How to Give Back. A Social Entrepreneur Success Story.
ThinkSharp Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in Mumbai that is bridging the rural-urban education divide in India. Rural communities suffer from greater education inequality compared to their urban neighbours; often it is due to a lack of adequate resources and infrastructure.
The achievement scores of rural children in India are half that of urban children; therefore, we see a high dropout rate across rural communities and unequal representation in further education. So, when 67% of the Indian population lives in rural areas, educational inequality is a very real problem for many rural children and their families.
ThinkSharp provides learning tools and financial support to these struggling children. They work with school authorities, government officials and village communities to foster a greater interest in education and create a positive learning environment in and out of school.
The projects they run, known as StudyMall, are for the betterment of current and future children. There are three StudyMall projects that run in-school, after-school and for those unable to financially access school. They are currently working in 33 villages in the state of Maharashtra, having a positive impact on over 7000 children.
We had the privilege of talking to Santosh Phad, founder and managing trustee of ThinkSharp, to find out more about his organisation and how others can hope to have an impact in a “social entrepreneur space”.
Who is Santosh and why is he important?
Santosh Phad recognised the problem of education inequality when he moved from his home, a small village called Mandwa in the Beed district of Maharashtra, to Mumbai, so that he could pursue a degree in Engineering. The divide became apparent from his years during and after university, when he realised a large disparity in education quality, namely in access to computers, libraries and modern learning tools.
Being from humble beginnings himself, Santosh had a strong belief that we should give back to society, so he set up ThinkSharp in 2011 to do just that. Santosh is one person that wishes to inspire and give back, a quality that all of us possess given the right support!
Q1) What is the USP (Unique Selling Point) of Study Malls vis a vis other brand?
StudyMall is a very unique project which focuses on holistic development of rural schools. It includes, modern learning tools such as Digital learning, Computer education, library and various other educational resources for students and teachers. We work with all stakeholders that belong to the schools, including teachers, village community, and the Government.
Ownership of the project is equally distributed among all stakeholders as everyone has invested time and money. We have set up a complete process. Every stakeholder is responsible to follow the process to create a positive impact.
Q2) Can you share one success story that your foundation has seen in the last few years?
In 2019, Maharashtra state’s average passing result for SSC board (10th Standard) was 77.10%. Respective division result was 75% whereas our partner school, Adarsh Vidyalaya, Mandwa, result was 92.50%. One of the reasons for this is, they had access to a better learning environment – digital learning provided by ThinkSharp Foundation.
Another story. In our partner school, Zilla Parishad School, total student enrollment was 199 in 2017 and it increased to 214 in 2018 after our StudyMall program launched in the school. 10 students joined from Private English medium school to public school. This happens very rarely in India.
Q3) What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “Social Entrepreneur space”? What advice should they ignore?
Today’s college students are very much aware of the social problem they are facing and, also, its impact on their life and future generations. They should focus on the social problem in and around them and start working on the solution. Also, they should start a social organization with a clear mission, it should be mission driven rather than just some social work on a temporary basis.
They should avoid the rat race of getting investment and scaling the work till their organization and himself/herself mature enough to handle this. Growth should be steady and constant whilst keeping interest in the mission.
Q4) Can you give one piece of advice for someone who is on a journey towards future sustainability and giving back?
During this journey, anyone can join and work towards future sustainability and giving back to society. If its social or environmental issues. Changemakers can start their own social enterprise or just volunteer their skills to other social organizations.
With Thinksharp Foundation, they can contribute their skills such as content writing, social media support, crowd funding campaigns, designing new educational programs, impact measurement, cases studies and documentations.
Author: The article has been written by Jonathan Boyd.