Mentoring 1000 aspiring development entrepreneurs to impact 5 million families by 2028 is the mission of Buddha Fellowship Program (BFP), a non-profit organization driven to involve passionate youths into entrepreneurship to solve the problems plaguing rural India. BFP is a young organization (1.5 years old at the time of writing this) founded by Ved Arya with the vision to create an inclusive India by encouraging youths to build businesses which double income of the poor and ensure their dignity.
BFP admits fellows from IITs and IIMs (fresh or with two to three years of work experience) who are socially inclined, through a meticulously designed recruitment process. These fellows go through an intense rural immersion for a week where they live with a family from the village. They are then placed in partner NGOs across the country where they immerse, discover & convert ideas into sustainable initiatives.
During this process, they receive mentorship on the field and strategic guidance in their business plan from other entrepreneurs, academicians, and incubators. The program collaborates for the purpose of research and mentorship with academic institutions and incubators such as CIIE of IIM Ahmedabad, CTARA of IIT Mumbai and Hubli Sandbox of Deshpande Foundation. In the latter part of the program, investors join in to invest in ideas which they deem promising.
The BFP core team is handling a massive coordination task- the fellows, the mentors, and the institutions are based in different parts of the country. The team needs to ensure that the fellows have good coordination with the field staff, work with the NGOs and are in touch with their respective mentors. The mentors need to internalize the vision of BFP, help the fellows achieve their goal and be in regular touch with the core team. The academic institutions and incubators need to identify potential candidates and coordinate with the core team and fellows for immersion, research, and investment.
It doesn’t need more reiteration to see that taking care of so many stakeholder relationships is no small task! It requires constant face-to-face interactions, phone calls, regular meetings, workshops and so much more with them. At the same time, there is an ardent need to build relationships outside the core and peripheral team to connect with the youths of the country.
Ensuring that each and every one of the stakeholders resonates with the overall vision of the Fellowship and is able to connect with each other and the outside world was important to the BFP team. The team analyzed the challenges and decided to design a digital strategy to project their core idea, build platforms to consolidate day to day operations and effectively manage relationships with its diverse stakeholders.
Here is where ColoredCow chipped in to articulate BFP’s vision through their tech platform. BFP’s first goal was to ensure that the youth in India are aware of such a program. They also needed a way to effectively communicate the idea of the fellowship during their visits to various institutes around the country so that prospective fellows could see, reflect and subsequently apply for the fellowship. So, the first step, decided together, was to build a website which would communicate the core idea of the Fellowship to all stakeholders.
We sat down for a number of sessions with the BFP team to understand their vision, mission, thoughts, and feelings behind the fellowship. We then molded them to give shape to a unique personality for BFP.
The focus was on
The concept of BFP is evolving every day so we built the website to give the BFP team the flexibility to add further details as and when required. The new website incorporates all the essential elements to give the various stakeholders a comprehensive understanding of the fellowship and to attract more and more passionate youths to the program. It provides it visibility and warmth and piques the interest of potential fellows to embark on an entrepreneurial journey.
The next step was to ensure effective communication between the core team and the fellows. With such a large remote team, it was imperative that people part of BFP environment could interact with each other seamlessly. We developed systems so that Gsuite (which comes free for all NGOs) was leveraged and the core team could leverage technology to interact closely with the fellows, funders, partners, mentors and the external world.
As more fellows joined and new partnerships with NGOs & academic institution were formed, the BFP core team wanted to consolidate all important documents in a safe place. It was hard to always scourge through emails for a particular document or eyeball the files placed in cupboards. We conceptualized a knowledge repository which would seamlessly integrate with the website and consolidate all the documents in one place making it easy to retrieve, share and facilitate knowledge transfer.
During the entire process, developers worked side-by-side with the team, incorporating their thoughts and processes in it. Some of the fellows actively engaged with us and chipped in with ideas for new features.
Tech adoption in the social sector is slow and is a real challenge. But the BFP team was very receptive to technology which gives the team at ColoredCow an opportunity to not just conceptualize the entire process but also to find new opportunities which could help the fellowship.
The journey has just begun with multiple possibilities to build mobile and web applications for on-field support, a mentor-mentee platform, and many more tools. As a problem-solving tech team, it is so exciting to see us together with our NGO partners. We help each other create maximum impact for those in need!