Social Enterprising: Note from Director, Espark-Viridian

By Vibhuti Channa, Director- Espark-Viridian, India

The dilemma, very often people face is trying to arrive at a balance of helping the society from a social perspective and yet doing it in a manner that is sustainable as a means of livelihood, at a level of personal satisfaction. I think this is driven largely by a sense of social conditioning, that makes it a taboo to think that you could make some money while still achieving your larger personal goal of helping people.

When we say helping – what I am referring to, is areas addressing social concerns – traffic, abuse, sanitation, health care etc., and as you can see this is not necessarily a rural or urban phenomenon in isolation of the other. These areas require our urgent attention and support across the nation.

If indeed this is true – there is a piece of work which we as citizens can do to support what the State might be doing and earn our daily bread. To achieve this goal, naturally requires an element of funding – whether it be in the form of grants to kick start the project or any other mechanism – however, clearly there has to be a method to sustain the momentum. Else, in my view, it’s a bit of a non starter in a lot of cases – how long can we expect enterprises to be run on someone’s support with no real return. Everyone’s access to resources is limited.

The heartening fact is that there is a lot of work happening in this manner across the country – albeit in pockets. We just need to keep at it and there will be a point when we will achieve the requisite momentum to tilt the scales in favour of people providing support in a manner that is long term.

Some examples of privately run enterprises where individuals are supporting social causes and also making a reasonable living include the work being done with tribals in Rajasthan. The produce from the custard apple trees that grow naturally in the wild is used to help them sustain a livelihood. The good thing is that, they are also ensuring they are giving back to nature in the form of increased cultivation area. This ensures the process is self sustaining and the generations to come also have a means of livelihood. There is good work happening around removing arsenic poisoning from water in the Gangetic plains of Bengal to provide potable water. The water filtration mechanism appropriate for the area, is on a chargeable basis for the local resident. Children in villages in Punjab are being taught at private schools using the latest pedagogical tools at fee structures that are higher than that of the local Government run schools and at a higher level of attendance.

Another vital outcome of chargeable social support is that the recipients of such benefits tend to value the support and use them judiciously. We are all aware of the pitfalls in cases where the State provides free/ subsidised essential services – electricity, water in an endeavour to help citizens. In reality, at a lot of these places there is criminal wastage at the user end.

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