HYNGO at Ek Soch Sandbox

We visited Ek Soch – the first Development Dialog held in Varanasi. Centred on entrepreneurship which is the theme of each of the Sandboxes set up by the Deshpande Foundation, we found the panel on Next Gen Social Entrepreneurs really interesting. The young panellists spoke about challenges in starting an organisation and building a workable model. Here are a few excerpts:

Define your value proposition – identify or know what it is that makes a difference to the customer. The day I know what my customer wants, I am no longer a start-up. I understand the customer’s need and convert it to my profit and that’s when I transform from a start up to a scalable business.

Another panellist spoke about the importance of measuring outcome achieved versus expenditure incurred. This exercise requires planned structuring as all benefits cannot be easily quantified. Are the benefits greater than what I am spending?

The founder of a venture which is still at incorporation stage encouraged the process of taking a leap of faith. Yes once you are bitten by an idea you must jump in – no need to wait for approvals and so on. However, do plan your finances better – it can take longer than you estimate – you must budget for contingencies

One of the panellists who mentioned the importance of having a mentor when one is in start-up mode, had an interesting take on the role of the mentor: It’s important to have a mentor when you start – the mentor’s role is to advise WHERE you need to be NOT HOW to get there. If you are advised on the how, and the direction does not follow as per plan, you may find that you give up.

Sandboxed at the Deshpande Dialogue 2015!

We have to agree with Gururaj (‘Desh’) Deshpande when he refers to the Deshpande Foundation organized Development Dialogue as the ‘Woodstock for social entrepreneurs’. The annual Development Dialogue is a confluence of NGO staff, academics, grant-makers, social entrepreneurs, folks from the business world and lots of people with big ideas to change the world. The Dialogue is organised by The Deshpande Foundation which was set up by Jaishree and Gururaj Deshpande. This year’s attendees were addressed by the likes of Kailash Satyarthi, Narayan Murthy, Ramji Raghavan, Jeffrey Bradach and others from various walks of life.

Teach a man (or woman!) to fish

The founders of the Deshpande Foundation don’t believe in handouts or charity as we know it. The Foundation funds ideas that can change the world, but refuses to be a one-off donor or create a culture of dependency. The ‘Sandbox’ concept is an ecosystem for entrepreneurs and innovators to test their ideas, develop working models and scale them for maximum social and business impact.

This year’s theme, ‘Scaling by Proving’ describes the Foundation’s work in a nutshell. At the conference, it’s not uncommon to be asked what your business plan is, even if you’re an NGO! Madhua Pandit Dasa, Chairman of the Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF) spoke about how technology proved to be the differentiator that led Akshaya Patra to implement the world’s largest NGO-run feeding programme. APF’s industrial-grade kitchens fed 1.4 million children in 2014. APF embodies scale like few NGOs do – each of their dal cauldrons cooks between 1,200 – 3,000 litres of sambar at a time. They plan to now extend their services to less accessible rural areas with a goal to feed 5 million children by 2020.

Give me a place to stand and I will move the world

“Begin from where you are” was a sentiment raised by Desh and echoed by many at the conference. The innovators the Foundation hopes to fund aren’t armed with degrees from elite universities. They work with farmers, artisans, technicians, students – anyone with an idea to solve a social problem. Neelam Maheshwari, who heads Grant Making at the Foundation described themselves as the “McKinsey of nonprofits.” The success of the Hubli Sandbox is spreading to other regions – RedBus co-founder Phanindra Sama has committed to setting up a Sandbox in Kakatiya in association with Raju Reddy, Founder of Sierra Atlantic Corporation. Another Sandbox is coming up in Uttar Pradesh. The Foundation has Sandboxes in the US and Canada.

Ideas looking to scale – soon!

Organisation

Big idea

FUEL Professional career guidance ecosystem for India’s youth
Karadi Path Literacy without relying on the written word
Arohana Dairy Making dairy farming and farmers profitable
Gram Vikas Providing sustainable, socially inclusive and gender equitable services to the poor
Swayam Shikshan Sansthan Bringing poor women to the mainstream of development
Sevamob Mobile clinics providing primary healthcare to low-income groups

Sustainability is linked to accountability of people running the organisation

Narayan Murthy said this, but the proof of the above statement was evident in the keynote speech delivered by Kailash Satyarthi. The Nobel Prize winner held the audience spellbound with stories of his work rescuing children from bondage. Jailed for a night by an irate railway policeman for trying to save some enslaved children, he started thinking about how he could redirect his anger to tackle the demand for child labour. His quest to stop child trafficking in the carpet trade led him to Europe where he convinced Indian carpet importers to insist on a sticker that certified the product was not made using child labour. Buyers in European markets soon began looking for the GoodWeave label on carpets they bought from India, and this led to a decline in demand of non-certified products. GoodWeave has resulted in 75% less children being employed in the carpet industry since 1994.

