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Quarter 4 | March 2014


Lighting Lives How can we co-create better economic solutions for those at the BoP?


Contents Shared Services For Social Enterprises


Siddharth Dixit

Technology For Sustainability


Svati Bhogle

Change in Crisis


Vikram Parchure

Fighting Poverty With Finance


Meera Vijayann

Creating Wealth Through Waste


Biplab Paul

Together, We Can


Ashoka Arab World

The Right Solutions


Jack Sim

Towards a Better Future


Hasina Kharbhih

Reconnecting The Dots


Ashoka Belgium

Assesing Impact Collectively


Ashoka Globalizer

A Fine Balance


Sarra Latif

Empathy in Shared Spaces


Sunish Jauhari

The Story Of Boond


Marianne Heinisch

Editorial VISHNU SWAMINATHAN & MEERA VIJAYANN Contributors VIKRAM PARCHURE, SVATI BHOGLE, SUNISH JAUHARI, MEERA VIJAYANN, SIDDHARTH DIXIT, JACK SIM, CAROLINE BETTAN, BIPLAB PAUL, HASINA KARBHIH, MARIENNE HEINISCH, SARRA LATIF, MICHAEL VOLLMAN, NADINE FREEMAN, SARAH-MARIE HOPF. We also extend a note of thanks to the staff at Ashoka Pakistan, Ashoka Belgium, Ashoka Design SAMYAK JAIN & MANJARI SHEEL Talk to us Website Address 54, 1st Cross, Domlur Layout Bangalore 560071 India Telephone 080-4274-5777 Disclaimer The views and comments mentioned in the articles of fellowconnect are that of the respective authors and do not reflect the position of ashoka on these issues. Cover Photo Courtesy: Financial Times/Prabhjot Gill



It is now the time to move beyond silos and look at the ecosystem in new light

Dear Fellows, The time has come to take social innovations global. When problems outnumber solutions, we need to look at taking existing solutions to a new level. We are all observing unprecedented changes to our environment. We are seeing social unrest, rejection of authority, corruption and in general, a move towards changemaking. Everyone must cause change and scale it. Ashoka India is hosting the Globalizer; a celebration of a few of our leading social entrepreneurs and the ideas that have taken them global. All of the fellows who will come together are working on economic inclusion as their key focus and you will see topics focusing on various challenges at the BoP spread across this issue. This event is a culmination of months of tireless work with fellows from over 10 countries coming together and discussing how they can scale their ideas. It is now the time to move beyond silos and look at the ecosystem in new light to address issues collectively. We will meet in Chennai between February 28th and March 2nd to deliberate on these ideas and come out with stronger solutions. This issue celebrates the Globalizer. As a continued effort to involve more countries, we are happy to feature stories of our Fellows who are doing excellent work in the MENA region, Europe and Pakistan. In addition to this, we also have articles from several Fellows such as Svati Bhogle, Jack Sim, Paul Basil and Jordan Kassalow who are participating at the Globalizer.

In the last quarter, we welcomed 22 new fellows into the Ashoka India family. At the formal induction in Mumbai, we hosted the Future Forum Roundtables, a series of short, topic-based discussions between Fellows and thought leaders. We hope to see the Future Forum Roundtables evolve and bring together more people in the sector across India, and hope this will lead us to the big next Ashoka Future Forum. We had an amazing evening of discussions that focused on several sectors; agriculture, education, financial services, environment and health. We sincerely believe and hope that moving away from the focus on individual ideas and solo growth will propel us to go to the next stage. When we move away from being focussed on ourselves, we can do good not just to the ecosystem and for each other but just for ourselves. Broadening our vision helps us scale and take our individual innovations to a larger number of people and connect them to solutions. When it comes to social innovations, borders should not matter. We look forward to taking your solutions to the many people around us.We hope to share your ideas, help you connect and make this world a better place. In Inspiration Vishnu Swaminathan​


It is important to note that while a SSC can provide much needed impetus to the social enterprises and help them in expanding their operations, the success of SSC models depend a lot on various factors


Why is it crucial for social enterprises to adopt new practices? By SIDDHARTH DIXIT

Like any start up, young social enterprises face the lack of expertise in managing business support functions; limited resources and the inability to attract and retain talent. This limits the ability of social enterprises to scale their operations and impact. Ashoka partnered with a leading consultancy company to better understand operational challenges faced by social enterprises to explore possible solutions particularly for enterprises in the agriculture sector. Our effort focussed on seven organizations working in the agriculture sector: Covenant Centre for Development (CCD), ekGaon, eKutir, Farms and Farmers, Kaushalya Foundation, Mushroom Development Foundation (MDF), and Sambandh. While all the organizations work in the agriculture sector, each one of them have different business focus areas. For example, Kaushalya Foundation is engaged in sourcing farm produce and direct retail to end customers, eKutir provides inputs and ICT-based advisory services through micro-enterprises, and CCD organizes farmer groups and aggregates agricultural produce for primary processing and sale to large food processors. The varied focus areas and operational challenges of social enterprises make it difficult to formulate a common Photo Courtesy: The Telegraph

solution for all agri-social enterprises. However, the team identified few areas such as HR, legal expertise and IT that were common challenges across the organizations. We also identified some areas that require specialized expertise which were not common. For eg. Technical experts were sought by ekGaon and MDF. Therefore, we segregated their different functions/requirements into the following categories: 1. Transaction based functions: Operations, IT, HR and accounting, which have a standardized process require less interaction with the end customer 2. Expertise based functions: Functions that required specific expertise like legal services, technical experts, market assessment, supply chain, sales and business development were skills-based. 3. Strategy functions: Strategy development, strategic planning and assurance (monitoring), that required business acumen and understanding the market context were grouped in strategy based functions. For each category of functions, different solutions were evaluated and recommended. For transaction-based functions, establishing a centralized and dedicated shared service centre (SSC) would be most appropriate. However, this requires social enterprises to standardize their processes within their own operations and across organizations. This can be challenging for enterprises that have not yet achieved stable operations and processes. However, once standardized, the processes can be handled more efficiently and at lower cost through a shared service centre. For expertise-based functions that require a marketing skill such as sales and business development, the consultants proposed a spoke model with a centralized, localized hub. In this model, a central hub is aided by on-field execution by the staff of these social enterprises. However, it is advised to have a clear segregation of customers to avoid conflict of interest among social enterprises.

For strategy functions a centralized SSC is recommended, which will be aided by on-field executives from the fellows’ organization, for implementation. However, a partnership with professional consultancy firms is advisable in order to ensure quality of resources and functions that are critical to organization’s performance. It is important to note that while a SSC can provide much needed impetus to the social enterprises and help them in expanding their operations, the success of SSC models depend a lot on the following factors: 1. Clarity on role and responsibilities of SSC 2. Clear division of work between SSC and social enterprises 3. Standardization of processes across different organizations, especially for transaction based services 4. Involvement of leaders in providing direction and vision to strategic functions such as strategic planning, finding business partners etc. 5. Effective implementation of strategy by social enterprises 6. Timely decision making by the involved organization for activity kick-off 7. Constant program review and monitoring by promoters and other stake holders The consulting company prepared a budget and evaluated the feasibility of setting up such a centre. Its analysis showed that the shared services model works best if at least 20 organizations uses its services. To achieve this, non-agri social enterprises can also be included.

Siddharth Dixit is an engineer and a Young India fellow. He works with the Rural Innovation and Farming team at Ashoka India.


Sustaintech: How can we leverage innovative solutions? By SVATI BHOGLE

Photo courtesy: Cartier Women’s Initiative

How can those at the BoP truly benefit from innovation?

Ashoka Fellow Svati Bhogle discusses the potential for marketdriven interventions that could create high social, economic and environmental impact.

Fast economic growth and an increasing population make India a significant consumer of energy resources. Geographically, India accounts for 2.4% of the world’s total surface area, but supports and sustains 16.7% of the world’s population. About 65% of India is drought prone, 12% flood prone and 8% susceptible to cyclones. Land degradation has affected at least a third of the geographical area of India. 41% of India’s forests are degraded with very low levels of productivity. This combination of a fast-growing population, rapid urbanization, growing economy and dwindling natural resources makes India a fascinating space for social entrepreneurs and others who watch them. India’s biomass resource base is comparable to its fossil fuel reserve and offers the additional benefit of being a potential renewable energy source. The fact that there were hardly any systematic efforts made in using biomass for productive purposes was


both an opportunity and a challenge. At Sustaintech, we sensed the potential for a market-driven intervention that could create high social and economic impact, besides the obvious environmental impact, in the efficient use of biomass. This would also consequently help arrest deforestation. We chose to work in our own area of competence, the biomass cookstove because there was a visible revenue model there. With the technical assistance of TIDE, its knowledge support partner, Sustaintech launched an enterprise to develop market mechanisms for the commercialization of its PYRO range of cookstoves. With a fuel saving potential of 40% over conventional stoves (the stove can be used for about 8-10 hours every day for 300 days in a year) the potential impact of each stove was very high. It helps in saving about US $1-2 every day on fuel costs with the pay back period of less than one year. The cost of each stoves is around $ 200 -300).

