Study Abroad

To Mumbai…

I couldn’t have asked for a better last weekend in Jaipur. After hearing about Diwali for the last two months the date finally came and it didn’t disappoint. The city sounded like a war zone and the streets looked like New York City at Christmas time. Children flooded the streets to light off fireworks and families walked to and from houses bringing gifts of sweets. My family earnestly held their Puja and then welcomed the neighbors for some food and drinks. Supplemented with Scotch and Soda, the whole event was perfectly Indian and a great end to my time with my host family- although maybe making the start of my next journey a little more difficult.

For the next four weeks I will be living in Mumbai working on my Independent Study Project- a central tenant of my SIT program. Students come up with a project they would like to study for four weeks anywhere in India. After a lengthy planning process, filled with the usual frustrations and the eventual understanding that it would all work out, my plan seems to be set. I will be studying the affects of impact measurement on social enterprises in Mumbai. (I included the abstract below to clarify.) This is a topic of great interest to me. Before starting my program I knew that I would pursue a project along these lines. For those who know me, they know how interested I am in Social Entrepreneurship, and this will be an incredible experience to learn more about the topic. This research topic has not been heavily researched so it’s a subject I’m really interested in learning about.

My advisor for this project is Prof. Satyajit Majumdar, Professor and Chairperson of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the Tata Institute for Social Sciences (TATA). TATA offers a Masters in Social Entrepreneurship and is home to a social enterprise incubator as well as many other awesome programs. I’ll get the chance to speak with professors their about the themes I’m interested in and hopefully hear a number of different perspectives on the matter. It will be interesting to see how they are instructing their students and what role they are giving to outside foundations whose funding will be crucial to the success of the students. I’ll also be able to speak with aspiring social entrepreneurs (some of whom have just started their ventures) about how this issue affects their decision making and what their ambitions are as social entrepreneurs. This will be a great opportunity to not only learn from some of the most knowledgeable and experiences people in this field, but also some of the future change-makers in India. Hopefully it will be both education and inspiring as well as a great opportunity to expand my own knowledge and network in social entrepreneurship.

I’ll be spending some time with an organization called, Greenway Grameen Infra, which manufactures and distributes a bio-fuel stove in rural India. Not only is the stove affordable, it is significantly better for the environment and the families using the stove. Greenway Grameen is a perfect example of the power of socially driven, for-profit enterprises to make a really meaningful impact in this country. I’m excited to learn more about their day-to-day activities and actually see a sophisticated, yet young and ambitious social enterprise in action.

Throughout this month I will be reaching out to social enterprises, foundations, incubators, impact investment firms, and other organizations that play a role in this issue. It will be extremely challenging at times- not only am I inexperienced in the field of social entrepreneurship, I am also inexperienced in this type of extensive research. Connecting with organizations and communicating my intentions to them has already proven to be difficult. I’m really excited for this project- for the challenges it will bring, for the people I will meet, and ultimately for the product that will emerge by the end. The ISP is a pretty cool aspect of my time here- an opportunity to live on my own and take initiative towards something I care greatly about. Mumbai will surely be chaotic but I think I’m prepared for what it will throw my way. Wish me luck!

Abstract

India, long recognized as a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity as well as a culture favoring civic-minded activity, is a great model of the type of diverse work and meaningful issues that Social Entrepreneurship addresses. Its vast need and extreme size necessitate urgent problem solving through effective and creative answers. In the last five years especially, India has seen great growth in social enterprises. These organizations operate in a number of sectors and utilize various business models to accomplish their social mission. Foundations, individuals, and financial institutions throughout India are working hard to recognize and reward those social entrepreneurs whose business models, coupled with their passion and will to succeed, are changing the surface of crucial sectors. New financial models are also emerging to empower social entrepreneurs who historically have been unable to access the capital needed to scale their impact. These funders are calling for better outcome evaluation through standardized quantified measurement systems. The impact of these models on social enterprises appears to be both positive and negative. Social Enterprises address countless issues and often their outcomes are difficult to quantify. However, it is necessary to find effective, scalable methods to fix today’s problems. This study will look at various social enterprises and financial and educational institutes in India to give a picture of the various affects these measures have- from business modeling, to resource allocation, to day-to-day operations.

Photos from Diwali: (Look at my facebook for more photos…)Image

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