Many of our readers have probably at some point had a desire to start a social initiative, but were discouraged by a lack of support, money, or a team to back them up. For those of you in this category, we have good news: after reading this post, you will no longer have an excuse for not being that change maker you aspire to be. We bring you Halabol, a platform designed specifically for you, the person with the idea and the passion for something that can change the world, but until now without a platform to voice your ambitions.
Halabol aims to bring likeminded people together to share ideas, connect, and support each other in their various projects designed to make a social impact. By creating an account on the Halabol website, you gain access to a community of social entrepreneurs and activists working collaboratively to make a change. The platform gives you the opportunity to write blog posts, initiate campaigns, start or sign petitions, make a pledge, organize an event , and, now, create a nonprofit profile that allows you to post jobs, recruit volunteers, and raise crowdfunding for your own project.
We had a chance to connect with Ankur Gupta, Founder and CEO of Halabol, to find out how his program came to be, and what advice he has for all those aspiring change makers out there.
Q: Where did the idea of Halabol emerge and what is the story behind the tag line “Initiate the Change?
Each time I am asked this question of how Halabol was born it gives me a chance to both relive the journey and strengthen my faith in the venture. What I felt in 2009 is perhaps something that many Indians out there are feeling today. We are witnessing disturbing times and every individual out there wishes to do something to bring peace and justice in this situation. Some are doing it by sharing their thoughts on Facebook, some by protesting at the India Gate, some by saying their little prayers at homes, et al – and what’s holding each one of them together is the willingness to contribute and make a difference to the extent they can. Each one of them is looking for an outlet to contribute, in ways big or small. Back then in March 2009 I was in a similar spot. I felt this strong urge to give back to the society and plug myself in the social process. However, I was unable to find a platform that would allow me to do so and that’s how Halabol was born to fill a void in my life, to give myself a chance to make a difference.
I realised though India was plagued with so many issues there was no meaningful process that I could be a part of and do my bit. I wanted to give myself and many others like me a tool to contribute, a tool that reflected our life and choices of today. A tool that would take the definition of charity & social change beyond hunger strikes, working in slums, donating money, etc. and help us understand our limitations and strengths, and figure out novel ways of being a part of the social movement.
As for the second part of your question Halabol stands for a wake-up call to initiate the change. A call to leave behind the slumber, shake ourselves and jump right in the middle of action. To awaken one’s mind to the surroundings and understanding that we are the change. I am no philosopher, but I do believe in the simple words that we are the change that we seek. And if each one of us can initiate the change, can pick up one just one change each, then together we would make a huge difference.
Q: What has been the response from users? How have they embraced the platform to express their passions and initiate a social change?
Every venture faces its own share of hurdles. We have had ours too, and we have learnt from them and they’ve made us stronger. It takes time to garner the initial ‘response’ especially because we’re operating in the times when platforms for social change quite similar to us are springing up every now and then, which is also a good development; the task at hand is a big one and one can do with more hands! I would not like to label the response to Halabol as good/bad but rather call it a sustained response, and that’s our biggest reward.
The fact that people (staff, volunteers, friends, visitors on the portals, opinion makers, NGOS, etc.) who joined us on 26th January 2012 when Halabol was formally launched are still with us is in itself a big response. As I mentioned above, each one of us needs an outlet to express our passion, pain, frustration, creativity & more and Halabol seeks to continue being that. People come to the portal and talk to us and with each other. They share their tales, failures, successes, pains, seek help, extend help and more. The persistent response is the biggest response. We are happy to be the sounding and inspiration board for the people.
I’ll give you a few examples of this. First, our first successful initiative was a petition for an acid attack victim, where people across India joined hands to support her cause. The petition on Halabol for Sonali Mukherjee from Jharkhand gathered almost 5,700 signatures from people all over the world, over 1500 comments from members and a substantial amount of money deposited into her account in collaboration with wishberry.in. Her video on Halabol TV has recorded over 50,000 views. Soon after, Sonali became popular due to extensive media coverage and appearance on KBC (Star Plus).
Second, just before Diwali, an NGO active on Halabol approached us for a Green Diwali campaign where each ‘Pledge’ for exercising Green Diwali would raise Rs. 10 for a Solar Project for underprivileged households. This campaign effectively collected Rs.13,000 for the project.
Third, Halabol is currently running two petitions actively and has already gathered overwhelming support for the cause. The first is the Justice for an Acid Attack Victim petition. The second is The Delhi Bus Gang Rape – STOP the Abuse initiative.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing social entrepreneurs in the current environment, and, further, what do you think will be the tipping point to create a world where everyone can be a change maker?
Honestly, I can’t think of a challenge. Every road you walk on has its bumps that at times slows one down and at others sends one racing. Social entrepreneurs have their share of bumps to overcome. ‘Social entrepreneur’ is a new term in our vocabulary and all we need to do is to help people understand its meaning and purpose. We need to make people aware of the concept of ‘for profit’ entities for social change. At the same time we need to realise that social change just like any other area of work requires its share of experts and professionals, who have to be hired for their services. You need a skill set, an infrastructure and a team to walk.
I would say I witness a tipping point each day. Each time a young professional walks into my office and says he/she would like to be a part of our team I look at it as a tipping point. The fact that professionals are willing to look at the social sector for employment is a step ahead. The fact that a nation that once stood up together at the time of a Jessica Lal and Arushi Talwar is once again holding hands for the 23-year-old girl is a tipping point. The simple act of changing your Facebook profile picture to a ‘black dot’ is a sign of change, of awareness, of sensitivity. We no longer need a single incident to wake us up, we are out there. Aren’t all these tipping points?