Photos courtesy: The Alternative, Outlook India.

Sustaintech is an innovation-based company. The stoves were developed after a carefully conducted need assessment among consumers. Standardized stove designs were developed for specific cooking applications. For example, we designed different stoves for cooking; on a flat plate, in a frying pan or a saucepan, for making tea or coffee and for using loose biomass as fuel. The adoption of a PYRO stove would not only improve the livelihoods of street food vendors but also offer a safe and healthy work environment for cooks, protecting them from adverse health challenges and improving their productive life span. Sustaintech obtained investments and started commercial operations in April 2011. Since then, it has sold about 1,900 PYRO stoves valuing $ 550,000. These stoves are available in most parts of Tamil Nadu and coastal Karnataka. According to our impact measurements, 24,230 tons of firewood valuing more $1 million were saved, 36,346 tons of CO2 were abated, and the improved air quality increased the productive lifespan for at least 4000 people. The potential for scaling Sustaintech is large. South India alone has 800,000 low-end commercial kitchens and tea stalls in operation. The potential for improving livelihoods, increasing savings through reduced firewood consumption, and reducing air pollution are enormous. Per year, a full-efficient stove can avert 5 to 15 tons of CO2 emissions, depending on the type of stove used. The reduction in the

consumption of firewood is equally significant assuming that one hectare of forest yields 10 tons of firewood. In order to scale its enterprise, Sustaintech has identified key challenges in stove production, expansion of sales channels, and building organizational capacity. We have outsourced production and are looking to expand its consumer financing linkages. We are now planning to slowly transition to a dealership model for scaling in our current locations. The organisation has had a very interesting journey so far. It is, perhaps, for the first time that the street food segment has been offered a fuel-efficient technology. This segment works long hours and do not even have the time to go to banks as leaving the shop even for a short while means loss of business. We have so far overcome many challenges in reaching them selling to them fuel efficient stoves, developing a manufacturing and quality assurance network, and being continuously engaged with them. When one obstacle is overcome a few more present themselves. So just when the answers are being discovered, the questions are changing. But this is just the beginning. With about 2000 satisfied users of stoves as our goodwill ambassadors, a wide variety of street foods, at least one stove user for about 1500 people on an average, and in a country with a population of 1.2 billion we have just scratched the surface and that too only in India. We look forward to exciting times ahead.

The adoption of a PYRO stove would not only improve the livelihoods of street food vendors but also offer a safe and healthy work environment for cooks

Ashoka Fellow Svati Bhogle is a sustainability technology expert and the Founder of Sustaintech, an organization devoted to promoting sustainable development through technological interventions


Photos courtesy: Vikram Parchure

Some thirty five odd years down memory lane as social entrepreneur, when writing this note at the behest of Ashoka to pen my learning from these years, I am asking myself if there is something central and vital that I wish to share. Yes, there is.



What value is a changemaker’s persistent effort to solve problems? Ashoka Fellow Vikram Parchure discusses his journey to find the solution.

For this, I would prefer to only minimally refer to my narrative of achievements in the field of public service, if only for the purpose of illustrating a point. The focus would instead be on what these have taught me about the state of this world which I so zealously and passionately sought to change. I was trained in Architecture and Design from a prestigious institution that assured a good placement in the high end of industry. Instead, I found my heart set elsewhere, and am glad to have made this choice. I decided to use to fullest effect the axioms of good design in the cause of making serious contribution to the pathetic state of the nation’s education system, and in catalyzing social change in what appears as an unshakeable feudal structure that has legitimized opportunism and exploitation. Admittedly, ‘making our world a better place’ was my clichéd motto, as it is with most changemakers. So I battled with causes that are so pervasive for anyone living in India: hunger and malnourishment, penury and illiteracy, social inequity and deprivation. Some thirty five years of toil in the field took me through very valuable experiences: designing learners’ aids for the Non-formal Education and the


National Adult Literacy Programme; working with bonded farm labour in Madhya Pradesh; reviving traditional skills among potters of southern and central India; introducing wage-earning skills among the women of Dalit and Muslim communities, and so on … Years later, again, as with most change-makers, I can certainly claim to have made considerable contribution to making the world a slightly better place than it was ever before. Why only ‘slightly’? Because, it was dawning on me that the problems I was trying to lock horns with, were not only pervasive and persistent across the country and the world, but also that they had a quality of reappearing in new guises to bedevil us. Changemakers before me, and those who came after, have kept the battle alive against some of the most stubborn and persistent social evils human history has known. However, with due respect for changemakers’ passionate dedication, I observe with alarm that the sum total of all their achievements put together has not produced even as much as a dent in the direction the world at large is moving! In this age of the ‘information revolution’ there is enough available in the public domain to show that our world is in great peril. Mysteriously, humankind continues to deliberately live in active denial of this fact. In this scenario I ask myself, of what value are the changemakers’ incremental efforts at problem solving, when what is required is a crisis management mode to avert a certain catastrophe?

Photos courtesy: Vikram Parchure

Crisis management first requires recognition of the crisis in its guises. It then requires the comprehension of what brought it on. Further, it requires the changemakers to be equipped with an arsenal that is potent enough to deal with the nature of the crisis. So in a world that long thinks the crisis lies ‘out there’, science and technology has been brought in to subdue the crisis with all its might. Hunger? So we brought in the food revolution. Natural calamities? So we brought in hi-tech means of forecast and crisis management to minimize damage. Did we require skilled industrial and business world labour? And mass education was brought in to educate and equip the masses for skilled employment. Warring nations? The United Nations was created to act as ombudsman and counselor. A security threat from extremists? And security checks became mandatory at every entrance and exit. Watch the pattern here. No problem has been adequately dealt with. Instead, it reappears and grows into insurmountable proportions. In our efforts to make the world a just, equitable and secure place for all, it has become a frighteningly dangerous, unreliable and insecure place. This warrants every serious and well-intending changemaker to ask if he is dealing with his challenges at an adequate depth. Put differently, where does the root of the problem really lie? Is it in the many outer manifestations that we so busy ourselves battling with? Or is it on the inside; in the recesses of our minds where our drives spring

from: where desires hunger for satiation, fear demands retribution, insecurity seeks reliability, competition spurs animosity and aggression? Seen this way, the world is an honest reflection of the activity within the human mind. Could this be where problems really have their roots? And would it not be that, it is here that problems can be understood and dealt with in a truly adequate and thorough manner? My interest in this question brought me to the works of J Krishnamurti, a speaker and writer, who I feel has best articulated this dilemma humanity is confounded with. The outcome of this interest was the desire to share his insights into the human condition with any and every one who was interested to know. I recently designed a flexible display titled ‘J Krishnamurti & A World in Crisis’, which is available at There has been a lot of public interest aroused through this display, and it has been translated in 7 Indian and 9 major world languages. I conclude with one of the key ideas shared in this is:

Crisis management first requires recognition of the crisis in its guises. It then requires the comprehension of what brought it on.

“In bringing about a radical change in the human being, in you, you are naturally bringing about a radical change in the structure and nature of society. It must begin not outwardly, but inwardly.” I am hopeful that earnest changemakers will make time to explore this. Ashoka Fellow Vikram Parchure explores design as an instrument of social change and value education.


How Can Financial Management Help Lift Indian Street Children Out Of Poverty? In Conversation with Ashoka Fellow RITA PANICKER

Photo courtesy: Child Hope UK

Photo courtesy: Save The Children

Meera Vijayann manages communications for Ashoka India and writes extensively on social enterprises, gender and culture.


