LSN Foundation

 For the last several days, Josh, Claire and I have been working on our consultancy project with the LNS Foundation’s livelihoods program. This program is still in the development stage, and we were tasked with the developing a social enterprise model that would fulfill the needs of the foundation, the program’s future participants and the market at large.

We began our process by clarifying the goals of the Foundation by conducting interviews with key staff members. Next, we did a site visit to gather preliminary data at the night homeless shelter that would be the source of many of the participants in the future livelihoods program. After this visit, we realized that we would have to gather much more information about the homeless population, and designed a market research questionnaire and returned with Mirza, a Foundation staff member, as an interpreter. Armed with 2 boxes of sweets as an ice-breaker, we conducted one-on-one interviews and gathered data including where individuals were from, education levels and literacy rates, skill sets, current work situations, income levels and levels of interest in participating in a future livelihoods program.

The more we spoke with people and listened to their stories, perspectives and research, the more we realized how dynamic the situation is. There are an infinite number of ways that the issues surrounding livelihoods and the homeless could be approached, and it feels as though we could remain in the research stage for many months and still unsatisfied with the quantity of our data.

From here, we are going to focus on matching the key strengths and assets of the LSN Foundation with the needs of the target population to try to find the opportunities for greatest success.

-Naomi

Study of my organization

The organization that my team and I studied is the IRS republic school. The school was initially underwritten by the ICFAI organization. But as time progressed and the economy went down ICFAI found that it couldn’t support this organization. As a result, we were tasked to identify revenue generating opportunities for the IRS republic school.

The IRS republic school wasn’t idling when the funding from ICFAI started drying up. The school had tried many initiatives such as a movie night, crafts expo etc but to no avail. What I noticed about these initiatives is that nobody was trying to figure out why these initiatives failed. The teachers who ran these initiatives shifted focus to their day jobs at the first sight of failure. In other words, the organization was being limited by its mission, as far as revenue generating opportunities were concerned.

These observations made me think about the concept of a separate school or organization that would be focused on revenue generation.

-Sashvat

Meeting with the members of the LSN Foundation and the night shelter was very insightful in to the world of social enterprise.  This project brought with it challenges, but they all aided in the understanding of our client and the residents of the night shelter.  We realized early on that we had some very important stakeholders to be aware and help out with our project.
First and foremost seeing the night shelter was key to our understanding of the social need.  It was also helpful in establishing an operating basis for the facility, but more importantly it helped us understand how to operate a shelter with the needs of the social customer in mind.  Although we only got a mere glimpse in to this world, we will keep those memories with us forever.
The LSN foundation support staff provided a great look in to the operations of the shelter, the scope of the project and the financial records for the night shelter.  They were also able to provide us their perspective of the people they are helping.  It should also be mentioned that they seemed very open change and suggestion.  I assume this makes the life of a social entrepreneur much easier.
I also did realize that support from the government or other funding source was necessary for many social enterprises.  This was obvious when we sought to achieve a sustainable model for the night shelter.  Meeting the needs of this stakeholder will also need to be considered.
I certainly hope that we did our due diligence and collected enough data and experiences to be able to present a thorough recommendation for the foundation and the night shelter.  We look forward to presenting our results.
-Joel

Meeting with the members of the LSN Foundation and the night shelter was very insightful in to the world of social enterprise.  This project brought with it challenges, but they all aided in the understanding of our client and the residents of the night shelter.  We realized early on that we had some very important stakeholders to be aware and help out with our project.

First and foremost seeing the night shelter was key to our understanding of the social need.  It was also helpful in establishing an operating basis for the facility, but more importantly it helped us understand how to operate a shelter with the needs of the social customer in mind.  Although we only got a mere glimpse in to this world, we will keep those memories with us forever.

The LSN foundation support staff provided a great look in to the operations of the shelter, the scope of the project and the financial records for the night shelter.  They were also able to provide us their perspective of the people they are helping.  It should also be mentioned that they seemed very open change and suggestion.  I assume this makes the life of a social entrepreneur much easier.

