06 Mar Seven Inspiring Indian social entrepreneurs
Woodstock student Shanti Mathias shares some of the changemakers who have fired her interest in social entrepreneurship.
Social entrepreneurship can be an incredible force for change. Essentially, it uses business models to make a difference to social problems – poverty, illiteracy, lack of access to basic services or even a regular income. I find social entrepreneurship fascinating – which is why I’m so excited that this year, Woodstock is hosting Aspire, a program for young social entrepreneurs to learn from each other. Here are seven Indian social entrepreneurs, and why I find them inspiring.
Shaheen (pictured above) is the creator of the the Akanksha Foundation, which aims to provide education and skills training to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as being CEO of Teach for India, which improves the Indian education system. I really love her work because it’s so empowering. By educating children from low-income areas, she gives them skills that help to break the vicious cycle of poverty.
Sushmita was a journalist for many years (which is fabulous) and then worked with the Ashoka Foundation to create new initiatives across the world. I admire her work in creating the Changemaker program, which is a absolutely practical guide to change (and a big part of Aspire!)
Harish is the founder of SELCO, which aims to make renewable energy a reality for India. In a time where the climate is such a pressing concern, switching to renewable resources is very important. His work in Karnataka is amazing, and so important for the future.
Dinabandhu saw the use of seaweed as a product outside India, and thought that it could be used here as well. Even though seaweed isn’t traditionally eaten in India, it can be used in lots of different products, and is a relatively sustainable product to farm (especially compared to alternatives like shrimp farming). I like his project, which runs in Shilipika Lake, because it focuses on adapting local people’s needs to the local ecosystem.
Jeroo has created a toll-free Childline for children in distress, as well as working with lots of different NGOs. Her idea is simple, but it’s been very effective, and is now operating outside India. I also think that it’s really important that she provides follow up support to the children who use this service – it’s not just a one-off thing.
Javed is an advocate for disabled Indians right to employment. In his role as director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, he’s helped thousands of Indians access jobs. It’s really easy to forget about disabled people, especially when they’re so marginalised, and his work has made a concrete difference to that, which is very powerful.
Millions of Indian children are forced by their circumstances to work. Damodar seeks to combat this by tackling the causes of child labour. He helps the people of rural India create alternatives to migrating to cities – where they are subject to horrendous exploitation – and instead can stay in the security of the village. I really love this idea, because it’s empowering, and is designed to fit in with the people.
Shanti Mathias, Woodstock student and Aspire team member
Do you Aspire to change communities like these people have? Woodstock’s summer program, Aspire, runs from 3-8 July 2017 and is open to all passionate young people who want to effect change in the world around them.