If you have watched Danny Boyle’s award-winning “Slumdog Millionaire,” you probably think you have an idea of how life is for millions of poor children on India’s streets. The truth lies in-between; street children are victims of serious crimes, but there have been several initiatives in recent years to empower them. While there is no recorded official statistic of street children in India, international agencies have estimated that more than 11 million children live on India’s streets—most of them confined to the country’s expanding metros. But Ashoka Fellow Rita Panicker has been instrumental in re-defining their destinies by giving these children an opportunity that others have long overlooked—access to financial security—through her organization, Butterflies. We chatted with Panicker about the philosophy behind Butterflies and her plans for the future. Street children face serious social problems, health problems, malnutrition, and lack of opportunity, but you chose to work on empowering them through financial literacy. Why did you decide to do this, over all the other alternatives for intervention that you could have chosen? My engagement with children living on the streets began when I was teaching at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai way back in 1984. We observed that children earned money or got pocket money from their parents, but at the end of the day they spent it all. They just didn’t know how to use it. They also did not have a place to keep it safe. That’s how the idea of starting a children’s saving scheme struck us. This way, they could save their money with us. We chose to work with financial literacy because we realized that for street children, basic food and clothing was available for them. It was more important to help them make economic decisions with the money they were earning so they could access all their needs better. It was important to me to make sure children were not becoming slaves of consumerism but to instill these values into their day-today living.

The Children’s Development Khazana is a life skills education program that was instituted by Butterflies, which teaches children democratic values, financial management (not just literacy), skills training, and entrepreneurship. Older members are supported to get skills training that would help them land a job or become entrepreneurs. There are significant numbers of a dolescents who have taken advances to continue higher studies and have the capital to start life and to businesses. Supporting adolescent members to have a career plan is very important. CDK gives them the security to think of a future where they can be selfreliant. To put it simply, CDK is a lifeline for them.

It was important to me to make sure children were not becoming slaves of consumerism but to instill financial values into their dayto-day living.

fc | INTERVIEW You have worked with so many children through Butterflies. Could you share one story that has touched you deeply? Bishwanath, originally from Kabilasi village in Nepal, was a young child when he was introduced to our group. He used to stay very close to Nizamuddin Railway Station and sell coconuts and groundnuts there. After a few days, one of our educators from Butterflies met him and invited him to join our program. He did not trust our educator in the beginning, but when he observed that quite a number of children used to congregate at one place at the railway station and that the educator taught them, played with them, and read stories to them, he gained trust. Through Butterflies, we motivated him and helped him enroll for his class 12 under the National Institute of Open Schooling. We encouraged him and supported him to do full-time studies beginning in January 2009. He cleared the entrance exam and is now doing his apprenticeship with a chartered accountancy firm. He will become a qualified chartered accountant in two years’ time. His story is deeply inspiring to other children and to us as well.

Are there specific challenges that you have faced in making your model a reality?

How can your model be replicated in other countries? Tell me a bit about the scale aspect of Butterflies.

In the beginning, there were quite a few “doubting Thomases”. Most adults thought children are not capable of handling money or making responsible decisions. Therefore, it was a challenge to convince adults to allow children to manage CDK and not to make decisions for them or overrule their decisions. There were complaints in the beginning from children that the adults interfered and were not allowing them to function, especially when it came to giving advances to their members. Adults were worried that some member would take an advance and disappear; but children had their checks and balances. The advance committee had younger children as members who are not eligible to take advances. Furthermore, they knew their members well enough to know who are stable, reliable, and responsible.

Today, we have the Children’s Development Khazana in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, and Ghana; there are 132 branches, which so far have saved more than 6 million Indian rupees. More than 400 advances have been given to older adolescents so far. I would like to work with the Reserve Bank of India to see how we can support an initiative such as this to reach out to more children where children can experience budgeting, saving, and accounting and learn collective responsibility.

This article was originally published in the Ashoka section of Forbes.




Millions of people in India are driven to poverty as they lack the skills to take part in the formal economy. Ashoka Fellow Biplab Paul is now changing the game using an inclusive economic approach that benefits all.

In the last two decades, a steady inflow of people has led to a high population growth in urban cities in India. Due to the absence of any marketable skills or knowledge, this colossal mass is devoid of any benefits from the formal economy of the state. The picture is more or less same for all the cities in developing countries across Asia, Africa and South America. Owing to limited livelihood opportunities, a good portion of this population sits below the poverty line and is pushed to take up odd jobs – one of these options is waste picking. In 1988, the World Bank estimated that 1–2% of the global population survives on waste picking [Bartone, C (January 1988)],whereas a 2010 estimate put forth that India alone has more than 1.5 million waste pickers [Chaturvedi, Bharati (2010)]. This suggests that our country has more than 6 million poverty-stricken souls. Today, more than 30000 urban rag pickers in Ahmedabad put in their effort to keep the city dry-waste free. These roadside rag pickers sell the dry waste they collect to informal waste buyers within the city. In this process, after one full days’ work each waste picker can earn a maximum US $ 1/day when the actual amount they are supposed to receive is more than $ 2-3/day. Multiple facets of this acute poverty are manifested within issues that rise such as high malnutrition, chronic health

Poverty Challenges of waste pickers Daily family income < USD 1

Health Issues Malnutrition, Hygiene

Social Issues Addiction

100% Indebtedness

Severe financial opression


problems, dishonour of rights, endemic addiction and most importantly, severe economic oppression. The causes of these deplorable situations are multiple and in many cases, interlinked. For example, they also have limited livelihood options because of their lack of skills and subject knowledge so waste buyers often exploit them. There are several ways that these waste pickers face economic discrimination by existing informal “waste buyers.” Cheating in weighing – Here, the ‘waste buyer’ uses ‘managed’ weighing machines so that the weighing machine shows a lower weight than usual. This reduces the selling quantity’s weight by at least 20-25%. Cheating in Pricing - Generally a waste picker’s bag contains more than 13 types of plastic with sale prices varying from $0.06 per kg to $1/kg. When buying, the ‘waste buyer’ buys all plastic in the bag at the lowest price item. This affects the waste picker’s income drastically. Cheating in Pricing Calculation Since a majority of waste pickers are illiterate, it is very difficult for them to understand financial calculations. During a sale, the waste buyer buys 100 kg of mixed plastic at the lowest declared price.

Photo courtesy: Where is Development

How does our system work? On the first day, a tele-call is made by the waste pickers on our dedicated call centre number: 079-40050400. During the call, the waste picker tells us his or her name and the location of their work. They also tell us an approximate figure of the waste quantity and types of waste they have collected. Our system locates them from our waste pickers’ databank. Depending upon her waste quantity and waste type she will be given appointment based upon vehicle route in that direction on next day. On the second day, the designated vehicle will reach the waste picker’s place at the scheduled time. The vehicle is GPSenabled and the supervisor of the vehicle is given the office smart phone, which is preloaded with the software as well as linked with the appointment against the name of the waste picker. The supervisor needs to register into the appointment system against the waste pickers’ name. It is only after this that the waste picker’s specific appointment is accepted. Hence, the supervisor cannot cheat the waste picker as he cannot buy waste without the software. If he buys waste without the software, then he will not be able to pay the waste pickers as the payment system is also linked with the registration process. Once the waste picker’s appointment is accepted then our supervisor can go inside the system and the transaction can be started. At that point our executive and the waste picker will make his bags in queue based upon the materials he or she has collected.

Oppressive loan disbursement – Since waste pickers are extremely poor with negative credit worthiness, they live hand to mouth and need cash everyday for survival. Waste buyers often take advantage of this vulnerability. The loan is extended to waste pickers only if their daily waste collection is given as a collateral to the waste buyer. Exorbitant Loan process and debt trap - The rate of interest for loans to rag pickers vary from 35-100% per annum. In all probability, waste buyers are not keen to allow rag pickers to settle the loan. The loan actually enables waste buyers to avail the waste from rag pickers free of cost. Creating vested interest nexus to oppress the BOP- Since waste pickers don’t have legitimate documentary proof of citizenship and housing status, they often get victimized by vested inPhoto courtesy: Conserve Delhi

terest groups in the form of housing facility luring, electricity connection etc. Through Lets Recycle, we endeavoured to find a solution to these pressing challenges faced by waste pickers. Through a financially inclusive model, we charted a business plan based development approach. Currently, we have in-house ICT system where we have created a transparent waste collection process. The primary use of the software is to monitor waste collection from the BOP i.e. in priced waste where our team saves rag pickers from being cheated in pricing, weighing and price calculation. This focused training component in the software enables them to understand the value of waste, its segregation value and how they can maximize their income within a limited time through minimum effort.

Ashoka Fellow Biplab Paul founded Bhungroo Vikas Private Limited to help find solutions towards cost-effective and affordable innovations for water scarcity in India.

