[TCI-Changemaker] CSIM: An NGO to groom social entrepreneurs

20th Oct 2008
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The ThinkChange India staff is committed to providing our readers with interviews with people we believe are at the brink of something special but have for the most part been overlooked by the mainstream media. Readers will be able to see other conversations under our TC-I Changemakers tab.


In this edition TCI-changemaker focuses on Prof. K.L Srivastava, chief Coordinator of Center for Social Initiative and Management (CSIM) Hyderabad. A charitable organization cum learning centre that first started in Chennai, it has quickly spread to Bengaluru and Hyderabad and Mumabai with an aim to groom professionals from various fields to be social entrepreneurs by providing affordable and non-intrusive training programs. Badhri explores the Hyderabad wing of this unique organization and the gentleman at its helm in this conversation.Badhri: Prof. Srivastava, Thanks for taking time off for this interview. Before we discuss about CSIM, can you please quickly outline your professional and educational background?

K.L. Srivastava: My pleasure. I grew up in a village in UP and completed my B Tech (Agricultural Engineering) degree from the GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in 1966, and M Tech (Agricultural Engineering) with specialization in Soil and Water Management from IIT Kharagpur in 1972. Some of the positions I have held before joining CSIM in 2006 are: Associate Professor at the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology, Bhubaneswar; Senior Scientist, Natural Resource Management, ICRISAT, Hyderabad; Consultant, Indo-Dutch APWELL project on participatory irrigation and rural development; and Natural Resource Management Specialist in some NGOs in Hyderabad.

Badhri: How did you come to be part of CSIM?

Prof. Srivastava: I have always believed that we can achieve equitable and sustainable development in India in a free market economy by strengthening the citizen sector. Due to my interest in social entrepreneurship, Corporate Social Responsibility and management education in the social sector organizations, I acquired knowledge in these fields through self study and also by joining several discussion forums. While working with PRDIS (an NGO dealing with agriculture and rural development), I started working as a guest faculty at CSIM in 2005. Subsequently, I was invited to take over as the Chief Coordinator of CSIM in June 2006.


Badhri: Can you please brief about CSIM and its objectives?


Prof. Srivastava: To provide a background first, CSIM is a wing of Manava Seva Dharma Samvardhani (MSDS), a registered public charitable trust which was set up in Chennai in 1999. Presently, CSIM has its centres at Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

We find that traditional social initiatives are often driven by a mindset of welfare and charity. Such initiatives can promote a feeling of dependency among poor and the benefits of these initiatives are often temporary. Recognizing this problem, CSIM offers educational and training programs in social entrepreneurship with emphasis on innovative, sustainable and effective approaches of social development. By this way, CSIM aims to equip budding social entrepreneurs (change agents) with knowledge and professional skills so that they can excel in their individual initiatives, build social consciousness and catalyze social change.

CSIM also promotes volunteering in NGOs and facilitates networking and cooperation among organizations. The partnership between NGOs and Corporate Organizations for social benefit is an area of special emphasis at CSIM.

Badhri: So, your intervention for social change is to train professionals to be successful social entrepreneurs. Interesting! What kind of courses do you offer?

Prof. Srivastava: CSIM Hyderabad offers mainly two courses. One is Certificate course in NGO Management and Social Entrepreneurship [also called Social Entrepreneurship Outlook Program] that lasts for 4 months, and the PG Diploma in Social Initiative and Management which lasts for one year.

The classes for both the courses are conducted during the weekends to encourage participation among professionals. The PG Diploma course is offered jointly by CSIM and Loyola Academy, one of whose elective course is offered in ICFAI School of Public Policy.

Occasionally, it also conducts short-term professional development courses primarily for NGO staff.

Badhri: For how long have these courses been offered now?

Prof. Srivastava: The Certificate Course in NGO Management and Social Entrepreneurship (or SEOP) started in 2003 and the 12th batch is running now. The PG Diploma course started in 2006 and the third batch.

Badhri: Can you please shed light on the faculty and their experience?

Prof. Srivastava: We depend mostly on guest faculty who are drawn from NGOs, academic institutions and business organizations in and around Hyderabad with substantial experience in the field on which the course is offered. For example, our recent instructors on project management and social enterprise included a veteran project manager in Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP), the honorary director of CIVA, and the creator of eSafal, a social enterprise based on application of IT in rural development. This brings in a variety of field experience right to the students while keeping the cost for conducting the course low.

Badhri: That is impressive. I think that should make this course very attractive to those who can’t afford mainstream business schools. What similarities or differences does CSIM have when compared with regular business schools or institutes?

Prof. Srivastava: CSIM is a part of an NGO network. So, our courses naturally have more of NGO perspective in their content. Unlike B-schools, CSIM tries to emphasize more grass-root level experiences local to the area we are located in. For example, CSIM Hyderabad is the nodal organization of CHILDLINE service for Hyderabad. We also work closely with NGOs like BHUMI and Ashray Akruti to fine tune their programs. These collaborative projects provide good perspective about the disadvantaged sections of the society and the scope for intervention.

Another important difference that provides a comparative advantage over B-schools is that our course fees are modest mainly because of our operating model. We are also sensitive to the fact that most of our students have full-time jobs and set our course agenda in a non-intrusive manner.


During a field visit to Rasoolpura slum worked on by the NGO Bhumi

During a field visit to Rasoolpura slum worked on by the NGO Bhumi

Badhri: Now that you have touched upon the modus operandi, can you please provide further insight?

Prof. Srivastava: The pedagogy for our courses includes didactic as well as experiential learning approaches.Classroom sessions very much encourage discussions, peer-to-peer interaction and classroom exercises. Apart from that, we also organize visits to NGOs, ‘meet the practitioners’ session and video sessions to facilitate learning from the field. Further we offer discussions on case studies and project work to provide some hands-on experience. Another big source of learning and mentorship is CSIM’s strong alumni network.

Badhri: That seems to be quite a variety. But staying with the alumni, how has your course helped those who have graduated from CSIM?

Prof. Srivastava: The learning evaluation studies conducted by independent evaluators have shown that most of CSIM alumni have benefited significantly from our courses. CSIM alumni are actively serving the society in disability, education, health, livelihoods and other sectors. Some notable examples are: Mr. D.P.K.Babu (Ashray Akruti), Mr. Alexander (SERVH), Ms. Rubina Mazhar (Safa) and Mr. Sridhar Mupidi (EFF).

The experience shows that most of the participants crystallize their ideas, formulate plans for their engagement with the social sector and identify a support network during the course. They maintain regular contacts with CSIM after completion of their courses, interact with faculty members and resource persons from the CSIM network.

Note from Badhri: I am a student in this institute and I personally feel that it is a very good place to be for aspiring social entrepreneurs willing to work within the borders of India, looking for a filip to their entrepreneural accumen, and with less money to pay for it. The center is also a good place to find a lot of like-minded people (current students and alumni) for partnership or mentorship, not only in alumni but also with the visiting instructors. Hopefully this interview provides enough insight for budding social entrepreneurs to consider signing up for one of its courses.

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