Journeys for Change blog
Barefoot College has been providing basic services and solutions to problems in rural communities for more than 40 years with the objective of making them self-sufficient and sustainable. These include solar electrification, clean water, education and livelihood development, health care, rural handicrafts, and communication.
Elizabeth Coffey, founder of Spark Leadership, is an author, consultant, and speaker focusing on leading strategic organizational change, cross-cultural diversity, and developing CEOs, Boards, and senior managers to be strong global leaders. She hails from London.
Derek Snook, from the United States, is the Executive Director of IES Labor Serivces. IES meets the demand for temporary labor while investing in its employees and the community.
Stepping into the village
Take a bus from Jaipur to rural Rajastan, pass the villager with the orange turban and the pack of stray dogs, and it is possible to end up at Barefoot College. World-renowned by visitors of all kinds, the accommodations are adequate, if simple, and the helpfulness of the villagers creates a warm atmosphere. The landscape is soft, and the traffic – or lack thereof – is a welcome change from Delhi.
Driven by core values
Founded in 1972 by Bunker Roy, Barefoot College breathes life into Gandhi’s philosophy of developing sustainable communities by training uneducated villagers. We are awestruck by the culture that demonstrates self-sufficiency through its core values - decentralisation, equality, austerity, collective decision-making, and self-reliance. And we also wonder how this extraordinary culture can be magnified.
In his TED lecture, Bunker Roy says ‘if you want to spread a message, tell a woman.’ He has brought this idea to life by teaching grandmothers how to install and maintain the solar panels that power the whole village – bringing light, heat and electricity to rural Rajasthan. The concept has been so successful that women from around the world attend the 6-month courses, here. Respected pillars of their communities, these grandmothers speak with pride and excitement at being able to translate sunshine into energy in their own villages, extending their communities’ abilities to work, study, and socialise.
A highly educated community
Astoundingly, Barefoot College also educates villagers in a plethora of other practical yet sophisticated skills, including water harvesting and storage, medical, dental, and acupuncture practices, and even carpentry and weaving. They have a radio station which broadcasts 4 hours a day to 25 thousand rural listeners, disseminating crucial information about a host of issues, particularly civil rights, as well as preserving local culture through broadcasting live music performances from the studio. Oh, yeah, and they run a stunning night school (yes, solar powered) for girls (aged 6-14), who otherwise would remain uneducated because they work in the fields during the day.
Questions of scale
It is humbling to witness how the singular focus on their core values enables the people in Barefoot College to improve the quality of their lives holistically. How could this phenomenal mission be extended even further to impact more villagers lives around the world? What funding model could replicate its success exponentially? Our wish is for the Barefoot College to empower even more rural villages as they walk forward one bare foot at a time.
- Customers are not ready for recycled products
- Focus on environmental issues in a country with so many other problems is considered a luxury
- Due to inconsistent product labeling, customers do not know which products to trust as environmentally friendly, organic, fair trade, etc.
- Design—d.light really listened to their customers to get the insight necessary to design the right product. As a result of their research, d.light designed a product that is solar-powered, simple, easy to handle, efficient, and beyond all, extremely robust.
- Distribution—d.light focuses on distribution because it has proven to be a key success factor
- Education: d.light products make it possible for children to study after dark
- Cost saving: d.light products are affordable. Whereas kerosene lanterns cost 3 USD/ month, the first LED lamp costs 8 USD—initially a higher cost—but the lamp can last for years
- Productivity: With light in the evening, workers can labor and families can bond socially.
- Pollution control and health: d.light products free people from dangerous kerosene.
Goonj is a unique resource mobilisation initiative that provides clothes, sanitary napkins, and other basic amenities to millions in rural villages. With an emphasis on mindful giving and dignified receiving, Goonj also provides a constructive channel for the growing quantities of waste from urban households. Graham Allcott is the founder of training company Think Productive; an author; and a keen social entrepreneur focusing on the areas of youth engagement, literacy, homelessness, and volunteerism.
Simple sign — deep transformation
“Drama / Fake photography is not allowed. Genuine is always welcome ”
No sign, no logo, no welcome notice on the door—just these words, taped to the wall next to the door to Goonj’s main Delhi office. From this warren of chaotic office and workshop spaces, Goonj is quietly creating magic with everyone else’s waste. In the last year, they’ve recycled 1 million kilogrammes of textiles that urban Indians no longer want or need and they’ve made 2 million sanitary towel products for sale in rural areas where the lack of such products often leads to serious health problems. Goonj does it all on a shoestring—often literally!
