Working the “Together We Can” Way!

Kids at play
Akshara Foundation has been involved in an exciting new coalition designed to bring together a group of NGOs to work together to nurture and resource the children of Bangalore for a self-sustaining life.
Initiatied by Akshara, Nowhere and the National Institute for Advanced Science (NIAS), the coalition has adopted a two-pronged approach – to create a means of reaching as many children of Bangalore as possible to improve their life chances, and to share data for advocacy purposes through the Karnataka Learning Partnership.  Under the slogan “Together we can” the coalition, which includes Dream A Dream, Magic Bus, Centre for Education Innovations (CEI), Pratham Books, Arogya World and a host of other organisations, is running a series of Sunday camps in slums around urban Bangalore.

Children in these slums are desperately in need of life skills and mentoring in order to widen their horizons and expand their chances of succeeding in creating a better life for themselves.  Even those children who do have ambitions in life are often unsure how to achieve them, and lack the access to information and advice that will set them on the right journey.

Sunday camps are the perfect setting for several NGOs to practice their interventions on a single group of children – and for eager children to be exposed to a variety of learning opportunities.  The first Sunday camp took place in Ambedkar Nagar, near the Pepsi Factory in South East Bangalore.  We expected 30-40 children – 180 turned up.  Three partners in the coalition participated in this unique even: Dream A Dream, Magic Bus worked with children aged 8-13, and Akshara Foundation used Lego and Duplo to work with younger children.


Dream A Dream’s vision is to empower young people from vulnerable backgrounds through life skills.  One of its programmes uses arts activities and games to build self-esteem and leadership skills.  Through these children learn to value their uniqueness, appreciate their individuality and express themselves.  Working in teams helps build their team-skills, sense of worth, responsibility and discipline.  It develops critical life skills in a fun-filled, unobtrusive environment. The session lasted an hour and a half and the 80 or so children who took part were amazingly responsive.

Magic Bus is one of the largest mixed-gender programmes in the world, aiming to steer children towards a better life with better awareness, better life skills, and better opportunities.  Impact areas include school attendance, gender equality, health & hygiene and sexual & reproductive health.  They held four sessions aimed at different age-groups, all using football games designed especially to help build physical, social, and personal skills.

Akshara Foundation’s ultimate goal is to have every child in school and learning well.  Together with the LEGO Foundation they have created a programme to give school-readiness skills to 3-to-5 year olds, using a variety of games using colourful LEGO bricks.  Children were divided into groups.  The younger ones played games using different coloured duplo pieces, and the other groups built various constructions using teamwork.  The LEGO games were extremely popular, and when the children’s games had finished the mums were to be found playing with the LEGO themselves!


Plenty of lessons were learned in this first Sunday camp, but the most important was that this is an initiative with enormous potential.  The anganwadi played a key role in appointing several assistants in recruiting children and helping out on the day.  Parents, teachers, youth group leaders were all involved, with the eventual aim that they will take over the organization and running of what will be a regular event.  The most positive outcome was the reaction of the children, who flourished in an atmosphere of possibility and group play.

Next camp is planned for Sunday 11th August, if you would like to take part, or just come and watch, please contact Francesca on +91 95 38 303949 or email nimisha@akshara.org.in
Otherwise, watch this space for more updates.

TEDx Bangalore Change – Ideas for a Positive Change!


TED is a non-profit organisation which focuses on Ideas Worth Spreading. TED champions  propagates ideas that can have a global impact. Every year TED brings together across the world   thinkers, doers, activists – who present their thoughts, their learning, their ideas and views.

TEDx is a programme of local, self-organised events that offer a TED-like experience, where speakers get audiences to think, understand and engage. The x stands for independently organised TED event. 

TEDx Bangalore change was all about Positive Disruptions. This cross-disciplinary event organized by Akshara Foundation, focused on the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the whole world across a wide range of sector. The event was held on 4th of April 2013 at the Bangalore International Centre Auditorium.
Most often disruption is unwelcome, but sometimes disruption can spur positive spin-offs, cast a fresher look at the old, obstinate issues and precipitates change. The speakers for the event were  Sean Blagsvedt, SrikanthNadhamuni, V. Ravichander, Dr.Rukmini Banerjee and Dr. G.K. Jayaram.