Photo courtesy: Salsa Labs


Together, We Can By ASHOKA ARAB WORLD STAFF Sameh Seif works with both men and women in villages and rural areas in Egypt to build and maintain sewage systems that are appropriate for household size and income-level in villages. In a majority of villages in this region, sewage waste flows directly into simple holes in the ground without any means of preventing it from leaching into groundwater used for drinking and other household and agricultural needs. So his principle idea is to link community participation with sanitation design to produce a sustainable sewage system that local people can both understand and develop.

nect their household septic tanks to a communal filtering facility by gravity-fed pipes. This mini-sewage plant can be built and maintained with locally available materials and labour, thereby significantly reducing the cost. In comparison to governmentproposed sewage systems, it increases the likelihood that the community will develop a system that meets their needs. Sameh promotes these sewage systems to households in villages that are currently deprived of hygienic living conditions and will not likely be served by government programs in the next decade or two.

Keeping local communities in mind, he introduced a village-wide sewage system for smaller villages to con-

In addition, he invites local communities to actively engage and participate in planning the sanitation systems

implemented in their communities by introducing improved technology, after group discussions, to determine the villagersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; needs and preferences. Rural innovation and technology is the core of Samehâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s focus; he tested different models of stoves and furnaces, solar heaters, and simple sewage systems, drawing heavily upon the participation of local community leaders and members in the identification of their needs, the design of the solution and its implementation. He improved the traditional one chamber, stand-alone septic tank that serves one household by offering a more cost-effective dual chamber septic tank that can be constructed with locally available materials and labor.

Photo courtesy: Together Association

How can we build efficient systems in villages where facilities do not exist? Through his work at Together Association in Egypt, Ashoka Fellow Sameh Seif, throws light on solutions. 11 | FELLOWCONNECT APRIL 2014


His principle idea is to link community participation with sanitation design to produce a sustainable sewage system

This model does not require the costly, frequent pumping of traditional closed septic tanks because it is larger and has an internal filtering system for sewage water. It is appropriate where the groundwater table is at least six feet deep. It also has important environmental health advantages over traditional systems that often ignore water table depth and overflow, if not well-maintained. To date, all the models he has designed function well. Because of the villagers' outreach, Sameh is often invited to enter new communities. Depending on the size of the village, the current investment by households in stand-alone septic tanks, their needs and preferences, he outlines various ways people can address their sanitation needs and explains how environmental health can benefit them. After they have discussed their options and the process, a team of five is created and trained to implement the plan. This ensures the inclusion of the village people in developing their local sewage system model. Local communities raise funding for the project and every household contributes if they are connected to the system. By consulting with all community members, Sameh creates a sense of ownership and confidence within the community to undertake collective projects. For clusters of at least several dozen households, he primarily encourages the adoption of a village-wide sewage system. This is appropriate for a majority of Egypt's villages that are too small to be on the government's priority list. He explains how it can be designed to meet their specific needs and conditions, using pictures and drawings to show how to connect existing household septic tanks (if they have already invested in one) by installing gravity-fed pipes to a communal filtering facility. Larger villages can have one to four filtering facilities depending on the size and layout of the community.

Photo courtesy: Together Association

If they do not yet have a latrine inside the house with a septic tank, he works with the community team to train them on appropriate design. Sameh intends to create centers of excellence in the best villages with strong CDAs and continues to build a strong network of like-minded local groups. He encourages villagers to visit other villages and see the system in operation. He understands that consulting women in the household often tends to yield higher adoption rates, so he involves them along with other members of the community, such as unemployed youth, in training. Only recently, Sameh completed the last operational phase of his latest sanitation project in a new village in Fayoum to benefit 1,700 people. This project will be inaugurated in March 2014. Two Ashoka Fellows replicated his model in both Guatemala and Peru. He was also awarded the TAKREEM Environmental Development and Sustainability Award last November to recognize his successfully developed models and extensive work in many districts of Egypt.

Local communities raise funding for the project and every household contributes if they are connected to the system.

This article is a contribution from the staff at Ashoka Arab World.


The Right Solutions By JACK SIM

"Charity is not the solution. To get out of poverty you need an income. Philanthropy should focus on teaching a man to fish and not give him a fish."

Photos courtesy: World Toilet Organization

Forty percent of the world’s population own 95% of all wealth. The remaining 5% is spread among the rest. Global wealth distribution is obviously uneven. It is this other 60% of the global population – around four billion people – that make up the ‘Base of the Pyramid’, or ‘BoP’. For a long time, we have excluded this 60% of humanity from our formal economy. But companies are starting to discover that those at the BoP – who live in relative poverty – are actually the biggest socio-economic group of customers waiting to buy products and services affordable to them. In fact, they are one of the fastest growing market for cell phones and financing. A $6 trillion market Although their incomes are relatively low (less than US$3.35 a day in Brazil, $2.11 in China, $1.89 in Ghana, and $1.56 in India), their potential volume of consumption cumulatively adds up to substantial purchasing power.

To put a number to it, the BoP constitutes an estimated $6 trillion global consumer market today. The BoP needs everything from food, housing, water, sanitation, detergent and clothes to energy, home appliances, healthcare, transportation, information-communication technology, education, entertainment and financial services. It is certainly a market not to be ignored. Big Blue Ocean Marketplace If this market is so juicy, how could we have been neglected for so long? In reality, the gross profit margin in the BoP market is rather high. Due to the lack of suppliers, the market is dysfunctional and the poor pay a ‘poverty penalty’ for everything they buy. I recently interviewed an entrepreneur at a micro-finance meeting in Mexico. She borrowed US$1,000 at a whopping interest rate of 42% per annum. I asked her how she could make any profit with such high cost of


capital. She told me she collects orders for shoes from the village, buys them from the city and sells at double the price to her customers! In fact, the poor has always had to pay double the price paid by wealthier consumers because they have no access to supplies. This is the poverty penalty. While we get water free from the tap and subsidized sewage systems, the poor has to buy water by the can and build their own sanitation treatment system or suffer the indignity of open defecation. Lack of sanitation, hygiene, water and hand washing with soap also causes 2.5 million deaths from diseases each year. About 1.3 billion people live without electricity, 2.5 billion without proper sanitation, 2.7 billion are unbanked and 1 billion live in slums. These numbers are rapidly growing. This is why we need to create a vibrant and efficient marketplace to bring about a more equitable society for the BOP where true competition means lower prices and wider choices for the poor.


Photos courtesy: World Toilet Organization

Learning Curve The BoP has also recently attracted many impact investors. However, these investors are reporting that while money is not the problem, it is hard to find good projects to invest in. There is a lack of absorptive capacity in the BoP for funding. Strangely, because we are still at an early learning stage, many fancy ideas that got funded have turned out to be like the “Segway” (once touted as the future of transportation but turned out otherwise). Similarly, poor people simply cannot drink dirty water directly from a Lifestraw filter. The poor also prefer to buy simple $1 or $2 spectacles than spectacles that cost $15 per pair. The One Laptop per Child program has also proved too costly to roll out when commercial computer companies like Acer and HP can produce better models for cheaper. To be successful, we need to accelerate our learning curve of how to better serve the BoP. Designers are learning that products need to be designed with empathy for the poor; and that appropriate technology is more relevant than merely high technology. Fortunately, some blockbusters seems to be emerging from within the BoP itself. The Amul milk company in India; Drishtee’s rural distribution of fastmoving consumer goods; MPESA’s

mobile payment system in Africa; Patrimonio Hoy’s low cost housing in Mexico; Selco’s solar home system; Grameen Shakti in Bangladesh; SaniShop micro-franchising that trains local entrepreneurs to produce affordable simple on-site sanitation system, and BRAC, the biggest selfsustainable NGO in the world serving 35% of Bangladesh population. The list is growing. Yet, how did these companies succeed when Westerninitiated ideas have experienced either limited success or outright failure? Can we transform poverty into a vibrant marketplace? “Perhaps, in an ideal world, success might be better measured by how evenly wealth is distributed and enjoyed by all, instead of only by some. Perhaps, the new billionaire is someone who improves the lives of a billion people instead of merely hoarding a billion dollars.” Previously, I spoke about the massive ‘Base of the Pyramid’ market. This market consists of the four billion people who live in relative poverty, but whose combined purchasing power is estimated at US$6 trillion globally. The BoP is really the biggest socio-economic group of customers waiting to buy products and services affordable

to them. Within this commercial opportunity lies the real prospect of achieving greater economic equity for those who have historically been left out of our formal economy. The question how can businesses succeed in this market when so many others have tried and come up short? BoP 101 Many big companies made the mistake of thinking that if they made products in smaller packs or with less features, it would be cheaper and sell well in the BoP. But the scenario has not worked quite like that. To create consumption, you need a market with income and jobs. To create jobs, you need to invest in training local entrepreneurs whom you can invest in and involve them into your supply chain especially in distribution and franchising. A good market also needs to improve its logistics, road accessibility, good government policy and so on. So how can we accelerate the knowledge growth of this sector so that we can uplift entire industries to attract and absorb massive investments and growth in the BoP? I have two suggestions: go to the next dimension and the next level. continued overleaf


The way forward is a collaborative effort to integrate solutions within sectors and across sectors with an inclusive approach involving all stakeholders

investors, tech pioneers, government senior policy makers, political leaders, academia, non-governmental organisations, multinational corporations, small and medium enterprises, development banks and stakeholders from the United Nations.

