Gandhism and the social enterprise concept

Technology is playing an important role in encouraging young professionals to ditch their jobs and create social enterprises and give back to society instead.

During the first week of October, it is hard for an Indian not to think about Mahatma Gandhi--his birth anniversary is Oct. 2--and some of his teachings. One of the things Gandhi said was: "Industry should regard themselves as trustees of the poor."

It's tough to find that saying being put to practice; except perhaps in the form of some CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives undertaken by large corporations. But at the recently concluded TiE conference, there were many entrepreneurs from different walks of life who have created social enterprises who didn't have a profit motive. And technology is helping them do some good, albeit in a small way.

One such entrepreneur is Sujata Sahu, the founder of 17000 ft Foundation. Sahu and her husband are avid trekkers and found themselves drawn to Ladakh and its people time and again. The Ladakhis are very keen on educating their young ones, which could be why there are 963 schools in the city, but most of them do not have resources and teachers. Some of the Ladakhis would even ask the tourists to spend a few hours just tutoring their kids.

This is what prompted the couple to set up their social enterprise--a not-for-profit foundation that helps schools in Ladakh. The foundation also has a technology initiative--MapMySchool@17000ft--that has every single school in Ladakh geo-mapped and assessed for quantitative, as well as qualitative, data to help the foundation plan its initiatives. This also helps them share, organize, and enable trekkers and travelers to engage with and contribute to the remote community.

The Foundation is reaching out to trekkers and tourists visiting Ladakh to source books, crayons and other materials from them for schools, and is even asking some visitors to volunteer as teachers if their stay is for two weeks or more. This also helps the local community as tourism spend will increase.

Then there's Sunitha Krishnan of Prajwala, a not-for-profit institution that has rescued hundreds of women and children from severely-abusive conditions. Prajwala not just protects women and children who have been trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation but also rehabilitates them.

The information comes to Prajwala in the form of phone calls from the mothers whose children are being trafficked, according to the 40-year-old. 

Similarly, there are companies that have deployed technology in schools to inform the government about corruption in the mid-day meal scheme. This was done via an IVRS-based daily monitoring system. There are similar SMS-based surveillance systems for checking the efficacy of primary healthcare centers, and also to check for epidemic outbreaks in rural areas of the country.


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