Fueling the social change


There is a research centre at IIT Madras that seeks to make tactile books for visually impaired students in Tamil Nadu. An organization in Haryana digitally trains thousands of potential teachers using an innovative courseware framework. Another one in Telangana provides career consultancy to students from rural backgrounds in order to help bridge the employment ecosystem gap. A non-evasive medical device in Manipal enables mass screening of newborns for hearing loss that is being perfected. A remedial learning program in Karnataka has designed a community led model to better involve the students in the learning process.

While Indian industries are progressing at encouragingly large rates as far as technological advancement and industrialization is concerned, the same can hardly be said for the overwhelmingly large number of people who bear the grunt of the disproportionate spread of this progress, and that of being deprived of a large number of avenues and opportunities that grant them greater autonomy and economic mobility in order for them to improve their conditions. It is relevant to put all effort into trying to bridge these gaps, because progress remain shallow till it does not involve the marginalized and till it does not enable them to help improve their own lives.

The Indian social enterprise sector is at the forefront of doing exactly this by putting its efforts and resources into coming up with products and processes that try to streamline more and more people into mainstream progress with far greater success and reach by using technology. These operate at the local and national level, chasing a diverse range of solutions that can reach the far flung corners of the country and which can be tracked easily by the citizens, government and other agencies. Some of them are for-profit, some nonprofit, and yet others are coming in from the most diverse sources likecolleges and universities, hospitals and even marketplaces. There is no telling where the next helpful idea comes from, all we can do is try to capture and help them early enough for their impact to be pertinent and strong.

Social innovation and entrepreneurship are pathways for more new and interesting ideas that promise large likelihoods of being successful in impacting the social scenario as it exists today. They seek to do this by means of finding smarter, tech enabled ways to tackle the same prevalent societal problems more effectively, generally by combining private capital with public and philanthropic support. When we compare it to how the overall startup scene has emerged in India, the social startups do not get enough encouragement and are mostly found at the lower end of an investor’s priority list.

Saying that, Multiple channels are now emerging with focus towards finding these ideas and organizations and providing them with much needed support with tools like catalytic grants, mentorship etc. to further scale their social impact. Social Innovation Forums are one such avenue, which seek to help find and sustain innovative ideas that can help improve the situation of the people being impacted by these ideas. They try to pick these ideas at their budding stages and provide them with assistance in terms of resources, awareness and training in order to not only improve their efficiency but also help them avail the opportunity to spread awareness.

The NASSCOM Social Innovation Forum is one such platform by NASSCOM foundation which recognizes and supports innovative solutions through industry mentorship and grants, helping create sustained social impact. For over eight years, they have identified, honored, supported and nurtured technology based social innovation and celebrated the people behind them. The Forum has collated the best of these projects in the areas of Primary and Secondary Education, Skills and Employment, Accessibility, Healthcare, Women’s Empowerment, and Other Social Issues and has come up with a publication called ‘Ideas that Impact’. This promises to not only showcase the best social innovation works in the country, but also can fuel the desire of other innovators to contribute towards social causes.