How The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation is helping early stage nonprofits to scale & create impact
Since its inception in 2017, The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation (formerly N/Core), managed by The/Nudge Foundation, has grown to become a key catalyst for India’s nonprofit sector, nudging capable and committed problem-solvers to work on some of the toughest challenges faced by India’s poor. The/Nudge CSI’s incubator and accelerator programmes and other initiatives have been instrumental in supporting several early-stage nonprofits in their journey towards meaningful impact at scale. Its tech incubator programme in partnership with Cisco, which was launched in 2018 has incubated 26 tech nonprofit startups who have collectively raised more than 15cr in funds over the last two years.
The programme supports those addressing social and economic problems using technology. Earlier this year, it selected nine startups for the third cohort of its flagship tech incubator programme. After a six-month-long mentoring and incubation, the startups are all set to graduate on September 4.
Here’s a quick look at the nine startups and the impact they are driving on ground
Founded by Dr. Priyanjali Datta and Dr. Dhruv Kacker, Aaroogya Foundation has developed a low-cost, easy-to-use screening tool based on data science and AI. The startup is working towards solving late detection and poor awareness of cancer in India. It provides frontline healthcare workers with its flagship AI-enabled tool for tracking on-ground activities and tracing patients. Since its inception 2016, Aaroogya Foundation has screened 51,000+ people for cancer, detected 2,900+ cancer patients and 1,700+ breast cancer cases and trained 2,000+ health workers.
Founded by Sukhmeet Singh and Dr. Robert Berry in 2016, Energy Harvest uses AI to track waste biomass and then works with farmers to collect and process it into usable fuel . This generates additional income for farmers and reduces air pollution caused by stubble burning. It has helped prevent the burning of 4000 tonnes of paddy straw and increased income of 200+ farmers.
Co-Founded by Gaurav Mittal and Subodh Mittal in 2019, LevelUP leverages the smartphone to bring in accessible knowledge for visually impaired students from grade 8 to grade 12. “We are trying to address the challenge of inaccessibility, which, for the visually impaired, can be as simple as not being able to read a book. The traditional solution was providing them braille books, which were expensive and brought in other challenges. Today, we are able to address that challenge by converting a printed book into audio without the need to convert into braille,” shares Gaurav.
Humsafer Driver Safety Foundation
Completing his graduation, Jehaan Adil Kotwal, spent eight months as a cleaner in his father's truck company during which he got a first-hand experience of the challenges the truck drivers faced. His friend, Sumedh Deepak Mane rode the tech startup wave where he sharpened his product management expertise in Human Centered Design. The two then got together to start Humsafer - a free AI-based road safety solution.
“The app helps truck drivers improve their driving skills by giving gentle nudges when they are driving badly and providing rewards when they are driving well. We are like a virtual driving instructor helping truck drivers drive safe,” shares Sumedh. The team is now ready for market launch.
Government schools today lack the readiness to enable children to integrate in the digital-first world, and addressing this challenge is Muskaan Dreams - a non profit started by Abhishek Dubey and Rishi Raj that builds digital pathways for public schools. “While we enable digital learning, a larger focus is on the capacity-building of the teachers on usage of digital tools. Most often government schools have digital infrastructure donated by various corporates under the CSR programmes. But they are either not utilised or under-utilised. Our tech volunteers help teachers use digital resources and tools,” says Abhishek. “The challenges brought about by the COVID-19 crisis has only reiterated the need to bridge the digital knowledge and skill gap in government schools.”
Muskaan Dreams has played a significant role in building 100+ digital classrooms across the country since its inception in 2017.
One Step Forward Foundation (Prayogshala)
Co-Founded by a team consisting of late Shasanka Mishra, and Krishna Pant, One Step Forward Foundation works towards providing access to digital customised science content for teachers along with an online capacity-building programme. It aims to promote development of scientific literacy in students. It also creates awareness about careers in science at vocational and professional level with an open-source platform for sharing content and trainings and a teacher feedback and evaluation app. In the last three years, it has reached out to 2,000 students and has trained 100+ teachers via online and offline modes.
Founded by Antaraa Vasudev,enables constructive dialogue between governments and citizens. “With Civis.Vote we are creating a scalable technology solution to reduce the bottlenecks at each stage of the public consultation process for governments and citizens. We enable the ecosystem to effectively utilise the consultation process before the policies get passed as laws,” shares Antaraa. Civis also simplifies draft laws and policies, making it easier for people to understand and respond, and conducts outreach to ensure representation of relevant stakeholders. Leveraging AI tools, we present an in-depth analysis of citizens’ feedback to help the government have constructive inputs to build on,” Antaraa says. Since its inception in 2018, Civis has engaged with over 5,400 people, executed 4 government partnerships on national,cCity and ward level policies and worked on over 90 laws.
Founded in 2017 by Amar Srivastava, Avinash Bhutani, Satvik Paramkusham,is a digital learning platform that provides students from under-resourced backgrounds free of cost content, live online classes, mentorship and assessment. The enterprise has worked with 1.5 lakh teachers and students across 35+ cities. It has created 3000+ hrs worth of learning material on its YouTube channel and 1.25 lakh+ text questions for Grade 6-12. It has also collaborated with the Centre, the Delhi government and organisations like WHO to help students learn better.
was founded by Varsha Venugopal and Fiona Conlon in 2019 to reduce child mortality caused by vaccine-preventable diseases. Suvita works to create awareness on immunisation and ensuring key information on immunisation programmes reaches parents. They send customised SMS reminders to parents when a child is due for a vaccine. They also identify local community opinion leaders as ambassadors and drive awareness around vaccinations. Suvita already has 3 lakh families in India enrolled for SMS reminders and is now scaling up the ambassadors programme.
These nine startups were mentored by The/Nudge CSI Partners to help gain strategic clarity w.r.t. various aspects of running, managing and scaling nonprofits. Leaders like Myelin Foundry’ Gopichand Katragadda, Azim Premji Foundation’s K.R. Lakshminarayana; Societal platforms Sanjay Purohit; Ekstep Foundation’s CEO Shankar Maruwada among others mentored them. Apart from this, technology and design teams from Cisco helped the startups to improve their product offerings and build a strong technology backbone.
“The sessions helped to broaden our perspective and also work towards building a more resilient organisation. The handholding by Cisco leaders on the technology front helped us create a new platform for marketing of the paddy straw,” shares Energy Harvest’s Sukhmeet.
Civis said it witnessed GX growth during the course of the programme. “We were able to land a major government partnership while also expanding our team and building a strategic future roadmap,” says Antaraa.
For many others, the programme helped them build on strengths and provide a more clear outlook. “The programme helped to build deeper clarity of the problem we were solving and identify what we can do meaningfully. We were able to look at the problem from multiple angles and socio-economic angles,” shares LevelUp’s Gaurav. While the programme enabled Humsafer to connect with industry experts in AI and Data Science and thereby strengthen its technical competency, the team says helping the non-profit understand their own values better was equally insightful and helpful.
The startups say they are now positioned better than ever before to create impact and scale in their quest to address India’s unique developmental challenges. The words of Antaraa, perhaps, succinctly summarise the role of The/Nudge CSI and its tech incubator, “It is incredibly helpful to have organisations like The/Nudge CSI support young non-profits in India. we can finally visualise how we can achieve our mission with speed and scale”
The/Nudge CSI is now accepting applications for the next round of Incubation and are looking for exceptional talent solving some of the toughest problems faced by India’s poor. More details here.