While browsing through the new additions in Google Talks, I noticed one by Vinayak Lohani, the founder of Parivaar an NGO for Child Education. This brought me back, the memories of Social Entrepreneurship classes at IIM Bangalore and interactions with him. This blog post is a culmination of few notes back from those days and the Google Talk.
A path, different from the usual brain drain
Vinayak Lohani is a simple man with few words and wonderful actions! As an elite member of the esteemed group – IIT-IIM alumni; one would expect him to be sitting at some corner office in the US heading a company or working on the next million dollar deal. Instead, Vinayak chose to work for the society, to help destitute children get educated. Vinayak is a man with tremendous energy, passion and self-belief who showed we can make a difference in society if we intend to do so. It can be with any initiatives irrespective of how small they are in the beginning. What is important is, tremendous courage and self-belief to pursue one’s passion especially if it is in the development sector.
Vinayak Lohani’s Parivaar is a humanitarian service organization, based in West Bengal working for total care and overall development of children from unprivileged and exploited categories. Vinayak’s ideology, empowerment being more important than charity work is clearly evident from the way Parivaar has been functioning. Parivaar admits children in the age group of 4-10 and are given all necessary academic, extracurricular and vocational training till they are ready to take care of themselves for a job or higher education.
Today, Parivaar is very successful that it get thousands of applications and they have to screen to admit the most needed children. From a rented building in the beginning, the organization has grown to 20 acre, 2 campus structure which can admit over 3000 students.
Vinayak has a different school of thought that, it is the individual who make decisions or donations and hence its always better to associate with individuals rather than institutions. It is very true that a mass support with even a token contribution can make enough capital for an initiative to succeed. This was exactly what Vinayak managed to do with his alumni network. He believes that everyone talks only about macro level impacts whereas micro level activity is also equally important. He stuck on to his beliefs and started Parivaar with 3-5 children. It is very true that even if small if we can make a life changing impact; it is worth doing it. It is also important that concentrating at an individual level with all the stakeholders achieves the credibility and intimacy factors – whether it is with the children, donors or volunteers.
Empathizing with and belief in people are key to successfully making an impact and empower the impoverished. We can see this clearly in the case of Parivaar. For example, Vinayak who is not a native of West Bengal was able to overcome the language barrier with the emotional connect he was able to make. The belief that all have the required capabilities and enabling the improvised to make them achieve anything is a unique thought we can see in him and Paivaar. A broad vision and the core values in sustenance are what guide any such social entrepreneurs.
Starting from small things and slowly scaling up with enhanced activities will result in the empowerment and wide levels of impact. Clear examples can be taken from Parivaar also. He talks about children who lost 3-4 years of education in the early childhood are able to perform well like others in Class 11 after concrete efforts at Parivaar shows how quality and sincere efforts can achieve the vision.
It’s worth commenting that, Parivaar also has other projects like food stock scheme for tribes, support for women etc. This also shows how a social venture can slowly widen its efforts for a bigger impact. It more impressive that they are able to do this with just individual contributions. A helpful hint that we need to closely work with those who are already in the sector to understand what the ground reality is very true.
Another interesting learning from these talks is about the amount of hand-holding NGOs in these sectors do – for example, Vinayak talks about the first batches of children he originally inducted are now in the job market and Parivaar continues to support them in whichever way they can.
Few takeaways for any aspiring social entrepreneur will be
- Belief in people and enabling them by working along with them will empower them irrespective of the background.
- Societal change is not all about the macro level impact; individual and grass root level initiatives are equally important for empowerment of the impoverished.
- We can start from nothing; all that is required is the passion and be ready to empathize with them.
- There is generally no blue print approach in development sector. The right direction of plans evolves from experience
Vinayak also shares his experiences about the societal pressure while pursuing a different passion, that too after an elite education. The difficulties in building one’s credibility, challenges in initial faces of an initiative discussed are all insightful.
It’s truly inspiring to go through the stories of such social entrepreneurs!