Photo courtesy: World Toilet Organization

The Next Dimension: Aspiration Marketing

The Next Level: Cross-sector collaboration

Traditionally, the humanitarian sector views the poor as rational people who have little choice but to accept and appreciate whatever products and services are offered to them. This fails to recognize that the poor also have feelings and aspirations. People are people, and marketing to the poor is no different than marketing branded goods to the rich and middle-class. When they watch TV, they do know what they are missing and hope to have them too.

While NGOs started with a mission to save lives, they often end up seeing their peers as competitors. This sad state of affair is often caused by competition in fund-raising, egocentricity, and an exclusive mind-set. Social entrepreneurs who set out to create sustainable business models seldom reached self-sustainability because of the lack of scale in their operations. They face many constraints in funding, experience, talent pool, technological capacity and other resources.

We buy emotionally and justify it rationally. Therefore, we should sell emotions like love, social status, ego, fear, filial piety, sexiness (including aesthetic appeal), social acceptance, jealousy, fear, angst, individualism, community respect, better future of children and other perceptions. But provide the rational justification for the purchase in terms of functionality, convenience, health, hygiene, time-saving, space saving, altruism, and so on.

The way forward is a collaborative effort to integrate solutions within sectors and across sectors with an inclusive approach involving all stakeholders: corporations, technologists, designers, policy makers, investors, philanthropists, academia, and all in citizen sector.

For example, the World Toilet Organisation has been effective in promoting toilets to villagers as a status symbol while giving them the rationale of hygiene in using proper toilets instead of open defecation.

BoP World Convention 2014 To bring the whole BoP industry -together, the BoP World Convention will be held on 28-30 August 2014. This annual trade fair and convention will create efficient supply and demand at an industrial scale. The meeting will match social entrepreneurs with vendors, funders, philanthropists, impact


As everyone will compete to serve the poor as customers, we will create a more vibrant marketplace to deliver goods and services cheaper, faster, better and easier. The BoP World Design Center To facilitate the BoP HUB in its production and implementation process, a BoP World Design Center is now coming up in Singapore. Its role is to integrate the entire supply chain of the whole BoP Marketplace, help build whole new industry, complete with its ecosystem. This major global collaborative platform will deliver products and services that are affordable, acceptable and accessible engaging the poor as part of the supply chain. This will involve distribution channels, manufacturing and servicing so that jobs and income are created and their quality of life improves due to the market vibrancy created by the social entrepreneurs, companies, investors, technologists and policy makers. The convergence of both economic and social objectives will bring solutions that are replicable, scalable, self-sustainable after the capacity building is done.

What if we succeed? Finally, it is good to be circumspect about the future so that we can avoid repeating old mistakes. We need to begin by appreciating the meaning of the most ignored word in capitalism: “enough”. Happy is he who understands the true meaning of "enough" as frees us from the vagaries of comparing ourselves with others. If we ponder for a moment that when three billion people (who own 95% of all wealth as participants in the ‘formal economy’) can pollute the Earth and deplete its resources so badly, what would happen if we bring the other four billion people (the BoP) out of poverty to join them? Can the planet withstand the abuse by all its seven billion people? Certainly not. That is why we have to seize this opportunity to redefine the meaning of success in human and environmental context. Marketing simplicity and frugality as the new norm. If a more equitable world is our goal, we should also market simplicity and frugality as the new norm. The root cause of human discontent is comparison. When one is focused on oneself, his individualism promotes selfishness and this forms the basis of capitalism. With so many young people unemployed today and the general public disillusioned with the status quo, the opportunity to transform the BoP into a vibrant marketplace is an idea whose time has come. In the future, the idea of a balanced lifestyle will have to become a social norm. It is then that we will find the spiritual centre between self, society and environment. Perhaps then, in this ideal world, success might be better measured by how evenly wealth is distributed and enjoyed by all, instead of only by some. Perhaps, the new billionaire will be someone who improves the lives of a billion people instead of merely hoarding a billion dollars.

Photo courtesy: World Toilet Organization

In the future, the idea of a balanced lifestyle will have to become a social norm. It is then that we will find the spiritual centre between self, society and environment. This article was written by Ashoka Fellow Jack Sim, Founder of the World Toilet Organisation. It was originally published in


Photo courtesy: Rithika Mittal



The pressing need for sustainable development has been the focus of environment and economic debate over the past decade. Through Impulse Social Enterprises (ISE) Ashoka Fellow Hasina Karbhih discusses best practices towards achieving maximum economic impact.

For the last twenty years, the word “sustainable development (SD)” has been the buzzword amongst environmentalists, politicians and economists in the media. It has been widely used in speeches on environmental issues whenever needed. Most of us have come across the word sustainable development in our day to day life, but the question is what does it really mean and how does it effect us?

Commission on Environment and Development, presented in 1987, which states that sustainable development is “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Sustainability is a dynamic concept born out of the environmental debate of the last quarter century. There is growing concern nationally and internationally about bio-diversity and protection of plants and animals and community based activity.

Impulse Social Enterprises (ISE) is a business that aims to drive transformational change. Since its initial roll out stage, it constantly seeks to achieve social and economic progress in ways that will not exhaust the earth’s finite natural resources. Impulse Social Enterprises is working towards sustainable development by working in collaboration with communities and social organizations and by encour-

To have a better understanding of the concept “sustainable development”, I have refer to the definition by the World

Impulse Social towards SD




aging sustainable and responsible buying by customers. The aim is to empower them to take action for themselves and to encourage them to continue taking control of their own economic fate. Impulse Social Enterprises facilitates this development, linking the direct cooperation between businesses and local communities, creating a sustainable creative environment where monitoring and support for economic development will be offered by the social business. For artisan communities, it means something as simple and necessary as a livelihood. A part of the profits will be reinvested in communities and will benefit populations at risk. For social enterprises, it means a sustainable business model. Direct conflict and problem resolutions become as basic as production and sale.

The aim is to empower people to take action for themselves and to encourage them to take control of their own economic fate.

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

Finally, it is a fact that in a globalized world, customers often find themselves wondering about the provenance of the goods they are buying. When unethical business practices affect the economic, social, and cultural well-being of communities are exposed, consumers cannot justify their desire or need for a product if it comes at such a high expense. Therefore, sustainable and fair-trade practices are now frequently a must for consumers. With ISE products, customers will be proudly informed of where and how their products are made and marketed. They will also be assured that communities that make these products receive a fair share of the profits. Each product sells with a story and is exclusively woven. The tag line is “Every two hands are not the same.” ISE develops products, services, distribution channels and access to markets for those in need of sustainable livelihoods, while investing in partnerships with other development organizations to advance broader social stability. While profits are generated, the aim is not to maximize financial returns for shareholders but to grow the social venture and reach out to more people in need effectively, thus bringing in a social quotient. In aiming to create a sustainable future, it is not ISE’s priority to accumulate wealth; profits are reinvested in the enterprises in order to fund expansion. Investors in the organization

are interested in combining financial and social returns on their investments. ISE connects artisans of North East India and their products to distributors and buyers across the globe – it facilitates these connections by using the internet marketplace and placing the products under one brand—‘Empower.’ Impulse Social Enterprises is designed to create livelihood options for people living in the rural areas of eight north-eastern states in India. It is looking for expand to Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar in the coming year. ISE not only caters to consumers but also to artisans who create the products. In short, it mobilizes artisans in villages to become independent entrepreneurs. Our team brings together professional designers and marketing expertise, and engages with local partner organizations that team together with artisans to create Empower - a product line that consists of various textile products. The designs respect the traditions of the artisans but modern elements are added to make the products suitable for the market. ISE is committed to buying all the products that meet the necessary quality requirements, paying the artisans by units they have manufactured. The more they produce, the more they earn. From Empower, the artisans receive access to international markets, fair wages and fair trade, the freedom and indepen-

dence of running their own business in the comfort of their own home. They can also undergo training to refine their skills, and access a sustainable livelihood that will allow them to support their families better. By eliminating the middleman that usually stands between the artisans and the market, Empower is changing lives, simply by utilizing the internet marketplace and eliminating bureaucracy through direct contact with communities of producers. The Empower line of woven products is modified into unique and stylish designs for the home. They include dining mats, four in one scarves, and stoles that may be purchased by the consumer. In addition to the tangible product, we allow our end users the opportunity to support important human rights causes; preventing unsafe migration that leads to human trafficking and encouraging fair-trade and fair wages for at-risk communities in North East India. Thus, not only do consumers support human rights, but they also receive something useful in return. Impulse Social Enterprises is not only committed to bringing about social and economic justice and growth, but also to create a sustainable income opportunities and a livelihood for artisans. This article is an edited version of an original piece by Wallambok Alexander Kharkongor, who worked with Impulse Social Enterprises.



