Wednesday, September 26

Happy B'day!

Here's Team HiWEL (Abhishek, Rashi and Santosh) Wishing Jhansi-ki-Rani a very Happy Birthday!

~ HiWEL Team
Read more on this post...

Thursday, September 20

The other side of Bureaucracy

~ Abhishek

Most NGOs or organizations that work with government leave no opportunity to curse Babus in government for all their problems. We are no exception either. However this incident got me thinking about the kind of problems babus face in their routine work

We went to meet a state principal secretary for IT. He had given us a time for 2 pm. We reached the city by 12 pm and after lunch called his office to confirm the meeting. the meeting was on. We reached his office at 1:45 to find to our dismay that secy was not available in his office.

Further enquiry revealed that at 1:15, secy got a call that there has been a cloudburst in one of the villages some 500 km away. He was ordered to leave in 10 minutes and he left at 1:30 by a helicopter.

We could have easily cursed him. after all, that meant we wasted one whole day traveling 14 hours to this city to meet him.

Then I thought about him..................

Read more on this post...

Monday, September 17

What is common between HiWEL and Nuclear Deal?

~ Abhishek

Shiv Shankar Menon !!! Yes, Him.

He was interested in knowing about experiment and how it has fared in Africa and gave us a time of 10 minutes. I came to know of it two days before the day of presentation.

The run up : it was busy time for us and frankly i didnt spend enough time to prepare. so i started with an existing presentation and added some slides on africa and deleted a good portion of the rest slides. N asked for the slides to have a look. i sent the slides quite late to him ( later I came to know that he had asked L to prepare the second set without telling me. surely, he did not have enough confidence in me !!!) we discussed my slides.

Lucky me: N wanted me to delete Shivpuri video ( appended to this post) but I stuck to it. we bargained( ok you sophisticated ones, we NEGOTIATED :)) and he got me to delete another video in lieu of keeping shivpuri one. this video turned out to be the winner in the presentation. have a look... you will realize it captures the essence of HiWEL so beautifully. to be fair to N, he did grant this one to me after the presentation.

The action: We waited 20 minutes before a helper ushered to his guest room where we waited another 10 minutes. His office was plush and huge. SSM himself was in a very modest attire. we shaked hands and got on with presentation after Raji had introduced me and told him about the experiment with HiWEL team from ISB. like a bajaj scooter, I always have a starting trouble.

Fortunately it wasnt so chronic that day. after 15seconds or so, i got into my groove. next 10 minutes were mostly monologue while he keenly saw and listened ( at least thats what i thought :) ). I timed the thing well. As soon as Raji said we ought to finish, i presented the last slide. SSM liked the presentation and said as much.

Epilogue: after i came out , it hit me. I trembled for few seconds ( not really :) ) but yes, I got some goose bumps thinking about what would have happened if i had goofedup. I had gone in quite casually and I guess that proved to be a boon in disguise. we left in raji's car and he dropped us at dhaula kuan after giving me and N some instructions for next steps.

We are hoping that this meeting will pave the way for our international expansion.

P.S: I was impressed with raji's modesty. he drives a entry level mid size car. astonishing in this age of show-off, isn't it?

Read more on this post...

Thursday, September 13

Wednesday, September 12

Random Thoughts

~ Rashi

It is my 100th day at HiWEL and also the 100TH day in the social sector.100 days of learning, questioning, introspection, hope, frustration and belief…….

And that one question which has cropped up time and again……………

While most fresh young government employees- Teachers or IAS officers enter the system with the intention of putting in their best and making a positive difference ,is there something in our system and society at large that converts them into counter productive members? Why is it that the same people perform absolutely differently in the private sector? Should we blame them or does the responsibility lie equally with the system? As was said my Newton centuries ago – every equal and opposite reaction is a result of some action……..

We have heard many anecdotes of cases where the teachers simply sit around and don’t bother to teach or teachers beating the children or teachers teaching by rote learning. We have met many government officials who claim to be the harbinger of social change and yet don’t blink an eyelid without some “favor”……

And this chain of thoughts makes me question the various aspects of the system-

Are we attracting the best people?
Best talent is attracted to professions that have high brand value, that provide continuous opportunity to increase self worth and fulfill personal needs. All this is available in abondance to a government officers ……then what went wrong.
A government school teacher is still the most educated person in the village, it is still considered a noble profession, and they are paid well…..There seems to be no erosion in the status …..then what went wrong.

Are they prepared well for the challenges in the social sector?
Teachers might have the requisite subject knowledge but do they understand the pedagogic issues? Do they understand the background of most kids in the slums and are the they sensitive and motivated enough to deal with the challenges?

Are they mostly pawns on a chessboard or do they have the autonomy to take decisions? And also if they are given the autonomy can they make informed decisions?

Is there any reward for risk if they perform well and conversely deterrent for non-performance? Is there a transparent and credible system to assess their performance? Can this be the reason for the inertia?

Is their a mechanism to energize them from time to time? Don’t they get immune to misery and just turn a blind eye to it?

I can go on and on rambling ….. I don’t know who is at fault but I guess somehow somewhere to create accountability one needs to create conducive conditions.

Read more on this post...

