Wednesday, October 29, 2008

CSIM session 10

Sustainability was the topic of this session. Ms.Lily Paul of Ashoka was back to explore this with us.

Yep, like every other week we started with the basics of understanding what we were about to talk about. This session began with an exercise making each of us think what sustainability is all about the factors that would affect it.

We all defined it in our own terms, based on our perspectives and past experiences. We settled something like -- It is taking your goals forward through the times in the same way or in an improved way. We then summed the different factors that affects sustainability. Then Lily helped us classify these in to 3 broad categories.

1. Mission [You need to have a mission that will make the goals a reality]
2. Strategic plan [The plan is how part of the mission]
3. Leadership [Good leadership is needed to stand the test of time]
4. Organization relevance [How is your org. going to add value in whatever it does]

1. Funding [No funds.. not gonna be there for long]
2. Budget plan [To know how much funds we need]
3. Self-sustaining strategies [Most important factor, think what will happen if all donors disappear coz of economic recession!!]
4. Diversify resource sources [Find different sources of funding]
5. Transparency [In terms of accounts n processes]
6. Fund raising and reporting [Report to donors on how the fund was used]
7. Building collaborations [Join hands with related NGOs]

1. Sharing org. values and mission [This makes people understand the org. better]
2. Community participation [Make the community participate in the mission]
3. Networking [Needless to explain]
4. Building acceptance with stake holders [So that they realize the importance of this work]

Well, if all that sounded so much theory here comes the big surprise - a man who has each of these in his organization and has shown us the true meaning of sustainability.

The big surprise was Mr.Ayappa Masagi. He is an Ashoka fellow, founder of rainwater conpcets and Water Literacy Foundation. A man so filled with passion for his work who firmly believes in 'Doer first teacher next'. He has brought water to more than 80,000 bore wells across the country. His book 'Jala-Nela-Jana' talks about the various technologies he uses to conserve and reuse water.

With a mission to 'create a water literate India' he founded the Water Literacy Foundation in 2005. He has 100+ self developed technologies for bore well, stream water harvesting, rain water harvesting.

Initially he started working out as an individual who was trying to save his farms from drought. He found some innovative ways by which he could conserve water. Then, he went about taking his work to farmers in the drought prone areas, some corporates who were spending huge sum on water. All his projects became huge success. He has now worked on projects worth 40 crores with people involvement.

Talking more about people involvement - this is one of the prime factors which we termed as community involvement for sustainability. He worked with the people in proving his solutions, thereby making them participate in many activities and see the change for themselves. This helps in a big way to achieve credibility.

As he kept explaining to us about his projects, we were so curious to know how he spreads this message to people being the one man army. He then told us about how he organizes awareness programs at customer's venue. This hints around the point of diverse resource sources. He also sells books, cds and uses that money back in to running projects.

As in every other social venture, funding is a big problem here too. You either don't get funds or you get it but not at the time of need. It is no different for Masagi. He is now hoping to tackle this problem by coming up with some self-sustaining models. He has established rain water concepts which is a profit making company. A part of the profits from here will be used for running projects in WLF. Also, there is another strategy where he is planning to form a group of farmers and invest an initial sum in doing projects in that farm. He will then take a part of the profit which will be used for doing further projects. With multiple iterations of this, there is will be enough money to get this model going.

Coming back to doer first teacher next - it is so true to see that he has all systems in place at his home where now bore water comes at 3o feet when compared to 1500 feet it would take for water to come.

He is someone who is so full of passion, knowledge and the desire to spread the awareness around. At the end of the class, we were so fascinated by his work and someone (none else than a software geek could ask this Q.. ok its not me) asked a question on why he has not patented any of his technologies. Yea, what else can people like us think when we are so used to listening to patents and IP mining every other day. Masagi's answered asking why he should patent his idea when all he wants to do is to spread awareness of water literacy. Well, that's what happens when you are a social entrepreneur - you don't own your idea and stick to it; you just want to see the benefit of it reaching multiple people.

That was how our last session was - theory filled with practicality and kannada poetry. Masagi is a poet, he recites poems as he speaks. I wish I knew kannada to understand and appreciate it all.

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