Archives for category: NGO/Non-profit

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 


Word cloud generated from TC-P Top Social Enterprise Survey responses

On December 2011, #socent buffs in Pakistan voted for their favorite social enterprise through TC-P’s Pakistan’s Top Social Enterprises in 2011 survey. Here’s what we learned:

Naya Jeevan:  Pakistan’s Top Social Enterprise

An overwhelming majority voted for Naya Jeevan, a not-for profit social enterprise that provides low-income families with access to catastrophic healthcare through their unique micro-insurance program. Founded in 2007 by Asher Hasan, the organization is currently headquartered in Karachi.

Incidentally one of TC-P’s first #socent spotlights was on Naya Jeevan. For a more detailed insight into the organizations, have a look at our Q&A with founder, Asher Hasan here.

2011 has been a great year for Naya Jeevan. In the past one year, the organization has quadrupled its number of beneficiaries. The total beneficiaries now enrolled in Naya Jeevan health plan is 15,300. New clients that have come onboard include:

  • Pakistan International Container Terminal Limited
  • Philip Morris
  • Alucan Pakistan (Pvt), Alu Pak Pakistan (Pvt)
  • HRSG Outsourcing
  • Philips Pakistan
  • CinePax (Box Office)
  • FM 91
  • Abu Dawood Trading Co, Pakistan
  • Indus Pharma
  • DHA Services

Founder and CEO, Asher Hasan was also awarded World Economic Forum/Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 and the Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship.

In addition to expanding its client base and continuing to receive global recognition, Naya Jeevan initiated two very promising projects:

NGO Schools: Philanthropic Model

The project is a pilot to compare health insurance to managed healthcare in NGO schools across Pakistan. Currently 7,309 NGO school children are enrolled in either an indemnity or managed healthcare plan across the country. Some participating schools are Manzil School in Karachi,  Zindagi Trust’s ‘I Am Paid to Learn’ schools, SOS Village, DIL schools in Khairpur, Mashal School in Islamabad and Sweet Home Foundation.

 Artpreneurs for Change

Naya Jeevan is currently running an initiative called “Artpreneurs for Change” to help children with disabilities enroll in the Naya Jeevan managed care health plan. The project is a collaborative effort between Naya Jeevan, NOWPDP (Network of Organizations Working With People With Disabilities in Pakistan), Fulbright alumni and art therapists. Seed funding was given by the US State Department as a part of the first ever Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF). The project aims at running art therapy classes in three schools for children with disabilities (Dar-ul-Sakoon, ACELP, and Ida Rieu) and to use auction proceeds from the resulting artwork to raise awareness and funds for the healthcare of these children.

Your Responses

Kashf Foundation, Pakistan’s premier microfinance institution was voted as the next top social enterprise of 2011. It was recognized by voters as having the most community outreach and social impact in rural Pakistan. Read TC-P’s detailed piece on the foundation here.

While Kashf Foundation and Naya Jeevan have been consistent #socent faves in Pakistan, we we were happy to see some voters point towards some of the newer or lesser known initiatives as well:

About Pharmagen:

Pharmaceutical drugs in developing countries is an important issue, and I’m glad there are organizations like Pharmagen out there that seek to maintain a bare minimum quality of drugs available to the public. As far as I hear, they’re doing a good job at what they do.

About Jassar Farms:

(Reason for voting for Jassar Farms): Potential social impact. Huge in my opinion – far greater than others. It’ll enable BoP to create value through ‘more’ productive assets and increase income levels. Investments in education, health, housing will surely follow then in a more sustainable manner.

About Participatory Development Initiatives:

Ideological affinity with concept of participatory development. Especially impressed with PDI’s initiative on land rights; not aware of any other local organizations working on this very crucial issue.

Thank you once again to all those who participated in our survey. Your feedback helps us highlight the work of these great innovative organizations and encourage the social entrepreneurship space in Pakistan. If you have suggestions regarding which social enterprises to highlight in 2012, write to us


TC-P sits down with Sarah Adeel, the founder and CEO of LettuceBee Kids, an emerging heartfelt  initiative that aims to prepare communities to support street children in a connection-based, community centric context. Sarah Adeel is a Fulbright Scholar and a graduate from Rhode Island School of Design, where she was the recipient of the Award of Excellence. She is also a part of the Social Innovation Initiative program and Persuasive speech at Brown University.

What’s the story behind LettuceBee Kids? Your website tells us that your research project at RISD explored family and community structures in relation to the design of orphanages. Can you explain what parts of your research led and guided you in the creation of LettuceBeeKids?

It was the summer of 2008. I was visiting Pakistan for a comparative analysis between orphanages in the developing world and foster care homes in the developed countries. I met Musa in of the orphanages. He was six, pale and wide eyed. Two ladies brought him in one morning. The person in charge was told that he was found on the streets, crying, and that he should be taken in. Upon further investigation, we realized that someone had raped him the previous night and left him limping by the street. When they took him out, all his clothes were blood stained & he was still limping. He was only 5.

