Saturday, October 18, 2008

first stab at first aid

A doctor delivering the lecture first aid to school kids during a session we did. Its a first for the kids, first for the doctor and for up too. Not a roaring success. But all of us learnt.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Live accident report: Are we learning anything?

The picture didn't turn out to be clear...but two things
  1. it still delivers the message
  2. for once I am glad it didn't since the real scene was terrifying and nauceating (literally one more minute and I would have passed out!)

It happened right outside my residence but on the opposite side of the road, as I was walking home. I just heard the loud crash. But as I crossed the road, I knew that the guy passed out the moment he hit the ground. He was injured in the back of his head and, needless to say, it was profusely bleading.

The only thing that went right was that someone immediately called 108, the ambulence service (one good service for the insane hyderabad traffic). But what went wrong?

  1. No helmet!
  2. His companion, who escaped unhurt, had no clue that the first thing to do is to stop the bleeding, nor did the on-lookers. None seemed to have first few minutes after an injury to a vital organ is crucial. That guy basically racing to his death. ZERO AWARENESS OF FIRST-AID! It took another first-aid dumbo to tell him to stop the bleeding.
  3. The on-going traffic dutifuly stopped to catch a glimpse of the accident and pay "homage" to the hapless victim. The called ambulence can reach to about 100-150m from the victim, but no further. The police was on scene regulating the traffic, but the flow was still slow. In this situation, if you are on scene and if you are not helping, your are hurting!

But he is just one in a billion....a piece of statistic...what is the lesson learnt...right? Look at the picture again...

SE-session 9: Project Management

I would like to start off at the last! My take home of the day! (more of a suggestion than a rule of thumb though)
Identify what your beneficiaries need, sensitize the beneficiaries about their need and your solution, involve the beneficiaries of the social initiative to participate and if possible manage the initiative.

Project planning should be approached from a mixture of top-down and a bottom-up approach. Top-down, as in using "from the book" ideas like management and leadership principles, business models etc. Bottom-up as in getting to know what the beneficiaries (or end users) want and forming strategy based on that.

The class started off with some basics about project management. It is not only a science, as it involves rational thinking, data analysis and decision-making, but also an art since it involves getting the job done using your wits.

We moved on to a brief analysis of the difference between a program and a project.

Program: Long-term or on-going activity, continually funded and has regular allocation of budget. Example: National literacy mission

Project: Usually short-term, one-time funding. Usually a program is made up of a lot of projects that achieve the purpose of a program

Following this, we discussed a questionnaire, answering which one may have planned an entire project well considering all aspects and would be ready to hit the road. This took us all the way up to the break and formed a very important learning session of the class (so, don't skip the link!)

During the second half of the session, the instructor presented the way his initiatives in eliminating rural poverty made an impact in the livelihood of the rural society. He devised and designed various initiatives for the benefit of rural poor in various sectors like agriculture, education, micro-finance, health, income generation.

He talked about the federated model of self-help group (summarized by slide-3 of the PDF doc) in Andhra Pradesh, which was a run-away hit in the whole of the country. The success of the model was summarized by the fact that about 42% of all the money allocated by the Indian government is used by AP, while the repayment rate is 98%, unmatched by any other SHG anywhere else. Delegates from other states and even countries like Vietnam visit AP to study the SHG model.

Since this post is not about singing the praise of AP's SHG models, I move beyond to aspects that are common to all the government projects (including SHGs) that he was involved.
  • All project involved formation of Village organizations (VOs) which essentially is a representative body of the village. They were legally registered as co-operatives. All SHGs and VO are composed of women from the village
  • The relevant govt. representatives train and sensitize them about the need of the co-operative. (If it is agriculture.. training is on retaining profit and eliminating middle-men during procurement... if it is micro-finance, training is on how important savings is etc..)
  • Once training is done, the initiative is implemented and the outcomes are measured!
The model of sensitizing and involving the beneficiaries in various levels from management to volunteering has largely produced good results (will be evident from the slides of the session that I will post once they are available to me). But few do fail to scale up after initial success.

The whole session was finally summarized by the discussion titled "Why do projects succeed?"
highlighting the points user involvement as a participant, continuous funding, Clear understanding of goals, effective planning and setting realistic expectations of scope, quality and time involved.

By the then, we were about half-an-hour past time and we didn't even realized it. (I was especially mesmerized by the facts and figures he presented by the success stories of SERP's rural development initiatives). But he left us with a mention that goals should be SMART

Specific: Well-defined and clear to project managers
Measurable in terms of qualitative parameters
Agreed upon by all stakeholders
Realistic, as in set within the availability of resources

Brief Profile of Mr B. Ravi Shankar

Mr. B. Ravi Shankar has completed Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Applications and also in Management (Rural development) from Xavier’s Institute, Ranchi.

