    SAATH: Creating Inclusive Cities

    Healthcare, slum education, micro-finance, youth and women’s employment… Ahmedabad-based SAATH has myriad programmes to improve the lot of the urban poor. In some way, its initiatives can be likened to a complex web that touches every corner of their lives. “This web is not to trap, but a mechanism to uplift the urban poor,”...

    SAATH utilizes market-based strategies to create inclusive societies by empowering India's urban and rural poor.

    SAATH's integrated approach brings all services that a poor community could need together in one centre, simplifying life for Bottom-of-Pyramid Indians....

    Also read this article...

    Saturday, July 03, 2010

    Bakul Foundation Children's Library

    I had visited this place last year, when I was doing my annual round of learning from the social ventures who work on the ground, and make a difference.... A friend of mine in XIMB had suggested that I should visit Bakul Foundation in Bhubneshwar, and gave me the address and the contact... a library for those who can't afford books!

    It was an amazing experience!.. to meet the co-founder, visit the place, meet and talk to the kids from under-privileged/under-served background (bastis, slum, etc.), for whom this place was like a window to the world beyond they had ever known... some who came to the place could not even read, but would still look through the books, since they had photographs of places which perhaps existed only in their dreams...

    ...I flipped through the "Children's Community Story Book", where one person adds to another's incomplete story... experience the 'joyful learning' (a phrase which cropped in my mind then) ambience of the place...

    I also met some of the volunteers - from young students who were preparing for an entrance test (but just loved to read out the books to kids who wouldn't be able to read the alphabets) to some foreigners who would love to tell these kids fairy-tales of their country... (and Sujit told me that many of them,, when they went back to their home countries, sent the entire set of fairy tales)

    As this article Pioneering Library Sparks Volunteerism describes the place:

    Over the last decade or so Satya Nagar in Bhubaneswar has morphed from a sleepy residential area to a commercial hub. When you go straight down the road from the brash, new Big Bazar in the area you hit a reasonably sized, unremarkable two storied house numbered 16 that is painted white and looks as boring as any other house on the lane. But you cannot miss a signboard that is essentially a piece of carved and painted wood that says ‘Bakul Sishu Paathaagaara’ (Bakul Children’s Library) in Oriya.

    A small gate leads you into a space that looks as unlike a library as you can imagine. Of course there are books all around; but you have pictures of joyous monkeys playing on the walls and every inch of the walls painted cheerfully with one motif or the other in soothing bright colours.

    But the physical aspect of the library is perhaps the least unusual thing about it. The Bakul library is one of the largest children’s libraries in the state of Orissa. It houses more than 8,000 books (primarily in Oriya and English, and some in Hindi) as well as multimedia and other educational material. There are no user charges for reading and referencing in the library, and there are no formalities involved in terms of becoming a member till now. Any child can drop in and read. Lending of books has not started, and a small fee might be levied as and when it starts. The library is run by the Bakul Foundation, with Dr Jatindra Nayak, Professor of English Literature, Utkal University as President, and is managed by volunteers Sujit Mahapatra and Satyajit Puhan with help from Puspalata Sethi and others.

    A pledge campaign - "Donate Books, Build a Library" - was launched on the Internet by the trio of Satyajit Puhan, Sujit Mahapatra, and Ayushman Sarangi on the Orissa Day, 1 April 2006. Puhan is a young development economist and one of the founders of the Film Society of Bhubaneswar, Mahapatra is a Ph D scholar of English Literature at Delhi University and Sarangi is a computer engineer at Adobe. The campaign site was The goal was to mobilize a thousand people who would directly contribute (either with cash for a book or directly with a book) to set up a library, initially focusing on children and youth in Bhubaneswar. The deadline to get 1,000 supporters as well as to set up the library was the 1st of April 2007....

    But Bakul Foundation is more than a library initiative. It is about volunteerism and engagement with society, e.g., the Bakul Art-Fest '09 one of the notable feature of that was the "Wall of Peace" which was painted by artists, college and school students and the general public...

    ..about creating environmental awarenessthrough innovative means, e.g., by gifting saplings on birthdays, child births, and weddings so that people will have an emotional connection with the gifts and therefore take responsibility for nurturing and caring for them: "We are not thinking of a mere event or activity. We are attempting to create a sub-culture around tree plantation, where trees can become a part of the everyday lives of people... We are trying to introduce an emotional connection between people and trees."

    Thursday, July 01, 2010

    One Person's Trash is Another Person's Treasure

    Waste Ventures transforms the way municipal garbage is handled in developing countries into a more environmentally and socially friendly process based on market mechanisms. Uncollected garbage is mostly collected by wastepickers who make a pittance from recyclables and face many health issues. Waste Ventures provides technical assistance to social organizations that work with waste pickers to transform them into waste picker corporations. It provides them with a triple bottom line blueprint (fee-for-service collection, recycling, composting, monetizing carbon credits, and creating biogas) and then assist the transition of the organization’s capital to the waste pickers themselves.