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University of Southampton students gain real-life experience during social impact fellowship in Mumbai

The 10 Spark India fellows recently spent 3 weeks working with organizations that strive to make life better in underprivileged urban communities.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   29-08-2017
University of Southampton student Joe Rowland (extreme right) teaches school children at Dharavi Diary, Mumbai, how to use a BluPoint device, which lets them access learning resources even without the internet
University of Southampton student Joe Rowland (extreme right) teaches school children at Dharavi Diary, Mumbai, how to use a BluPoint device, which lets them access learning resources even without the internet

Ten students from the UK-based University of Southampton recently spent around three weeks in Mumbai (July 30to August 20), as part of the Spark India 2017 Fellowship Program. The program, launched by the Social Impact Lab of the University of Southampton in 2014, is a unique fellowship experience which takes place exclusively in Mumbai. Students work on tasks set up by some of India’s most innovative social entrepreneurs to meet various social needs. The goal is to help them become world-class social impact leaders. The program focuses on collaborative problem-solving and helps students develop leadership skills and understand diverse social challenges in different parts of the world. During the fellowship period, students receive intensive training and on-ground exposure focused on creating a sustainable social impact in the city.

For the fellowship, the University of Southampton has partnered with three Mumbai-based social enterprises – Atma, SafeCity, and Dharavi Diary. Atma supports numerous educational ventures for the underprivileged. SafeCity promotes the safety of women through crowdsourcing. Dharavi Diary seeks to educate girls in the shanty communities of suburban Mumbai.

Dr. Pathik Pathak, Director of Social Impact Lab, University of Southampton, said, “Spark India returns this year with 10 students competitively chosen from across the University of Southampton. We are delighted to partner with Dharavi Diary, SafeCity and Atma, three organisations achieving incredible social impact. Our programme is built on the principle that the UK social economy has much to learn from Indians. We are hopeful that we contribute towards a positive flow of social innovation between the two countries.”

Spark India 2017 received126 applications for the 10 places available. Students were selected on the basis of experience, relevant skills, and social leadership potential. The selected fellows were expected to work on a carefully curated business challenge with targets such as marketing, impact evaluation, fundraising and business development. These Fellows also explored India’s social enterprise sector up close through a series of site visits.

Joseph Rowland (a second-year BA Geography student), Feba Kollanoor (third year, Civil Engineering), Ayodapo Salako (first year, Accounting & Finance) and Nontokozo Guduza (first year, Social Policy and Sociology) worked with Dharavi Diary, whose mission is to increase girls’ participation in technology in Dharavi.

They brought with them a BluPoint hub, an innovative device that creates a portable local solar-powered network that lets computer and mobile device users access life-changing information and services free at the point of use, by making use of devices that they already have. BluPoint is a University of Southampton spin-out. The students took these hubs across Dharavi to teach design thinking tools to girls and help them design solutions to the social issues they encounter in their immediate environment. With a BluPoint hub, Dharavi Diary can reach more girls with significantly more digital educational resources, and allow them to distribute their own apps to users and potential customers in Dharavi and beyond.

Rowland said, “I applied to Spark India 2017 because it is an amazing opportunity! It is a chance to work in India with social enterprises that use technology to help people escape poverty. As a geographer, I love encountering new places and India offers vast cultural differences and experiences.”

University of Southampton students Laura Cooper (standing, far left), Khadheeja Sama Hashim and Jack Covey (both standing, far right) visit Children and Youth Unity Foundation, an Atma network member
University of Southampton students Laura Cooper (standing, far left), Khadheeja Sama Hashim and Jack Covey (both standing, far right) visit Children and Youth Unity Foundation, an Atma network member

Jack Covey (fourth year, Environmental Science), Khadheeja Sama (second year, BSc in Business Management) and Laura Cooper (third year, BSc in Education) gathered feedback from users of the Atma network platform and identified causes of low engagement. The goal was to come up with recommendations to improve the network platform.

“My motivation behind applying for Spark India 2017 stemmed from a desire to challenge myself and to embark on an experience that will enhance my personal and professional development,” said Laura Cooper.

University of Southampton students Feba Kollanoor, Nontokozo Guduza, Joe Rowland and Ayodapo Salako (standing at the back, third through sixth from left) with school children at Dharavi Diary
University of Southampton students Feba Kollanoor, Nontokozo Guduza, Joe Rowland and Ayodapo Salako (standing at the back, third through sixth from left) with school children at Dharavi Diary

Lucy Aldridge (third year, BA in Geography), Katherine Heath (second year, BA in Geography with a minor in Sociology), and Alexander Beardshall (third year, Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical stream) worked with SafeCity to develop an app to help achieve the organization’s objective of ensuring women’s safety in its network of cities. They also assessed the SafeCity website and worked to design additional features for a global user base. Katie Heath said, “I applied to Spark India because I thought it offered a unique way to become involved with an international social enterprise. I believe that the program’s focus on skill development and personal growth will be invaluable as I pursue my career in the charity sector.”

All these activities are in line with Spark India’s agenda to help its students gather insights into social entrepreneurship and become social impact leaders.

The Spark India 2017 team, with Dr. Pathik Pathak (fifth from left)
The Spark India 2017 team, with Dr. Pathik Pathak (fifth from left)

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