It was his expression or a complete lack of it that chilled me to my bones. I was shocked. This experience triggered in me the urge to find a solution to help these children who have no one but themselves.  That, I believe was my moment of truth.

I once read, “A life without purpose has no value. A purpose that is focused on oneself has no meaning.” This quote, my experience, a book, ‘The Little Prince’ and my thesis project at RISD, they all came together and LBK was born—that is now bound to help all such children and reshape their futures. To be honest, while I am doing this to bring positive change in their lives, I am just as much wanting to help them to help me, because I do not know any other way to what subjectively can be termed remotely as ‘happiness’ or a life with a purpose.

Tell us about your team.

LettuceBeeKids team brings together complementary expertise in childcare, community participation and awareness, education, start-ups, and sustainable businesses in local markets.

Mohsin Ali Afzal a fellow Fulbright scholar is a MBA graduate from UC Berkeley. He helps Lettuce Bee Kids with the strategic and business planning. Jabbar Bangash who deals with the media and online presence of LettuceBee Kids holds a Master’s Certificate in Project Management  from Carleton University along with a Bachelors of Computer Science from University of Windsor.  Naveed Alam, a MBA graduate from the Haas School of Business adds value to LBK through his business acumen and financial skills and his two passions – helping children and making delicious sandwiches.

Our board of trustees is comprised of Elizabeth Dean Hermann, founder of the DESINE-lab @ RISD which brings design thinking, practices and outcomes together with innovation and entrepreneurship to address issues of global poverty and social and environmental injustice; Asad Jamal, the chairman and Managing Director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson ePlanet Ventures; and Gordon Bloom, the director and founder of the Social Entrepreneurship Collaboratory (SE Lab) at Harvard University where he focuses on the creation and development of social change organizations.

In your website, you described LettuceBeeKids as a social enterprise. Can you tell us about its business model and how you intend to go about fundraising?

One key factor for LettuceBee Kids is to try to achieve a certain level of sustainability and not completely rely on donor funding or philanthropy.  A carefully researched support system has been devised that will involve the local community in the upbringing of these children and make these children an integral part of the society. This support system will also make their home, a self-sufficient and sustainable mechanism of survival and self-actualization for them by generating internal revenues In order to achieve that goal, we have several revenue generation activities as part of the LBK eco-system. These include;

  • The more you grow the more you grow [LettuceBee Deli]
  • The more you play, the more you play [LettuceBee Band]
  • The more you draw, the more you draw [LettuceBee Design]
  • Adopt a Grandparent [LettuceBee Yours]

Currently we are in the seed funding stage and targeting a select few investors whose vision is aligned with LBK. We are also in the process of finalizing our board of trustees.

How do you go about selecting the children that will benefit from LettuceBee Kids? What programs and mechanisms do you have in place that they stay connected to their communities? 

We are currently in the process of documenting and profiling street children. We are trying to get a better understanding of them, their story and their aspirations. Through this first phase, we hope to identify the first batch of lettuce-bee-kids, those most in need and those that can benefit from the lettuce-bee-kids vision.

What’s your plan for scale? 

We have some thoughts on scaling the project but right not we are not thinking about expanding lettuce-bee-kids till the first pilot project is proven feasible and successful.

What three pieces of advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?

Have the right outlook in life with a goal to strive for. Everyone finds their calling at some point in time and when you do, just don’t hesitate to give it your all. Remember that life is all about making decisions, they just have to be for the right reasons. Drink water, eat health, run a little everyday and always try and keep the 3 P’s in sight: perseverance, patience and pursuit of happiness.  They will take you places.

During the month of Ramadan, the Charter for Compassion – Pakistan is celebrating acts of compassion in everyday life. Here at ThinkChange Pakistan, we thought we’d put a different spin on it and look at the role compassion plays in inspiring and motivating social entrepreneurs.

Ambreen Rahman (GreenRoshni):

I grew up without a father, my mother suffered from PSTD (post-traumatic stress)
and our family lacked financial security. Despite these hardships I was able to advance in life based on the compassion and trust of others-from relatives, to teachers, to government and institutional policies and approaches that enabled me to realize my goals.

My desire to work with underprivileged populations – by teaching children in one of the poorest neighborhoods in NYC, or by working with rural indigenous communities in neglected areas of  Pakistan or with youth in prison in Texas – is closely tied to the compassion I received in my life and my desire to provide others with a similar helping hand.

Khalida Brohi (Sughar – TC-P coverage):

For me compassion (not sympathy) have been the core of my stepping against my own tribal customs. I haven’t understood yet why, but living among people in pain and women under strict laws my life have been different in every aspect from them. I got freedom, education, opportunities to speak out my heart and to make decisions regarding my life…All this when leading me to a future different then all the other girls in my community actually led me to a feeling that I would never forget. And that was compassion for those around me who were less fortunate and then to get me back to my community and strive to do anything to help them in their lives.

