Saturday, August 30, 2008

SE-session 3: Innovations in social sector

Agenda:
Innovation:
1. Another perspective
2. Social sector
3. Examples
4. In class innovation
5. Prescription

The class began with the emphasis that Individuals can make a difference.
Before the discussion of the items on the agenda, we had a short discussion on plastics and its environmental impact in which professor Bhargava indicated (at least my perception) that recycling is not will not avoid or reduce environmental impact of non-recyclable materials.

1. Innovation: Another perspective

Answered the question "What is innovation?"

Discussed a scenario that forced innovation.

Scenario: A hotel with malfunctioning air-conditioner and an ineffective fan. The room is infested with mosquitoes. There is a 60-watt bulb. There is a mosquito mat, but no matches or any other source of fire. How to use the mat to find a solution to the mosquito-problem that lasts till morning.

Solution: One can use the 60-watt bulb as a source of heat. But it is too hot to be used directly and the mat won't last till morning. So, a one-rupee coin can be balanced on the bulb with the mosquito mat placed on top.

My inference: Innovation is a practical solution to solve a problem at hand using available resources, that need not be meant to address the problem at hand.

Innovation also the need to emphasize lateral-thinking. As an example of lateral-thinking we saw videos of ads by Coca-cola and Pepsi

2. Social Sector - Triple bottom-line
Social sector shares a lot of similarities with for-profit sectors. A list is as under
  1. Hierarchy
  2. Objective
  3. Resource management
  4. Quality
  5. Ethics
  6. Customer (beneficiary) satisfaction
  7. Marketing
However, there is one difference. For-profit organizations have a single objective of making profits, while a social enterprise should have a tripple bottom-line of People Planet and Profit

3. Examples of innovation in Social sector:
Few examples in different categories of social sectors were discussed

Co-operative:
Amul, a mik co-operative, that mobilized individual milk-men to form a co-operative to find a way to get more returns. Karsan bhai also started a CSR initiative, by which the members of Amul invest a small portion of their earnings towards building health infrastructure.

Rural Employment
Poverty alleviation

Grameen Bank's Micro loans initiative for the poorest

Attrition reduction
The instructor didn't name the company based in Bangalore, but highlighted the innovation for tackling the attrition problem. They identified that attrition becomes a problem only when timely replacements are not available. The company studied the background of those who leave the company and found that a majority is from Bihar. So, they targeted the exiting employees from Bihar and asked them to get one person from his village and train him/her thus taking care not only timely replacement but also overlapping the training time.

Others:
Big shoe bazaar
Shoes of size 11 or above don't sell much, hence aren't stocked by many of the showrooms. Bigshoebazaar.com connects the demand for big shoes to the supply (tie-ups will all the shoe companies) for which the latter provide a discount. This provides a winning situation for companies (big shoes are sold more), and customers (they find the shoe of their size with much less hassle!) while earning money out of it (a share in the discount!)

National Innovations Foundation: A compendium of rural innovations

4. In-class innovation
The instructor divided us into groups of two and asked us to identify a social problem, propose an innovative solution and identify the tangible benefits of the solution.

One group identified the lack of teaching talent in government school. To combat that problem, they proposed a teacher's training institute close to the locality of the school, channelize students who have completed 10th stds to the institute. That was voted the most innovative and effective idea of all the proposed ideas (for which the team got a large bar of chocolate).

5. Prescriptions
As a prescription for innovation in social sector, the instructor highlighted the importance of
  • community involvement and promote self-reliance (exit strategy for the NGOs after providing solutions)...
While NGOs can provide a solution to problems, they
can't stay forever to maintain the solution, and that the beneficiaries
need to take ownership of the solutions.
Being associated with Byrraju Foundation, he pointed efforts taken by the foundation in this direction
  • Innovation for a purpose, than for the sake of innovation
He showed a  funny cartoon in which a student shows his work to a bewildered teacher. The quote runs like this. "My name was David, but the name is old-fashioned, so I shortened by name as DVD!"

So what is the take away from this session?  

When you hit upon an idea, do some research to find if anyone has hit upon the same idea and has gone a certain disatance. It gives an opportunity to learn the easier way and introduces a potential partner.

Be open to borrowing best-practices from the for-profit sector. For-profit is not necessarily against non-profit. Just the purpose is different. So there is a lot of scope for common interest.
Note about the Instructor:


Prof.Harsh Bhargava,

Harsh is an Engineering graduate from BITS, Pilani and M Tech from IIT, Kanpur besides MMS from Osmania University. For over three decades he was involved in institution building, outsourcing management and indigenous design, development and implementation of embedded real time systems in various capacities in Indian Navy. Widely traveled, Harsh is a keen environmentalist who gives his time for social causes. He has edited 7 books in the areas of Business Process Outsourcing, Rural Transformation, NGOs and Virtual Leadership.

Harsh is currently a Professor at The ICFAI Business School, Hyderabad and has also served with Byrraju Foundation.

6 comments:

Harsh said...

Great summary Badhri. Super efficient you are.

Keep up your inquisitiveness.

Best
hb

Badhri said...

:)
Just helps me remember and look up. And given that we are social entrepreneurs, why not let others know the message?

Saraswathi said...

That was a great summary. I am part of the 7th SE batch in Hyderabad CSIM and I attended his session. It was very different and I learnt a lot. Thanks for sharing this summary.

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