The Development Dialogue is filled with an infectious energy that participants cannot help but imbibe. The Hubli Sandbox also drives home the point that change begins at home. Post-session discussions are abuzz with words like innovation, business model and revenue generation plans. There is a belief in bottom-up practices and frugal innovation that can change inequality of access and income in the world. We wish all the participants the very best for their endeavours, and look forward to new ideas at the next Dialogue!

HelpYourNGO at the Deshpande Dialogue 2014

HYNGO was part of the Deshpande Foundation’s annual conference called the ‘Deshpande Dialogue’ earlier this year. Our team went to Hubli to attend the conference, talk about our work, and also got a chance to meet and interact with other organisations at the conference.

We learnt about the Hubli Sandbox supported by the Foundation, which is a pioneering effort in social entrepreneurship and social innovation. Basically an incubation zone for social entrepreneurs or organisations working for social good, the Sandbox creates an ecosystem for organisations to try out their models, find solutions and prototype their models. What is unique is that it is located in rural Karnataka.

Of course we didn’t spend all day indoors at the conference! We got a chance to visit several NGOs in the area in person while we there, and came back moved by the work they do. The following are some images and insights from our visit.

Karnataka is plagued by bore wells, which depletes the water table of a farm area very quickly. As soon as a well runs dry, farmers build new ones, causing damage to the land. Sankalpa Rural Development Society has found a way to build borewells in rural areas at less than 50% of the market cost. Through their technology, they also recharge existing wells at a very low cost. We met a farmer who experienced a three time increase in productivity after adopting Sankalpa's technology.
Karnataka is plagued by bore wells, which depletes the water table of a farm area very quickly. As soon as a well runs dry, farmers build new ones, causing damage to the land. Sankalpa Rural Development Society has found a way to build borewells in rural areas at less than 50% of the market cost. Through their technology, they also recharge existing wells at a very low cost. We met a farmer who experienced a three time increase in productivity after adopting Sankalpa’s technology.
Our next stop was at Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled. Samarthanam was set up to provide young adults with visual or hearing impairments with livelihood skills. The students exhibited a lot of confidence, and were keen to take photographs with us. Some of them put up an entertaining programme which everyone enjoyed.
Our first stop was at Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled. Samarthanam was set up to provide young adults with visual or hearing impairments with livelihood skills. The students exhibited a lot of confidence, and were keen to take photographs with us. Some of them put up an entertaining programme which everyone enjoyed.
Next up was the Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyala provides a musical and academic education to more than 200 underprivileged students in Karnataka. Their motto is to create a school with environment friendly products only. If in the future, Kalkeri needs to shut down, all material used in setting up the school will get absorbed back into the forest.
Next up was the Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyala provides a musical and academic education to more than 200 underprivileged students in Karnataka. Their motto is to create a school with environment friendly products only. If in the future, Kalkeri needs to shut down, all material used in setting up the school will get absorbed back into the forest.
Kalkeri is located in the Dharwad district of Karnataka. The area faces regular power cuts, but this does not dampen the enthusiasm of teachers or students, who are always keen to practice and perform. Students are taught traditional Indian instruments like the sitar, tabla and bansuri and also trained in dance forms like Bharatnatyam.
Kalkeri is located in the Dharwad district of Karnataka. The area faces regular power cuts, but this does not dampen the enthusiasm of teachers or students, who are always keen to practice and perform.
The last organisation we visited was the Akshaya Patra Foundation. Akshaya Patra feeds thousands of school children a freshly prepared lunch every day. The silo you can see in the picture is used for storing 100 metric tonnes of grain. The staff maintains high standards of hygiene while cooking, and all their operations are run with great attention to detail. We had to take our shoes off outside, and were given slippers to wear as we observed their operations. Like the staff, we were also made to wear caps to ensure that nothing fell into the food being prepared.
The last organisation we visited was the Akshaya Patra Foundation. Akshaya Patra feeds thousands of school children a freshly prepared lunch every day. The silo you can see in the picture is used for storing 100 metric tonnes of grain. The staff maintains high standards of hygiene while cooking, and all their operations are run with great attention to detail. We had to take our shoes off outside, and were given slippers to wear as we observed their operations. Like the staff, we were also made to wear caps to ensure that nothing fell into the food being prepared.
Hundreds of kilos of vegetables are carefully inspected, washed, purified with chlorinated water and rewashed before being stored in a world-class cold storage facility. On the day we visited, we watched brinjals and pumpkins being mixed into the sambhar being made for the day. Steaming rice was fed into large containers, transported on wheels and then packed.
Hundreds of kilos of vegetables are carefully inspected, washed, purified with chlorinated water and rewashed before being stored in a world-class cold storage facility. On the day we visited, we watched brinjals and pumpkins being mixed into the sambhar being made for the day. Steaming rice was fed into large containers, transported on wheels and then packed.