 Rethinking Privacy, Sean Blagsvedt

Sean Blagsvedt is the Founder of Babajob.com, a job search site that make use of the power of digital social networking for India’s poor. His talk on Rethinking Privacy is of great relevance at a time when personal data is increasingly public property. Individual privacy, though not nearly at its languishing end, is at threat,and must engage in a non-zero sum interaction with the systems it is pitted against, so that there are no losers, only winners. It is a trade-off, Sean Blagsvedt argued, a few freedoms for the security and safety of being in a collective. Trust is key he reiterated. The poor get done in because they have no identity, no trust. Babajob.com is built around the principles of access and trust which can get better jobs for people who have little or no access and contact to worlds outside their own. 

Disruptive Technology for a Billion People – Srikanth Nadhamuni

In his talk,Disruptive Technology for a Billion People, Srikanth Nadhamuni, CEO of Khosla Labs and previously Head of Technology, Unique Identity Authority (UID), stated the case for technology, how, harnessed and channeled, it can erase some of India’s major problems. The country has witnessed a dramatic growth of technology. In short e-governance would improve quality and eliminate corruption. The railway reservation system is a case in point – from the  days where queues and chaos were an integral part of getting railway tickets to the online efficiency of today.  The Architecture of Good Governance begins with the computer, a fair, dispassionate deity, neither swayed nor influenced, and incorruptible. A technology-driven apparatus of a centralized system and a “data repository” simplifies life, distributes access and allays the travail of ordinary Indian citizens. A ration card will work at any public distribution outlet anywhere in the country. A weekly National Rural Employment Guarantee entitlement is available almost instantaneously as cash from any village micro ATM. Technology eats into the heart of corruption. It changes the landscape of governance.

Co-Creating Cities, V. Ravichander

In his talk, Co-Creating Cities, V. Ravichander who has 32 years of experience in Research and Consulting, began by sketching the grim picture of runaway urban growth, mismanaged,characterized by sloppy governance, skewed priorities and lack of vision. He called for collaboration between business and government. A good, functioning, well-provisioned city means good business. It boosts bottom lines, and so business, with its resources and proven delivery track record, should come up with engagement models. Ravichander highlighted the role of City Connect, a civil society movement strengthened by business participation, that believes in the professional, outcome-based management of cities. A striking example is its work-in-progress mission for Bangalore roads. And since we live in the Age of Garbage in this city, Ravichander proposed the responsible, sustainable and decentralised disposal of a festering problem. In an impassioned conclusion, he said that we as citizens must change to be able to do something about the way our cities are going.

Disruptive Learning in 45 Days, Dr.Rukmini Banerji

Dr.Rukmini Banerji has been an active member of the core team of ASER, the Pratham-facilitated Annual Status of Education Report, since 2005 and currently heads ASER Centre. Her talk, Disruptive Learning in 45 Days, was illuminating,engaging and thought provoking. In an anecdotal way she made telling, hard-hitting points on the state of learning in India. The genesis of ASER lies in a small experiment Pratham began many years ago with children who were left behind and could not read – in school maybe, but nowhere on par. Dr.Banerji and hundreds of people like her wrought a miracle with village children, turning those who stuttered and stumbled over letters into confident, fluent readers of sentences. All in 45 days, using a specially designed tool, a simple reading expedient that went on to become a rallying point not just to teach children how to read but to engage communities. It moved to the next dimension of a village report card and a learning survey of children, and ASER had begun, in embryo form. Its reading and Mathematics statistics are always cause for dismay and concern. Dr. Banerji called education one of India’s biggest problem areas and urged people to engage groups of children in reading, using appropriate material. Two hours a day for thirty or forty days. If hundreds and thousands of us can do it India will change forever, she said.

