We strongly believe that there are several inflection points between the age of 12 and 18 for children from economically challenged families which impacts their ability to continue on their educational path. That's where the drift happens. Right interventions at these critical milestones can help sustain their path in the direction of education thereby helping them break away from the vicious cycle of poverty.
Unfortunately the challenges hit both the children and their families at the same time!
This calls for a two-pronged approach towards addressing this issue. While on one side, we have to invest on their "future asset" (the child and its education) , we also need to invest our efforts in the "present" by making the family resilient to financial turbulence and deal with all their unknown and uninvited problems.
Our theory of change is that by being with the family for a longer duration and creating catalysts within their community, we can help them sustain and complete their child’s education and hence increase the probability of them having a better earning potential in the future. This in turn will effectively get their entire family (and the future generation) out of poverty.
Hence we plan a 5-10 years of engaged intervention with such families so we are always there for them when they need a support!
We start with our induction phase where we select the families based on our in depth assessment of the financial status, potential of the child, the level of commitment and most importantly how invested the family is in breaking away from their current situation.
Once inducted we next put ourselves on a long term committed support service with them through scheduled Human Centric Design thinking sessions with the families and their stakeholders. This then often results in a variety of interventions for both the family (such as planning finances for the family, procuring medical cover, getting the parents migrate into organized white/blue collar sector, Short-term loans etc.) and the child (enrollment into appropriate coaching classes, Financial support on school supplies and self-learning aids, Admissions / Relocation to appropriate school/college /vocational institutes and in our last phases assisted career guidance for job search or entrepreneurship). Furthermore, we force-multiply our impact by handpicking our "Shikshaks" or the field staff from within the community and training them to deliver and spread education as a mean to end poverty.
In many ways we wish to be their on-demand "aggregator" and "the last mile connector" of all the existing non-profits, Governmental programs , micro-financing organizations as well as any and every organization/individuals that can help these families combat poverty.
"Put simply - Our MISSION is to be CONSTANTLY there with these family at every step of their child's educational journey - just to make sure that "lack of awareness" or "financial constraints" DO NOT LIMIT the choice of what their path could be!"
At the very root level, we are trying to address the issue of inter-generational poverty caused by the inability of low income families in sustaining their children's educational journey! We believe there are several constraints that they regularly encounter which needs to be addressed and supported at a much deeper level on case by case basis. As per 2014 data. the drop out rates are at almost 17.8% at secondary level and goes even higher as they proceed towards under graduation courses.
In spite of huge number of NGO's working with the Governmment to solve the macro issues of both enrollment and improving the quality of education, we see that a substantial chunk of children slip through the cracks because there is lack of sustained support and guidance to these families at a micro level. These drifts/dropouts in turn is draining several years of effort and money expended by NGOs and the Government as well as impairing the families ability to break away from poverty.
In the day to day struggle that these families face and their own illiteracy, it is only unfair to assume that they will be able to "search" and "locate" the right Non-profit or educational Institute for continuing their child's education or for that matter even keep that "search" as a priority. We wish to bring these options and help to their doorstep so that the family do not loose out their chance amidst their recurring challenges.
While enrollment and quality of education is in the process of getting fixed through RTE/SSA and several joint efforts of NGOs and the Government, we feel a dire need of a supporting organization that can take these options to the doorsteps of the intended beneficiaries.
Our core focus segment is that of "highly invested parents" who have a dream for their child but economics limits and situations constraints them from making those dream come true.
For our first phase, the beneficiaries are/will be the urban-based economically challenged families who have a deep desire to have their children complete their educational path but are constrained either financially or because they are just not aware of several options available. This is regardless of the academic performance of the child because our mission is to help every invested family find a path towards a proper conclusion of their child's educational journey.
We plan to invest only in families that satisfy the following main criteria
In our first three years of operations, we intend to reach our beneficiary mainly through the following channels
We realize that this is indeed a "wicked" problem to deal with since both the problem(s) and their solutions are not clearly known at the onset. Hence keeping principles of "Human Centric Design Thinking" at the heart of our model, we make sure that the child and the family is at the center of both defining the problem as well as designing the solution that works for them.
Once a child and its family is inducted, we then start a long term committed support service with them. This includes series of scheduled meets with the child, their family, their teachers/HM and/or any other stakeholders who have an influence on the child's journey towards education.
These meets are mainly "HCD based design thinking sessions" for gauging immediate support needs of the family to ensure the child's education can be kept on the right track. At times these can also lead towards extending assistance to the parents in dealing with their pressing financial needs like job search, medical cover, procuring loans etc. Besides this, along with the parents and teachers, we get deeply involved in monitoring the progress and planning for the future course of action for the child.
The meetings are typically planned at a frequency of at least once every fortnight.
Depending on the support needed or the plan of action set for the child, we then help the family become aware and pursue the various options available. Our first choice of options is always to leverage as much of existing Non profit or Government program which can meet our objective at the lowest cost. However in cases where we deem necessary, we may take over the financial burden so that family still gets a choice of the "right" path for their child without having to worry about "how they will pay for it".
For our Phase 1, we plan to run our support program with full time dedicated field staff who will also double as a local tuition teacher. One staff would assist 15-20 children/families. By and large we will try and recruit field staff from the same community or from our alumni so that besides getting an employment, they also help our mission by becoming a force-multiplier within their "hives". Who else will be able to understand and guide us better in this? We will also establish partnership with as many existing Non Profits and Educational Providers as we can so that our children have access to them when required.
From our experience of having worked with 7-8 children/families for last several years, some of the challenges that we encountered and which we think will still continue to challenge us are as follows:-
Yes and No!
As per the research we have done so far, we find that "thankfully" there are several Non profits (1500+) that are addressing many of the educational needs. In addition we also see a huge corpus of corporate funds (estimated INR 6000 crore annually) flowing through CSR for addressing the macro-issues of both enrollment and quality of education.
However there are two gaps which we want to "seal"...
LIFT and Meraki Foundation are two nonprofit based in the United States and India that works very similar to what we envision and focuses specifically on supporting families so they can break out of poverty. While LIFT focuses on mentoring and guidng parents on finances, Meraki focusses on training and educating parents about need of a good parent-child relationship.
SIFF is another organization that works on "depth" over "scale" model for helping promising students from low income complete their education. While SIFF start their journey of selection with potentially promising child (Scholars) , we do that with "potentially" highly-invested families, regardless of their childs potential.
Within India, we are aware of at least two organization - Mentor Together and Mentor Me India which has Mentorship as their core focus for enabling the marginal families to have access to information and guidance. We slightly differ from them because - For us, "mentorship" is just the means while "sustained involvement with the family" is what is our core.
On the other hand , we also have a few organizations like Haqdarshak or Buddy4Study who are doing a beautiful job of aggregating "free schemes and scholarships" that can help the ones in need. We want to be that "someone" who will help take these to its ultimate intended recipients!
Our goal for next 3-5 years is to impact 600+ families so they are empowered sufficiently to find their way out of poverty. We believe enabling their children to fulfill their educational aspiration is the first step towards that!
As we go about this journey, we would like to measure ourselves and our impact based on following four metrics