Teach Series: Social Enterprise

While working at one of India’s largest advertising agencies, I realized two things. One was the importance of branding and being able to communicate your story. The other, that I was a misfit in this industry.

Thank you to everyone who came along and participated in our second Teach Series seminar this Wednesday. Our student speaker was the Association’s new Communication’s Officer, Aakansha, discussing the amalgamation of marketing with international development.

It was excellent to have so many present but for those unlucky enough to miss it, Aakansha has summarised her presentation and captured highlights from the discussion that came from it.

Also included are some relevant links for further exploration of the topic.

Being born and raised in a city like Mumbai, where you have the richest man of the country and Asia’s largest slum share the same land, you are often left baffled and helpless. Waking up to news about which corporation donated more money towards a social impact project to escalating numbers of children forced to drop out of school at a young age, there was pressing need to ‘re-define the act of charity’.

“Brands are recognizing that they need to have purpose beyond making money”

“Take Walmart, for example: they built their multi-billion-dollar business on being the cheapest retailer in their sector. Yet several years ago they changed their tagline from ‘Always low prices’ to ‘Save Money. Live Better.’ What does that tell us? It tells us that globally the mood is changing and low prices are no longer enough. Consumers increasingly want to know about the impact of their money, on themselves and others,” says Elaine Cohen, Founder of Beyond Business.

I would like to cite two examples that gave me the opportunity to merge my interest in communications and intent to make a positive impact in society.


Advertising Agency: DDB Mudra Group
Client: Clean & Clear by Johnson & Johnson
Need: To engage with their target audience in a sustained manner and use their insights to build the brand’s upcoming advertising campaigns.
Resulting idea: Select college students to don the role of ‘campus brand ambassadors’ and work collaboratively to enable students to vote in the General Elections 2013 in India by making ‘politics clean and clear’.
Project: Operation Black Dot

“Clean & Clear as a leading youth brand wants to enable them and give them the confidence to choose the next leadership of the country by making voting easy through Operation Black Dot”, says Ganesh Bangalore, General Marketing Manager, Johnson & Johnson.

Read more here.


Social Enterprise: Social Quotient
Project: The Green Batti Project, a mentoring program that paired young professionals with children from under resourced communities in India to enable an exchange of life skills and soft skills. Impact areas: Problem solving, lateral thinking, goal setting and financial literacy.
Need: To monetise the intent and work as a for-profit
Resulting idea: “Enable consumer brands to leverage social causes as a marketing and brand engagement platform and use business and technology driven approaches to problem solving”, says Samyak Chakrabarty (Co-Founder, Social Quotient).

In this case, we got a banking partner on board to fund the project as there was a brand fit with financial literacy being one of the project’s core impact areas. There was an incremental benefit for the brand. Apart from the positive PR, they received sustained audience attention, leading to high brand recall.

We were able to attract valuable talent, build a robust software to track the mentor-mentee pairing and design a model that could be replicated in other cities of India.

Read more here.

Although my association with Social Quotient as a founding director came to an end when I decided to move to Melbourne, the ideology of “It takes more than just good hearted people to change the world” still lingers in my heart. #ChooseCheesy


Looking Forward for India

The development sector in India has largely been traditional and struggles to come up with transformative solutions to age old issues. Matters related to efficiency and enterprises are left to the market and private sector and for many NGOs, markets remain to be a bugbear.

It will be exciting to learn and observe if social entrepreneurship succeeds in creating a mindset shift that blends markets with mission. With the IT boom, there was an interest in reaching the ‘bottom’. IT platforms gave rise to forecast applications for farmers and a variety of information services in remote rural areas. We shall see what the future holds.

“Poor don’t need poor solutions; but different and smaller solutions”


Further Explorations

The Association live streamed my seminar on the newly launched MIDPA Facebook page while I attempted to give my talk between fire alarms, that is now available for all to view here.
For the curious souls and keen learners of this topic, I have shared a few links that caught my attention that you could refer to as well.

Sanitation issue? Time to get creative

Simplifying Social Impact: Engagement Is the Route to Business Benefits

Can marketing change the world?

Social Traders, Australia


Final Remarks
Thank you again for your excellent participation! Please do share below if you know of any other apps, websites, articles or brands that can help everyone be inspired redefine charity.

Vice President (2017)

Brown Bag: Human Centered Design

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Thank you to everyone who came along and participated in our first ever Brown Bag event this Wednesday. Swathi Madike shared her experience of Human Centered Design, which can be used as inspiration for participatory development.

We were delighted with the turn out but for those unlucky enough to miss it, Swathi has summarised some tips for using Human Centered Design. She has even included some relevant links for further exploration of the topic.


What is Human Centered Design?

I was introduced to human centred design through service design studio classes taught while studying Industrial Design at RMIT.

It is about co-designing a solution by respecting and acting upon the expertise of the life experience of all stakeholders involved. To me it is about creating a joint sense of ownership of a solution between designers, service providers and users.

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Tips for using Human Centered Design

Prototype Iteratively – Tell yourself you will not get it right the first time, a mindset that allows for the growth of your concept.

