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2011 has definitely been an interesting year, with lot of things happening world wide. Watch UNICEF’s year in review. This is the year that also made me realize the value of being a Social Entrepreneur. It is with this hope that we set out in 2012 to become an organization that is creating impact on the ground.

It is hoped that 2012, will provide the much needed boost to this project.

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It is my personal belief that as folks who have had access to a great education, have a larger responsibility on our shoulders than others who don’t.

The same thought resonated within me, when I read this at Seth Godin’s blog post today, “Your job, your internet access, your education, your role in a civilized society… all of them are a platform, a chance to do art, a way for you to give back and to honor those that enabled you to get to this point. For every person reading this there are a thousand people (literally a thousand) in underprivileged nations and situations that would love to have your slot. Don’t waste it.”

It is with this very belief that I had decided to work towards the improvement of child education in Bihar. One of the things I intend to do as a part of my this project is to reach out to more schools, and work towards the improvement of quality of education in the schools in Bihar. I am looking at making more frequent trips to Bihar and aim to connect with more schools, to organize a talk or conduct activity sessions. Some of these sessions will be organized in collaboration with another organization and some could be with individuals. More on how other people can join in the effort is something I should hold for another project.

Kshitiz, addressing the students

Addressing the students

Thanks to Mr Rajesh Mishra (whom I met on Twitter as @rajeshcmishra), I had a chance to go to the Vidya Vihar Residential School in Parora, (Purnea) Bihar, and talk to the students, teachers and the administrative staff. It was a general talk about moments from my life, that could serve as inspiration, and also some tips on what I missed out in my school days, and the students here could focus on. I also touched upon the importance of giving back to the society and how fortunate we are to get a great education by virtue of going to a great school.

The school is an excellent example of professionalism that can exist within the state in the education sector. The admission process if competitive, and the results outstanding. To have a school of this caliber in the region where it exists, is indeed a matter of immense pride. I am really hopeful that the school can go from strength to strength and continue in its quest to become one of the best schools, not only in Bihar, but in India.

The school is run by alumni of Netarhat and other reputed schools, and hence the management’s focus on discipline, all round development of the students is something to admire.

There were close to 800 students who were present in the meet ranging from class 4 to 10. The talk was held in the basketball court, and had all the students assemble. The students were attentive, inquisitive, interactive, and had many questions that had me stumped.

The questions and answers were the most interesting part of the whole session. The questions varied from career questions to, getting into IITs. There were some questions that was non academic also. For example a class 6 student discussed an important point in our education system. How do the students handle pressure and depression. I was stumped.

This was my first visit to the school, and authorities have been kind enough to allow me to visit again the I am hoping that I can spend more time there. I now more more on what to expect, and look forward to conducting some focused sessions around activity based learnings and creative learnings.

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One of the key tools I use in my research is the SWOT analysis. Tried to do the same when thinking about the state of Bihar and here’s an initial thought on it.

While enrolment has risen, attendance in school has not. This is a matter of concern. Data from school observations between the Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) 2005 and ASER 2009 shows that Bihar’s schools have among the lowest attendance to enrolement ratios in the country.

It is certain that there needs to be a lot more effort put into the improvement of quality of education across the state.

  • Strengths :
    • Youth Power
    • Huge Population
    • Hard Working people
    • Willingness to do work with determination
    • Rich history of state
  • Weakness:
    • Lack of opportunities after education
    • Society set norms that prohibits the spirit of entrepreneurship and accepting failure with grace
    • Narrow minded thinking
    • Infrastructure – Lack of electricity in major population
    • Pressure to support family by earning
    • Lack of industries to support
  • Opportunities
    • Educating the students
    • Educating the society
    • Re-instilling the sense of pride of being a Bihari
    • Creating avenues for youth retainment
  • Threats
    • Government Interference
    • Local goons and mafia
    • Migration to other states in search of other opportunities at young age
    • The dream of doing something only outside of India

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I am sure every one has a common question? Why is this important?

The numerous problems that fact the world today and our little bit to do what we can to make he world a better place. Perhaps the most important thing when dealing for social impact solutions is having patience. This could be either while doing the research or while doing any design activities. And I say this , because these are what we call Wicked problems. The few of their characteristics being too many loose ends, many directions to take it forward, always n+1 ways to solve it and no matter how much you do, it is not enough could lead to frustration. A location visit is highly recommended as this helps in multiple ways. Although there is a very probability that you will find some newer problems. But then some will take precedence. These above steps help in identifying the core. This becomes extremely important when dealing with the kind of solutions that you want to solve. However when you goes to a location, one needs to sympathize with the existing situations. One should not allow the  frustration of the lack of facilities show in any manner. Talking to the different stake holders helps and It is really important to speak to all of them. Like in this project, even though this is for children, it is important to talk to parents, teachers and others in the society. And so when one does that they become a story teller. Images are powerful to not only find information, but also talk to others about it at a later stage. Smaller problems should also be identified. These at times could be the root cause of the problem. For example here, some children went to school only for the free meals. Interesting point to think about. Often designers are hesitant to try out conventional methods. I think one should not hesitate to apply existing methods like contextual inquiries, ethnography, personal interviews, group discussions with the locals. However, always be culturally sensitive. If people are not willing to have their photographs taken, do not take it. Take permission before approaching people with whom its not ok to talk straightaway. Especially with women and other females in other cultures.

Once the above is done and the designers start to think of user groups, in such kind of situations, it often becomes important to understand this difference between the target groups and the affected groups. What you are designing (in my case a website) might not be directly used for the the affected group (the children) but for a totally different group of users (the target group. People like you and me).

As a designer and also a person interested in bringing out the change, one need to understand this simple point. Money is NOT the only way your design solution can be of help. Think about other things like providing things, how about books, or supply of stationery, or your old clothes. How can others help without giving money. Not all people are in a position to help financially. Think how you can get them involved too. And sometimes it could just be as simple as spending time with the affected groups and realizing that all they need is someone to share their dreams and to show them the paths how to get to their dreams.

When dealing with the solution, provide he possibility of collaboration. This can be attained by providing the rightful information in the right manner. One should not be afraid to collaborate with people from varied disciplines. Like in this project, I have been collaborating with people in education, design, computer science, sociology and of course the local resources.

Contribute in whatever way possible. Use your money, time, skills. Give feedback to people who are working in the field and spread the smile.