Going to School in India

Hi Pam,
 
Thanks for forwarding Sam's views about fish farming. I agree with him that sustainability can come through empowerment and lasting peace. But creating that peace is not easy, in places which are threatened by violence and unrest. And empowerment can happen only when people are ready for change to happen.
 
It has been a busy week for me so far. But it also became an interesting week, thanks to my meetings with people like Lisa Heydlauff, who has been living in New Delhi for many years now.
 
Lisa heads a non-profit trust called Going to School, an initative that creates "magical" media (books, films, radio series and movies) to inspire underpriviliged children in India to change their lives by going to school.
 
Born in UK, and educated in the US and Canada, Lisa is an Ashoka fellow who thinks that education and social entrepreneurship is the way forward for people at the bottom of the pyramid.
 
Going to School aims to encourage the underprivileged children to go to school, to make their education relevant to their lives, and create opportunities for themselves to change their lives.
 
The first venture was a children's book (Going to School in India). It celebrates the idea that Going to School can be fun despite hardships. This was followed by a movie shorts series that was aired on National Geographic and Pogo.
 
GST is currently working on a multi-media project to inspire the underprivileged youth to become social, environmental and business entrepreneurs.
 
Lisa feels that education has to essentially prepare people to tackle the issue of livelihoods early in their lives. And for that, people (more so, the underprivileged) must have a say in shaping the kind of education that they want.
 
She is also trying to start a fund which will provide finance for these wannabe entrepreneurs (with some radically different ideas) to solve social and development problems in their communities. So far, she has not found any backers for this kind of a venture.
 
Lisa says there is money for religious charities, venture capital for smart ideas of B-school graduates (who speak smart English), microfinance for the poorest of the poor (who want to set up small businesses), but nothing at all to promote innovation and entrepreneurship among the poor. She is unable to understand why nobody wants to fund such initiatives, many of which could actually provide returns on investment. She is trying to find out what actually stops investors from backing the 'slumdogs' who have the potential to become 'millionaires' by dint of their ideas and efforts.  
 
Interestingly, she feels social entrepreneurship can be called social entrepreneurship only if the poor get the opportunities to run and manage ventures and, in turn, create employment opportunites for their communities.
 
Also, I have been reading insightful stuff on the web related to development in Africa. A few Indian papers carried a story in the Guardian on a U.N. anti-deforestation scheme in Kenya’s Rukinga ranch.
 
I also read with interest an Economist story on how global warming would affect farming in the next few decades. The story makes for a grim forecast of the things to come. But for me, the biggest focus of concern are poor farmers. I really wonder what kind of a price they will have to pay for changes (like rainfall, heat, loss of productivity of soils, changes in cropping patterns forced by changes in weather trends) over which they would have no control.
 
 
Cheers,
 
Vijay

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