IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC) chose a team of 10 IBMers (IBM employees) from seven different countries to work on various pro bono (volunteer) consulting assignments in India. IBM’s primary NGO partner organization in India is Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), which makes arrangements with other NGOs in various service and geographical areas. The IBM team arrived on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, on the main project site, Indore, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, called the heart of India due to its geographical location in the center of the country. Satish and Shreejith from the host organization, VSO, took us to the Indore site-seeing on Saturday and we started the orientation on Sunday for which I have already written another blog (Self Reflection). On Monday, a team of seven people from the VSO and a team of eight people from the four NGOs joined the IBM CSC team to get to know each other and discuss about the assignments.

The VSO team started the team orientation and introduced us to VSB vision, objectives and partner organizations. Many NGO’s have taken initiatives in teaching science and STEM education in India and some city and state governments have started their own schemes (programs). Some worth the mention are the Pathways of Technology (PTECH), Women Entrepreneurship Organization of Karnataka, distribution of 2000 libraries in government schools in Maharashtra, SEVA (the largest women’ organization in India with 30 million members), and VSO India. VSO India focuses mainly on:

  • Education
  • Livelihood, including farming
  • Empowering youth by providing them skills to find employment
  • Youth engagement

VSO’s work is aligned with VSO International and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) establish by United Nations Organization (U.N.O.). They have published 17 goals each with multiple sub-goals to encourage sustainable development throughout the world. VSO really believes in the power of volunteerism and think volunteers can really provide objective input to public and government policies as they are not afraid of being disciplined by the otherwise hierarchical bosses or bureaucrats.

Afterwards, IBM India program chair, Thomas, explained about the IBM CSC program that it started 10 years back and have done 1000 projects so far, each project with a team size of about 10. About 500 high achieving IBMers are chosen each year to work on multiple projects throughout the world.

The four partner NGO leaders introduced us to each organization’s vision and projects and explained to us the assignments where they needed help from the IBM CSC team:

Madhya Pradesh Voluntary Health Association (MPVHA): It is the M.P. chapter of one of the oldest non-profit in India, established in 1950’s with chapters in each state. It focusses on many areas such as malnutrition, women health, reproductive rights, etc. The IBM team project is to partner with MPVHA to develop a long term strategic plan in diversifying into other areas of work in the health sector.

Concept Society: It is a small NGO, established about 10 years back in Indore area to promote the digital literacy among the economically disadvantaged people. It specifically focusses on in-house working women, youth (ages 18-29) in urban poor areas, farmers, and tribal communities. The project for the IBM team is to analyze the various user groups and prepare a training plan and strategy to teach the economically disadvantaged women and youth about the digital technologies in general and cashless payment methods in particular.

BGMS/Water Aid Organization: They focus on clean water and sanitization, toilets construction for the poor and other related areas. Indore is country’s one of the few cities that have been declared as open defecation free (ODF). IBM team’s assignment is to analyze the existing community monitoring system in Indore and Ujjain and develop community feedback system/platform framework which can be replicable to other municipalities throughout the state.

Jan Vikas Society: This organization was initially setup and funded by a German church organization. It focuses on the development of poor and ordinary people in cities. One of the projects in recent years was to help more than 3000 rag pickers in Indore by providing them sanitation gear and facilities to recycle and sell the recyclable trash. Their livelihood is now threated by the well-intentioned government program to make India trash free (Indore is also one of the few cities chosen for Smarter Citi Initiative). They want IBM CSC team’s help to develop a plan to provide alternate livelihood to the rag pickers.