From my own life as well as from others, I have learned a great deal about compassionate people which is no matter who they are and where they are, if they have the right feelings and an extreme urge to help out people or to stop the suffering of others, they are capable of making the biggest change possible. Because then its not them but their passionate feelings taking charge and looking for every opportunity and every step around them to help achieve the goal they see.

As a child I was told I was supposed to wear others shoes to see how they felt but later I understood that compassion actually isn’t just about wearing their shoes its about taking the place of that person in pain from the very day we come across them until the day we are able to make this person happy again so it nudges us and makes us uneasy till we are able to do our best to heal their suffering a bit. I have had to take the places of thousands of girls and women around me, I still am, living with them in their spirits, with their feelings and in their frightened heart beats and I am trying my best every second to do anything that I can to bring the satisfaction that would prove that change is happening.

Zehra Ali (Ghonsla – TC-P coverage):

The urge one feels to improve lives of those affected by a social problem, is rooted in compassion. Compassion opens a window for most individuals to be moved to an extent that they wish to challenge the status quo and seek opportunity even in adversity. One can even say that it is a key ingredient for innovating and being committed to impact.

At Ghonsla compassion drives our vision for providing insulation to increase the quality of life for people at every level of society, conserve precious environmental resources and create opportunities for micro-entrepreneurship to empower others. When leading an organization, it provides the platform to engage with others in a way that is inclusive and based in trust. Our success lies not in the revenue we generate from the sales of the insulation but the value that we create for our customers, partners, employees and communities.

Saba Gul (BLISS – TC-P coverage):

I am really disturbed by the social disparities in Pakistan, and by the contrast between myself and millions of underprivileged girls who will never get a basic education. Having been fortunate enough to attend one of the best schools in the US, I feel a deep sense of compassion when I hear the numerous stories of girls who make unimaginable sacrifices to attend school — masking themselves as a boy, losing a family member to extremist entities that opposed female education, engaging in laborious, exploitative work to generate an income.

I’m driven by a world vision – that of no girl left behind, of every young girl able to define the course of her own life.  Compassion guides me in my work every day, in making decisions that best serve the beneficiary communities, in refining our model as we better understand their needs, and in relating their struggles and dreams to those who want to help.

In part, my motivation for choosing this life-path is my love for the work – it’s real, it’s meaningful, it’s gratifying, and I get inspired every single day by the courageous girls I work with and for.

To those of you out there – how does compassion inspire you?
While you’re at it, submit your story to the Charter for Compassions’ Acts of Compassion competition, and you may have a chance at a year of school fees being donated in your name for an underprivileged child.

Virtual Education can be defined as instruction in a learning environment where the teacher provides course content through course management applications, multimedia resources, the internet and video conferencing (Wikepedia 2011).

Triggered by the abysmal state of education in Pakistan, a small group of motivated individuals in Lahore decided to utilize virtual education as a way of addressing the teacher shortage in Pakistan as well  as tapping into the experience of veteran teachers. VEFA aims to ‘generate educational resources to help make up for deficiencies in the schooling system’.

VEFA’s model is currently centered on approaching experienced teachers and getting their lectures on primary school subjects recorded through the Camtasia Studio software. Each lecture will cover a topic or part of a topic of the national curriculum and will be for a maximum duration of 20 minutes. The lectures will then be uploaded and made available online. Once the series of lecture is complete for classes I to 8, VEFA will play the lectures at Virtual Weekend Academies at select locations throughout Pakistan free of cost. The VEFA team is currently working on their first pilot in Lahore. During a Q&A with the TC-P team, VEFA founder Memoona Sajjad expressed great hopes for the project:

VEFA’s first MIRAS weekend academy is all set to be launched in July 2011 at Lahore inshallah. This pilot project shall be the first venture of its kind and the progress of our first batch of students will be monitored to assess the success of this work. We hope participating students will gain not only textbook knowledge but will develop a deeper awareness of relevant issues. VEFA aspires to develop among students a sound grasp over concepts, values and the application in the wider world, of the knowledge imparted to them.

VEFA’s target audience are students of grade 1 to 5 studying at public schools in rural or urban areas in Punjab. Their lectures are currently focused on Math and English however, VEFA is considering developing lectures on ethics and Iqbaliyat.

At the moment VEFA is mostly in its production stage. They hope to cover all topics from classes 1 to 5 by January 2012. However they have also identified two in-need schools in Lahore who have agreed to host VEFA lectures on weekends. Further Memoona is confident that online viewership for VEFA lectures will increase dramatically and they will reach their target audience of at least a thousand school children in five years.

The steadily growing use of technology in the field of education is definitely exciting. Just recently a TC-P commentator Muhammad Ansari informed us of a group of students in Karachi using video call technology to teach students about unconventional subjects in order to develop critical thinking. Projects such as these set an important precedent for public and private school teachers. It will be great if the Ministry of Education begins to pick on these trends and get public school administrators to start thinking on more innovative lines.