I also did realize that support from the government or other funding source was necessary for many social enterprises.  This was obvious when we sought to achieve a sustainable model for the night shelter.  Meeting the needs of this stakeholder will also need to be considered.

I certainly hope that we did our due diligence and collected enough data and experiences to be able to present a thorough recommendation for the foundation and the night shelter.  We look forward to presenting our results.

-Joel

LSN’s Night Shelter
 
When our group was given the objective of researching an Indian night shelter and producing an efficiency assessment and feasibility study, we quickly threw ourselves into the task of becoming better acquainted with the night shelter residents as well as those running the shelter at LSN.
Arunmai at the LSN office was such an asset to completing this task. She dedicated hours of her time over the few days we had together to ensure that we received information sufficient for completing our task. Though LSN is a business, we came to understand that the compassion of the staff the dedication to the night shelter residents superseded the business aspect. Everyone in the office have huge hearts for those on the streets and are driven by their desire to see their success of transitioning out of homelessness, regardless of the cost. Sadly, they are sinking into a black hole of resources.
In order for LSN to continue to provide the basic need of shelter for the homeless of Hyderabad, the operations need to be modified. Providing shelter at 5rs a night, this is generally a workable price to collect from most, if not all, residents on a daily basis, but some residents do not pay the fee. This small fee is used to cover some of the night shelter costs. However, even if the rupees were collected from every resident every night, this still would not produce a break even for LSN with the current operations budget. The hearts in the office are continually growing, but without a change in the running budget and enforcement of collection for the night stay, the service of a shelter will fold in on itself, resulting in no safe haven for the homeless.
With around 40,000 homeless in Hyderabad, I was stunned to see so few people utilizing the night shelter. I expected to see a massive facility inching closer to 100+ residents and a line of people wrapped around the facility. Instead, I met less than 30 residents and encountered empty floor space available for more bodies. To further ensure the success of the night shelter, a more active advertising or marketing campaign needs to be developed. As we befriended the residents and spoke to them about the shelter and its benefits, the residents expressed a willingness to contribute a few hours a week, as part of staying in the shelter, to “mobilize” (or tract) on the streets to raise awareness about the shelter, thus bringing in additional residents.
A hard look at the budget, enforcement of payment, and moving to a government sponsored facility are all essential components needed for LSN to continue to provide such a beneficial resource. Of course, this is easier said than done. When you have accomplished the task of gaining the trust of the trustless, it is difficult to abruptly change the functions of a company. Thus, gradually incorporating changes that most effectively and immediately raise the bottom line can be implemented.
LSN provides an invaluable service. With a little tweaking and continued compassion, their services can expand and touch more lives than they could have imagined.
-Jamie

LSN’s Night Shelter

When our group was given the objective of researching an Indian night shelter and producing an efficiency assessment and feasibility study, we quickly threw ourselves into the task of becoming better acquainted with the night shelter residents as well as those running the shelter at LSN.

Arunmai at the LSN office was such an asset to completing this task. She dedicated hours of her time over the few days we had together to ensure that we received information sufficient for completing our task. Though LSN is a business, we came to understand that the compassion of the staff the dedication to the night shelter residents superseded the business aspect. Everyone in the office have huge hearts for those on the streets and are driven by their desire to see their success of transitioning out of homelessness, regardless of the cost. Sadly, they are sinking into a black hole of resources.

In order for LSN to continue to provide the basic need of shelter for the homeless of Hyderabad, the operations need to be modified. Providing shelter at 5rs a night, this is generally a workable price to collect from most, if not all, residents on a daily basis, but some residents do not pay the fee. This small fee is used to cover some of the night shelter costs. However, even if the rupees were collected from every resident every night, this still would not produce a break even for LSN with the current operations budget. The hearts in the office are continually growing, but without a change in the running budget and enforcement of collection for the night stay, the service of a shelter will fold in on itself, resulting in no safe haven for the homeless.