Earlier he worked as a project officer in the Society for Rural Industrialization, Ranchi, Jharkhand, as a Community Coordinator in Girijan Cooperative Corporation, AP, and as a Project Director of Leather Industries Development Corporation of AP. He also has the experience of working in IT sector for sometime. Presently he is the Project Manager of Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP), (IKP-VELUGU project), AP.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Staying awake

Night security guard challenging the house-keeping in chess to survive the night. Night shift is no fun. :(

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Interview with Hugh Herr

BBC has a wide range of mesmerizing and inspiring and unique podcasts. While their documentary series sweeps you away as much by its depth as by its variety, their Interview allows you a sumptuous bite into the life of some of the most inspiring, a few controversial (yet inspiring) figures. But the most likable aspect of the Interview is that most of the time such personalities are not really famous around the world. However, they are always into something that is of importance to the larger sections of society or have always done something from which others find a scope to learn from! It helps you understand that you don't have to look for role-models who are famous

Here is one such interview. In BBC's own words..

"Owen Bennett-Jones meets Hugh Herr who lost both his legs below the knee in a mountaineering accident and set out to design his own artifical legs."


Courtesy BBC

SE-Session 8: Running a successful social enterprise

Today's session was very less of a presentation and more of a discussion session. The instructor started out by asking each student's objective and encouraged us to think back and identify one instance that caused a "shift" in us towards social entrepreneurship. His belief is that the answer to what social transformation we want to bring lies there (I feel while this may be true, it need not apply universally to all!).

After that elaborated on eSafal, a social enterprise that he conceived to provide an IT enabled, integrated approach to making agriculture. He discussed his initiative as a "case study" to provide an idea of what forms a successful social initiative. As part of implementing his process, he identified different aspects involved in this like

1. Investments (seeds, fertilizers) and people involved there
2. Farming techniques
3. Output (and people involved like consumer companies, middlemen).

He came up with a process to train the farmers on improved farming techniques to save on inputs (fertilizers, water), reduce waster (during transportation etc), improve quality of produce (cotton in this case).

He discussed this idea to drive home the following points (at least these are all what I perceived from his example)
  • Identify your target beneficiary group in specific. (It may be kids...but are the school children or are they uneducated kids?)
  • Identify various aspects involved in your initiative and identify stakeholders in each aspect
  • Create a business model which benefits every stakeholder, so that it provides a reason for him/her to invest in it.
  • When you identify a problem, track the problem all the way back to its root cause and eliminate the root cause. For example, cotton produced by farmers were contaminated by human and animal hair, threads from dress farmers wear. This costs the cotton buyer a lot of money to improve quality of cotton, he worked to modify the process used for harvesting and transportation of cotton to eliminate contamination at source, which saved a lot of cost to the consumer. This in turn translated to more money for the farmers.
  • Remember the triple bottom line Profit, People and Environment. Measure the impact of your social initiative in terms of all the three and and in terms of social impact it has caused (improved standard of living, better education, better soil quality etc.)
  • Social Return on Investment.
In an email communication to me later, Mr. Ravi summarized the session as follows.

Based on the conversation, the takeaway from the conversations I had with all of you - to start or be with an NGO - in a nutshell are

  1. Identify ONE AREA which is your PASSION
  2. Do complete study on the various aspects of that area chosen and take the best practices already at work in the world…RESEARCH, RESEARCH….
  3. Do a pilot with a small target group and – check out all the issues, challenges that are being faced…
  4. DOCUMENT the processes and brainstorm with similar mind set people
  5. Create a MODEL which is a sustainable one…slightly bigger than the Pilot and showcase the sustainability and the SROI
  6. Market the Model with a group of investors and make it work
  7. Scale the area of operations to check out the challenges and issues being faced…
  8. Document and fine tune the process and market with funding agencies SCALE it up in new areas.. or locations …

Bottom Line
  1. ensure that the community buys in the model,
  2. train and build capacity in the community that they take over the processes
  3. The community pays a token amount for the services they get..
  4. The other stakeholders get value for the investment they make…
  5. Have everything transparent
  6. Publicise it through Word of Mouth, Media, different workshops and events…DON’T be shy of talking about it….
Take-home of the day

Model the social enterprise to benefit each stakeholder, not just the end beneficiary

Calculate the Social Return on Investment

Create a process and document it well. Creating a process will help maintain a quality of implementation (the absence of the person who conceived the idea will not compromise the quality of execution). Documentation keeps every one on the same page

Brief Profile of Mr. Ravi Shankar
Mr. Ravi Shankar is a postgraduate in Operations Research and a graduate in Mathematics from University of Delhi, India. Earlier he as a member of senior Management team in Satyam Computer Services and Nagarjuna Fertilizers ltd., Hyderabad.