If you are interested in VEFA’s work, they are currently recruiting teachers and volunteers. For further information, please visit their website.

The Palestyle Clutch

(This article was cross-posted with CHUPWhen was the last time you looked down at your trendy-but-questionable harem pants and asked yourself, “Where did these come from?” No, they did not claw its way out of the ’90s, fresh from an MC Hammer video, as much as your friends might like to tell you (don’t worry, they’re just jealous). Aladdin didn’t call, asking for his pants back (honestly, you might need new friends). No, harem-pants person. Those pants were the result of a long and complex value chain, and in some instances, players (often the people making the garments in countries like Bangladesh or Pakistan), were exploited in the process. The ethical fashion movement aims to address and remedy some of these issues – many labels using fair trade or ethical practices or producing eco-friendly products. Ayesha Mustafa is the Pakistani founder of Fashion ComPassion, a UK-based ethical online retailer that markets socially responsible luxury brands. In the eight months since Fashion ComPassion was established, she has worked with companies like Polly & Me (with Chitrali women in Pakistan), Palestyle (with Palestinian refugee women), andBeshtar (Afghanistan). Below, she tell us more about her organization:

Q: What inspired you to establish Fashion ComPassion? How did your past interests or background converge for the creation of this innovative organization?

Fashion and giving back to society have been my two biggest passions and Fashion ComPassion is a combination of the two. I had been toying with the idea of creating my own fashion company for awhile, and just decided I needed to make that call and switch careers.

Growing up in Pakistan and the Middle East where one sees discrepancies in wealth, poverty, and a lack of opportunities for girls and women, I wanted to create a platform that could directly support the most marginalized. I also interned at Grameen Bankwhen I was 17 and saw the transformational impact it had on women, their families and society. This stayed with me and throughout my life, I have worked and volunteered with organizations that supported women causes/rights.

Q: Fashion ComPassion currently supports four labels with four different influences – Polly & Me from Pakistan,Palestyle that empowers Palestinian refugee women, Beshtar from Afghanistan, and Savannah Chic, which is designed by African artists. How did you go about forming these partnerships and did you initially want Fashion ComPassion to be global in scope?

The mandate of the company is to create a platform for women artisans in the developing world, i.e Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, so from the onset I wanted it to be global but focus on countries that are war-torn and where there is a real need to help and empower women. I started with a vision document about the company and first i approached Polly & Me, and the rest just fell into place with research and referrals from friends and family.

Currently, I have added new brands in the portfolio: (1) Bhalo is a limited edition clothing and accessories label that works with women in Bangladesh. The products are made from ethically hand woven and naturally dyed cottons and silks. Bhalo works with two fair trade organizations, and provides employment, healthcare, child care to women who otherwise would not be employed due to mass production. Bhalo works with the same fair trade organization as People Tree. (2) Lost City is a NY label that works with artisans in Lucknow, India to revive their traditional craftsmanship with contemporary style.

I am no longer working with Polly & Me and Savannah Chic at the moment and in the midst of creating a new online website for the garments and goods.

Q: According to your philosophy, “Not only do we source responsibly from brands that contribute to society and empower women, our aim is to also donate a percentage of our sales to charities that support marginalized women in various communities around the world…” How does Fashion ComPassion do the due diligence in ensuring their brands empower women? What charities do you currently support?

We have strict criteria when we look at brands to partner with and support. Some of the things we look at are:

  1. Why was the company formed? Was it created to address a social problem, and what is the mission or mandate of the company?
  2. Does it have a strong social development ethos?
  3. How is fashion and social development combined to form the label?
  4. Does the brand work or partner with any local fair trade or women right organizations?
  5. How are the artisans paid?
  6. What are their working conditions?
  7. Are the artisans trained and given creative guidance?
  8. Are they given any other assistance in terms of health care or child care?
  9. Does the label support the community and give a certain percentage back?
  10. Can the label provide evidence and documents to support how they are helping and empowering the women they work with?

Fashion ComPassion is also committed to give back 2% of its annual profits to various women organizations that are fostering positive change and impact on women. I am looking at three at the moment, but since I am part of Women for Women International’s Junior Leadership circle, I would like to help with one of the countries they are setting up a Country Office in or a project they are focusing on.

Q: Where do you see Fashion ComPassion in the next year? In the next five years?

In the coming year, I would like to build greater awareness of Fashion ComPassion and its brands by focusing on various events and collaborations with organizations that have a similar mandate. The new website will be launched with an online shop which will allow customers to buy products directly. I am also looking at pop up stores to sell some of the brands.

In the long term, because my biggest industry inspiration is Joan Burstein, the founder of Browns, I want to make Fashion ComPassion follow Brown’s footsteps and be the one-stop shop for high-end and unique ethical fashion.