Transcendental Leadership, Dr. G.K. Jayaram

Dr. G.K. Jayaram is Founder Director of the Institute of Leadership and Institutional Development. In his talk on Transcendental Leadership,he enunciated the need for leadership in this era of reduced opportunities and dwindling expectations. An era of crisis, as it were – 8.1 million children in India who do not even see a school, poverty still stalking, people going hungry.  It is a time for leadership everywhere. Dr.Jayaram enumerated the qualities of a leader. Integrity and character are the very foundation, in an environment of falling values, lack of probity and moral decay. Intelligence and intuition, like courage and intensity, passion with purpose, are vital attributes. A leader needs to be self-aware, have empathy andinter-personal wisdom. India needs leaders who, while retaining command of the present,are able to envision the future, strategise for it, he said.



‘Together, We Can’: An initiative by Akshara Foundation



Akshara Foundation today launched ‘Together, we can’, a campaign to highlight success stories of anganwadis and government primary schools and the necessity to replicate such models throughout the state and the country. The event was organized at the Bangalore International Centre on Thursday.

The former Additional Chief Secretary of the Government of Karnataka, Dr. Chiranjeevi Singh, presided over the event and shared some key learning’s from the success of government led initiatives in education and with the ICDS scheme. He also stressed on the importance of learning outcomes and overall development of children. Eminent personalities from the city were present along with distinguished figures from several NGOs, schools, academic and research institutes.  The panel discussions at the event brought to light the necessity for collaboration among various stakeholders.

Ashok Kamath, Chairman, Akshara Foundation reiterated the key findings of the Annual Status of Education Report, emphasizing the poor learning outcomes of students. He said, “Educating children is a social responsibility which rests on ALL of us – parents, teachers, schools, government, ordinary citizens, corporates, industry, academia and the media. The need of the hour is to bring these various stakeholders together to collaborate and put a collective effort into our education system. This collective effort is not just about enrolling children in school but also ensuring they learn well. Here, the onus and accountability lies with us.”

“Every child has the right to be educated and it is our duty to provide quality education to each child. Quality education can be imparted only if we have a sound and efficient system that understands the learning needs of children,” said Kanchan Bannerjee, Managing Trustee, Akshara Foundation. “Akshara Foundation has championed the cause of access to quality pre-school and elementary education as a fundamental pillar for the holistic development of children.   Akshara Foundation’s programmes and initiatives are designed to improve overall learning outcomes and are easily scalable and replicable anywhere.”

The scope of the event reflects Akshara Foundation’s efforts to replicate the collaborative model of education across Karnataka and to make early education a top priority for the state government. ‘Together, We Can’ is a focused effort to extend a helping hand to all individuals and organizations that work towards this common goal.


What does Akshara Foundation do?

Akshara Foundation was established in the year 2000 with a mission to ensure that every child is in school and learning well. Over the last thirteen years, Akshara has run multiple programs that have all been designed to be comprehensive, scalable and cost-effective solutions – both remedial and supplementary education models. All Akshara’s programs are child-centric and are designed to ensure that enrolment in schools increase, drop-outs from schools decrease and that children’s learning outcomes and overall development improve. To date, Akshara Foundation has impacted over 800,000 children in the state of Karnataka with its programmes and has successfully engaged with the government-run anganwadis and government primary schools across Bangalore and also in rural Karnataka especially in Koppal, Gadag and Dharwad districts.
Akshara works in close partnership with the Education Department of the Government of Karnataka and the Department of Women and Child Welfare to supplement existing primary school and pre-primary school programs.

Asma’s Balwadi – A Shining Example of Grit and Hard work


This is an inspiring story of Asma who chose to make a difference in her own little way and emerged triumphant.

In an inner enclave beyond busy main roads lies Nehrupuram, its streets scrupulously clean, no garbage heaps, big and small, that Bangalore struggles to clear every day. It is a thriving community that lives here, with a hunger for self-advancement. Asma Moosa lives here and  is a stellar example, a compulsion for public good driving her.

Asma is one of Akshara’s eminently successful independent balwadi volunteers, a person admired and respected by her community. It started way back  in 2000 when Asma was all of eighteen, young, capable, yearning for bigger goals. She was famous for taking tuitions. At one point she had 100 students in three batches. Getting started with an independent Balwadi  was hence something that was soon to follow. This independent balwadi was an opportunity towards educational entrepreneurship, social development and academic grooming of little children. In Asma’s words “A job that takes the community forward.”

