Reading between the lines…

LUSIC-Felicity-graphics-what-is-social-innovation-2 ….is not easy! My recent employment with CKS on the READ Alliance, brought me in contact with project proposals of some of the leading organizations in the education sector, selected for the final round of the Early Grade Reading Innovation Challenge held on 10th September, 2014. It is vital, at this stage, to find reading solutions which are not only action-oriented but also scalable and adaptable within the Indian context to achieve the vision of the READ Alliance.

Some of the key features which may be considered crucial for identifying social innovations around reading have been outlined below.

Clarity of Vision: There are numerous problems within the reading ecosystem. There are contexts which need to be considered. But an organization is limited in its capacity and resources. This is often overlooked when planning for social change. It is not possible to do it all at once. The clarity of an organization is evident in the organizational values, social change theory, project design and in the reflections of the employees across all levels of the organizational pyramid.

Operating Strategy: Ideals and aspirations need to be broken down into smaller functions which work together to create the desired impact. This is, often, the most challenging part. It necessitates the need to have some basic functional systems and structures in place which make possible the work of the organization. It also requires a careful selection of external partnerships that can be leveraged to reach the desired impact. Trying to break down goals into outcomes and outputs require extensive ground experience. It requires a team of personnel who are aware not only of the contextual realities but also possess an understanding of the impact the organization wishes to make.

Resource Strategy: Simply put, this is where an organization defines where and on what terms the organization will acquire resources. Resources could be bought, collaborated upon or borrowed for a specific purpose. It is critical to define what resources cannot or can be compromised upon. Equally important, is the need to convey this to the partners you’re seeking to work with to ensure minimal disruptions. It is here where enterprises gain their social purpose. How they manage to translate their ideas into deliverables is the innovation! One may choose to take the higher path of doing different things. Even greater is the choice to do things differently.

People: People build the character of an organization. Their capacities are the abilities of the organization. Their effort is the fuel in the engine. Their professional growth is the stability of an organization. Time and resources need to be allocated into creating systems which allow for the upward movement of people within an organization. It is not necessary that the HR policy will translate into the organizational culture. The two can be mutually exclusive. Care must be taken to ensure that such an event does not occur. The friction it results in may be detrimental to the growth of an organization.

Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning: The collective results of the aforesaid features may or may not translate into success stories. What is indisputable is the need to continuously assess for feedback. This feedback is useful only when it can be translated into course-corrections and learning. Else, it is a futile exercise resulting only depletion of scarce resources. The MEL framework needs to be wide-ranging to capture learning from a variety of sources of indicators and interactions. It needs to be simplified for the people to feed information into.

To conclude, this is not an exhaustive list but one which is evolving. While more layers can be added, those mentioned cannot be ignored. Some thought into the ones mentioned might pave way for more meaningful conversations and collaborations. It may even eliminate the need to read between the lines.

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