Re-connecting the dots

Across Europe, nature reserves are being threatened by the sheer increase in population. Connecting thousands of citizens, Ashoka Fellow Ignace Schops has found a way to revive environmental preservation. Ignace Schops, Ashoka Fellow and creator of Belgium’s first National Park, is passionate about nature. He has always wanted to preserve the biodiversity that he loves so much. Schops realized quickly though, that, the best way to protect nature is not to work in isolation but to find a way to convince leading actors in the private sector and in the government that sustainability and biodiversity are in their interests too. With this aim, he created the (Re)connection Model.

“That is a win for local economies and a win for nature,” Ignace says. “By calculating the values, we provide proof that national heritage is an asset for economic development and improvement.”

The (Re)connection Model involves (Re)connecting nature with nature, (Re)connecting people with nature, (Re)connecting business with nature, and (Re)connecting policy with practice. This translates to a local development approach based on partnerships. Schops convinces business people to value nature and simultaneously demonstrates to conservationists that working with businesses can create economic and social value.

And the good thing is that the (Re) connection Model can be developed anywhere. Last July, Ignace was in Jeju Island, South Korea, where he trained students for the Global Institute for Islands and Island Nations on biodiversity and the (Re)connection Model they developed there. Now Jeju Island and the university want to take the next step and help them to develop the (Re)connection Model for the Island. They also want him to be a part of the process of developing the World Environmental University a concept by Maurice Strong, the first director-general of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme).

Schops’ first project using this model, Hoge Kempen National Park, demonstrates the power of this model. Companies with park-related businesses account for annual revenues of 191 million euros. Several audit reports show that companies and businesses based around the National Park depend on it for a percentage of their annual revenue. In fact, the Hoge Kempen National Park is responsible, directly or indirectly, for more than 5,000 jobs in the six municipalities that surround the park.

“The answer lies in what we call the ‘Ecosystem Services,’ where not only the cost of clean water and clean air is calculated but also the economic assets for the housing market near a national park and the creation of local jobs.”

For his work with the creation of the first National Park in Belgium, Schops won the 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize, better known as the Green Nobel Prize. Last year, he also became a member of the Climate Leadership Corps of Al Gore.


Photo courtesy: Les Haines

Ashoka Fellow Ignace Schops with Ashoka Founder and CEO, Bill Drayton Note : This article is a contribution by the staff of Ashoka Belgium




Social entrepreneurs with proven models for including low-income populations convene to refine their impact scaling strategies and collectively overcome ecosystem barriers.

Great business ideas go global to serve customers around the world. Great social innovations, however, too often remain local or national because market forces do not work as efficiently in low-income markets. Although many of the ideas and the entrepreneurs behind them have the potential for global spread, the inclusive business sector still lacks the processes, resources and mechanisms necessary for scaling impact successfully. The Ashoka Globalizer is working to help change this scenario. Founded in 2010, Globalizer capitalizes on Ashoka’s global reach, selection process and network of social and business entrepreneurs to connect “ready to globalize” innovations with the strategic and intellectual support they need to go global rapidly and efficiently. At the end of February 2014, a group of 20 international Ashoka Fellows will convene for the Economic Inclusion Globalizer Summit in Chennai, India.

During three days of structured interactions with business and impact sector thought leaders, they will share and synthesize knowledge and best practices around emerging scaling pathways, exchange practical advice to support each other’s endeavors, and distill their stories to share with the sector at large. In preparation for the summit, Fellows spent several months working to distill or “unbundle” the core elements of their theory of change and refine their strategies for scaling with support from teams of advisors from Ashoka and our business sector partners. Systems changing innovations for Economic Inclusion: Much has been written about the great treasure that lies within low-income markets: Four billion people living on less than $3,000 per year who collectively spend $5 trillion per year. By 2050, the world’s population is expected to increase by 3 billion, with

growth rates being highest in developing countries. This treasure, however, lies buried at great depth. In order to access it, entrepreneurs have to overcome significant systemic barriers such as low levels of education, inadequate infrastructure, and poorly designed and enforced regulations. Including low-income groups as pure consumers will not necessarily improve their livelihoods. This is why the most promising social entrepreneurship models go beyond increasing peoples’ access to critical goods, services, and financial markets. Rather, they also engage them in creating local value through stimulating economic opportunities. More than 500 of Ashoka’s 3,100 Fellows around the world work on solutions that engage low-income populations in economic value chains as contributors, producers, and micro-entrepreneurs. Here are three examples of successful models that several Ashoka Fellows are using: continued overleaf


Photo courtesy: Solar Sisters

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to increase by 3 billion, with growth rates being highest in developing countries. Creating employment and access to markets in remote areas through the set-up of locally owned last-mile distribution infrastructure: Katherine Lucey’s organization Solar Sister trains women in rural Uganda to become last-mile micro-franchise entrepreneurs who bridge the gap in the distribution of affordable, renewable energy products through peer-to-peer sales networks. Greg van Kirk’s Community Enterprise Solutions is delivering health-related goods and services to remote villages using a micro-consignment model in Central America.

Spurring economic opportunity through the support of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs): Through his organization Agora Partnerships, Ben Powell is equipping promising impact entrepreneurs with business knowledge and access to investment capital to run for-profit businesses that help address social problems and promote development in their communities. Paul Basil’s Villgro provides mentoring and funding to early stage innovation-based social enterprises, which positively impact the lives of India’s poor.

Empowering informal workers through lobbying and information: Arbind Singh’s organization NIDAN in India provides excluded informal workers with access to markets through large people-owned and managed institutions – large enough to influence policy and act as legitimate competitors in a globalizing marketplace. Ananya Raihan is ushering in an era of information-on-demand in the rural areas of Bangladesh by building a network of locally run kiosks that offer villagers access to everything from up-to-date market prices for their rice to health information and legal forms, all through a centralized, Bengalilanguage information clearinghouse.

In low-income environments structural barriers make coping with challenges even more difficult 21 | FELLOWCONNECT APRIL 2014

How to scale the impact of inclusive business models in low-income markets: Over the last decade, the notion of “scaling what works” has emerged as a broadly shared priority across the social sector. Still, the challenge of enabling powerful inclusive business innovations to spread to where they are most needed continues to frustrate social entrepreneurs and their supporters. Many failed attempts to scale economic inclusion initiatives are due to widespread overreliance on the conventional wisdom of the business sector, in which scaling efforts typically focus on increasing the size of organizations. In recent years, however, the social entrepreneurship sector has increasingly focused on scaling social impact without necessarily increasing the size of the organization. Indeed, Richard Bradach may have framed the current thinking best when he wrote that “finding ways to scale impact without scaling the size of an organization is the new frontier for work in our field.”(1) This emerging paradigm holds the promise of shaping strategies that succeed, thanks to the defining characteristics of the social sector. Leveraging the collaborative potential of mission-driven innovators while keeping organizational footprints— and attendant resource needs—to a

minimum are key. The Economic Inclusion Globalizer seeks to accelerate this paradigm shift in the field of economic inclusion. All businesses, whether standard or inclusive, face similar challenges when growing such as lack of access to appropriate financing mechanisms and qualified human capital, or the lack of a conducive regulatory environment. When operating in low-income environments, however, structural barriers make coping with these challenges even more difficult: Consumers are even harder to reach; support organizations, such as training providers, are not available; and the general business infrastructure is less developed. This is why the first day of the Globalizer summit focuses on the systemic barriers preventing economic inclusion initiatives from scaling their impact to meet their full demand. Ashoka’s social entrepreneurs will come together with leading minds from different sectors, industries, and markets to share their challenges, solutions, and new ideas for tackling these systemic barriers collectively. A special pool of funds will benefit the most outstanding solutions that emerge, thanks to GIZ and eBay Foundation, in partnership with Ashoka India and Ashoka Globalizer. The Globalizer Summit seeks to facilitate the creation of a strong economic inclusion ecosystem that truly allows economic opportunities to thrive where they are most needed.

