Today is Blog Day—it’s the day on which you are supposed to link to 5 other blogs, blogs preferably of a different culture from yours. Now I have already done 2 blog days [2005 and 2006] before and this time, I have decided to do things a bit different. Rather than blogs, I will link to four India-themed projects (I wish there were five that I had knowledge of), focussed on governance, education and finance, that I feel merit attention. Note that I am not associated directly or indirectly with any of these projects —they had been brought to my attention mostly by people who have written in.
1. Rakshabandhan for Education: (Registration No: – S/IL389/2) This organization, based in West Bengal, seeks to provide scholarships (Rs 500 a month) for meritorious yet needy students, mostly in the Class XI and XII stage where many of them are forced to drop out due to financial reasons. It has received some attention in the press and its supporters have an active Orkut community. Please go through the Orkut community if you are interested in success stories and more information [The web site unfortunately, at the time of writing, is more a placeholder than anything else.]
2. Democracy Connect: If you believe that our democracy has not performed as well as it is supposed to, one thing you can try is to adopt the “Rang De Basanti” approach—destroy the system (and those in it). Or you could attempt to make it work—which is what the folks at Democracy Connect do, providing strategy, policy, management and research support for legislators and government decision-makers. With a team of young and talented professionals straddling continents, working for some of the biggest names in business consultancy and corporate strategy, this group represents a rare confluence of idealism and intellect. All that remains to be seen is how many politicians are willing to make use of this resource for scientific governance as opposed to the vested-interest-driven ad-hocism that we have come to accept as a “given”. [More information here]
3. The Spark Group: Another education focussed initiative, its website describes it as: ” an idea incubator working at the grassroots level in India. Using insights from academic research, the Spark Group develops promising ideas into commercially viable business ventures that deliver valuable services to poor communities.” From what I understand, the Spark group is primarily focussed on three initiatives:1) Spark Ventures, which promotes investment in schools serving depressed areas 2) Spark Accreditation, a service for accreditation of schools and 3) Spark Guru, a national program for teachers. Like Democracy connect, its management team boasts impressive CVs and that’s not just because the founders were my seniors at high school. [More information here]
4. Aavishkaar: Aavishkaar, winner of the UNDP World Business Award in 2006, is a venture-capital firm for backing “socially relevant, commercially viable and environmentally friendly enterprises that do not have access to project financing – loan or equity – from traditional financial institutions”.[Link] Government funding for rural ventures in India has historically been a scam for providing low-interest loans, without appropriate collateral, to people enjoying political patronage ( if you do not believe me you can ask our newly elected President). Given this state of affairs, Aavishkaar serves as a much needed instrument for spreading the butter of liberalization more equitably. [More information here]