Nilima Achwal

Taking the Plunge: ’Journeys for Change’ Dive Into India’s Social Enterprise World

“There’s something inside us all that yearns to make a positive impact on the world around us. If you’re looking for a catalyst that will re-connect you with that bit of your soul, this is it” -William Hoyle, chief executive, Charity Technology Trust

Imagine for a moment that you are an executive at an American corporation, having spent several years climbing the corporate ladder at various firms. Now, your firm is undertaking a social impact initiative. Though you are interested, you have little experience in social impact projects. You decide to take a journey into the heart of India’s social enterprise world.

This is no hectic commercial tour. Rather, it’s more of a pilgrimage. Over the course of nine days, Journeys for Change connects you with real people implementing real change with well-functioning models. You will be in India, meeting the local entrepreneurs at the forefront of the social enterprise movement and speaking with the consumers and beneficiaries of their businesses. You will slow down, reflect, and become more grounded in the realities of the field-and the possibilities in store. It will open your eyes to a new world.

From JP Morgan executives to UK National Health Service officials, more than 140 leaders have been accepted through the application process for this journey since 2005 and reaped great rewards. But you don’t have to be from a “mainstream” organization to benefit-social entrepreneurs have also taken the journey and found fresh insights and renewed inspiration. James Baderman of ?What If! Social Innovation Foundation called it “the most inspiring and informative experience of my professional life.”

Kelly Lauber, global director of strategic tlanning at Nike Corporate Responsibility, is quoted on the Journeys’ website that “the journey had a profound impact for our organization. It helped re-focus our social investment strategy, moving from simply check writing to more of a social venture capitalist approach.”

During the nine-day trek, participants travel to two to three different urban and rural locations, visiting a total of six to eight social entrepreneurs and their initiatives. The visits are mixed in with reflection sessions, where members of the group share their different perspectives and discuss what they are experiencing. One recent journey went through Delhi and Rajasthan, visiting d.light, Goonj, Jaipur Foot, Indian Youth Parliament Foundation, and the Grassroots Development Laboratory. The cost of the journey varies-Journeys has a tiered fee structure and a small number of scholarships that aim to give this experience to as many people that would use the experience for good as possible.

Interesting collaborations emerge out of these journeys. Living Lens, a London-based NGO, uses video to bring about social change. Kolkata Sanved heals, empowers and rehabilitates survivors of trafficking and violence through dance movement therapy. The two organizations met on a Journey in November 2009, and they are now launching a major media collaboration for the 2012 London Olympics – an event during which human trafficking rates normally spike.

The journeys can also shake deeply held beliefs. Ben Losman, Journeys’ communications specialist described one moving moment: He visited Jaipur Foot, an organization that provides customized prosthetic limbs to those who have lost limbs to accidents, polio, and other causes. These prosthetics would cost around US$10,000 in the US, but Jaipur Foot manufactures the same in a matter of hours for about US$45, and donates them to the customers free of charge. Ben watched customers crawl in the door with their families and leave with functioning limbs.

However, this organization functions as a traditional NGO, with no plans of creating an income generation scheme. Having had an enormous impact on people’s lives over 30 years, founder Dr. D. R. Mehta does not see the need to make it financially self-sustainable.

“As the sector’s obsession with social business has grown, the grants-driven charity model has come under fire as outmoded and unsustainable. But seeing a traditional charity achieve such tremendous scale – and with a clear vision for the future – made me rethink what it means to create sustainable impact,” says Losman.

Located in The Hub Bombay, Journeys’ vision is simple and clear-provide leaders with the inspiration, practical insights, and connections to make a greater positive impact in the world. The root of all action is inspiration, which is often overlooked in our fast-paced, skeptical world, and Journeys for Change is filling that need in a thoughtful, nourishing way.

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Impact Assessment, Social Enterprise
business development, social enterprise