Apologies for the delay dear TC-P readers. Here’s a quick round-up of what you may have missed:

Pakistan Updates: 

Opportunities: 

Interesting Reads: 

Interested in contributing to ThinkChange Pakistan? Don’t be shy, write to us and let us know!

This week, ThinkChange Pakistan looks at Rabtt, an innovative voluntary youth organization that brings students and mentors from different classes of society in an effort to promote independent and critical thinking in Lahore.

The Rabtt team organizes a 2-3 week camp every summer where their team of volunteers teaches low-income children  English, Mathematics, Physics, along with Critical Thinking, Drawing and Drama. What makes Rabtt special is that while majority of non-profit education-related ventures focus on basic service-delivery, Rabtt has chosen to concentrate on creating civic-minded, and independent thinkers.

Rabtt, which literally means ‘connection’ in Urdu was founded by two LUMS graduates, Aneeq and Imran to get students thinking about their identity outside of the prescribed curriculum, as well as motivate them to achieve, and do more.

By teaching various disciplines through an analytical approach, Rabtt aims to create “good learners”. The camp stresses on the importance of giving students room to interpret presented information and express their opinions. These instances can be as simple as allowing them to solve a Math problem their own way, or as exciting as introducing to them the tenets of Capitalism and Communism and asking them to analyze, debate and compare.

What makes Rabtt’s teaching methodology more effective from routine public school classes is also the smaller class size. The student to teacher ratio is 20:1 where as in public schools it can go up to 50:1. “We set the number of students in accordance with the number of instructors we recruit, and the resources we have. More than the number of beneficiaries, it is the quality of the impact we are able to deliver that is important to us” says Hammad, the social media director of Rabtt.

The camp’s students are selected on the basis of a pre-camp diagnostic, which is administered to roughly 50 children. The pre-camp diagnostic is a test of basic mathematics, English and logic. It is both a measure of the student’s ability, as well as an effective monitoring and evaluation tool.

Currently while the core Rabtt team is only comprised of four people, the organization has managed to develop a strong pool of volunteers (check out some photos of their team and volunteers here). Any one who is interested in volunteering, completes the form on their website. The Rabtt team then interviews the prospective volunteer, and upon selection, trains him/her regarding the assigned role.

Rabtt’s fund raising strategy has largely been focused on fostering solid relationships with organizations that share it’s mission and purpose. Hammad elaborates:

“The first step for Rabtt was to identify the target audience for its educational camps, and be very clear about what value these camps will add to the educational experience of the students. Once that was established, the Rabtt team approached like-minded individuals and organizations for support. Our aim was, and is, to make longstanding partnerships with like-minded organizations…The thrust of the fundraising campaign was, hence, not as much focused on brand promotion for the different organizations we targeted but more so on combined values and vision”.

One of Rabtt’s first supporters was Akhuwat, a micro-finance organization that provides interest free loans to the poor. Other organizations Rabtt focused on was different publishers and book houses that directly cater to the school children Rabtt aimed to work with.

“One of the biggest challenges in the beginning was to build credibility with these organizations…Trust is hard to gain when an organization is still in its developing stages”. The Rabtt team organized a number of in-person meetings and presentations to help gather the support needed for Rabtt to hold its first summer camp. “But now, within a year, we have successfully conducted three camps, have a growing pool of volunteers and  a clear direction that we can present to our supporters”.

Rabtt is now working to grow in terms of curriculum development, and program sustainability.  The team is working to standardize the content of the curriculum, and improve it based on student feedback. It also aims to establish a steady follow-up program to remain in touch with the summer camp ‘graduates’ and continue to contribute towards their personal and academic development.

If you are interested in keeping up with Rabtt, go ahead and like their Facebook page and follow their blog.

For more educated-related posts on TC-P, check out:

Hussain Bandukwala’s Q&A with the Design for Change (DFC) Pakistan team

VEFA Pakistan: Using Virtual Ed to Reach Students in Need

Thinking about Mobile Technology in Pakistan’s Classrooms 

What a week for #socent!

