Ever wondered – Whether sitting idle in your leisure time or working on a presentation for work or attending lectures – Why you do, what you do?
Stories and facts are always represented by someone’s point of view, with certain assumption and perception of that individual. Is it possible to look at something without a thought- through the naked mind! Ever observed something instead of judging? It’s difficult, it’s the human mind that already has information in the cranium box and when we come across certain things we end up processing the new ones with certain biases that already exists. Being reflective and understanding your environment was one of the reasons I had started this blog page couple of years back. And this echoed back when I attended a workshop on ‘participatory efforts’ in development sector by Robert Chambers. One of the important things I am learning at Institute of Development Studies (IDS) is to be reflective.
“It is when you think you have arrived, you tip over” – Robert Chambers
Not so long ago, when I was still kind of in two states about pursuing my Master’s degree or go with the current job and eventually build and work on my start-up idea, the investors pull the plug – making my choices even easier than I had thought. The social enterprise (a misnomer -may be!) shuts down its operations and reasons for the story that followed was the similar ones that you come across nowadays with every dying start-up in India – investors stopped funding, there is no fund to keep it running. Working for this social enterprise did not teach me much while I was on the job but after leaving it did! I struggled for answers, struggling to understand people that I worked with, trust within the management-what happened and why.
In India it is not uncommon to hear about social enterprise or NGO or a new venture with a “social impact” tag mushrooming across the country. My hesitation is not with the numbers(quantity) increasing but with the quality that they deliver and consistency of the project- the founders, people and product. Yes, we have come across lot of models like business canvass modelling, SWOT, Investor questionnaires and so on. But what we forget to ask ourselves is ‘why you do, what you do’. Most of the answers you might come across is passion, want to help make a change, make an impact, have ‘disruptive’ product that could sell– but does words have an impact, I am not sure! Passion is like fire which burns brightly but unless fueled dies out. When one talks about “change” –What do they mean by change, for whom and how – by whose view and why. “How things are is how you see it from” – R.Chambers. Similarly impact-what is your measure of impact here? Impact evaluation from an investor perspective has always been the ROI(return-on-investment), for any social impact it is a long term processes. Here by the word ‘social’ I mean cultural, environmental, social justice, and other qualitative measure.
Much like CSR, are social enterprises becoming the new smokescreens or window dressing when it comes to development? While, with exception to some, there are very few I believe like Aravind Eye Care in South India which stand out as an example to follow. And these few should be the example to continue on my journey to make this world, if not a dent in the universe, a “little” better place!
Its time to ‘observe’ rather than ‘judge’.