The prospect of being stranded at home and doing housework after completing school was not an enticing one, and her mother was already planning her marriage. Asma, in her characteristically mild way, refused to be typecast, to fit into preordained moulds. This simply meant her family was not willing to send her to work. However, an independent Balwadi being a home based venture made things easy for Asma. This simply meant giving back to society while ensuring a modest personal economic stability along with family support.

Asma was quiet familiar with Akshara and the work they were doing. This was when she approached Fatima, an Akshara librarian in a government school nearby. This was indeed the turning point of her life and she realized her true calling.

Akshara’s training for independent Balwadi volunteers not just trained her but also opened new avenues for Asma. It taught her skills she never knew she needed – managing children, extracting the best out of them, helping realize their potential. The significance of preschool education and how it builds foundations for later development was new to her, and she never knew so much was possible with teaching-learning material. It had seemed like child’s play opening a balwadi. Now she knew what it meant. Most importantly the training taught her how to harmonise an entrepreneurial streak with community service.

Asma set up her balwadi in a room in her mother’s house. Akshara provided her with everything she needed to start a preschool. All the teaching-learning material, books, forms, registers, identity cards for the children, even pins and clips, she happily quips. She was out in the community every day searching for children for her balwadi, coaxing parents. “Only three children turned up on the first day,” she says, quietly reliving what could easily have turned into a disaster.


Her house-to-house searches for children and persuasions in the community yielded steady results. Asma’s hard work, and a slowly spreading acknowledgment of it, paid off. Soon students began trickling in and the number changed from 3 to a bunch of 40 kids. Asma charged Rs. 50 per student. She was the proud recipient of  a trophy from Akshara for drawing the highest number of children in the first year of operations.

Asma’s marriage in 2008 seemed to shadow her success as her husband did not want her to work but her dogged determination won.  Today Asma operates out of a new multi-storeyed building the Maulvi of the mosque next door has provided her. Her balwadi has grown. She has 135 students in four sections – pre-nursery, nursery, Lower Kindergarten (LKG) and Upper Kindergarten (UKG), all compartmentalized and in distinct sections with separate curriculums. Asma runs an English medium preschool. It is a professional set-up. 

If her balwadi has grown so has Asma. She has a big reputation for preschool education in Nehrupuram. “I am famous in this area because of Akshara. And yes, people acknowledge me as a good teacher,” she says with humility.

What has made this journey possible? It is her never say die attitude and  hard work. She hopes to be a role model and make her school an ideal example for others to follow. In spite of her rise and the position she holds in her community Asma maintains her humility. She herself laid down terms for herself, but with sensitivity. Today, her 3 ½ year old son does not study in her balwadi because he cannot accept his mother as a teacher, is looked after a lot of the time by her mother, leaving Asma free to shoulder her work. It indeed  is a two-way street but she manages it all with dedication and sincerity.

Asma negotiated with her family for that work-space in her life, to be allowed to do something better, larger, meaningful, without cutting off relationships. “If women are not allowed to go out and do something they can do it at home. But women should do something. They play a decisive role especially in education”.

An Objective Analysis of Swalpa English, Thumba Fun

Dr. Kalavathi B.K, who is the Executive Director of Anveshna Foundationhas been the Master Resource Person for Akshara’s English Program since it’s inception. Here, Dr. Kalavathi, does and objective analysis of the components of the programme – the Teaching Learning Materials and the Training Package. Shares her experiences of the lasting impact created by Akshara’s Swalpa English, Thumba Fun on teachers, which enables them to teach English with ease in the classes.
 