  • Our very own Kalsoom Lakhani is at the Skoll World Forum, representing her company, Invest2Innovate. Follow discussions on the conference on the #skollwf hashtag.
  • Saad Amanullah Khan has written in the Express Tribune about the need for social entrepreneurship in Pakistan.
  • BLISS is looking for interns! Deadline: 31st March, so apply now!

While ‘competition’ may be the central relationship in an economic system when it comes to financial capital, that really shouldn’t be the case when it comes to the social space. In the TC-P guest post below, Nabeel, the head of the Association for the Development of Pakistan’s (ADP) media team points towards the recent successful collaboration between ADP and EcoEnergy Finance as the perfect example of how collaboration in the social sector can pave the way for greater access to both financial and social capital. 

One of the most common problems faced by any organization around the world, regardless of sector, is a lack of funding – a lack of capital. In turn, the most widely talked-about relationship in the economic system that centers around capital is competition. Competition is meant to spur innovation, yet the race for financial capital is frequently unimaginative, taking place within a zero-sum framework that assumes scarcity and that one’s gain is at the expense of the other.

However, the above holds true only when referring to financial capital. By shifting their focus on social capital, organizations can explore collaboration and work towards a win-win outcome, breaking out of the restrictions conferred by scarcity. This, however, necessitates a lens that sees the need for both financial and social capital, and embracing partnerships as a way to access capital.

This might seem obvious in retrospect, but it’s surprising how rare effective partnerships are in the nonprofit sector. There are thousands of NGOs working in Pakistan, often with overlapping missions and mandates (and sometimes even serving the same areas and communities), yet there is an almost criminal lack of collaboration in the nonprofit sector (Cahill 2011). By contrast, the organizations for whom such collaboration can indeed be a crime usually engage in it quite openly – some may call them cartels, but the more politically correct (and euphemistic) term is industry association.

That isn’t to say that, er, associations are bad – and one example lies in the partnership recently developed between EcoEnergyFinance and the Association for the Development of Pakistan.

First, some background. EcoEnergyFinance (EEF) is a recently established social enterprise that aims to provide rural villages with solar-powered lanterns, a cheap and sustainable source of renewable energy. EEF’s goals are to foster income generation for rural low-income communities (40% of villages do not have access to electricity, according to International Energy Agency), displace kerosene as an energy source, and combat climate change by providing a local renewable energy solution. They do this by recruiting and training entrepreneurs within the village to invest into solar lanterns.

The Association for the Development of Pakistan (ADP) is an engaged philanthropy organization that funds carefully selected small development initiatives in the country. In the nine years since it was formed, ADP has funded dozens of projects and disbursed around $750,000. Projects are screened using predetermined investment criteria and undergo rigorous due diligence before being granted funding, followed by monitoring and evaluation to ensure that outcomes are being met. ADP is distinguished by being run almost entirely by a dedicated and highly skilled group of volunteers around the globe.

ADP volunteer Saad demonstrating a solar lantern during a field visit in rural Sindh

Given these introductions, one might expect a project proposal submitted to ADP to be a request for funding – as every request invariably had been until now. But in the fall of 2011, Shazia Khan, executive director of EEF, approached Mubarik Imam, president of ADP, with an unusual request.

EEF needed ADP volunteers to provide management expertise and to accompany Jeremy Higgs, EEF’s Australian operations director in Pakistan, to field visits in rural Sindh. They had already received funding for their pilot, and needed to conduct two visits before December. Saad Halim and Hasan Saeed, both based in Karachi, duly stepped up.

“We learnt a lot from the first visit – a lot of our assumptions turned out to be wrong,” said Saad. He had developed a framework of needs to help calculate the demand for the lanterns in the villages. It turned out that while demand existed, there was no one in the village who could invest in the lanterns as an entrepreneur. The cost was Rs. 2,500, and the villagers could buy the lanterns in installments, but it had to be a group decision; no one took a loan until everyone pitched in.

Moreover, “the economic benefit was not clear…the expectations had been ruined.”

In each village, the residents were aware of solar power, but were not willing to pay for it – an NGO had distributed solar lanterns, of varying quality, for free after the 2010 floods. While EEF offered standard 9-LED lanterns, one of the donated lanterns shined with no less than 40 LEDs, and others were Chinese rechargeable models.

