10 things that social entrepreneurs and NGOs should keep in mind

1) Think like it’s 1947

A very large part of the deficits that we live with are because we do not have properly structured governance and accountability. We need to be reimagining these constantly, and adapting to current needs and realities.

2) Increase the number of problem solving people

While it is important to pursue solutions, it’s actually more important to create a society in which there are many problem solvers. That’s what brings scale.

3) Help each other succeed

Social enterprises almost always begin by trying to solve others’ problems, but once their institutions take shape, they start to look more inward. This defeats the original purpose.

4) Build local credibility

Reshaping the whole country is of course important, but a strong dose of reality and credibility will help, and this comes from being able to be part of problem solving wherever we are.

5) Focus on the core problems

Every little bit helps, but we have to be able to connect our little bits to the large development deficits in the country. If we are not able to draw a dotted line between the those, we’re probably not going to achieve much.

6) Measure

We have to set metrics for what we are proposing to achieve, and be willing to refine our methods and direction if those are not being met. “We’ll get there one day” is not a plan.

7) Hold the government accountable

Be respectful, but firm on this. There is a set of people to actually serve the public interest – the netas and babus – and everyone else is simply a potential ally. However, for those entrusted with the responsibility and paid for it, it’s their job.

8) Build capacity in public administration

There are many things we want the government to do, that it simply cannot. To overcome that, we have to focus on strengthening their capacity too. Simply taking over their responsibilities will leave them as unprepared for the next generation too.

9) Embrace technology

Being good with the tools of the IT world is not optional. If you expect to succeed, you have to be able to use them, and leverage them to get to your goals.

10) Dream publicly

A larger narrative helps us connect to more people, and also helps build a larger conversation around problems and solutions. Public dreams also help inspire a lot more people to participate.

… and 11, not to forget – have fun! We are a part of a development family, privileged by the company of genuinely caring and empathetic people. It’s not very different from actual families, with their ups and downs, pushes and pulls. But amidst all that, we endure because of empathy and affection for all members and their individual dreams. And having fun together is an important part of that.

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Ashwin Mahesh
About Ashwin Mahesh 85 Articles
Ashwin Mahesh has been involved in public policy for Bengaluru through his work with the Karnataka government. The views expressed here are his own. He is a member of the Lok Satta party. He is also CEO of Mapunity Information Services, and a director at Oorvani Media, publisher of Citizen Matters and India Together. He is also a visiting faculty with the Centre for Public Policy at IIM Bangalore.

1 Comment

  1. Good article. On 6) and 7) I believe we need to rank different wards in city every month. This could even include metrics for Swachh Bharat. I have asked Ichangemycity to develop metrics around the data they already collect. For example:
    1) Num of Open Garbage dumps reported in area
    2) Average Num of days to clear Open Garbage dumps since the time reported https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12Ho7_xkPTnzz_MytU3aEwWqx9p7pmV0OQ-Ne4xYpbRo/edit?usp=sharing

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