Q: The convergence of fashion and social impact is a really fascinating marriage right now with organizations like Elvis & Kresse and Goodone, which supply ethical and eco-friendly clothing to fashion stores. In the value chain, how does Fashion ComPassion market these brands to the larger or more mainstream markets?

Fashion ComPassion’s purpose is to bring together high-end socially responsible brands from the developing world and create a market for it in the UK and other countries like the US. We are starting with an online website that will sell to customers globally, we also organize events at galleries, boutiques, and form partnerships with other ethical fashion brands and women organizations. We have also taken part in fashion shows and plan to be part of trade shows for ethical fashion. With time, we plan to supply our brands to other online fashion sites in the U.S. and ethical fashion boutiques there.

Q: What has been the reaction so far to Fashion ComPassion? What has been your biggest success and failure so far?

The reaction so far has been phenomenal. I honestly didn’t except such a positive response from customers, press, retailers and other individuals. I think I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have had it not been for the help and support of numerous people that have believed in me and the company.

Beshtar Burqa Dress

My biggest success was when Beshtar’s Burqa Dress was one of the pieces of Vogue’s Green Carpet Challenge. In less than three months since I started the company, the dress was included in this prestigious selection which included some of the most well-known designers that are working on their ethical lines.

I wouldn’t call it a failure but not being able to find the right socially responsible brand from Pakistan that I can work with and make a name for in the UK. This is something that I am researching and have talked to various individuals in Pakistan both in social development and fashion. I hope that very soon, I can get a brand from my own country and create a positive image of Pakistan through fashion.

You can become a learn more about Fashion ComPassion by visiting their website or joining their Facebook page

This piece is a contribution by Ayesha Zubair Dada and Zahra Shah (Naya Jeevan) and Jeremy Higgs (NOWPDP, Managing Editor on TC-P), covering their work in procuring health insurance for young people with disabilities in Pakistan. 

In early 2011, Rachel Sun Xiangyu, a 21 year-old student from Hangzhou, China, travelled to Pakistan to complete a traineeship at Naya Jeevan. Having a passion for making friendship bands, she came up with the idea of teaching students to make these bracelets, with their own unique style. The staff at Naya Jeevan and the Network of Organizations Working for People with Disabilities, Pakistan (NOWPDP) recognised an opportunity to spread her impact on Pakistan, while reaching out to a vulnerable population.
Making bracelets
From this seed of an idea, Naya Jeevan and NOWPDP are launching a campaign to provide a means for all people to provide a safety net for children with disabilities studying at special education institutions in Karachi (around 7000 children). Just one bracelet (for around 200 rupees), will provide health insurance for a month, and a small income to the child or teacher in the school who made it.

BraceletsThis is not just any health insurance; this insurance provides preventive health care workshops and a 24 hour medical hot-line to clients along with their emergency medical coverage in case of an accident. NOWPDP and Naya Jeevan have joined hands to put together a managed care fund for these students; who would otherwise be refused coverage from insurance companies due to a misconception that their condition is associated with a higher risk of accidents.

On board with us in this campaign are Manzil and the Karachi Vocational Training Centre. Mizbah from Manzil tells us about why she’s involved in the campaign:

But we’re not stopping there! We’re also establishing an art therapy programme (with the help of artist, Sonia Chundrigar) at selected schools in Karachi (and in the future, across Pakistan), from which the proceeds of the sale of their artwork will cover the insurance costs of the children and establish a fund for future years. The two teams have also submitted this proposal to US State Department 2011 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) and the proposed project has been selected as one of the final projects to be considered for funding.

It’s time NGOs came together to avoid duplication of plans and utilise each other’s unique resources;  Naya Jeevan and NOWPDP pooled ideas to provide a much needed facility for a vulnerable population, circumventing the obvious hurdles and thinking out of the box. It’s remarkable how a young foreigner has left behind a legacy that could touch and save many lives of children who may never know where Hangzhou even is. Make sure you don’t miss out on being part of making this dream into a reality!

How you can help:

  • Buy a bracelet – and wear it. Use the compliments you get to complement the life of a child with a disability, and convince your friends to do the same.
  • Inform us of any possible sponsors you think could help – corporate or private.
  • Spread the word!
  • Follow the Facebook page for updates


Source: Acumen Fund

Acumen Fund is a non-profit venture capital fund that invests patient capital to strengthen and scale businesses effectively serving the poor. The organization also believes that “a unique pool of talent comprised of individuals who have the operational and financial skills combined with the moral imagination necessary to create innovative solutions to global poverty” can help strengthen these transformative businesses. The year-long Acumen Fund Global Fellows program achieves this by selecting well-qualified individuals and placing them in the organization’s investments around the world, giving them the necessary skills and support to work in the field for nine months and ultimately fostering a corps of next generation social sector leaders.