Another organization had electrified an entire village. With ‘free’ as the competing price, a traditional charity was finding more traction vis a vis the social enterprise. It was a sobering experience for the social entrepreneurs.

Nevertheless, Jeremy was full of praise for Saad: “He took a lot of initiative in getting to the villages and performing demonstrations – after our first discussion, he understood his job immediately and ran with it.”

Hasan Saeed was involved in a different capacity, helping to develop a training program for the entrepreneurs in the villages that were to be visited. He also helped with the procurement and designed the monitoring and evaluation with a baseline survey.

“We were learning a lot during the visits, and having volunteers who had been screened and had a sense of responsibility was really helpful,” said Jeremy.

There was indeed a lot going on during the visits. It was quickly apparent that the sales pitch needed to be refined, and identifying an entrepreneur turned out to be a huge challenge. EEF is now looking at developing partnerships before going into villages, harnessing the ability of grassroots organizations to mobilize communities and scale operations. Leveraging existing microfinance/livelihood programs wasn’t always the plan, and EEF has had to adapt their model through a number of internal discussions and meetings with organizations, trying to identify the value proposition.

In his blog post on the visit to Sujawal, Jeremy concluded, “If we’re to work in this area, we need a local partner.” While ADP is not quite that local partner, it has operated on the basis of such partnerships for years, which came in handy here.

Given that EEF has not launched a successful pilot yet, it might be tempting to conclude that working with ADP didn’t yield any particularly positive results. However, that misses the fact that working independently, it would have taken these organizations twice the time and energy to reach the current stage. More importantly, both organizations gained a lot of intangible knowledge about implementing renewable projects in a rural context.

So not only did this EcoEnergyFinance and Association for the Development of Pakistan partnership improve efficiency – it also enriched the human capital of both organizations and reinforced the social capital that is so critical to success.

Nabeel is the head of ADP’s Media team and the managing editor of SocialFinance.ca at the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, and a project coordinator for the Tessellate Institute. He graduated from the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi and has studied public administration and leadership at Ryerson University, Toronto. He enjoys sports, photography, and staying busy.

 Resources: 

 Nonprofit Collaboration Database 

 The Partnering Initiative 

Hi all! Here’s a quick round-up of #socent happenings:

Pakistan Updates:

  • In order to tackle the problem of poor waste management in Karachi, entrepreneur, Khayam Hussain has designed the Ricksaaf, a rickshaw with a steel container that can carry up to 200 kg of trash. How awesome is that? Check out the full story on E-Tribune here.
  • If you missed start-up weekend in Lahore, Waqas Ali of Hometown Shoes sums it up here.

Opportunities:

Events:

  • Stop by Kuch Khaas in Islamabad this Wednesday for the event, “Changing Mindsets through Film-Making” in honor of International Women’s Day. The event will screen a video montage on themes related to women followed by a poetry recitation and motivational songs by Mumtaz Begum and Abida Ejaz to celebrate the struggles and achievements of Pakistani women. More details here.
  • The Environmental Protection Society is organizing the GCU Environmental Conference on March 12 – 13.

Opinion:

  • Felix Oldenburg, the European director of Ashoka talks about how organizations that do not generate changemakers are going to be left behind regardless of how much money they have. Read the full piece here.
  • Check out the widely circulated post on the 7 worst ideas in international aid – what do you think they missed?

The P@SHA Fund for Social Innovation recently announced its first round of winners. In the coming weeks, TC-P will be highlighting these innovative projects which aim to use technology to meet social needs in education, culture, medicine, environmental or any other community problem. This week TC-P sits down with Waqas Ali, the brains behind Hometown Shoes, an online store that connects local artisans directly to consumers.

A native of Lahore, Waqas first came up with the idea of Homemade Shoes during a conversation with M. Hussain in his village, Basirpur in Okara District. Hussain had a small business of handmade leather shoes, and would sell his product to big brand shoe stores. Unfortunately while the large chains would make a high profit margin, Hussain would make very little. “I asked him why don’t we sell using the internet and offered my help” says Waqas, “But we couldn’t get started right away because not having seed funding, and recently we finally made it through the P@SHA Social Fund.”

