University of Southampton students to engage in Spark India 2017 Fellowship Programme in suburban Mumbai


Southampton:Ten students from the UK-based University of Southampton will be in Mumbai for almost a month,from 30th July to 20th August, as part of the Spark India 2017 Fellowship Programme. During this period, they will receive intensive training and on-ground exposure on creating sustainable social impactaround the city. For this, the University has partnered with three Mumbai-based social enterprises to support them in their respective focal areas.

‘Atma’ is a social enterprise supporting numerous educational ventures for the less fortunate. SafeCity is working meticulously in protecting women through crowdsourcing in India and around. Dharavi Diary is a social enterprise centeredaroundthe goal of educating girls in India’s biggest compound slum area. The association with these enterprises for Spark India 2017 will provide the Southampton studentsa unique learning experience and enhance their social awareness.

Spark India Fellowship programme was launched by the Social Impact Lab of University of Southampton in 2014 and the programme was a finalist in the Guardian University Awards that year. It is a unique fellowship experience which takes place exclusively in Mumbai. Students industriously workon tasks set-up by some of India’s most innovative social entrepreneurs to meet myriad forms of social needs. This is meant to embolden their first step towards becoming world-class social impact leaders. Theprogramme is an extraordinary amalgamation of collaborative problem-solving with a personal leadership journey towards understanding some of the most heterogeneous social challenges around the world.

Dr. Pathik Pathak (Director of Social Impact Lab, University of Southampton) is very optimistic about the outcomes of Spark India FellowshipProgramme. “Spark India returns this year with 10 students competitively chosen from across the University of Southampton. We are delighted to partner with Dharavi Diary, SafeCity and Atma, three organisations achieving incredible social impact. Our programme is built on the principle that the UK social economy has much to learn from Indians. We are hopeful that we contribute towards a positive flow of social innovation between the two countries.”

Spark India 2016 had Southampton students develop their leadership skills and knowledge of the Indian social enterprise ecosystem through an intensive programme of skill development sessions and various sitevisits in Dharavi. This year, there were 126 applications for 10 places available for the Fellowship. Students were selected on the basis of experience, relevant skills and social leadership potential.

The selected Fellows under Spark India 2017 will work on a carefully curated business challenge with varied targets such as marketing, impact evaluation, fundraising and business development. These Fellows will also explore India’s social enterprise sector up very closely through a series of visits to ecosystems players such as Acumen and Unltd India.

Joseph Rowland (2nd Year BA Geography student), FebaKollanoor (3rd Year Civil Engineering student), AyodapoSalako (1st Year Accounting & Finance student) and NontokozoGuduza (1st Year Social Policy and Sociology student) will be working with Dharavi Diary, whose mission is to increase girls’ participation with technology in Dharavi. With them, they will be bringing a BluPoint hub – an innovative device which creates a portable local solar powered network that enables computer, tablets and mobile device users to access life changing information and services free at the point of use, making use of the devices and phones they already have. BluPoint is a University of Southampton spin-out. The students will be taking BluPoint hubs across Dharavi to teach design thinking tools to girls in Dharavi to help them design solutions to the social issues they encounter in their immediate environment. With a BluPoint hub Dharavi Diary can reach more girls with significantly more digital educational resources, and allow them to distribute their own apps to users and potential customers across Dharavi and beyond.

According to Joseph Rowland, “I applied to Spark India 2017 because it is an amazing opportunity! It is a chance to work in India, with social enterprises which use technology to help people escape poverty. As a geographer, I love encountering new places and India offers vast cultural differences and experiences.”

Jack Covey (4th year MEnvSciEnvironmental Science student), KhadheejaSama (2nd Year BSc BusinessManagement student) and Laura Cooper (3rd Year BSc Education student) will gather feedback from users of the Atma network platform and identify causes of low engagement. Thereafter, they will produce specific recommendations for improvement to the Network platform with an implementation plan for a more engaging network platform.“My motivation behind applying for Spark India 2017 stemmed from a desire to challenge myself and to embark on an experience that will enhance my personal and professional development”, Laura Copper said.

LucyAldridge (3rd Year BAGeography student), Katherine Heath (2nd Year BAGeography student with aminor inSociology) and AlexandreBeardshall (3rd Year MEngMechanicalEngineering(BiomedicalEngineering stream) student) will work with SafeCity to develop aSafeCity Southampton App to help achieve the organization’s objective of ensuringwomen safety in its network of cities. They will also assess the SafeCity website and design additional features for a global userbase. As per Katie Heath, “I applied to Spark India because I thought that it offered a unique way to become involved with an international social enterprise. I believe that the program’s focus on skills development and personal growth will be invaluable as I pursue my career in the charity sector.”

All these activities are in line with Spark India’s agenda to help its students gather insights into social entrepreneurship and become social impact leaders in their own right.