One clear way to drive change is to invest in leaders who have a direct connection to the communities they serve.
Notes from the Field: India
As part of Echoing Green’s commitment to continually deepening support to our Fellows, we travel around the world to gain a better understanding of the environment in which these social innovators operate; see first-hand about the opportunities and challenges they face; and develop strong relationships with local social innovation stakeholders, including impact investors.
Owning Diverse Problems
Echoing Green’s office in New York City, in the midst of train stations, bus stations, and Times Square, is a robust sliver of city life. But Mumbai makes it seem like a quiet, suburban corner. It’s overwhelming and stimulating – the delicious smells, new sounds, vibrant colors – and the social innovation ecosystem is just as exciting, diverse, and active. Echoing Green has funded over thirty social entrepreneurs working in India over the years, and our 2013 India-based Global Fellows represent the diversity of sectors and impact areas being tackled in that region:
We visited Neil D’Souza of Zaya and Gaurav Singh of 3.2.1 Education Foundation at their unique and innovative education centers in Mumbai. Zaya utilizes revolutionary technology to improve traditional classroom and tutoring methods, while 3.2.1 Education Foundation is building a model school using a teaching curriculum based on best practices rooted in scholarly research. Both approaches are necessary to move the needle on education outcomes and are showing early effectiveness. The students we visited were in their first and second year of school and their pure excitement about having access to a learning environment was motivating.
Equally innovative is the work of Greenway Grameen Infra. Co-founders Ankit Mathur and Neha Juneja sell energy-efficient cookstoves and are developing products that incorporate and address rural consumers’ needs. Similarly, in Bangalore, business partners Jackie Stenson and Diana Jue of Essmart Inc. are distributing life-improving technologies like coolers and solar lanterns to consumers living in hard-to-reach areas of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. These organizations are dramatically improving the lives of rural consumers by delivering essential products that meet their most critical needs.
Mapping the Landscape
While on our trips, we also engage with regional impact investors to build long-term relationships in support of Fellows and the local social innovation ecosystem. Through in-person visits and ongoing outreach we are linking those working across geographies and sectors to create innovative collaborations that result in meaningful positive change.
We’ll be continuing our travels next year to Nairobi, San Francisco, and more, and hope you stay tuned for more notes from the field.
— Echoing Green (@echoinggreen) December 20, 2013
More than 150 Echoing Green Fellows gathered in Joburg for the 2015 All Fellows Conference to refine and re-energize their leadership. Here's what we learned.
Entrepreneurs face unequal challenges even before getting in an investor's door. Data illustrates disparities in the social innovation sector.