I have been associated with Akshara’s English programme for the past 4 years, right from its inception of designing the package to its implementation towards becoming “Swalpa English, Thumba Fun”. It is always nice to see Ms Kanchan Banerjee, the Managing Trustee, taking personal interest in the program and striving to improvise and upgrade it from year to year, based on the changing needs of the target group. Now, let’s do an objective analysis of the programme:

Training package: The package includes both Teacher’s manual and hands on training for the teachers as well as departmental Resource Person (RP)s . The Training manual is very simple with clear instructions to the teacher and the RPs; it has “Thematic Graded Content” which is teacher-friendly, based on inculcating Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing Skills. It also instructs the teacher regarding the day to day transaction of each lesson very clearly and also mentions which TLM to be used along with the content. The package contains lot of language games and strategies which will enrich the English language environment in the class.
The training is provided in two phases; Initial Orientation and refresher phase. Initial Orientation phase is for 5 days in the month of May and refresher phase for 2 days in the month of October. This is a teacher friendly training using various strategies and interventions in a workshop mode on a one to one basis. The training not only enhances the English Language skills of the teachers but also boosts their self confidence and motivates them to implement the package in the classrooms. It also provides them lot of extra tips regarding implementing the package in the classroom. The Statistics of the English Language Program of past 2 years clearly indicates the success rate of this program and can be validated as it is drawn through a pre-test and post-test design. The program has inbuilt evaluation as the teachers have to plot on”Pragathi Nota” at the end of each lesson.

Teaching Learning Materials (TLM):The TLM includes- Flash cards, Flip over Charts, workbooks, Reading Cards and High Frequency Sight Vocabulary Chart. Each Lesson from the teachers’ manual has been divided into two parts, namely-
  • Rhymes
  • Conversation and TPR Activities.
     
They are supplemented by Stories, Alphabet Phonic Songs, Reading and Writing Material. The rhymes are supported with mobile rhymes to make the teachers recollect the way the alphabet songs and rhymes were sung. The workbooks have been differently graded for classes I, II, III and IV. The material developed has been simple, graded, attractive realistic and suitable to the grass root level- both for the children and Teachers. The print material used is also long lasting and child friendly. Measures have been taken to introduce the vocabulary which is familiar to the rural children. It has been upgraded and improvised on the felt need and feedback received by the stakeholders annually.

My direct experience in the training classroom: The teachers as well as the RPs initially started with an attitude to mean- “Oh! another training!” Later, as they were made comfortable with icebreakers they settled into the comfort zone and got involved in the program. As the training was in a workshop mode with many strategies, they all willingly participated with interest. They found the rhyme sessions very interesting and asked for more new rhymes, they asked for the rhymes between the other activities as a warm up. They enjoyed the individual activities more than the group activities. In their session end feedback they said that they would look forward to more of Akshara English training program as it empowered them to use English in their classrooms. They also felt the workbooks and lessons were simple and realistic. It would help them to transact better as it was graded and attractively presented. They wanted more of Grammar support and to fulfill this requirement Akshara’s monthly worksheets helped them a lot. On the whole the teachers as well as the RPs actively participated in the training. Each one came forward to enact the stories as role plays and enjoyed it. They enjoyed the whole training program and said it was like going back to their school days. It was seen that by the end of the 5th day they were more empowered with spoken English and they also affirmed it by saying that it had built in the confidence and capacity to handle their English classes better, in unison all of them said that they would want this training again and again. They were also in touch with me during the break in between the initial orientation and refresher programs and it has continued to be.
During the refresher sessions most of the participants of the earlier training sessions were present and they said they were looking forward to the refresher training. They said they enjoyed teaching alphabet phonic songs and were equally liked by the children and it made their job of associating the sound –symbol association, easy. They said this training has helped their children more and the children also were motivated to learn more. In the refresher session I noticed all of them spoke in English with confidence though some with errors. I also noticed that the errors had come down.
At this point, I need to share a particular incident which touched me deeply, this happened during the first training program, where I had to train teachers of Bangalore North. The trainees were an assorted lot of all ages and backgrounds. There were elderly people who were about to retire too. The training program was rigorous and all of them had to be treated equally and I did it. The last day, a very senior teacher, who had all the while hesitated to participate freely, and who was not very fluent in English, came voluntarily and told me, “Beti, you are like my daughter and you have done the training very well and this has helped me. I will use it in the class for my children. I pray Allah to Bless you”, and that too in English. My day was made and I was overwhelmed with emotion and this action showed me how successful our training program was. I strongly believe “Action speaks louder than mere words”. Doesn’t this anecdote speak loads about the program?