One of these leaders is Benje Williams, who has been working on the ground in Lahore for Acumen investee Pharmagen Healthcare Limited. Benje, a California native, came to Pakistan with a management consulting background and experience in Kenya and South Africa. He is currently working to develop and implement a marketing strategy for Pharmagen, a company that provides safe, clean, and affordable drinking water to low-income residents in the city.

The need for clean and safe water is great. According to USAID, water and sanitation related diseases are responsible for 60% of the total number of child mortality cases in Pakistan, with diarrheal diseases killing over 200,000 children under-five years old every year. In total, water-borne diseases cause 40% of illnesses in Pakistan.

Pharmagen Healthcare (Pharmagen Limited has been operating for 20 years, but Pharmagen Healthcare was launched only five years ago) aims to tackle this problem. Its chain of shops extracts water from underground, purifies it through a Reverse Osmosis plant, and re-mineralizes it. Water quality is then checked to WHO Standards, and affordably priced for low-income customers in Lahore.

In 2010, Acumen Fund made a $1.5 million investment in Pharmagen Healthcare, which will allow the company to scale their water shops from four to 30 by the end of this year, supplying half a million people with clean water daily.

A cohesive marketing plan is key to making this investment a success and helping the company expand. Since arriving in Lahore four months ago, Benje has performed market research and analysis to further understand customer expectations and preferences in the communities Pharmagen Healthcare serves.

The results have been interesting. Although the company previously undertook a mainstream marketing strategy more traditionally in line with urban customers, using radio spots and commercials, Benje found that a guerrilla marketing campaign would be more effective. As he told ThinkChange Pakistan,

In order to communicate Pharmagen Healthcare’s message and build trust within the community, we needed a more informal, rural-like approach.

The strategy, now in its implementation stage, will involve tactics like posters, in-shop promotions, partnerships with local businesses and school outreach.

This tailored strategy is a testament not only to Acumen and their close relationship with their investees, but also how important it is for social enterprises to understand the nuanced need of their low-income customers. Benje noted that going into the field – talking and listening to customers, as well as researching competitors – helps to enlighten discussion with Pharmagen Healthcare’s management team, strengthening the business’ market-based approach, as well as his own understanding on the ground.

While working in Pakistan presents its own set of challenges, Benje said his positive expectations prior to coming to Lahore were largely fulfilled, citing the hospitality and generosity he has received.  He added,

I think one of the biggest surprises has been from a religious perspective, how similar Christianity and Islam are. The appreciation and respect I have received from friends in Pakistan has been very encouraging and a very pleasant surprise.

Having previously worked in Kenya, Benje noted that he is also encouraged by the potential of the social enterprise space in Pakistan. “A large majority of Pakistanis may not yet know about social enterprise, but they could potentially be really interested in this space. From a cultural and religious perspective, there is already a strong conviction to tackle social justice issues, to help your neighbor. There is therefore potential to expand upon the pure charity approach to also gain support for Acumen Fund’s model,” which takes the best of charity and the markets.

Pharmagen Healthcare epitomizes this hybrid entrepreneurial approach, and, with Acumen’s investment and support from its fellows program, will undoubtedly have a long-term and sustainable impact among low-income communities. How’s that for moral imagination?

Hussain H. Bandukwala, a management and technology consultant writes about Heartfile’s exciting Health Financing initiative  that enables healthcare providers to request funds on behalf of their patients. Hussain has an avid interest in mobile technologies and their role in improving healthcare, education and finance in developing countries. He currently resides in Toronto, Canada, (you can follow him on Twitter @parwaaz03)

Health insurance is either mandated or completely accessible in most developed countries. In Pakistan, however it is still a luxury. Given the current structure of health insurance in the country, only a select few are able to reap its benefits, while those who really need it – laborers living below poverty line – are far from it.

Majority of Pakistan’s workforce is employed in the informal sector and therefore, does not have access to health insurance. Yet, households in this category face high healthcare costs that forces them to spend their savings, sell their properties, borrow heavily and on occasion, give up their basic needs. Some choose to forego treatment altogether.

While the government provides primary healthcare to the poor, high-cost care is not a top priority. Furthermore, the processes involved to access funds allocated for healthcare are time consuming, inefficient, and lack accountability. Heartfile, an Islamabad-based NGO founded by Dr. Sania Nishtar is taking it upon itself to drive this issue to the top of Pakistan’s healthcare agenda.

Heartfile launched its Health Financing initiative in March 2010, enabling healthcare providers to request funds on behalf of their patients to cover treatment expenditures. These funds are disbursed from Heartfile’s health equity fund, which in turn is supported by grants and donations from trusts, charitable funds, corporations, individual donors, and crowd-funding.

Using its proprietary web- and mobile-based technology platform (built by Valentia Technologies), Heartfile facilitates submission of funding requests online or via SMS. This efficient form of request intake is followed by thorough measures to validate the legitimacy of the requests. Amongst other activities, this includes telehealth assessments with patients, and running a cross-check with NADRA, Pakistan’s national ID card system, to verify that the requestors are indeed below the poverty line. According to Dr. Nishtar in an interview, the funds are released within 72 hours of the request, which is a much faster turnaround time compared to the distribution of government’s funds.