With around 40,000 homeless in Hyderabad, I was stunned to see so few people utilizing the night shelter. I expected to see a massive facility inching closer to 100+ residents and a line of people wrapped around the facility. Instead, I met less than 30 residents and encountered empty floor space available for more bodies. To further ensure the success of the night shelter, a more active advertising or marketing campaign needs to be developed. As we befriended the residents and spoke to them about the shelter and its benefits, the residents expressed a willingness to contribute a few hours a week, as part of staying in the shelter, to “mobilize” (or tract) on the streets to raise awareness about the shelter, thus bringing in additional residents.

A hard look at the budget, enforcement of payment, and moving to a government sponsored facility are all essential components needed for LSN to continue to provide such a beneficial resource. Of course, this is easier said than done. When you have accomplished the task of gaining the trust of the trustless, it is difficult to abruptly change the functions of a company. Thus, gradually incorporating changes that most effectively and immediately raise the bottom line can be implemented.

LSN provides an invaluable service. With a little tweaking and continued compassion, their services can expand and touch more lives than they could have imagined.

-Jamie

IRS Private Schools

Our group project is to help the IRS school system.  IRS is a private school system for students UKG through 10 standard (kindergarten through High School in American terms).  The schools cater to slum areas, and provide quality education and an English medium, at a heavily discounted tuition rate, an education that far outmatches public schools.  The demand is high, and only half of the applicants that apply are accepted.  Currently, there are 11 schools throughout the country, with a student body of over 4000. 

The sole problem that IRS faces is the lack of diversified funds.  As of now, 90% of the operating costs are covered by donations, with a strong majority coming from the Society (ICFAI).  We estimate that the Society pays around $800,000/year, no chump change.  Over the past couple years and due to the economic downturn, the Society hasn’t been able to provide adequate funding for all the schools, and therefore, a downsizing occurred which closed a few schools and had to lay off several faculty.  Our task is to propose initiatives that will embed a social enterprise within the school, to help generate revenues.  Not only will this diversify the funds and help alleviate the dependence on the Society, but it will also give potential to the school system to further grow and develop. 

Another key initiative is to help revamp the marketing campaign directed towards funding agencies.  IRS uses the Alpha Foundation to front its donation campaigns.  This was created in order to divert attention to the ICFAI foundation, an organization that is well known and has lots of financial resources (part of the reason why no one donates when using an ICFAI backing).  On the other hand though, no one is aware of the Alpha Organization, so the branding works against IRS in both scenarios.

Among the entire agenda, there is one problem that is most notable from the beginning.  IRS does not have any personnel who monitor the fund raising initiatives.  Therefore, when set projects are in place and fail to meet the expectations, no one is available to investigate the reasons why it didn’t succeed.

Furthermore, when the proposed social enterprises are developed, personnel will need to be in place in order to track the progress, tweak the strategies, and analyze the potential downfalls or successes.  Without dedicated personnel, there is potential to repeat mistakes that could be easily corrected.

This is our mission if we so choose to accept it.

-William

Inspiration

Mahatma Gandhi.  I’ve been an admirer of this remarkable human being for several years now.  I’ve seen the movie, read his book, and still find myself being influenced by him to this day.  Yet, I heard a specific quote given during a presentation at the Byrraju foundation.  I don’t recall hearing it before, but if I did, it resonated with me this time.  I had to think a while, and continue to think about it, before I could interpret it.

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.” -Gandhi

Normally, one doesn’t think of poverty as a form of violence.  A form of circumstantial misfortune maybe, of poor decision making, of laziness even, but not violence.  Whether these are accurate or not, is not the point.  But a form of violence seems completely different.  I would think that a person, begging on the street, sleeping on sidewalks, or even collecting welfare was completely separate from my own life.  As if the person’s current situation, whether within the scope of their own control or not, was able to get out of poverty himself.

I would sometimes think what I would do if I was homeless.  If I could collect enough cans, hustle enough dough, or find some way of earning money to get back on my feet.  I always thought I could, but never really sure how.  And maybe that’s the difficulty, maybe it’s where the quote falls into play.  As if my own action, or inaction, as a representation of society as a whole, is the main cause for one’s severe poverty. 