Response of teachers/ RPs in both sessions:
As I have mentioned in my direct experience, though the teachers and the RPs started with an “attitude”, they quickly realized the simplicity and ease of use and implementation of the program.

They opined :
The way the training was being given (individualistic) had empowered them to speak English and had given them the confidence to take it forward and teach/ train their children/ trainees. The many strategies which were used during the training sessions had given them clear picture regarding how English could be taught in a play-way method in the class. The package was realistic and simple and the training funfiled and interesting which motivated them to actively participate. The rhymes and stories selected were simple and teachable to their students. They also appreciated the “mobile support”. The TPR activities with language games were interesting. The conversation was useful as it involved simple day to day vocabulary. The TLM was attractive and easy to use. The workbooks were well graded with simple but attractive pictures helped them to motivate the children to write.
Changes in teachers by 2nd session:
There was a visible change in their English speaking skills by the second session. They were also eager to learn more English and implement in the class. They asked for clarification regarding the grammar doubts they had collected. They interacted freely and confidently. They shared their happiness regarding how their classrooms were charged with a fun filled English environment and how their children loved the English period now. Their sentence structures had visibly improved.

Interaction with participants during activities:
They found the rhyme sessions and role plays very interested. They also opined that picture reading and story building were highly suitable for their classroom. They said individual activities like pick and speak, dialogue extensions, division of attention activities helped them a lot to enhance their attention and confidence. They found the language web an interesting way to teach grammar and sentences.
They also said that they liked the way hands on trainingwas being provided for each trainee which helped them in carrying over it to the class as well as the training sessions.

Myoverview of the scenario in Mundargi:
We entered the BRC center in Mundargi for the 2day refresher session, only to be welcomed by bright faced trainees who said were very happy to see us back. They spoke in fluent English but ofcourse, with minor errors! Their level of confidence surprised me, each one was eager to share their training experiences as I started asking informally. Infact, we did not need an icebreaker to start the session but as it was in the manual we started, only to get the use of their imaginary money spent in funny ways and some did even say they had spent it on buying books for their school children. They all had used the past tense correctly!

    Next, the class was divided into five groups to share their experiences and each group was asked to brain storm and discuss on- rhymes, flashcards, TPR activities, story telling and workbook, which they effectively did and raised lot of questions, keeping their training perspective in mind and gave their opinions on:
  • How they used the TLM in classroom?
  • Why is TLM important in language learning?
  • Has it helped children learn the English language?

And feedback was collected regarding their usage of TLM and its effectiveness with children. It was surprising to see all of them boldly giving out their views without any inhibition.

The main objective of the refresher course was to orient on reading skills for which the trainees had to use reading cards to blend associated phonic sounds. They clearly asked their doubts regarding blending and enquired why the blend has to be like this and why not like the way they wanted to use, which came as a pleasant surprise to me. It was a proud moment to see the “thinking and assertive teachers” who were showing their professionalism. The session also made the “self” engulfed to reflect and see why a particular activity should be done a particular way, there was also a query regarding the pronunciation of “the” with the vowel sounds and consonant sounds, which was dealt meaningfully and the trainee was contented and happy with the rationale. They also enquired whether we could have a teleconference with them every month to help them further better their English.

The most precious moment was when even the most silent and withdrawn trainee of the previous session had opened up and expressed that the English training program had instilled confidence in him and he had carried it forward to his students and was happy when he saw them speak English with confidence! Isn’t that a wonderful gift?

All good things have to end so did Mundargi’s refreshers session which would go a long way down the memory lane! 🙂

Creative Dialogue : How do We Nurture and Resource the Children of Bangalore for a Self-Sustaining Life for the Next Fifteen Years?





A Creative Workshop
 
On the 8th of November Akshara Foundation organized a Creative Dialogue at the National Institute of  Advanced Studies, Bangalore, a vibrant, day-long exchange and cross-fertilization of ideas on How do We Nurture and Resource the Children of Bangalore for a Self-Sustaining Life for the Next Fifteen Years? By end of day they were ideas that transcribed into concrete goals – to be achieved and accomplished.
Participants were drawn from a cross-section of organizations, government and non-governmental, and from among individuals with a role to play.