Transparency and Trust – Your participants/users are intelligent people whose sense of discrimination should be respected.

Appreciate Boundaries – Appreciate that your participants/users are already creating change by attending a co-design workshop. Account for personality and professional differences to meet them halfway.

Be aware of your own agenda – Introspect on your intentions when entering a project. What are you hoping to gain? Are you the right person to be doing the job?

Any change has consequences – The process of evolution is that when the new enters, the outdated has to go. Keep in mind who the change is affecting and help them evolve their role.


Further Exploration of the Subject
Below are some resources for Human Centred Design.

This is Service Design Thinking
Convivial Toolbox
Value Proposition Design


Final Remarks
Thank you again for your excellent participation! Please do share below if you know of any other toolboxes, websites, articles or events that can help everyone be inspired to use creative methods in development.

Teach Series: Sustainable Fashion


Thank you to everyone who came along and participated in our first ever Teach Series event this Wednesday. Our inaugural student speaker was the Association’s own Lead Writer and Website Designer, Ida, discussing how the fashion industry relates to international development.

We were delighted with the turn out but for those unlucky enough to miss it,  Ida has summarised her presentation and captured highlights from the fantastic discussion that came from it. We have even included some relevant links for further exploration of the topic.

And as always, we invite you to continue the discussion in the comments section below.

Fashion and Society

Consumers have been led to expect more variety at a lower price, putting pressure on companies to produce higher volumes at lower costs. This economic and profit-margin squeeze ultimately lands on the factories, who compromise human rights, wages, safety and working conditions.

The reason companies are interested in production locations such as Bangladesh, is the overall low costs but also that there are low regulations and not many limiting laws, allowing companies to put unreasonable pressure on the factory managers.

Corruption is a huge problem in the fashion industry. One student highlighted that a common practice in Cambodia is to pay up to two months wages to the ‘insider’ who got you the job. A debilitating societal tradition if you are already living on the poverty line.

We also heard of garment workers beginning to mobilise and demand their rights, putting overdue pressure on governments.


Fashion and the Environment

The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry globally. The value-chain is filled with problems of water, chemicals, trash and so on.

Cotton is highly water-consuming, it takes up land that could have been used for agriculture and heavily relies upon fertilisers that seep into groundwater and pollute local water sources. Certain fertilisers have been linked to waves of farmer suicides in India.

There is also a huge energy cost to clothing: in production, transport, when we wash our clothes, iron them, dry clean them, drive them to the second-hand shop, ship them overseas for charitable causes and so on.

All this energy is wasted when we do not keep our clothes for a long time. The lifecycle of clothes is short, we put our clothes in landfills, which produce methane. Or we give it to charity, to a friend or companies that will recycle it, depending on its quality of course.


Fashion and the Pressure of Consumerism

We use clothing as a key personal identifier: clothes are our chosen skin. A responsible sustainable approach to clothing could focus on letting only a few pieces of clothing identify us, rather than a continuous change of outfit or refreshing our ‘look’ define us.

Gender plays a role in consumerism, women are expected to look a certain way when they go to work e.g. wear high-heeled shoes. The men in the room also contested that there are plenty of pressures on them! Media reinforces expectations of how everyone is supposed to look.

It is very important that we do not only consider how the ‘West’ consumes and exploits the ‘South’. A participant pointed out there is a growing middle class in many countries such as India, China and Brazil, that partake in high consumption as well.


Fast Fashion and the Recycling Norm

When we give our clothes to charity we think we are doing good. However, one study found that there are so many clothes given to charity that even if it was given away for free, there would be too much to go around. Another study found that only 20% of the clothes are used or resold.

The question is what happens to everything else? Much of it is shipped to places like Haiti, disaster areas. The problem with this is that the local markets cannot compete with the low prices of these clothes, ruining their chances of starting up their own locally produced clothing stores.


Who is Responsible for the Fashion Industry’s Habits?

The question was posed: who is responsible for the social and environmental issues linked with the fashion industry?

We as consumers have a choice to only buy from places that support our own values in terms of production. To ignore societal pressures to look good in a fast-consuming world.

However looking at the production side this could lead to economic problems for garment workers. If the consumer demand falls for cheap clothing or if we buy less they potentially lose their only source of revenue.

This is a central and essential question linking capitalist consumerism and neoliberal development. Who is responsible to action change in the industry? Would this change be beneficial for all or just a clearing of consciousness for the consumer? Leaving local ecosystems destroyed elsewhere…where do you see the responsibility falling?


Further Exploration of the Subject

These are a few apps designed to help you buy more ethically: ‘The Good On You’ and ‘Shop Ethical’.

Here’s an Ethical Fashion Guide:


Further information can be found at these two websites:




And as always, there are some fantastic TED talks on related topics:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v= d4VTPLpfGq0


Final Remarks

The Association have discovered that Monash University does not have an ethical policy surrounding its supply chain, for example where it sources Monash uniforms or your Monash hoodies. If you are interested in becoming an agent for change on this matter, please contact Ida.

Thank you again for your excellent participation! Please do share below if you know of any other apps, websites, articles or brands that can help everyone be inspired to consume more ethically.

You can find the presentation here.