I’m not talking about the street kids or drunkards who we stereotype as being poor and hopeless, and therefore, the poor shouldn’t receive our attention.   But I speak of the real poverty stricken people, who would humble almost all of hearts.  I met and interviewed a woman in her mid thirties.  She lived on a piece of land that was smaller than the size of this small hotel room I am writing in right now.  The walls, and roof were made from tree leaves.  A hut.  She, her husband, and 5 year old son lived under this roof.  The husband was working in the fields at the time, while the child was in school.  She cooked, cleaned, and did other household chores.  She was unable to work because she had a health condition that weakened her, and was debilitating.

This family ate two meals a day, rice and vegetables.  On Sundays, they saved up a little money to go to the Sunday market to buy chicken for a meat filled dinner.  That was it.  That’s what they had.  I didn’t see any beds, just a couple of mats, some rocks positioned as a fire place, some pots, pans, a couple water bottles, clothes, and that’s it.  What really struck home was when this lady told us she was born in this hut, over 30 years ago. 

What are we doing to help alleviate this type of poverty?  Why do we let these things continue?  As if our own inaction was a course for punishing those less fortunate.  A form of violence, that at times, could borderline torture.  That’s what Gandhi’s quote says to me, and it’s what I find inspirational.

-William

"Once a word escapes, it cannot be captured." ~Sage T-shirt.
The impact of our words is incredible.

"Once a word escapes, it cannot be captured." ~Sage T-shirt.

The impact of our words is incredible.

LSN’s Challenge

The LSN Foundation needs to look creatively at its resources and its population to increase its impact. LSN’s primary goal is to serve the most vulnerable individuals in society that have otherwise been forgotten or overlooked by other entities. It has a very small staff with very big hearts. During our analysis of the organization, it has become apparent that the more LSN can engage other foundations as partners, the more successful it can be. It will also need to be innovative with its resource management.

We were engaged to look at a livelihoods component to augment LSN’s night shelter, a homeless shelter open only during the evening hours to keep people from having to sleep on the street. When interviewing many of the residents of the shelter, we discovered that many of them did not fit the criteria needed to participate in existing livelihoods programs, such as Dr. Reddy’s Foundation or the Byrraju Foundation programs. Both of these programs only serve the younger demographic (18-35). For those who fit this profile, LSN should work with them to identify and encourage them to use these resources. Many of the night shelter residents, however, are older than 35 and may not be able to or don’t have interest in participating in one of these existing programs.

LSN therefore needs to look at this population segment and tailor a solution to fit the needs of this group. One idea is to work with some of the existing assets that LSN has at its disposal. For example, it has an elder care facility in a village just outside of town. This could be a place where night shelter residents could transition to if they were interested in learning about elder care, a growing industry in Hyderabad. We are looking into other potential solutions too, but the needs and characteristics of each of the night shelter residents are varied and complex. A one-size-fits-all solution is not going to be the answer.

-Josh

Fantastic Voyage
Have you ever ridden on the back of a motorcycle in heavy traffic, without a helmet, in the midst of busy traffic at night (Angie & Mom, please ignore this section)?  Try doing it in Hyderabad, India.  The traffic systems here are still a mystery to me because absolutely none of the markings or postings are followed.  Near death appears every 30 seconds.  However, one need not worry riding with Srihari.  This guy could navigate just about any traffic you throw at him, and he did just that.  He also did this while pointing out monuments and landmarks as we traversed.
This is only one example of the adventures I had with this man (and the rest of the group) over the course of 2 week’s.  Though these adventures were surely more than enough to blog about and keep stories rolling at home, I would rather point out something else this man has provided to me: inspiration.
Srihari has shown me that managing a social enterprise program is a very noble endeavor and that it takes more than putting in the typical 9-5 workday in front of a computer.  In order for him to achieve his goal for a better India it’s probably much like weaving in and out of Indian traffic.  It is difficult to maneuver, very unpredictable and takes a very intricate knowledge of India and its culture.  Plus, he often has to do with some glazed-eyed foreigner in tow!
-Joel

Fantastic Voyage

Have you ever ridden on the back of a motorcycle in heavy traffic, without a helmet, in the midst of busy traffic at night (Angie & Mom, please ignore this section)?  Try doing it in Hyderabad, India.  The traffic systems here are still a mystery to me because absolutely none of the markings or postings are followed.  Near death appears every 30 seconds.  However, one need not worry riding with Srihari.  This guy could navigate just about any traffic you throw at him, and he did just that.  He also did this while pointing out monuments and landmarks as we traversed.