Outcomes and Outputs – The Purpose of the Meet

The purpose of the workshop was to co-create within and across public and private sectors, an interconnected nurturing and resourcing of the children of Bangalore, fit for the next five to fifteen years. The main objectives were to increase understanding, determine future threats and identify a way forward with the future of the children of Bangalore in mind.

The catalyst for the day was Matt Clarke from the Nowhere Group based in the United Kingdom who emphasized the purpose of the meet as an immersion in the unknown from where participants would traverse together with their collective knowledge,  insight and experience, mindful of themselves as creative participants but connected with fellow travelers, in this indeterminate, uncharted space, and emerge at a breakthrough moment in outcomes and outputs. Matt Clarke characterized outcomes as the intangible achievements of mutual understanding, desire and energy to co-create and continue, and outputs as the tangible projects and agendas “to move through current barriers and resisters to change elegantly into a projected future reality.”

Discussion and Group Work


Participants were each engaged in discussion for a minute in which they stated well-founded positions on child-centered issues that ranged, among others, over the status of children, mental and developmental perspectives, health and nutrition, what government could do better and what citizens could do to galvanize, and learning from successful initiatives in order to create new and better jobs for children.

Facilitating the day’s exploratory seeking of definitive end goals was the next round of group work, an exercise “based on the works of the psychologist Kurt Lewin who laid out that the present is strongly affected by the pressures of change and these pressures are constantly offset by the forces that are the resisters to change. That is what defines the present for all of us.”

Participants had to systematically identify the various factors that would affect the collective aim of creating a self-sustaining life for the children of Bangalore. Bangalore, which, as a sub-set of India and the world, has been and will be affected by local, national and international events.  The groups ideated, deliberated, set up conversations and dialogues and zeroed in on key areas on which they presented.

A Flawed Delivery System

A dialogue of constructive depth and detail started around health and nutrition which came up as a common concern.

Ashok Kamath, Chairman, Akshara Foundation, shared one of the serious limitations to afflict this sector, which is the extremely low pay of employees working in child healthcare. He said that even though there was no argument in anyone’s mind about the importance of ensuring good nutrition, this anomaly in the delivery system interferes strongly with the deliverables.

He then stressed on synergistic efforts towards uplifting the basic learning and nutrition levels of children, as they are staggeringly low. It is not about money as there is enough of it. It is about the collective efforts that we are yet to make, he emphasized.

Speaking of nutrition he turned towards corruption in government departments, particularly in Bangalore, as an important factor preventing any development despite the resources and the laws.

On Good Governance

A discussion took place on good governance, and Kanchan Bannerjee, Managing Trustee, Akshara Foundation, suggested that government use the good examples already developed by non-profit organizations and put them into effect.
Decentralizing delivery models, government transparency, the shortcomings in our education system in creating children who are inquisitive, and questions of design, structure and leadership entered the dialogue.

Key Value Drivers

The four value drivers that emerged to be taken up at a macro level were:  Governance and Leadership; Education; Health and Wellness; and Data Transparency. The groups were asked to place on record their level of self-belief in these as the issues they must coalesce around, these as the issues which would bring about an actual difference in nurturing and resourcing the children of Bangalore for a self-sustaining life. 

There was some hesitation, an occasional lack of confidence, a lack of preparedness to commit; there were divergent views, tangential views, a critical note even, sometimes a mismatch with what was on the table and a lack of collectivism. Matt Clarke steered the groups to coherence and clarity and they laid down objectives, actions that would be taken, and a time-frame to achieve them. 

End of Day

The importance of each of the four value drivers were discussed and tangible deliverables were identified. The groups committed to take this creative dialogue forward, agreeing to meet in April 2013, Matt Clarke as catalyst once again. The report concludes that in culmination participants shared their feelings about this experience. The day had been long and packed, but the focus, the thoughts that found expression and the excellent design package of the activities left most of them energized, enriched and inquisitive.