Hometown Shoes will currently be targeting consumers in Lahore only but hope to expand to Punjab and then, the rest of the country. Currently, the Hometown Shoes team is busy with production and fine-tuning their website. Towards the end of March, they will be organizing an exhibition of handmade crafts in Lahore. Don’t miss it!

When asked how he sees Hometown Shoes expanding, Waqas responds, “We are reaching out to other local artisans to add a variety of handmade leather products like handbags, wallets and belts. So there is a lot that is still to be found and work on. We are very excited about what is ahead for us”.

To follow Hometown Shoes progress, subscribe to their blog. You can also follow them on twitter and like them on Facebook. If you missed TC-P’s original post on the P@SHA Fund for social innovation, check it out here.

Hi all! Here’s a quick round-up for stuff #socent people like. If we have missed anything, e-mail us or let us know in your comments!

#Pakistan:

Opportunities:

  • Association for the Development of Pakistan (ADP) is currently looking for a volunteer Social Media Manager. For details, check out their website.

Resources:

So ladies and gentlemen, it’s been exactly one year since ThinkChange Pakistan was launched. Conceived over early morning Skype calls, and an endless stream of e-mails, TC-P is a humble attempt to track the growing social innovation, and entrepreneurship space in Pakistan.  While we are still a long way from capturing this growing #socent/#socinn space in its entirety, we are confident that with your constant feedback, we can continue to chip away at what we have started.

A big thank you to our contributors for making the editorial team’s job a little easier, and to the wonderful change-makers for taking the time out of their ridiculously busy schedules to talk to us about their work.

Since Feb 15 2011 – Feb 15 2012 has been an eventful year for all three of us (TC-P editors that is), we would like to share some of the things we have learned about the #socent and development space in the past twelve months:

Jeremy in action: Making a sales pitch for solar lanterns in Thatta

Jeremy, EcoEnergy Finance

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed already! The biggest change for me in the past year has been joining EcoEnergyFinance as their Director of Operations and conducting their pilot distribution of 100 solar lanterns in Sindh, Pakistan. Working in a social enterprise, rather than talking from the sidelines, has revealed to me the considerable challenges faced in the sector.

One of the toughest challenges has been determining how we work with other organisations to achieve our aims. We’ve had to wrack our brains to develop a partnership model, and after many revisions and meetings where people are confused by what we do, I think we’re making slow steps towards clarity. I’m hoping that after the pilot, I’ll be able to share a great deal more about these challenges, for other people to learn from!

Maryam, IREX:

Html codes, wire requests, grant monitoring, online portals and classrooms – these are some of the things that have kept me busy the past few months. Since November, I have been working to get our program’s alumni activities off the ground. Currently our alumni programming consists of a small grants program for community development projects, and a series of online trainings. My work with TC-P has increased my exposure to fantastic social enterprises working in Pakistan, and instilled in me the importance of sustainability, and establishing rigorous standards for project design, and financial transparency, which has really helped me with my work with the small grants program, as well as ADP.

Since we primarily rely on technology to communicate with our alumni, I was initially daunted by our ‘lack of options’ and honestly, a little skeptical about the impact of online trainings. But thanks to my personal experience with amazing organizations like TechChange, and TC-P posts on mobile technology, and virtual education in Pakistan’s schools, I have realized that I may have been giving edtech a lot less credit than it deserved. I am excited about continuing to learn more about this space, and exploring how it can be realistically integrated in basic education development projects on a larger scale.

Kalsoom, Invest2Innovate

In the last year, I was readying to launch my start-up Invest2Innovate before going live in September 2011. i2i is building early-stage social enterprises and access to capital in new and untapped markets, beginning (of course) with Pakistan. We are currently working with four social enterprise clients, including EcoEnergy Finance (where Jeremy is the Operations Director!), and doing due diligence on a fifth client. i2i is also building the funding pipeline and look forward to potentially building an angel investor network for start-up social enterprises. The road this year has been harrowing, rewarding, tricky, and exciting – all at the same time. It hasn’t been easy, and start-up life is a rollercoaster of emotions, but I wouldn’t change my decision for anything. I think few people can say that they are doing what they truly love, so I feel really blessed to be working with incredible partner organizations and entrepreneurs who inspire me every day.