This is only one example of the adventures I had with this man (and the rest of the group) over the course of 2 week’s.  Though these adventures were surely more than enough to blog about and keep stories rolling at home, I would rather point out something else this man has provided to me: inspiration.

Srihari has shown me that managing a social enterprise program is a very noble endeavor and that it takes more than putting in the typical 9-5 workday in front of a computer.  In order for him to achieve his goal for a better India it’s probably much like weaving in and out of Indian traffic.  It is difficult to maneuver, very unpredictable and takes a very intricate knowledge of India and its culture.  Plus, he often has to do with some glazed-eyed foreigner in tow!

-Joel

Developing a Successful Social Enterprise

It takes much more than having a heart in the right place to try to solve what tend to be deeply entrenched and complicated social problems. Poverty is complex and has many causes. It only makes sense to try to address these problems with a variety of solutions. Certainly the traditional market model has successes, as does governmental intervention, and non-profit charity models. But each model has limitations as well. Combining business models with social missions is a solution that is working in several places throughout the globe. We will examine three articles which describe business models that employ social enterprise solutions to achieve a high degree of success in empowering people from poverty.

First, in “One Buyer at a Time,” Riordan describes a scenario in which American Trading, an export company in Peru, was able to engage the artisans of an indigenous village to mobilize around a single, but massive, order of their local pottery. The deal was structured between Pier 1 Imports (for the armchair “world traveler”) and the trading company. The for-profit company creatively engaged USAID’s Poverty Reduction and Alleviation (PRA) group to help pay for the mobilization and mass production training of the villagers in order to fulfill the order. From this, the immediate impact of the monetary influx was a boon for the community. Also, four supporting businesses arose from the mobilization and training which will enable the artisans and workers, which were primarily women, to fill future orders. In this example, the demand was real and preceded the creation of the goods (demand-driven). In many other attempts at creating social enterprise solutions, the product is created before a market demand is identified, resulting in supply-push (selling ice cubes to Eskimos).

Second, the solution must be legitimately needed in the market and must connect business opportunities with social missions. In examining the Grameen Bank (GB), Sekem and Mondragón Corporación Cooperativa (MCC), Mair and Schoen write that these organizations examine the value chain of their target markets and identify the critical disconnect in the network. In GB’s case, for example, this was providing microloans to the bottom of the pyramid to which banks refused to extend loans generally because of their lack of credit history. It filled that gap by extending microloans to those without access. Sekem and MCC both identified gaps in their industries’ value chains and bridged that gap while keeping the social mission at the core of their businesses. Finding these connections and performing the missing function or creating the missing product is another essential component to a successful social enterprise.

In the third article, Jessica Flannery describes a social enterprise that enables entrepreneurs in Kenya to fill the gap in the supply of healthcare facilities in rural areas. Kenya is an anomaly among African countries that has a surplus of nurses and healthcare workers that are unemployed or underemployed. The HealthStore Foundation saw this over supply of healthcare workers along with the need for rural healthcare and identified a business opportunity. By engaging the entrepreneurial spirit of these healthcare workers, individuals could create for-profit Child and Family Wellness Shops (CFW shops) to meet the demand of health needs in rural villages. Thus, the HealthStore Foundation has correctly read the market and is creating a social enterprise that not only alleviates this market failure but empowers entreprenuers.

Problems equal opportunity. In examining the success stories of these three articles, the solutions seem obvious and like anyone could have seen the connections that were made. Yet, no one else bridged the gap. In crafting a successful social enterprise solution to a social problem, it is often the obvious connection that has been missed. There are several reasons that this might be the case, but it is the job of the social entrepreneur to find and exploit this market failure thereby expanding the solution set to some of the world’s most difficult issues.

Josh & Brenda