The social entrepreneurship sector has increasingly focused on scaling social impact without necessarily increasing the size of the organization.

This article is a contribution by Michael Vollmann, Nadine Freeman and Sarah-Marie Hopf from the Ashoka Globalizer team towards The Globalizer on Economic Inclusion.


A Fine Balance By SARRA LATIF

How did one woman redefine the economic space for women in Pakistan? Sarra Latif documents the journey of Ashoka Fellow Sabiha Ghani

According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, only 14.3% of women in the country participate in the labour force. Lack of social and financial support, and restrictions imposed on access and mobility serve as major obstacles for women who want to pursue fulfilling careers. In this landscape, Sabiha Ghani has been a game changer who has redefined the economic space for women in her community. She has fostered initiative and independence by founding the Women Development Foundation Pakistan (WDFP), which supports hundreds of women in starting their own business ventures. A Path For Women from Home-Based Work to Entering the Formal Market

Sabihaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s journey as a social entrepreneur began in a school where she taught. She decided to supply uniforms to the students as a means to enhance equality and social cohesion. This was also a great opportunity to connect women who were home-based workers to the consumer market. Her business model was simple. She attained basic workspace and startup capital of $47, assigned the marketing role to a colleague, used word of mouth for referrals to her outlet, and mobilized home-based workers in her area. With a lot of determination, and only few resources, Sabiha was surprised by how well the venture took off. In no time she was able to recruit the women on permanent basis and her model was being replicated across the city includ-


ing women in the formal market in their community. Involving Men and Community Support is Key While Sabiha had achieved her first goal of creating a sustainable business model for supplying uniforms to schools by engaging the women who were home-based producers, she recognized that income generation alone would not empower women. The existing lack of support from their families and community was a major barrier to success. To address this issue, Sabiha introduced a novel approach where men would be included as equal partners in womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s development. She met with workersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; husbands and

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia


Changing Societal Norms by Engaging Culture and Tradition

Building Technical Skill-sets of Women Entrepreneurs Now that Sabiha had paved the path for women’s engagement in the formal marketplace, she knew that women had to be equipped for the challenges that came with it. For this purpose, WDFP conducted numerous workshops to provide marketing advice, skill development and financial assistance. Simultaneously, the network of women entrepreneurs were connected

She recognized that income generation alone would not empower women. Men had be included as equal partners in women’s development.

with service providers so that their personal needs such as legal aid, health, education and daycare services could be met. Finding and fitting together the pieces for overall wellbeing, the women were provided with the ideal conditions for their businesses to thrive. garnered their support by highlighting the value women entrepreneurs were adding not only to their households, but to the community. She persuaded men to participate in the businesses by filling roles that were oftentimes challenging for women, such as sales. Sabiha understood that direct involvement in the ventures would allow men to see and respect the technical expertise and business acumen of their wives. Over time, men began taking pride in their work and had increased trust and confidence in the women’s ability. This, in turn, allowed women higher decision-making power and more freedom to take their businesses to the public realm.

Sabiha has played a critical role in the social evolution of her community. For the first time, women are able to step out of their houses to implement their business ideas. Once they were exposed to the entrepreneurial world, there was no looking back. From boutiques to schools to banking, these women became the owners of their destiny. After the success of her work in Karachi, Sabiha has expanded the program to other parts of the country. WDFP has partnered with numerous individuals and organizations to provide skill development trainings and education on microenterprise to socially disadvantaged women. Furthermore, over 30 women are supported each year to start off their own business ventures.

This post was written by Sarra Latif, Fall 2013 Associate with the Ashoka Venture and Fellowship Team.

Currently, Sabiha is working on two projects; one aims to enhance access to education among young girls while the other aims to elevate their social status within marriages. The underlying premise is to challenge the conventional notion that women are economically unproductive and thus a financial burden on the household. Through education, Sabiha hopes that women will be better equipped to demand their economic rights. She also provides financial assistance for wedding ceremonies on the condition that both partners undergo specific medical testing and partake pre-marriage counseling. In a country with a tradition of arranged marriages, the model is first of its kind in that it allows women to assess their marital compatibility with future partners alongside exercising their health rights. Sabiha’s key to success has been her ability to use innovative approaches to engage and solve traditional social issues. Her approach to tweak the system to accelerate the movement for women empowerment enjoys support from both men and women of the community. Moving forward, Sabiha aims to connect women entrepreneurs to the export economy. By institutionalizing social entrepreneurship, her goal is to attain support of state institutions and the corporate sector. Her recipe for change is to continuously adapting to hurdles along the way. When asked about her message for other entrepreneurs, she said “Change yourself and you will change the world around you. Take initiative! You will face challenges, and there you will have to make tough decisions- and these alone will take you to the limits of success”. Having taken on changemaking by directly engaging the school community she worked with, she shows how you can focus on what you have and who you are to bring about change in your community.


Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

How Can We Cultivate Empathy In Shared Spaces? By SUNISH JAUHARI Legatum Institute's Prosperity Index 2013 lists the happiest countries in the world. Some may argue that this index is not the best one to look at, especially if one is interested in urban development. But I find this interesting because it shows interesting facts and correlations if you dig deeper. For example, Norway, Switzerland, Canada and Finland, often tend to be the ones with large shared spaces; spaces where haves and have-nots co-exist, pedestrians and vehicles can use the space freely - conscious of each other. If we were to flip this, a reasonable hypothesis could be that countries with fewer shared spaces are lesser happy. India ranks way below 100... and has been changing positions in the last few years - for worse. Shared spaces are a function that comprise of people and communities. India is diverse. For many years after independence, different languages, gods, castes and rituals characterised the Indian diversity. Over the last three decades or so, this has changed. We seem to be redefining the original definition of ‘diversity’. A rapidly emerging market, growing cities, and grossly uneven distribution of wealth are some of the new characteristics of India today. Our diversity is now characterised by different Economic Classes and these

differences are equally (If not more) pronounced when you consider religion or language. Research recognizes these divisions and policies are classified on this basis. The very nature of commerce is to thrive on these 'target segments'.

I don't remember the last time when I visited my bank to operate my bank account. I can pay almost all the utilities online now. So essentially, we are killing opportunities to meet people. I see more people smiling facing their mobile phones rather than facing people.

Emerging markets create choices for people but, sadly, also create gaps; people are confined to their of place of living, worship or work and usually interact with a very homogenous group of fellow citizens. I bet, if cartoonist R K Laxman were to paint the picture of the ‘Common Man’ today, he would struggle to get it right. The Indian common man does not have a common face anymore. He belongs to several different classes, looks different and sometimes does not see eye to eye with another common man from a different economic class!

Interestingly, the only space where people are forced to come together and actively share a space, as a routine, is the road. And here, their tolerance and empathy is invariably and shamelessly low.

Technology, while a great leveller, does not help solve this problem. My father often recollects his hour-long cash withdrawals in the bank, coupled with a cup of tea and laughter with the cashier. Similarly, while growing up, I remember exchanging 'namastes' with uncles waiting to pay our electricity bill or sending a registered post. Hangouts, emails and conference calls have now replaced ad-hoc community meetings.


