The Global Social Entrepreneurship Summit, held by Consilience, was one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences I’ve ever had.
On the first day as we didn’t know what to expect we were both excited and nervous. Once through with introductions we were initiated into the social entrepreneurship and design thinking programme. We were then given an activity, which was to design a wallet for our partner. It was amazing to see so many students came up with a variety of creative ideas for something as mundane as a wallet. I was awestruck.
After lunch, we explored the topic of social entrepreneurship. We had a UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Keynote by Swati Mohapatra, who talked about the importance of the SDGs and its impact in India.
We then met the co-founder of the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO), Jahan Peston Jamas, who spoke about his discovery of the multiple uses of cannabis or hemp, after noticing the abundance in which it grew. His company works with rural artisans to create several hemp products.
Then we met Amin Sheikh, the founder and manager of the Bombay to Barcelona Cafe. He talked about his difficult childhood as a runaway and detailed his passion, his cafe, and why it means so much to him. This struck a chord with us and reinforced something all the instructors had been telling us – do something you feel strongly about.
On the second day, we were divided into our studios of choice, based on the UN SDGs. The studio I chose was Quality Education, and our mentor was Purvi Vora, the co-founder of Reniscience Education. Together, we all went to visit a Muktangan supported government school.
Muktangan blew my mind. Having had previous experiences of government schools through Community Outreach, I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. Muktangan is an NGO that works with government schools and believes strongly in hands-on learning. The branch we visited was filled with colour everywhere; the walls, the floor, the staircase, the classrooms. It was beautiful. They explained their approach to teaching, how rote learning didn’t engage children and that hands-on learning was a far better option. I was dazzled by the revolutionary ideals Muktangan held for education.
However, there’s always the other side of the coin. When we asked them about their problems, they spoke about the lack of space, absenteeism issues and the problem of the parents’ mindset. They also talked about how it was worse in normal government schools, due to the low teacher-student ratio, and paperwork. Mulling on this, we returned to the campus.
After lunch, we discussed the problems we had observed. And the list was long. We then individually decided what we wanted to work on and formed groups. In our groups, we discussed possible solutions, and we drafted a mission statement for our business.
We continued to work on our project on the day 3 and formulated a business plan, a presentation and a prototype which took us 6 hours to put together. We presented our idea to our peers, instructors, mentors, and even an investor! We then had a closing speech by each of the mentors and from the investor, all of who left us with much food for thought.
GSES taught me more than I expected. I went in expecting a series of speeches about how social service is important, but what I learnt instead, was an eye opener into the world of business and social entrepreneurship. I think the most important learning from this trip, and one that I will carry with me is – that if you are passionate about or feel strongly about something, you must act on it and make it happen.
by Anjali Mallampooty