Pragati ’11 – Day Two – The conference ends and the journey begins

By Akshat Shukla

This series of posts brings live action from Pragati ’11 – a two day project wide conference being organized by Vibha in Pune, India

The Day 2 of Pragati, focused on Social Metrics and its importance to bring out the true potential of the works of the organizations, functioning of the projects and volunteers. The opening session was preceded by Ron Victor, according to whom, “it was critical that what we do is replicable and scalable. When we have 5 million lives to change, the importance of measuring the impact of these experiments grows enormously”.

Vibha supports many success stories being made every day at various organizations under its umbrella. Prior to the opening session, Sasi introduced everyone to Sajan (Member, HEARDS) who shared a successful story of freeing their district of menace of child labor. The opening session was chaired jointly by Ms. Jayshree (Door Step Schools, Pune) and Mr. Prasanna (Sikshana). Both the speakers talked about how they measure the impact being created in their respective organizations. While DSS started in 1988 and their focus is on construction workers’ children, Sikshana is still an upcoming organization focused on underprivileged children in rural India. Jayshree was of the opinion that the limited trained resources at DSS should focus on dealing with children and not data. “We’re not here to fill glasses, but to increase the level of the lake by an inch” she said. She described DSS’s journey in moving from pen and paper based tracking, to MS Excel and then on to developing database and putting in places a MIS system. She shared with the audience the amount of transparency and accountability such tracking brings into the organizational culture. Not only does this help in impact measurement but also in generating customized reports for donor agencies and launching interventions.  Mr. Prasanna on the other hand highlighted the importance of assessing all the students prior to and post any event. According to him assessing the results from a standardized measurement tool like the ASER report designed by Pratham adds more credibility to the results.


Prasanna V.R., CEO of Sikshana makes a point

The second session focused on volunteer recruitment and management, something even the Vibha volunteers were looking forward to. The session was led by Madhukar Kumar, who spearheads the operation of iVolunteer and serves as the Program Head of ICICI Fellows Program. The unique aspect of the entire session was that Madhukar encouraged the participants to come up with a solution to issues regarding necessity of a volunteer, planning volunteer engagement, supporting and recognizing volunteers. The cross organizational group discussion that ensued made some startling revelations about the intensity of impact volunteers can create. All Vibha volunteers shared their views and understanding on these topics. Ron summarized the session by concentrating on the importance of inducting a volunteer into the organization. He emphasized the importance carrying out requirement analysis, mapping skills to appropriate tasks, setting timelines and clearly defining deliverables. Later in the day, Ms. Nilanjana Das of South Asian Fund Raising Group joined the session to focus on fund raising strategies for social organizations – the lifeline of any such set up. She spoke about resource generation strategies and the importance of setting targets before embarking on the journey, the importance of planning fund raising in sync with designing interventions. The discussion revolved around drafting mails, selecting donors, the importance of sending personalized communications to those already in the network and making it all work.


Vibha volunteers at the brainstorming session

The last session was conducted by Dr. Vidula Mhaiskar, from Arvind Gupta Toys Foundation. She captivated the audience’s attention by a unique presentation toys made out of junk. Through these toys Dr. Mhaiskar, explained concepts like Bernoulli’s theorem, wave theory, electricity and magnetism, optics, capillary action, gravity and many others, with complete ease. Many engineers present in the audience were impressed with interesting explanation of these complex theories, through such cost effective toys. A simple message was thus successfully delivered – we can’t expect to produce rocket scientists out of a generation, which has crammed up the basics of science. It has to be learnt by experimenting and hence visualizing.

 Dr. Vidula performing an experiment

The next edition of Pragati hopes to include organizations not associated with VIBHA, in order to share more and the leverage the learning. To end the session on a lighter note, some of the Vibha volunteers put in a humorous skit for the participants. On the occasion, Ron also launched the website for Rachana, a Vibha supported project at Pune. The participants also planned to visit the sites for Door Step School and Rachana the next day, to watch and learn. One of the volunteers rightly put across the objective of Pragati,“The two days were a great opportunity to learn, connect, network, be an inspiration and get inspired, forge relationships, work on weaknesses, strengthen the strengths and finally grow and scale the impact.”


  Ron launching Rachana’s website

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