Starting your own venture is unquestionably both challenging and rewarding. We sat down with investee Poojaa Joshi, founder of Mimaansa, to talk about her experience starting her social venture.
1. Tell us a bit about your venture. What inspired you?
Mimaansa works with students with learning disabilities (LD), particularly underprivileged ones, studying at under-resourced government schools.
After working as an educator in a number of international schools and the local board, I got an opportunity to volunteer and work for an NGO named Masoom in Mumbai. This gave me a picture of the two ends of the spectrum. In one scenario there was awareness about LDs to an extent, infrastructure and resources to tackle the issue and in the other there was complete lack of all three. This is when I decided to understand the issue in its depth to come up with a solution. I envisioned Mimaansa as an antidote to the systemic challenges faced by students with LDs.
To quantify my observations, I conducted a pilot study on the prevalence and management of children with LDs in low-income schools. The numbers were shocking: 9 out of 50 students have an LD and of those 9, 6 students have their needs ignored. Students are often being pushed through the years up until year 8, two years before their major school exams. By that time, it’s a clear case of ‘the missed bus,’ students with their complexes and aversion towards learning are more or less conditioned and the age of grade 8 is rather late for intervention as the students are already entering adolescence. If there were early observation leading to intervention, it would be easier to re-condition such students with LDs and offer them enough opportunities to continue ‘learning’ along with broader options in their later life. The answer to this was early intervention and Mimaansa, with its ‘Response To Intervention’ model, took form.
2. When you first started out, what were some of the challenges you faced?
The lack of awareness around and resources for students with LD was the biggest challenge. The denial amongst parents and teachers coupled with rigid attitude of the corporation authorities marked Mimaansa’s initial days with struggle. LD is an invisible disability and that made the journey towards the welfare of students with even more challenging.
Consistent dialogue and interaction with the respective stakeholders however changed this for us and the challenges we once faced are turning into our strengths.
3. Why did you choose to apply to be an UnLtd India investee?
I had heard about UnLtd India from Masoom, another UnLtd India investee. I had closely seen the way Masoom was being handheld and shaped by UnLtd India and that led me to apply when I began Mimaansa.
4. How did UnLtd India help you deal with some of the challenges you were facing? What did you find most helpful?
UnLtd India handheld me and Mimaansa through our start-up journey. From framing our vision and mission to helping us with our expansion strategy and develop our program, UnLtd India helped through everything. The constant coaching and mentoring from the associates has been the most helpful.
5. In what ways have you and/or your venture grown? Were the aspects of your venture that you decided to change or modify?
Mimaansa has expanded from 1 school to 5 schools. The team size has increased. Our reach has increased with our beneficiaries. Our partnership model emerged. Apart from this UnLtd India supported me as an individual, helped me hone my skills as a leader and helped Mimaansa access a wider network. We were also able recruit skilled special educators with UnLtd India’s financial support!
6. Looking towards the future, in what ways do you plan to grow? What do you envision your impact will be?
In the last 2 years, Mimaansa has expanded its operation to 3 schools; 2 English Medium schools and 1 Marathi medium school. Across the 3 schools, Mimaansa has reached out to 350 students with LDs. Forty-two municipal school teachers are receiving training through Mimaansa’s intervention to work with students with LDs. The last academic year saw and 53% of our students progress in Math. Twenty-three of the forty-two teachers have reported an improvement in their pupils’ performance in the mainstream classroom after Mimaansa’s remedial intervention.
Mimaansa has received permission to expand its work to 8 more schools run by the Thane Municipal Corporation for which we are currently seeking funding.
Inspired by Poojaa’s story? Apply today to be an UnLtd India Level1/Level 2 Investee. Visit http://www.unltdindia.org/become-investee/how-apply or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!