Friday, November 30, 2012

Intrepreting the term "Social Entrepreneurship"

Social entrepreneurship - a term that has been driving me nuts. So, I decide to put things on notepad and attempt to get some clarity.

We had a chat here @IRMA with Mrs. Rohini Nilekani a few days back. She brought one very eye opening perspective of some entrepreneurs to the table - every entrepreneur creates jobs, gives an opportunity for livelihoods to at least a few people and because the enterprise is actually benefiting people, it is social. Very logical too. Then, how do we classify something as a social enterprise and something as just an enterprise. I guess the answer lies in the needs the enterprise is trying to address. Basic needs like food, water, good air, clothing and housing are not meant for any specific sector, they are the needs of every human around. And there are needs of niche segments,and when I say niche segments - it is not about an elitist class. Its niche because most of the people actually do not fall in that category.

     In this context, social for me means - something relating to the majority of the population, not the niche. Something done in the niche segments is also social, but it is relatively less social. When we talk about enterprises or organizations working to address problems of education,water,sanitation,basic health, minimal housing - we are talking about organizations trying to meet the needs of a large section of our society. Its more apt that they are labelled social than those firms which are adding value to those people who
already have met their basic needs.

        The above two paragraphs might be suggesting that something like mafia is also a social enterprise. This is where the motivation behind the organizations and the impact of the organizations come into picture. When we talk about being social, it is about respecting certain values in the society - honesty, integrity, ethics, it is about being able to maintain law and order, it is about doing something that doesn't have a negative effect on the very basic fabric, the very basic needs that the organization is trying to address. Of what use is a biological form without air, water and food. What use of electricity if there is no house to live in? And such values, such regulations one could say, are applicable to all organizations - because they are all a part of the society.

          Most importantly, how stable is the argument? Do basic needs change? People might want to live on trees and wear nothing, but the need for clean air, water, edible food and health will still be intact. These needs are not relative. Do basic values change? Integrity,love,honesty. I think they are absolute too. Some years down the line, we might be successful in meeting the current set of basic needs only to make us take steps in addressing the next basic set of needs of a larger part of the population. That larger part
could be a niche segment today!

And finally, does this organization need to be self sustaining? For all I know, if one is skillful enough to run the firm through profits, let him do. If one has such great PR skills and well-off well wishers that he doesn't need to think about profits, that's great too. Different people bring different strengths to the table and whatever works, works.

I won't say I rest my case here, this is the best I could muster so far. Looking forward to your views now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Proper village stay.

I am doing a Post Graduate Programme in Rural Management at IRMA, Anand. As part of the 1st year curriculum, the participants of this programme are required to spend about 2 months in a remote village, understanding the village life, livelihoods, problems and a lot more. It is undoubtedly a unique experience. An experience that lets you work, lets you holiday and most importantly, lets you learn.

Personally, I would describe this trip as the longest holiday that I have ever had(coming to the course after 54 months of work ex makes me feel so). I would have loved to see how it would have been if I didn't have phone and internet connectivity too. There were days when we weren't able to access these facilities, but those were very few. Holiday doesn't mean I didn't do any work at all, but this post is more about the lighter side of things. So, I present my top 10 field work experiences here(in no particular order).

I have to prepare a couple of formal reports related to my work in the village and those are not going to be put up here. Wish I had the opportunity though, as that would have showcased a different kind of world and free me of the responsibility of posting any blogs for the next 4-5 months(8000 word reports those).

1) directing sheep towards proper pastures,i.e pastures away from the place where we stay. They were shitting big time right in front of our door. They were impossible to scare away too, they had to be 'respectfully' redirected. One of the sheep was rubbing its back against our door, when the door suddenly went loose, bringing the sheep into our room.

2) Returning from an early morning excursion to 'you know what' with footwear weighing 3 kilos on each foot. Muddy experience that.Guess the villagers are pretty clever to avoid such mess or they are expert space-walkers. We were actually on a less muddy route when a kid suggested that we take another one that was less muddy! Less muddy = 3 kilos.

3) A small kid, 18 months old, who always says, shouts rather, bye as soon as she sees us.She learned to say the one handed namaste and give hi-fives.

4) A kid who plays with a useless cycle,his toy presumably, that doesnt have a front wheel and does all kinds of silly tricks on it and also showcases those tricks to every other kid in the village. He ends up getting beat up at least 5 times a day by different sets of elders(its just an assumption that everyone who beat him up are elder to him).

5) Two kids who kept on getting hit for about 5 mins. Neither did I want to see it happening nor could I stop it from happening.The reason for the drubbing - the kids were catching hens and tying them up to trees and bushes.

6) A close shave - No Gilette this. Was getting out of a tempo and opened the door to the left to find a motorbike right behind.Managed not to open the door far enough to hit the bike. Vanished from the scene as fast I could after saying a sorry that is. How dumb of me to think of traffic rules in a remote village!

7) I go to a local kirana/provision store and keep peppering them with more and more questions. End up asking if the shop sells drinks (I was supposed to say cool drinks) and he says "hot - no, cool -yes".

8) Getting hit for a 6 in the first serious ball I bowl in the village,but ending up with 3 wickets in that very over, and ofcourse getting the 6 hitter out. Sweet revenge. Bowling into a stiff wind, not holding back even one bit, as fast as I could! This was before Neelam came and turned the ground into the erstwhile lake it used to be. If you are still wondering, Neelam was a cyclone, not some lady with magical powers.

9) Watching meteorites streak past the skyline at 2 30 in the night. Pin drop silence! This is what we call a silent spectacle.I didn't pay attention to the cows and buffaloes :p.

10) My host making sambar that tasted the same everyday for almost 40 days and asking if it was good every single time! We say its good and her son yells at the top of his voice saying "these guys say everything is good. they are not telling you the truth." And she says "My kids don't like what I cook" !