Dear TC-P readers, here’s what you may have missed in the world of #socent in the past couple of weeks. If WE have missed anything, do let us know in your comments.

#Pakistan updates:

Events:

Opportunities:

Resources:

  • A new report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, in collaboration with the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship looks into how social entrepreneurship is redefining the meaning of return.
  • IDEO released a free innovation guide for social enterprises and NGOs working worldwide. Have a look and let us know what you think!

Did you know?

It’s ThinkChange Pakistan’s first birthday next week? If you like what we do, and want to help out, write to us! Also, don’t forget to check out our updated social enterprise list. A big thank you to everyone who completed our social enterprise form!

2012 promises to be a good year for BLISS, says Saba Gul, the Co-Founder & Executive Director of BLISS, Business & Life Skills School. Below Saba writes about BLISS’s new partnership with Sughar Women and her recent visit to their vocational training center in Thatta, Sindh.  This post first appeared on the BLISS blog. 

We’re starting off the new year with some thrilling news: BLISS is scaling to Mirpur Sakro, Thatta in the Southern province of Sindh, where we will start working with 100 women and girls. Thatta was badly affected by the 2010 floods, with devastating effects on livelihoods.

Our executing partner on the ground is Sughar – a program of PDI(Participatory Development Initiatives), founded by the indomitable Khalida Brohi, also an Unreasonable fellow in 2010.

This past weekend, I visited Sughar’s vocational center in Mirpur Sakro, accompanied by Khalida, Jeremy Higgs, Manager of Operations for EcoEnergy Finance, and a dear friend Seher Suleman (who shares with the rest of us a hunger to change the world).

A 3 hour ride from Karachi, much of it on a dirt road with agricultural wasteland on either side, brought us to a large wooden shed that served as Sughar’s vocational center for the village. Men and women from the village filed in with smiles on their faces.

The women were thrilled to be able to showcase their work, which was so beautiful that Seher and I couldn’t resist whipping out whatever cash we had to buy some of it off of them right there and then. While none of them spoke Urdu, Khalida patiently translated everything they said.

In conversations with the women, I found out that none of the girls in the village were enrolled in school beyond the age of 12. The main reason seemed to be a lack of female teachers, without which it was culturally unacceptable for the girls to attend school. The teachers had been sent/appointed by the government, and repeated requests to send female teachers had been ignored. The other reason was early marriages — most girls were married off by the time they were 15. We visited the only school in the village, with one classroom that was used for both boys and girls attending all grades.

Jeremy had a fascinating conversation with the men about selling solar lamps to them, since the village didn’t have electricity. We exchanged some laughs as the men told a story about how their mobile phones were taken to the nearby city every week by one of them to be charged. The women jumped in as soon as Jeremy asked what difficulties the village faced without electricity, all talking at the same time. They wanted to have lights for cooking, feeding their children, doing household chores. Their lives had to be paused from sunset to sunrise.

A few of the men wanted the solar lamps for free, even though the monthly installments Jeremy had worked out for them equalled the amount they spent on kerosene every month. Notwithstanding the fact that the lamp would be theirs to own in 8 months, that they would never have to pay for kerosene again, and that the lamps were far superior to kerosene in terms of the light they produced as well as safety and health-wise. But too many NGOs had come and gone and offered free solutions that didn’t last beyond a few months. Free was still attractive.

Jeremy did succeed in striking a deal with the men, and now has an order from a neighboring village as well.

I left the village as I had left Attock almost two years ago — a little heartbroken at the limited resources this community had available to them, but really excited about the opportunity this presented for BLISS.

I can’t wait for us to work with these women! And with Khalida, someone whose work I’ve admired since I first met her last year. Here’s to new beginnings — 2012 promises to be a good year!

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