As they say, a great journey always starts with a beautiful vision and it is the vision that attracts fellow travelers who make the journey even more memorable.
At Mantra4Change, we had a similar vision – to transform education at systemic level with greater momentum. This led to the idea of bringing together like-minded individuals, who believe in the power of collaboration. It took almost two years to give a shape to this idea, which went on to become “EduMentum”, an incubator for change leaders from non-profit enterprises working in the field of whole school transformation. Every idea needs a champion and Mantra4Change found that champion in The Advait Foundation (started by Mr. S. D. Shibulal – Co-founder and ex-CEO, Infosys).
EduMentum kick-started in September 2017. We invited applications from early-stage organizations across India. 14 young entrepreneurs from seven organizations were selected to come together as the first cohort; A network aimed at creating a community that builds on the shared knowledge and experiences and works towards the shared vision of systemic education transformation. Our first cohort had teams working in Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Bihar, Telangana and Tamil Nadu. Isn’t that amazing!
A five day residential Boot Camp was organized in Bangalore. Tucked in the beautiful location at Rayasandra – away from hustle and bustle of Bangalore – the Boot Camp gave them an opportunity to interact and know each other as individuals.
Here’s what Regila, co-founder of Vidhya Vidhai experienced when she reached, ‘Mind full of curiosity and excitement, I reached the venue, least knowing that I was going to meet people from different parts of the country. A place full of peace and serenity. Cradling in the arms of nature, we would spend our 5 days with some familiar and many unfamiliar faces. I was eager to begin this journey called EduMentum together with all of them- looking forward to more excitement, collaboration, and learning!’
The energy that all the entrepreneurs brought with them was quite contagious. With the excitement level on a high, the Boot Camp finally began. On the first day, the cohort was introduced to the Shikshalokam platform and welcomed as partners in this initiative by Mr. Sanjay Purohit.
A leadership forum by Ms. Sreeja left our cohort with thoughts around ‘not taking interventions to context, rather, understanding the context and then designing interventions.’
In the next 4 days, the participants were introduced to various theories in the field of school transformation, which would help them design their interventions better. The sessions were taken by some of the greatest minds in the field of Education today, like Mr. Shashi Nair, Ms. Sujatha Rao and Mr. Sanjay Purohit.
They also got an opportunity to interact with some of the renowned people in the development sector like Mr. Sekhar Gopalan, Ms. Purna Mukesh, Ms. Shoma Bakre and Ms. Veena Sagar. Discussions ranging from various perspectives of stakeholders to funding issues were raised and discussed.
The participants felt really positive after the sessions, Ram, co-founder of Vidhya Vidhai, shared, “It was a rich experience, all five days were full of positive vibes. Speakers were simply amazing, each of them was inspiring in their own way. Overall for me, there was a lot of takeaways professionally as well as personally. Now it is my turn to apply all my learnings in my work. I am looking forward to meeting everyone once again in January.”
Each reflection session in the morning became a more open sharing space. The cohort interacted with each other through the day, sharing their work and interest, seeking help, sharing their experiences and knowledge.
This feeling of being part of a larger cause began to slip in. In the span of 5 days, they became a part of a network. From being an entrepreneur, they became a community of individuals who shared a common vision. Along with the realization, articulation of community became more pronounced. “A community for me is a group of people who have agreed to grow together. And it was surprising to form a community with people who have similar goals and have agreed to set aside their insecurities for the greater good. Serendipity at its best,” said Vikrant, founder of Loop Education Foundation, a Hyderabad based NGO.
This experience would be incomplete for our cohort without meeting the people, who made the idea of EduMentum possible, Mr. SD Shibulal and Mrs. Kumari Shibual. They not only believed in the vision, but also provided us with all the support needed. The cohort had the privilege of interacting with these great personalities on their last day of the Bootcamp.
The enthusiasm never ceased away. While sharing and summing up their experiences with Mr. Shibulal and Mrs. Kumari, one of the cohort members, Siddharth, co-founder of Samarthya said, ‘One of the strongest realizations was the urgent need of collaboration in the kind of work all of us are doing. The importance of sharing our learnings and resources to make sure that we don’t waste our time and resources in creating things that someone has already has created.’
For the cohort, the journey of EduMentum did not end with the 5 days. Instead, it has led to a new start. They committed to continue to share their learning with the Community of Practice.
This clearly shows their belief in the power of collaboration to drive a systemic change. The Boot Camp is a huge milestone in the journey of EduMentum and definitely for all the young social entrepreneurs. At the end, all our cohort members left feeling inspired to take on the journey ahead and above all, they left feeling like a tribe rather than just as an individual on a lonesome journey.
As Mr. Shibulal said, “May the tribe keep growing”. We hope going further, EduMentum continues to bring together people who believe in the power of collaboration.
Read more about the change leaders, who form the first cohort of EduMentum in our next blog.
-Written by Ms. Aileen Chen, School Transformation Lead, Mantra4Change.