The 5 startups The /Nudge Foundation has chosen to solve India’s biggest problems: poverty, hygiene, and education

18th Apr 2018
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Through its incubation programmes, N/Core tech and N/Core, Bengaluru-based The /Nudge Foundation aims to support 30-40 early stage non-profits every year. It is currently accepting new applications.

The N1 cohort

With an aim to "nudge top talent to solve India’s biggest challenges”, The /Nudge Foundation, founded by Atul Satija in early 2017, has been nudging people out of poverty through its Gurukula project. Through N/Core, an incubator for non-profit startups, the foundation has worked on poverty-related problems using innovation and collaboration.

The foundation intends to invest over Rs 50 crore to incubate and support over 150 non-profit startups and 1,000 non-profit leaders over the next five years.

The first cohort, N/1, comprised nine early stage nonprofits, and was selected from a pool of 1,032 applicants from 19 countries. These entrepreneurs come from diverse sectors such as education, employability, healthcare, water, and menstrual hygiene. “Collectively, they raised more than five times the innovation grant during a short period of six months,” the team claims.

Recently, N/Core partnered with Cisco to launch ‘N/Core tech,’ to incubate early-stage nonprofits that leverage digital technology to positively impact society focusing on social, economic and environmental problems. It is currently accepting new applications.

Sudha Srinivasan, CEO of N/Core, says, “Considering the untapped opportunity to adopt technology in the various areas of human development - health and nutrition, financial inclusion, education, livelihoods, agricultural productivity, and market linkages for farm produce, affordable housing and land rights, etc, I am optimistic about the impact that we can achieve through N/Core tech.”

Between N/Core tech and the open cohort of N/Core, the foundation is looking to support 30-40 early stage nonprofits every year. We list down few of the startups incubated by N/Core last year.

1. Akshar Foundation 

Akshar Foundation, an Assam-based NGO, has developed a pilot school known as Akshar Forum with an aim to serve the local stone quarry community that has experienced multi-generational illiteracy. The school has 100 students.

The team designed a “meta-teaching” programme to address the problem of teacher shortage and lack of parental support. Through this programme, teenagers are trained and employed as teachers/coaches for younger students, under the supervision of a senior teacher. Teens are paid for teaching in tokens, which they exchange for food, clothes, sports equipment, hygiene products, and school supplies.

“By employing a military hierarchy of teenagers and college students to teach small groups of children, the model has not only ensured that a vulnerable youth populace is brought back into school but has also enabled the foundation to organise small classes with a 1:100 teacher-to-student ratio,” the team shares.

The children also receive daily mentoring from seniors.

2. Anahad Foundation

Anahad Foundation, a nonprofit organisation, is working to create platforms for folk musicians by researching, reviving, and innovating the music they create.

Recording Khamaicha player Dapu Khan and Group in his village in Barmer.

The organisation has designed a five-fold programme that documents the artists’ work, creates an exclusive website for them, conducts research on their work, makes the artist aware of their IP rights, and helps them collaborate with national and international artists.

 “Due to urbanisation, the communities who are backbones of Indian music heritage have been deeply affected with their folk music ignored and marginalised. There is an essential need for tribal/folk artist communities to upgrade their skills so that they can adapt to changing times and contribute in the current socio-economic and socio-cultural trends of society,” the team shares.

The organisation hopes to select three regions between 2017-20, where nine music communities will be identified for study and documentation.

3. The Education Alliance 

The Education Alliance, founded in 2014, aims to build a collaborative ecosystem where the government and NGOs work closely to catalyse quality transformation in education. They partner with government schools through whole-school partnership programmes.

At a government-partnership schools.
“While the government has largely addressed the problem of access to primary education, the challenge is now of delivering quality. With more than 300,000 government schools lying under-utilised across India, there is a great opportunity to revive the quality of these schools,” the team shares.

The Government-Partnership Schools model uses nonprofit partners to deliver “significant improvement” in enrolment, attendance, and student learning outcomes. The School Quality Enhancement Project, started as a pilot in Delhi schools last year, has shown significant rise in student enrolment.

4. Sukhibhava 

Bengaluru-based social enterprise Sukhibhava aims to create awareness about menstrual health and provide access to affordable sanitary pads to women from underprivileged communities. The organisation aims to create a behavioural change from a biological, sociological, gender-related, and rights perspective.

Puberty session at a school in rural Uttarakhand.

According to Dasra’s Spot On report, close to 88 percent of women in India use old rags, sawdust, newspaper, ash, plastic, and leaves, instead of proper menstrual products, leaving them prone to infections.

“In addition, lack of knowledge, myths and rituals around menstrual health, and improper disposal of sanitary pads are adding to the issue,” the team says.

Sukhibhava is an aggregator of various menstrual hygiene solutions and has built a mobile app for efficient distribution for micro-entrepreneurs and a cloud-based education technology for trainers to deliver consistent education sessions. They reach over 18,000 women every month and have educated over 28,000 women in Bengaluru and Uttarakhand. The organisation hopes to extend their reach to women in the tribal communities of Vishakapatanam.

5. Project Potential 

“Over 25 percent college graduates in Bihar are currently unemployed with the youth stuck in conditions plagued by a weak local economy and lack of an ecosystem to support entrepreneurship,” the team says.
The team gets introduced to permaculture in Bihar.

Project Potential aims to change the situation by developing an ecosystem required for a strong local economy to thrive. The organisation researches “high potential ideas”, and motivates youth to be a part of scalable enterprises in the region. They also train youth for ideas in which they can get employed in enterprises and launch companies to produce and market goods.

Presently, Project Potential aims to identify 10 high potential ideas that can be piloted as companies, send 100 youth on internships, and incubate a minimum of five different enterprises. The organisation also has a 15-acre campus in rural Kishanganj District, where several pilot projects revolving around food processing and high-value agriculture products will be tested.

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