Tuesday, August 26, 2008

CSIM Session 3

These days, my Saturdays are packed both with food for stomach and for thought :)
This was the third session and we had Ms.Shanti Raghavan to talk to us on SE.

Let me begin by introducing her. She is the founder of EnAble India, an organization which works for empowering disabled people in India. She worked in the U.S of A for some years before moving to India.
It was interesting to know what prompted her to start this initiative. She has a brother who suffered from progressive vision loss and she wanted to do everything possible so that he lead a normal life. So, she googled to find out more about support groups for such kind of illness, helped him pursue every thing he ever wanted. In the due course of time, she had so much information on how to handle visually impaired (VI) people. As she realized this, she wanted to share this with everyone and that's when the seeds for Enable India was sown.

All our discussion was based on her work, how society views disabled people, the challenges she faces in her work. While she gave us a brief of what enable india does, she wanted us to understand the challenges of her job. So, the class was split in to 3 groups and each group was given a question to answer.

Group 1 - If you are a SE working for empowerment of disabled people, what incentives would you give a company for them to hire the disabled?

Group 2 - How would you teach the Hearing Impaired (HI) work ethics, for example coming to office on time?

Group 3 - How would you handle the task of making a VI a cook/caterer?

All 3 questions were amazing and needed a lot of thought. We were given around 20 minutes time to come up with all the strategies and creative ideas.

Even before I realized my mind had already set up a big block in front of me and was not wanting to think of how a VI could become a cook. At that point of time, it was impossible for me to let my imagination flow in that way to bring forth some innovative solutions. Without spending much time on my thoughts, I jumped in to the first question which we were supposed to discuss as a group.

At the end of 20 minutes, we all had come up with points, ideas that broke our own mind blocks about disabled people, it shattered some of the assumptions my sub-conscious mind had. The best part at the end of discussing all the 3 questions, I could easily understand that every problem has a solution.

The best example to this was when we were brain-storming on the last topic. We proceeded with this by writing down the responsibilities of a cook, the challenges/barriers a visually impaired person would face and the solution for those.
At the end, it seemed to that there is no hard boundaries to what a disabled person can or cannot do. Let us not impose our mind blocks on them and prevent them from reaching their dreams. I just got reminded of what Will Smith tells his son in the movie Pursuit of Happyness 'Don't ever let someone tell you can't do it. You gotta dream, you gotto protect it. People can't do something and they want tell you you can't do it.' How true that statement is.

This session was so damn interesting that I started taking notes and believe me I filled in 3 long pages. So, I will go back to my notes and see if there is something that I missed posting.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

CSIM - Session 2

It was a Saturday afternoon and I managed to reach the class after going round and round on Mission road. It was 2pm and the class started with around 7 students, one coordinator and a guest lecturer.

As I entered, quickly one of the students broke the ice and started introducing herself and slowly everyone followed. Our guest lecturer was Ms.Lily, the chairman of one of the departments of Ashoka. Ashoka is an association of social entrepreneurs (SE). It links SE's with venture capitalists and identifies people who exhibit a lot of innovation in the way they tackle issues.

Lily started of by asking us what we understand by the term SE. There were different answers, all converging to the aspect of someone who has an idea of how to tackle a problem or an issue that will affect the society in a big way. Then the discussion turned to identifying the qualities in a SE - the primary ones being passion, perseverance, networking, integrity. Lot of interesting discussions were started as we came up with the list of qualities.

Then, we saw a short movie on Manndeshi bank. This bank was started by Chetna in a remote district of Satara, south of Pune. She and her husband moved to Satara to do farming and slowly realized the difficulties in that area. As she progressed, she learnt the difficulties that the women in the area under-went in terms on not having right to property, male dominance. She worked towards empowering women by fighting for their rights and finally succeeded in women owning property. Most families in the village were in debts as they borrowed money for a high interest rates. This prompted Chetna to start a co-operative bank and lend money at reasonable rates. This was how Manndeshi bank was started. With time, she further worked on an all round solution by providing women vocational training, opened a B school to educate women on how to handle finance, fill chellans in the banks and now has established a wonderful women self sufficient village. Kudos to her, she is an Ashoka fellow. Chetna and her work

This was a pretty inspiring movie we saw and were asked to brain-storm on the kind of challenges she would have faced and how she could have over come.

Following this, we had a personal interaction with Mrs.Suganda who runs centers to train poor disabled people with less IQ. Her story is yet another amazing one. Today she runs 16 such centers to train these specially abled people to do back end processing for banks, telecom companies. It is such a success story that I was so surprised to learn how she came out of all the hardships that were thrown at her at different points of time. She is a living example to determination and perseverance being the key to success. Sometime next month, we are planning to visit one of her centers in Malleswaram.

Overall, it was a very motivating session and gave a lot of insight into the kind of problems and how innovative one can be in solving them.

Like every other class and course, there is no escape to home work :) Yep, there is a case study for each of us which we will be asked to present anytime. I got reminded of the SupTs (surprise tests) in my college.

That reminds me that I got to at least open and flip through the pages before the coming Saturday.

Some more tid-bits from the class
1. Sanbox project
2. Javed Abedi
3. Matrimonial site for widow re-marriage. This one was one of the ideas of my class mates and I found it novel and of great use.
4. Right To Information RTI Act

More to come after my next session.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The CSIM series

Here begins the CSIM series. CSIM stands for Center for Social Initiative and Management. This is an organization which promotes social entrepreneurship.

I got to know about this from one of my friend when I met her in a marriage, that's the only useful thing I did in the marriage apart from hogging the good food. She got herself registered to the 4 month course on social entrepreneurship. I found the course pretty interesting and soon joined in Bengaluru.

I started the course by missing the first lecture (courtesy chennai trip) and the instructor called me sometime during the week asking reason for my absence. But this time, I acted like one good student and informed her earlier which she forgot. Thanks to her memory, I was saved.

As I attended the second session, I got to find more people sailing in my boat. Well, now who attends all classes sincerely? But, hey!! I want to do okay... So, our second session began with me entering the class on dot 2pm, blame the bangalore traffic and all the one two three four ways. One gets lost without any difficulty. And to top it all, my bike had as less fuel that we never knew when it would stop.

The second session was damn good. We had discussion on various topics like qualitues of an entrepreneur, had some guest speakers who were so inspiring.

I just realized that I am in office and supposed to attend a conf call.. Before my BigB notices me, let me log off and be a good employee :)

To be continued ...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Here I come back

I am bakkkkkkkkkkkkk, with a bang (??) :) I don't know about that. But yea, back after a very long time. With new josh, all enthued to fill up this space with some really useful stuff.

I finally managed to find something motivating me enough to blog about it. I recently enrolled myself in to a 'social entrepreneur' course to know more about the social sector and how it works.

I have always been interested in the social sector, something that I quickly connect to and derive a lot of satisfaction from. Many a days, I have thought about the purpose of my existence. Sometimes, I think Mr.G has sent us here for a specific reason - that one reason which makes us unique and truly beautiful from inside. I have not yet found why "Mission Aarthi" was created but here I have set out to find it.

Most of my future posts will be on what I learn in my weekly lectures of social entrepreneurship and anything that interests me as I go this way...

Here I begin with a new look for my dear blog.