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Field Lessons from our Social Entrepreneurs

By October 19, 2020 No Comments

While social entrepreneurs begin with a passionate and sound understanding of the social issue at hand, along the way their perceptive minds pick up a whole new set of insights. They learn from their communities, milestones, failures, and stakeholder interactions.

From our recently concluded July 2019 cohort, some of our social entrepreneurs share with us their unintended learnings and simple observations that will help in designing more impactful solutions in the future.

1. Akshay Dixit -Founder, Vesatogo

Vesatogo is a platform for agribusinesses and their associated farmers to help them identify and remove inefficiencies in their operations while also reducing the cost for farmers.
  • Since the agrarian sector in India is based on trust, it is very important to establish a strong communication channel between your organisation and its stakeholders.
  • The product you wish to deploy must be validated again and again. Every suggestion/feedback you receive from the users must be incorporated to make your product more robust and user-friendly.
  • The interface of your product must be very easy and should not require any additional training. It is best if you co-create it with your users.
  • Farmers are open to adopting technology, provided that it is a one-stop solution for them and they clearly see value in it.
  • Introducing technology in the agriculture sector in India can add much-needed transparency in the ecosystem.
  • It is very important to have the right partners/supporters in your journey who have the same vision and mission as you.

2. Shasanka Mishra -Founder, One Step Forward Foundation

One Step Forward Foundation started Prayogshala, an intensive engagement program that fosters a scientific temper in students belonging to downtrodden communities of Delhi as they believe the growth of a society is deeply entrenched in its children.
  •  Science teachers who adopted our pedagogy have been able to reduce their instructional time and actively engage students instead.
  • Students in lower primary grades (6-9 years old) showed much higher growth than those in age groups of 10-13 years.
  • We learned that early intervention prior to the compartmentalisation of science into silos was most effective in improving science learning outcomes.

3. Rinsa Perapadan – Co-Founder, Gyanada Foundation

Gyanada Foundation improves the learning levels of the under-privileged students and provides them with relevant skills in computer programming. With a balance of practical and theory, the curriculum takes the students from level zero to possessing a working understanding of programming to continue at a tertiary level.
  • Children enjoy working with computer-based systems, but building relevance and creating activities that are unplugged and plugged into nature is the magic that keeps the students engaged in the program.
  • Training to deliver the curriculum is of utmost importance. Our Fellowship model works well, however, because we engage young students who have other commitments, having a full-time facilitator along with the fellows is a better approach for the long-term.
  • Setting up Raspberry Pi Labs opens a space for tinkering in schools. The ecosystem that is working towards including technology in schools is fragmented, expensive and highly competitive. It is focused on output and not the input.
  • An organisation must have an active team of board members who are committed to the cause.
  • Keeping your supporters updated is of prime importance. 
  • As an entrepreneur, I need to continuously work on acquiring new skills. At every stage, your thinking changes and that helps you gain insight for better implementation and impact.

4. Adwait Dandwate – Founder, Vardhishnu Social Research & Development Society

Vardhishnu runs community learning centres called Anandghars for out-of-school children specially child waste pickers and child labourers to enrich their educational status.
  • We realised that volunteer-driven models don’t run when you have daily commitments to meet. You need a dedicated team with clear roles and responsibilities along with a framework of accountability from the start.
  • You have limited resources such as time, knowledge and skills to solve all the issues faced by the community you work with. Realistically, it is better to identify the main loopholes and try to focus your energy in addressing 2-3 aspects and drive impact in those areas.
  • Equal attention needs to be given to the school and parents whom you are engaging with. Community Learning Centers that run in isolation from these stakeholders will not be able to solve the problem of enrolling and sustaining children in schools effectively.
  • We are trying to inculcate behavioural changes which is a long-term process as well as resource-centric. Such impact requires patience and belief on your program. At the same time, you should be flexible enough to make changes in your approach to keeping building for better and sustainable impact.

5. Harshit Kohli – Founder, Swayam Farmer Foundation

Swayam helps in lifting smallholder farmers out of poverty through a model that converges input finance, government subsidies and technology for maximum impact.
  • Trust is Key: I learned to prioritize the long-term in nurturing relationships with farmers which contributed to >60% loan repayment even after the national lockdown for Covid-19.
  • Building team capability: I coached my team through motivation and continuous skilling, which contributed to only 1 resignation in a team of 6. All our farmers were ‘Overall Satisfied’ with our program and none of their crops suffered a loss.
  • Adopting technology: I learned to adopt technological tools for MIS, marketing, crop advisory which improved our productivity.
  • Business acumen: I learned that success in business is mostly about risk-taking, and the wider net you cast, the more you learn.
  • Humility: My personal belief is that business is more powerful through humility and tenderness rather than muscle and power. 

6. Saleem Khan – Founder, Saaras Impact Foundation

Saaras Foundation aims to tackle the poor implementation of social welfare schemes offered by the Government due to lack of process support to target customers/beneficiaries and improper monitoring.

  • There is a lack of awareness among citizens about various schemes and policies that are designed to benefit them.
  • If you can increase demand on-ground, it will push the Government to make it a priority and work accordingly.
  • Partnerships and collaboration will always lead to a low-cost model for any project.
UnLtd India

UnLtd India

We find, support and grow early-stage social entrepreneurs to build high-impact organisations and grow as catalysts for social change.

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