Once the funds are allocated, Heartfile uses necessary checks and balances to make sure that the funds are used appropriately. It maintains a history of funds utilization and reports it to donors as requested. Donors can register online to donate, and have complete control on where and how they want their contributions to be used (based on disease and demographic profile of the patients).

Heartfile Health Financing counts The Rockefeller Foundation amongst its major donors, whose funds are being used to help patients at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS). When Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, was asked in a recent interview about social innovation that has gone to scale, she cited Heartfile’s tremendous progress to date:

“… Heart File decided to crowd-source the stories across the world through mobile technology. We’ll SMS this person’s story and we’ll ask people using mobile finance to make contributions to his healthcare, which they are now doing and then they SMS back to the philanthropist whether it’s $.05 or $5.00 or whatever, how he’s healing and how his family’s doing. Well when you think about that, you think about what philanthropy is going to be in this new kind of environment as well. The innovation is really just accelerating at an extraordinary pace…”

Dr. Nishtar is leading the donation efforts by pledging all royalties from her book Choked Pipes. She believes that Pakistanis by nature are philanthropic but that this trait is dormant because of their lack of trust in the proper use of funds. Given the accountability and transparency that Health Financing offers, Dr. Nishtar hopes that the people of Pakistan will rise to the occasion and offer their help in raising health funds for the poor and needy.

Health Financing has been launched as a pilot project in 3 hospitals in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, and according to Dr. Nishtar, they will expand their reach to 5 hospitals by the end of 2011. The pilot has also been restricted to limited medical specialties and will eventually grow to other areas based on need and funding. Since its inception, Health Financing has been able to round up many success stories and it has also been instrumental in the relief efforts for the flood that devastated Pakistan in July 2010.

Developing countries have usually been very innovative in introducing grass-root efforts to cater to social needs. They have particularly been impressive in leveraging telehealth and health advancements to implement effective solutions. In addition to incorporating these elements within its core offering, Heartfile’s mHealth Financing program meshes a unique health reform with tried and tested financing mechanisms that can be scaled across Pakistan, as well as to other developing nations. Given Dr. Nishtar’s authority on healthcare policy in Pakistan and across the globe, Pakistan’s healthcare agenda is in safe hands.

Have you donated to Health Financing? If so, what do you think about it? If not, will you consider contributing to it? How else do you think mHealth/telehealth can improve healthcare in Pakistan?

Naya Jeevan is a social enterprise that seeks to alleviate poverty in the emerging world by providing low-income families with affordable access to quality healthcare. The organization, currently based in Karachi, provides protection to low-income families through a unique micro health insurance model, (underwritten by Allianz-EFU and IGI Health Insurance), aiming to provide quality healthcare to nearly 75,000 low-income individuals over the next 3 years. Below, TC-P sits down with Naya Jeevan Founder & CEO Asher Hasan:

Naya Jeevan CEO & Founder Asher Hasan

Q: Can you explain what Naya Jeevan does? How does the NJ micro-health insurance model work?

Naya Jeevan is a not-for-profit social enterprise that seeks to rejuvenate the lives of low-income families in the emerging world by providing them with affordable access to quality healthcare, coupled to other critical social services. The globally innovative model that Naya Jeevan is based on focuses on three target populations: (i) domestic staff (cooks, maids, gardeners, drivers, etc.) and their families, (ii) low-income employees who are affiliated with any business or organization – small or big (restaurants, gas stations, banks, factories, etc.) – across all sectors and industries and (iii) children attending NGO/public sector schools and their low-income families.

In our corporate model, the corporate employee (benefactor) makes a majority contribution and the corporate employee’s employee (the beneficiary, e.g. maid, driver, etc) and the corporation both make minority contributions towards the health insurance of the beneficiary. It is important that the beneficiary also make a contribution towards their own family’s healthcare, giving them a stake in their own future and empowering them to demand a certain standard of service. Usually, the minority contribution made by the beneficiary is deducted from the cash wages they receive from the benefactor, although this deduction is at the discretion of the benefactor.

For individuals who want to extend this benefit to their domestic staff, all they need to do is pay the premium of Rs. 200/person/month (Rs 2400/person/year). If the domestic staff member decides to leaves their employment, it is as the employer’s discretion as to whether they terminate or continue the beneficiary’s health coverage. The coverage is transferable over to an incoming employee. This important employee benefit is aimed at increasing employee retention and building loyalty.

Q: What led you to launch this venture?

During one winter college break, I returned to Pakistan to discover that my maid’s children had dropped out of school and had been placed in various homes as child labour in order to help pay back huge medical bills. I was very disturbed by this and found out that their father had suffered a stroke and the mother did not want to take charity or beg. This incident gnawed at my conscience for a while and I kept on mulling over how a catastrophic medical event had deprived an entire generation of the opportunity to emerge from poverty. A sudden, major illness such as a stroke or cardiac arrest could trap a family in a vicious cycle of debt. This was the driving force behind the launch of Naya Jeevan: the creation of a healthcare model that could prevent low-income families from drowning in debt when confronted with catastrophic health crises.