So let's look at what is happening on Indian roads. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, more than 15 people die, and over 40 get severely injured or disabled every hour on the Indian roads. Researchers estimate that on an average, a motorbike rider violates one rule every two hours and a car-owner, once every 4 hours. Last year alone, pedestrians and two-wheeler riders constituted 90 percent of the deaths in Bangalore, and nearly 80 percent at the national level. Over 50 percent of those who lose their lives belong to the age group of 15- 40. We are losing the most productive part of our population. Very rapidly. In all probability, from the time you began reading this article, one person is killed somewhere in India or two families

Interestingly, the only space where people are forced to come together and actively share a space, as a routine, is the road. And here, their tolerance and empathy is invariably and shamelessly low.

have lost their livelihoods. While the road-length in India has been doubled in the last decade, there has been steady increase in the number of accidents, deaths and injuries per-thousand people. India tops the world-ranking in the number of road deaths every year. In fact, more people die due to road accidents than in terror strikes, natural calamities or any disease in India. Besides trauma from death and disability, the economic cost of road accidents to the country runs in millions of dollars every year. Poor infrastructure, rapid construction, increase in the number of vehicles, lack of laws and law enforcement are often quoted as the main reasons for road injuries and deaths. The Government and civil society has come together time and again to raise awareness and educate drivers and children, but have achieved little impact so far. What is common with every incident on the road is that there are people involved. There is always human error. There is human behavior at play. Hence, for any approach to work, whether it is technology, infrastructure or education focused, it is important that it is squarely human-centric. Ashoka Fellow Mary Gordon's award

winning work on introducing Empathy as a skill in early childhood, proves that children can develop pro-social behaviour, which helps overcome the massive issue of bullying in Canada and many other countries. There may be good potential in this approach to raise a generation of more tolerant and empathetic children. Ashoka Fellow Jasmeen Patheja demonstrates another, but related, aspect of inclusion. Her phenomenal campaign breaks stereotypes with communities like truckers in India with respect to women's safety. On the other hand, Ashoka Fellow Solomon Prakash's mGaadi focuses on rickshaw-drivers' livelihood and insurance, making auto rickshaws work better in India. There could be unusual allies that we have often overlooked! So could rag-pickers associations or auto rickshaw unions be those unusual allies in a new approach to road safety?

tolerant. Those in the citizen sector, policy makers and law keepers need to incentivize (not literally) tolerance and pro-social behaviour, making empathy the centerpiece of their programs. Creating more opportunity for different segments of population to share spaces is a great start for lasting results. This needs to happen widely. Unless there are more mixed-segment housing projects, efficient and affordable public transport options, better pathways and boulevards, open parks that allow concerts and community programs to take place, it is unlikely that we will achieve this massive transformation. But if we do achieve some of it, we can take a step towards creating change.

There surely is a need for a fresh perspective towards road safety. Empathy surfaces at the core of all the above examples, and many more interventions that have proven successful around the world. In the Indian context, it is important to identify the importance of empathy. A society that thrives on competition in every aspect of life is not naturally

Sunish Jauhari leads Ashoka India's Strategic Resources initiative and drives Ashoka's road road safety program.


From Giving Up A Six Figure Salary In An MNC Bank To Helping The Rural Poor By MARIANNE HEINISCH

Boond solar lamps, water filters and mosquito nets shipped to the poor in remote Indian villages ensuring affordability, high quality and service support. Photo courtesy:

Boond is a Sanskrit word for “drop”. But it also represents the assembly of continuous efforts put together by an ex-finance manager from an MNC bank in Singapore who left his job and six figure annual salary behind in order to start a small company and provide clean energy access to rural India. “A few of us in India are privileged to have a wide range of services at our disposal, but the majority of people living in

rural areas do not have access to the basic. I could do something which is lasting, as well as satisfying, than just sit down and make rich people richer,” says Rustam Sengupta, founder of Boond. Gupta created Boond aiming to provide clean energy access to rural India. The idea was to get products like solar lamps, water filters and mosquito nets


designed, developed and shipped to the poor in remote Indian villages. The products also needed to be affordable, of high quality and with service support guaranteed. In the beginning of the Boond adventure, Rustam himself tried to deliver the products, reaching dangerous areas of India, as Jharkhand and Bengal, notorious for the presence of Maoist insurgents.

However, it is not just about financing the manufacture and transportation of these products, it is also an effort to unite people in a cause and bring about a change in their mindset. “We want to make people believe that they can be instruments of change in whatever amounts or ways that is within their capacity”, says Sengupta. Since its inception in 2009, Boond has impacted over 50 thousand individuals and through more than six thousand energy systems. They are addressing three different segments in the states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh: the rural under-served, with daily income between $4 to $10 a day; micro-sized business enterprises that need power for better production and the ultra poor, who earn under $4 a day and often irregularly. Boond provides 10W solar home systems to these ultra poor communities, allowing them to light two bulbs and charge their mobile phones for a low monthly payment of $4, financed by philanthropic donors and grants. Boond’s vision is to be present in at least 5 to 6 Indian states, working with 100 districts and impacting one million individuals with lighting, clean water and pest control solutions. Sengupta wants to not only not only improve the lives of numerous villagers, but also create a sustainable profit-making enterprise while doing so. “I cannot only see my work happening, but I have also the opportunity to connect with people and see their lives improving in a short span of time, which is the most satisfying experience as compared to working in a bank or as a consultant. All our services and products are something that the community desperately needs and we create our models like that”, says Sengupta. The final challenge, according to him, is how to create a model which works not only for the sake of glamor, but actually makes a real and substantial impact. “I’m tired of listening to people talking about macro-living projects. There is a saying in Hindi: small drops integrated become a sea. This is the philosophy we follow, small collective efforts can also go a long way and resolve major development issues. One small drop of water at a time can create an ocean,” affirms Sengupta

Boond also runs development projects in the villages it is present in. In West Bengal, Boond has financed a number of shrimp fisheries at a very low rate of interest (6 per cent for six months) and has also provided education scholarships to meritorious students living under the poverty line. In Manipur, Boond commissions help to support the tribal school in Litan and have also provided basic educational aids when required. “My energy comes from the fact that I know I’m working with some of the biggest challenges that the world has ever faced and every minute that I put into Boond helps to make a social impact. A social entrepreneur has to be available to success and failure. You will have the worse days of your life but you can also have the best”, Sengupta concludes.



My energy comes from the fact that I know I’m working with some of the biggest challenges that the world has ever faced and every minute that I put into Boond helps to make a social impact. A social entrepreneur has to be available to success and failure. You will have the worse days of your life but you can also have the best

DR. GNS REDDY Akshayakalpa SANJEEV KUMAR The Goat Trust PIYUSH TEWARI Save Life Foundation MITTAL PATEL Vicharta Samuday Samarthan Manch GAURAV SINGH 3.2.1. Education AKSHAY SAXENA Avanti Fellows PANKAJ JAIN Gyanshala KETAN DESHPANDE FUEL

This article originally appeared on and has been republished as a guest post.



The Art of


By MEDHAVI GANDHI I didn’t know much about the development sector or crafts before interning with UNESCO back in 2008. It was my interaction there with artists and craft organizations that pushed me to consider a career crossing development and art. When I first began receiving calls from artists asking me for help, I thought that the major challenge would be marketing. But I realized I was wrong. As a student of marketing, I had failed to see that the problem lay with the product, the supply chain, and the branding. Interacting with these artists and their crafts, I realized that each artist had her own set of issues, but that the soul of the problem lies in lack of design education. Sadly, this educational deficiency reduces artists to ‘artisans’ or ‘kaarigars’. This realization prompted me to start an organization to help artists learn. So I began a journey, with the partnership of two friends, that we call the Happy Hands Foundation. We raised a lot of eyebrows, but with the help of many we pulled together the resources to launch our venture. Through extensive travel we formed the long-lasting collaborations and strong relationships that now comprise the foundation of our organization. We saw that artists

must be empowered in order to make crafts sustainable. And to bring that empowerment, we, the Happy Hands Foundation, realized education to be vital. Since the first three years, our work has continually evolved. At some points we have focused on art-based events and workshops to spread awareness. At others we have travelled to villages and conducted design workshops. The aim has always been to allow artists to explore the artistic realm - as students of design they draw, sketch, brainstorm and make sample products. They learn how to talk to their consumers and give them what they want, and we stress various methods of earning a livelihood beyond simply ‘selling’ things. For the Foundation, surprising success has come from engaging corporate bodies. Although we initially identified very few companies with art-centric philanthropic programs, we have found that these companies come out whole-heartedly to be a part of Happy Hands Foundation campaigns. Today, while the Happy Hands Foundation continues its work in the villages developing artists as designers, it also hosts art residencies in Delhi for the most skilled and promising artists. We also run the People’s Project, where

we work with international artists, students and designers on collaborative projects that expose our artists to the dynamic world of design and enable them to learn new techniques and processes. Another of our programs, Dor, focuses on livelihoods for women. Despite a bumpy ride for lack of sufficient volunteers and funds, the program has grown from 25 women to 100 under the leadership of several strong women. So far, the Happy Hands Foundation has worked on installation projects for Coca-Cola India and decor projects for Greenlam and Shakti Himalaya resorts. We look forward to many more such projects for our artists in the future. Our broad vision remains to educate artists and propel them towards success as designers with their own brands and labels. Through this, the Foundation ultimately hopes to reduce the migration rate of artists, sustaining the exceptional crafts and cultures they represent. Happy Hands has been recognized by the Paragon Asia Fellowship in 2009-10, by the IVLP State Department Program of US in 2010, was given a Special Award by the Jury at the YCE Design Awards in 2011, and in 2012 was awarded the 5th Indira Award for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship.

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FellowConnect Asia - March 2014  

A special issue on economic inclusion