In my travels to both the countryside and various cities while filming social impact short films, I see a few recurring themes everywhere. I cannot claim to have seen the whole country by any standard, however I have come to hold a view that there are some recurring development hotspots that need to experience holistic change.
I call them development hotspots because they signify various aspects of national life that are yearning for sustainable development. So, a development hotspot may not be just a geographical place or a community but it could also mean a specific commonly occurring national problem or a commonly occurring socioeconomic situation. It is essentially a unit of social life that needs to be reformed to bring about large-scale change.
Here Are Some Common Development Hotspots In Our Country
A rural public school
A typical school run by a local body like a Zilla Parishad in a village or a small town is a classic case of a development hotspot. It needs improvement in pedagogy and access to digital learning methods. It needs hygienic toilets especially for girl students. It needs supply of potable water.
Copyright: Rohan Potdar
A village household
A typical village household needs a clean toilet and access to clean fuel for cooking purposes for its womenfolk. It needs reliable power supply to accomplish its domestic chores. Elderly and young from the household need easily available and affordable healthcare services. Youth from the household need jobs that offer a decent pay and full-time employment, preferably near their village.
Copyright: Gary Chapman
A small farmer
A small farmer is the most talked about entity in the national discourse. Distress in farming is a hotly debated topic. What does he need? He needs new agriculture technologies for improving the yield of his farm. He needs availability of cheap credit to invest in his farming activities. He needs direct access to urban markets to receive a better price for his produce. He needs recourse to alternate forms of energy to overcome unreliable grid power supply.
A solid waste management ecosystem
Almost all municipal corporations and local government bodies are struggling with the gargantuan issue of solid waste management. It needs an army of workers to collect and sort waste. It needs innovators to reuse, upcycle and recycle waste. It needs information technology providers to connect the various participants of the entire ecosystem.
Copyright: Rohan Potdar
All the above development hotspots need the government to play a key role in formulating suitable policies. However they also need entities that work at the grassroots to mobilize resources to facilitate sustainable outcomes.
Collaboration Between Social Enterprises Is Essential
I believe piecemeal solutions won’t take us far. You must have noticed that each of these development hotspots have multidimensional challenges requiring diverse technical responses. Most often social entrepreneurs work on a single aspect of the problem. So, if you are an edtech company for example, you chiefly concern yourself with delivering pedagogical interventions. However school children still use filthy toilets that might affect their health. Can you be expected to solve all the problems? Clearly, no.
We need social enterprises across different domains to collaborate to achieve sustainable development. They need to share information on issues, targeted beneficiaries, developmental goals and unaddressed gaps in their impact among each other. For example if you are a healthcare services startup, you have detailed data on the health profile of your beneficiaries. Nature of their illnesses reveal underlying causes. Women suffering from respiratory problems most often are victims of household air pollution caused by smoke from their mud stoves. These women can be potential buyers of a startup selling smoke free stoves. High number of dysentery cases indicate need for better water and toilet facilities. Social enterprises providing these solutions can step in to address this gap.
Question is whose onus it is to collaborate. Most social enterprises seek strategic partners to achieve their impact objectives. These may be nonprofits or other entities that play a key role in their value chain. However they are not cross-disciplinary organizations. Then how do we achieve sustainable development as a nation?
Tapping Local Changemakers Or Microentrepreneurs
Social enterprises should identify and tap local changemakers. Youth from target geographies most often have a deep understanding of issues faced by local communities and can be trained into microentrepreneurs. So, who trains them? Any social enterprise that identifies and enrolls them first to distribute its products or coaches them in business management can create microentrepreneurs. These microentrepreneurs then setup local private organizations.
A new entrant (social enterprise) in the village actively seeks these microentrepreneurs and partners with them instead of scoping on its own. The biggest benefit of creating microentrepreneurs is kick starting and sustaining local economy that works for socioeconomic betterment of local hotspots.
Organizations like eKutir, Udyogini, The Mann Deshi Foundation and Aakar Innovations to name a few operate by creating village microentrepreneurs. Perhaps local networks created by these organizations and many others can be leveraged by newly emerging impact startups to access local hotspots.
Emergence Of Accelerator/Facilitator Organizations
There is a need for organizations that act as catalyst for sustainable development of hotspots within a geography. They take upon themselves the role of scanning and profiling various development hotspots in target geographies with an objective of exploring a bouquet of possible solutions for holistic development. Such accelerator organizations can become coordinators for various impact organizations.
Take for example A Million For A Billion. Founded by Manav Subodh, it is an initiative to identify entrepreneurs from the underserved communities and to help them provide suitable solutions for pulling out people in the villages out of poverty. He works with a multitude stakeholders- corporations, social entrepreneurs, investors and universities to achieve this.
Credit: A Million For A Billion
Addressing The Information Gap
I believe one of the biggest handicap plaguing social entrepreneurship ecosystem in India is the lack of a wide array of information related to key players. A single authoritative source of such information can be highly utilitarian to newly emerging social entrepreneurs and investors. The first step towards cross-disciplinary collaboration is to have information on active organizations across different sectors.
Impactpreneurs is a great example of such an organization. They have created a technology platform for various participants of the impact ecosystem to find each other and also to showcase their work to the community.
Our country needs cross-disciplinary collaboration between social enterprises to solve some of the complex problems of our development hotspots. Microentrepreneurship, accelerator organizations and addressing information gaps can be some of the key factors in achieving this.