Q: Who are the founders and management? How large is your team and how does it work?

I conceived and launched Naya Jeevan in July 2007. Subsequently, in November 2007, my colleagues, Irum Musharraf and Saad Tabani, helped me write the business plan that enabled us to win the 2008 NYU Stern business plan competition (social entrepreneurship track) Saad had the IT expertise. Irum was the risk-management expert and I provided the healthcare expertise and the vision.

We have three business units: Business Development, Member Services and Corporate Development. Apart from our senior management team, we have a team of 23 people working in our Karachi office.

Q: How did you go about raising funds for Naya Jeevan in the beginning? Do you have any words of advice regarding fundraising for aspiring social entrepreneurs?

I helped cover the initial expenses (~$35,000) of the organization from July 2007-April 2008, including a 5-member market research/feasibility trip to both Pakistan and India from August 2007-October 2007. Victory at NYU’s Social Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition in 2008 was accompanied by $75,000 in seed capital and helped kick-start our operations on the ground in Pakistan during 2008. We started expanding our team in Pakistan in May 2009 after receiving a grant from the Draper Richards Foundation.

My advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs would be: (i) don’t quit your day job until you have a reliable source of alternative revenue to help you get through the tough ‘bootstrapping’ phase (first 1-2 years). I made this mistake and it resulted in two and half years of not being able to pay myself a salary and burning through my savings; (ii) apply to business plan competitions as that really gives you an opportunity to refine your vc pitch and to continuously improve upon your existing business model; (iii) approach prospective donors/funders early, It may take over a year to get funded from the time that a dialogue is initiated with a donor.

Q: How do you go about monitoring and evaluating the impact of the organization?

The biggest measure of our success is the impact we have on the lives of our beneficiaries. While we are capturing their feedback qualitatively, ultimately we will need to transition to a more objective, quantitative assessment. The number of lives we enroll i.e. number of beneficiaries and their retention/renewal rates are proxy indicators for how well this plan is being received. Apart from that we evaluate ourselves by regular corporate client/sponsor feedback; number of calls we receive on our 24 hour medical helpline number and the number of value-added services (VAS) workshops we conduct in each quarter.

Q: Since Pakistan’s low-income population is still under-served by the current health care system, what are other possible areas for intervention you would encourage other social entrepreneurs to undertake?

There are plenty of opportunities for social entrepreneurs in the healthcare space. These include: (i) a pharmacy drug benefit plan, (ii) a vision/screening plan (iii) a dental plan, (iv) a community health services/OPD plan.

Q: What are your future goals/plans for the venture? How are you going about taking this model to other emerging economies?

Naya Jeevan’s social enterprise model was designed to be sustainable, scalable, replicable and globalizable. Consequently, we aim to first scale the model in Pakistan – expanding our organizational footprint in Karachi/Lahore/Islamabad and then in other cities in Pakistan. Our hospital network already encompasses over 150 private, high-quality hospitals located in over 30 cities across Pakistan so it is logical to enroll beneficiaries from those cities/towns. Ultimately, we would like to leverage advances in telemedicine and mobile health (mHealth) technology to connect inaccessible, rural areas to our nationwide network.

Once we have achieved sustainability in Pakistan (projected to occur in early 2013), we will then replicate our model in India followed by other emerging countries (S. Africa, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, etc). Whether we replicate organically or through a franchise model remains to be determined. We’re keeping all our options open at the moment!

Q: In your interview with Kalsoom for the CHUP blog, you mentioned that the fact that Naya Jeevan beneficiaries sincerely believe that it’s changed their lives for the better, is there any one specific story that you would like to share with TC-P readers?

In April 2010, Margaret Fernandes, a 37-year-old homemaker from Karachi, experienced a sharp pain in her side. But unlike many people in Pakistan and elsewhere in the developing world, Fernandes had access to top-notch medical care. After an ultrasound diagnosed kidney stones, she received lithotripsy treatment at the Jinnah Hospital Kidney Center. Her husband, Augustine, earns less than $8 a day working for a chain of coffee shops, supporting Margaret and nine other family members, and the procedure would’ve cost more than a third of his annual income. The Fernandes family, however, paid nothing for Margaret’s treatment. Through Naya Jeevan, the Fernandes family receives quality health insurance from Augustine’s employer, Espresso Cafes. Without the health insurance Margaret might have resigned herself to taking painkillers and hoping for the best, until a time when the excruciating pain would have forced her to take out a short-term, high-interest loan from an informal, predatory lender or sold whatever meager possessions she had.

Click here to visit Naya Jeevan’s website and Facebook page.

%d bloggers like this: