These numbers bring a sense of joy and pride to us. September 2017, marked the beginning of a beautiful journey of transforming the education ecosystem of India. This month marked the birth of EduMentum, an incubator for early stage organizations working towards systemic education transformation. In the last 1.5 years, we have been able to work with some of the most passionate young individuals in the ecosystem.
EduMentum started with an idea of strengthening contextual solutions to solve the massive educational issue in the country. India being a country defined by diversity has languages and cultures changing every few kilometers. Imagine how this diversity translates into the education sector.
Contextual problems need targeted solutions. EduMentum aims to work with 50 organizations covering 29 states in India in evolving these targeted solutions by 2022. The focus of the program is to empower local change leaders across India to build contextual solutions to bring about educational equity in the country.
EduMentum believes in helping these young changemakers create organizations that are born the platform way. Imagine a set of organizations that believe in the democratization of knowledge, who work in collaboration to empower the ecosystem. The purpose of the existence of civil society organizations is to make society a better place for every individual and it is not possible with one organization. We need to work together to bring the change we aim for.
Launching Cohort Alpha: The Torchbearers!
With this belief, we launched our Alpha Cohort with 6 organizations present in 6 states in October 2017. Our partner organizations i-Saksham, Vidhya Vidhai, Simple Education Foundation, Samarthya, Loop Education Foundation, and Sanjhi Sikhiya have reaffirmed our belief in the power of contextual solutions.
EduMentum as a program has grown with our Cohort Alpha. They have been instrumental in helping us design our support for the organizations that subsequently became a part of the incubator. Refining our approach. Irrespective of their different approaches ranging from empowering School Management Committees to improving the efficiency of government school clusters, they have been open to sharing their knowledge and resources with the larger ecosystem.
They have been the torchbearers of the program and continue to be so. The inputs from our cohort members and constant guidance from our mentors have helped us evolve our program.
The first year of our Cohort Alpha came to an end with a bang. It was a proud moment for us to see these 6 organizations talk about their journey as an organization during eSpire ‘18, the graduation ceremony of EduMentum.
Taking the baton: Cohort 19 joins the community
The success of our Cohort Alpha reaffirmed our belief in the power of the idea of EduMentum. Hence, we went onto invite applications for our very first cohort of EduMentum. After a rigorous selection process, we picked 11 organizations operational across 9 states in India.
The first cohort of EduMentum was launched in August 2019. The idea pool expanded even further this time. We had organizations working towards community participation in education, socio-emotional learning, early childhood education, inclusive education and many more. More information about the selected organizations can be found here.
Impact of strong program design
EduMentum as a program focuses on helping organizations put together a robust program design. This includes organizations envisioning their long term impact in the ecosystem. A major focus of our basecamps is around this. It is one of the most interesting and engaging aspects of the program.
We see organizations challenging their assumptions and investing a lot of time to understand the problem that they would like to solve. This is followed by their theory of change and theory of action. At the end of year 1, the cohort organizations have a robust program design document with clearly articulated outcomes and monitoring & evaluation framework. With a clear program design, our cohort members feel more confident about their solutions.
This is beautifully put by Saumya, co-founder of Barefoot Edu. She says, “EduMentum has imparted us with the skills to think through a program right from identifying a need to measuring impact. I can surely say that our program and we have benefited significantly from the support provided by the EduMentum team. What our program looks like today is because of this support we have received and we are truly grateful for it.”
Strength of the Community:
Collaboration is a key aspect of EduMentum. We strongly believe in the power of the collective. The cohort organizations work together to build their organizations and assist their peers in achieving their goals. The organizations constantly engage in exchanging ideas, suggestions, and resources. A great change starts with a good discussion. We create many such opportunities during the incubation period through Community of Practice calls, webinars, and basecamps. This not only helps the incubatees to get a peer perspective on their solutions but also helps them contribute to the ecosystem.
Nikhil, co-founder of Upkram captures this essence when he says this, “Kiran (co-founder, Upkram) and I come from a field practitioner background. So, being part of EduMentum gave us brilliant mentorship, good theoretical organizational skills via base camps and open access to their office & knowledge base. It has helped us to get the organization building perspective in a more structured way. But what has stood out the most is that we got fantastic cohort members, these peers come from such diverse experience that most of the challenges were solved informally through their inputs. This entire collaborative working mindset as we all are sailing through similar roadblocks has made us build a strong relationship which we will cherish forever.”
Power of mentorship
Our mentors are the spine of the program. We have seen the power of mentorship come alive in the journey of an organization. As Vaishnavi Srinivasan from Bhumi puts it for her mentor “Ms. Purna Mukesh was a sounding board in our journey of designing and piloting the whole school transformation program in Chennai. Asking the right questions, challenging our perceptions, shaping our approach, offering resources and most importantly, reinstilling faith – she has been a wonderful co-traveler”. The mentors at EduMentum have been a constant source of support for our partner organizations.
The journey continues
Working with early-stage organizations is an experience in itself. It’s like seeing a baby grow. We have been fortunate to work with some of the best young social entrepreneurs. As someone, who has walked the journey from the beginning, I feel fortunate to be a part of this program. My biggest learning has been to believe, believe in the power of perseverance and creative energy. This has been the magic ingredient that has kept us on our feet.
We believe in constantly striving to support young organizations working towards creating educational equity in India irrespective of the challenges posed by their geography. With this belief, we continue our journey. We are in the process of selecting our next cohort who will join us in this quest of change. Currently, we are fortunate to be working with 17 wonderful organizations present across 12 states in India.
The idea of EduMentum has started sprouting now. We look forward to seeing this idea of collaboration and contextual solutions grow. We aim to cover all the 29 states in India by 2021. This sounds like an audacious goal, but then if it’s not audacious then what’s the fun. The best part of this is that we will not be alone in this journey, we will have the support of some spectacular like-minded change leaders!
Written by Poonam Shukla, Program Director, EduMentum