Government Encounter - Day 2

~ Raina

A couple of weeks ago, Abhishek had a meeting with the head of the Department of Edcuation of state X (sorry not allowed to disclose). Anyways, lets call him Mr. X. So Mr. X requested Abhishek to find some innovative ways to improve adult literacy in his state using IT. Lucky for Mr. X, we had just the thing for him. :)

So I called Mr. X's secretary for a meeting and he siad that he'd meet us at 10. I told him that our flight was at 12:30, so 10 would be cutting it too close. If he could meet us at 9, that weould be great. The secretary confirmed with Mr. X, and told us that 9 would be fine. So the next day we should up at 9. How surprising, but Mr. X didn't show up till 10! But after our 6 hour wait the day before, this 1 hour didn't seem so bad. Anyways, so we started to tell him about our proposal.
All of a sudden he picked up his phone and made a call. So we stopped. When he was done, we started off again. Then again he picked up his phone and made a call. Again we waited till he was done and then we started agian. Then some one walked into his office and Mr. X gave that person his attention. This kept happening. Every time we started to tell him about the program that HE had requested to improve Adult Literacy, he would either get interuppted or pick up the phone. Even when we were giving him a demo of the product he kept doing that. People and phone calls kept interupping our meeting, but it didn't matter to Mr. X.

We were there for good 45 minutes and he probably gave us 5 minutes in total. At a stretch he probably gave us 20 seconds max!

I was so furious! If he didn't care to listen then why did he ask us to find out about it. This was definitely not a man who REALLY cared to improve adult literacy in his state. These are the kinds of people in power in our government.

Read more on this post...

Government Encounter - Day 1

~ Raina

Not sure if I can ramble enough about the government here. I just don't get them. So here's my latest encounter with them over 2 days... Here's Day 1...

Abhishek and I went to meet to some person in the government to get a proposal signed so we could put our wonderful 'Hole-In-The-Walls' in more schools. The guy, let's call him Mr. R, told us that he had a meeting all morning but he said that we should come by 11 and he'll call us in the meeting and get the paper signed. So we showed up promptly at 11. The meeting was in session so we sat outside in the waiting area. We waited and waited and waited. The clock ticked to 11:30 then 12:00 then 12:30 then 1:00. No one could tell us when the meeting
would end and we weren't allowed to go in. Abhishek and I were getting quite hungry by then. Then FINALLY at 2:00 the meeting doors opened and Mr. R stepped out. We walked out with him and he called his driver. He turned to us and told us to go with the driver. The driver would take us to his office and he would come in another car. So we went with the driver.

We reached Mr. R's office in 15 minutes. Mr. R didn't get there yet so again we were seated in his office and asked to wait. So this was around 2:20. Soon enough it became 3:00, then 3:30 and we were still waiting. Where was he? So finally I called Mr. R. He didn't pick up. 5 minutes later, I got a message from him saying that he's in some meeting. I messaged back asking when he'd be done and what we should do. No reply. It became 4:00... 4:30. By this time, Abhishek and I were STARVING. The office was in a residential area so there were no restaurants and we didn't want to go too far because we didnt' want to miss the guy. So at 4:30 I lost patience and called Mr. R again. He picked up (thankfully). So I asked him where he was and he said that the meeting just got over and that he is leaving right now. I couldn't hold back my tounge and told him very firmly that we had been waiting for him since 11. And why did he send us to his office if he had another meeting? He could have told us. I made it quite clear that I was very unhappy. I was getting quite heated. All of a sudeen Abhishek runs to me and tells me to quite down. :) So I quite down and hang up.

FINALLY at 5 Mr. R shows up. 6... SIX hours later! Then Mr. R takes us to his boss who needs to sign the paper and his boss goes 'Tell me about Hole-In-The-Wall'!!! Why wasn't he briefed?! They had asked us to come and the boss doesn't even know for what!!! I was dumbfounded. I didn't know what to say. I didn't even want to be there. Somehow the conversation veered towards private schools versus government school. Listening to this guy (Mr. R's boss) I became even more dumbfounded. This guy didn't know some of the basic realities about the
educational arena in India. He made claims that most people in this area SHOULD know are not true. But no - he didnt' know. I guess why should he? He ONLY allocates money to improve government schools... he doesn't need to know the realities!!! And we wonder why the government schools in our country are in such poor state.

Finally our meeting ended. After getting back to my room, I was very disappointed. Can a government really function like this? It has no respect for an individuals time. They run on their own time. They don't even bother to do the needful before meeting someone. It didn't matter that we were sitting there for 6 hours, hungry, to get one stupid signature.

I really wondered how change can be brought around with so much inefficiency in the system? Even if someone wants to change something, can they? It would take him a lifetime to get anything done in this system.

Sadly, this was just Day 1. Day 2 encounter coming right up...

Read more on this post...

Thursday, September 6

The Un(fore)seen Team Dynamics

~ Santosh

I'm certain that we all came across the Tuckman's 4 cardinal and inevitable stages of team development - Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. As you reminisce your ISB core-term groups, you may want to take a glimpse of just a few (of many such) not-so-nasty mails, which we at HiWEL exchange on a routine basis, at

Want to take a quick stab at which stage we seem to have stuck at? Well, whoever quoted that "Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; and working together is a success" probably did not foresee such high performing team dynamics!
Read more on this post...