He is the Creator of eSafal,(a social enterprise based on application of IT in rural development).. He successfully implemented a pilot project on this enterprise in 2005. This model focused on value creation at all levels by participation and involvement of all stake holders. In 2006, this model was judged as the finalist in Global Social Venture Competition. Presently he is consultant to Government Departments and Rural Development Projects. He is also an Advisor to NGOs like Roshan Vikas.

SE-Session 7: Fund raising is not begging

I was not able to attend the session as I was out in Chennai enjoying a break...having herbal food at a Malayali health restaurant. So, I requested a classmate of mine (incidentally a keralite himself!) to capture a few points out of the session. So, I credit this work to him.

"Fund-raising is not begging...Enjoy fund-raising"
This was the punch line of Michael norton's sesion on fundraising and sustainability. Below are the important aspects of his session apart from the ppt and document provided:
  • Money is not in fact never the most important thing.
  • Getting too much money is a bigger problem than having no money.
  • Streams of income for a sustainable model
  • Concentrate on getting money from independent source.
  • Vision and mission statement are useless!!! Have a vision of better world and be missionaries!
  • Build relationships
  • NEVER do fund-raising through email
  • NEVER send mail to unknown people
  • Rely on telephone/personal meetings
  • Parties are effective,invite friends & friends' friends
  • Story of Beacon & eggs: involved like the hen and committed like the pig
  • Without local support successful org cant survive.involve local people.
  • Story of New York beggars.
  • Fund-raising is a relief from boredom;helps people to do what they want to do
  • : people helping people
  • Convert NO into YES!!!
  • Explained some initiatives like dinner@home, hunger banquet
  • Individuals & communities as constant source of income.
  • Be a donor;he urged SEOP batch to maintain a fund.
Later he went on to explain how to write a proposal and also about budgets. Check out

Michael Norton is the Honorary Director and a Trustee of CIVA (
He founded the Directory of Social Change in 1975 and was its Director until 1995. DSC is the UK's leading agency providing information, training and support to voluntary organisations. ( He co-founded UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs, which received the £100 million Millennium Legacy as an endowment. UnLtd makes awards of up o £20,000 to individuals in the UK who wish to create change in their communities. He chaired the International Year of Volunteers 2001 youth programme for England. He received an OBE in 1998 for services to the voluntary sector.He is the author of numerous books on fund-raising and charitable status including 'Writing Better Fund-raising Applications' , 'The WorldWide Fundraiser's Handbook' , and 'The Complete Fund-raising Handbook' , all published by Directory of Social Change.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ordinary men to monsters or heroes

Philip Zimbaro (who is he?) talks in TED conference about psychology and the situation that makes ordinary men and women monsters and how to use psychology to make heroes and heroines out of ordinary men and women.

Watch it...its awesome!

From Madness towards Method

Be it your office pantry, or a weekend gathering of friends, when you run out of topics to gossip, all you have to do is drop in a word "traffic" and everyone one will suddenly find a story to say and gripe about the anomaly. A few socially active ones among us will take it a little forward by trying to propose a CSR initiative to regulate traffic in an area near the location of their work. But I personally believe that traffic regulation will be ineffective if the initiative doesn't involve the traffic police. I would be even better, if traffic police initiates and leads the initiative...which is why I was pleasantly surprised this morning as I was walking by the Police lines circle, as I watched the traffic police hard at work.

Standing by the sidewalk with my phone-camera, I could see that the police working with maddened determination to three things right the first time and then repeat it throughout the day, hoping to "train" the beast to comply with the order.

  1. At the whistle, stop behind the stop line. Motorists wishing to take a right, stop to the right side of the road.
  2. Allow the pedestrians to use the zebra crossing to cross the road
  3. At the next whistle, allow the traffic flowing straight to go, while holding the traffic flowing right (or take a U-turn).
  4. At the next whistle (when the traffic on the other side of the road is stopped), allow the held traffic to take a right or U-turn.
Repeat it!

Standing there and looking at the constant whistling and frantic gestures of the traffic police, I could realize that this job is so much easier said than done! The police might have chosen today, a holiday due to observance of Id-ul-fitr, to exercise this pilot but the traffic was still huge. Nevertheless, they seemed to have handled the traffic quite well.

But man! it was quite a sight to see vehicles neatly lined up against the stop-line to allow the pedestrians pass without fear of being run over! Finally, one small step towards method in what is the very essence of madness. Hope this pilot doesn't die at infancy, but grows and lives long enough to get into the subconscious mind of the average motorist to prompt him/her to follow the traffic rules.