Requiring recipients to earn donations
For most organisations this would be enough to do, but it’s just where the magic starts for Goonj. In exchange for clothes, Goonj requires its beneficiaries—rural villagers—to undertake community development projects. Thus far, thousands of people have undertaken more than 900 community projects. From building bridges to repairing roads, these hyper-efficient projects would leave governments across the world green with envy. Rather than receiving bad, ill-fitting donated clothes for nothing, rural community members receive well-suited, often-tailored, second-hand clothes and ultimately, a better community to live in as well.
Intelligent giving – dignified receiving
Goonj’s passion is to encourage more intelligent giving and more dignified receiving. In Goonj’s eyes, traditional donations of clothes and other resources do little but humiliate those on the receiving end—providing the “drama” and “fake photography” that companies crave for their CSR brochures and company websites. Goonj wants people to give mindfully, considering whether the items they’re donating are even of value to recipients.
“When people donate shoes, the least they can do is tie the two shoes together – or at the very least donate both shoes. One shoe is no good to anyone,” said our guide, Roshiki.
The anger in her voice was clear. And it’s a lesson to us all. Those grainy images we see when we’re asked to donate money to Comic Relief and other telethon appeals? The superficial nature of most CSR “corporate team-building days”? The disconnect between the sponsored student and the sponsor? These are all part of the problem.
“We focus on the receiver’s dignity, not on the donor’s pride,” says Roshiki, as she shows us through rooms piled high with torn up clothes, used A4 paper, old hifi systems, bongo drums, books, children’s toys and, well, pretty much anything else you can think of.
A holistic system
It can be great for our pride and our ego to be caught up in this “poverty drama.” But it’s worth remembering our sense of pride at having “done good” can often come at the cost of the receiving person’s dignity. Goonj shows that there are ways for that same transaction to take place while bringing humility, dignity, learning, and understanding to everyone involved.
We are thrilled to announce the launch of a new journey exclusively for top MBA students!
From 28 December 2012—4 January 2013, we will take 15 competitively selected MBA students from around the world to explore two hotbeds of innovation: Bangalore and Mumbai.
Through visits to some of India’s most remarkable social enterprises; discussions with leaders like the India Country Director for Ashoka; and exclusive networking opportunities, the selected cohort will gain unparalleled insights, connections, and cultural understanding. In short, delegates will differentiate their MBAs and build the foundation for careers of impact.
The impetus for the MBA Social Entrepreneurship Journey was the opportunity to inspire the next generation of global leaders, as well as MBA students’ growing desire to use their skills for social good. Sophie Haas, who went on a journey during her MBA program at INSEAD, has said: "Journeys for Change was a unique opportunity to meet with exceptional social entrepreneurs. It was particularly inspiring to meet with them and discuss their business models during my MBA program to see business concepts being applied in a social context."
Please help us to find the most promising MBA students by sharing this opportunity with your networks. Candidates can visit our website to learn more and apply. Early bird applications are due by 14 October.
You can also share this opportunity through:
Twitter: Apply for membership in the inaugural @Journeys4Change MBA cohort. Early bird deadline 10/14—Please share! #JFCMBA12 http://bit.ly/WnxYf5
Facebook: Know a top MBA student who would benefit from meeting some of India’s most inspiring social entrepreneurs? Encourage them to apply for membership in the inaugural Journeys For Change MBA cohort. Early bird deadline is 10/14—Please share! http://www.journeysforchange.org/journeys/mba-india-social-entrepreneurship-journey-december-2012
You can download the Executive Director job spec here. The application deadline is 7 July.
Thank you for your help!
Will you be in Washington DC, New York or London next month, March 2012?
Richard, our Co-Founder, will be speaking at a short series of events entitled 'Innovative India: Remarkable Lessons From India's Social Entrepreneurs On How To Create Greater Profit & Impact In The World'.
Join him for a short, stimulating talk where you can:
- Be inspired by the stories of some of India's leading changemakers
- Learn how their innovative business models can help you create greater profit & impact in your work
- Learn more about Journeys for Change
- Mingle with other like-minded socially-conscious leaders
For further details and to reserve a place, click on the appropriate link below:
- Washington DC: Monday, March 5th from 6:30 PM - 7:45 PM
- New York: Tuesday, March 6th from 7:00 PM - 8:15 PM
- London: Wednesday, March 21st from 8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Places are limited so please register as soon as possible to ensure you can attend.