Monday, 16 April 2018

THE METTA FELLOWSHIP 2017-18


THE METTA FELLOWSHIP
December 2017- December 2018

GROUP DYNAMICS: THE POWER OF THE COLLECTIVE GROUP IN CONTRADISTINCTION TO INDIVIDUAL POWER: A STUDY IN GOAL SETTING, EXPECTATION SETTING AND EXPECTED OUTCOMES.

AIM: To document the experience of the first-of-its-kind Metta fellowship and to develop a process of reflection, insights and support, which provide a basis for interaction between present and future fellows.

INTRODUCTION

The Metta Fellowship is a first-of- its-kind group based initiative brought into existence in the year 2017-2018 by NASSCOM Foundation with partners including Tata Trusts and several NGO's with diverse aims in the not for profit sector. It is a pilot fellowship with six participants selected from metro cities over India, including Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi and Pune. The fellowship has plans to expand its offering year on year and build on the pilot program.

METHODOLOGY

In methodology, after initial group sessions involving all the participants and the delivery of formal inputs that they need as an introduction to the social sector, the program involves a test ambition to tie up the individual participants with NGOs for the remainder of the program, in their respective geographies. The root of the idea is that each participant will get hands-on experience while the NGO benefits from their subject matter expertise.  But to what extent can an NGO go to support a pilot trial such as this one where there are no precedents to fall back on to understand the level of engagement required on their part to support the Metta fellow in their journey?

Also, another point of view would be that instead of divergent appointments at several partner NGOs, should the Metta fellows collaborate on only one project, which is identified prior to the program and thereby, align them from the start with set expectations and allow them to understand and operate frameworks and learning from formal educational inputs and apply them to the case scenario already identified in this project? Would this be a more reasonable approach? More efficient? A better way to manage expectations and ensure integrity?

The methodology is a result of several deliberations that seek to weigh up homogenous participation towards one goal with a more diverse approach, involving many areas of the social sector and therefore brings better engagement from all the participants.

TRANSITIONING LIVES: BRIDGING MANY WORLDS

What makes this year-long initiative unique is that the participants in the fellowship have some or no prior formal experience with the social sector, while the selection criteria included a perceived ability to severe ties with any and all commitments and an ability to fully engage with the social sector for the period of one year.  All the participants represent a slice of life in which people selected are those whose aims have thus far taken them somewhere in the direction of their stated goals in the corporate world. But, their experience has also been perceived to, at some point, conflict with social thinking, planning and goals and the corporate world, as many know, doesn't necessarily provide support or bolstering of such goals.

Changing this perception is an ongoing pivot in all relationships between corporate and the social sector, but the scope of this paper is to document the micro effects of the macro causes and to acknowledge that at some point, for all the participants, the reality of having to contend with the new criteria of the fellowship and the demanding nature of the same has necessitated a stepping out of their prior ideas and estimates of personal, social, financial and psychological resources, and stepping into a challenging new world, which has been a continuously intense psychosocio-economic experience, within the context of each of their specific lives.

While all of the participants have contributed to the social sector before the fellowship in their own ways, as 'guests' if you like, or as participants or volunteers in something like a 'give at least 10% of your time or other resources' model, for the first time, through the fellowship, participants are discovering and contending with the entire social sector and the possibilities of increasing their engagement to a sustainable 100%. The social sector is traditionally perceived to be undesirable for the majority, not a coveted sector after high school education nor for employment in most middle class households, which tend to aim education and employment towards the corporate sector.  This affects participants because we are entrenched and sometimes even feel like prisoners of a system, and we need to work really hard, mentally, psychologically and emotionally, because we need to break through these barriers of perception towards a fuller and more complete belonging to the social sector.

So for the Metta fellows, who come from a wide and deep understanding of the corporate sector, the social sector is a teeming, new world with its own unique origin, its ethos and strengths upon which it structurally stands, and participants begin to re-find its main philosophical influences, its flag bearers, milestones, visionaries and champions over history and in the present tense, all over the world, while integrating into their own understanding, at a rapid pace, its achievements, and getting a sense of what is possible, through engagement with the formal education component at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences,(TISS) and NGOs in the social innovation space and by using other resources available to us, as part of our own further research and learning, which we do from a behavior of 'acquired prerogatives', more than ever so before.

INHERENT CONFLICTS AND INTEGRITY MAPPING

For a lot of the participants, self-support and taking care of their own income source is a pressing and real concern, since the fellowship has a stated provision for a small stipend, it  does not account for all their expenses of living and in most cases, their sole income is supporting their families too, including education, groceries, medical expenses and bills for themselves and their family members. With a goal like 100% engagement in the fellowship and in the social sector, it becomes imperative to secure this self-support firstly and foremostly, while balancing goals and keeping the integrity of the fellowship intact. 

As you can imagine, the whole exercise comprises of unending daily challenges including fundamental viewpoint shifts, basic organisational and logistical challenges, communication challenges and at times internal cohesion problems. There is a sense that people may be on different pages sometimes, and since a lot of work or 'actions' run on purely personal initiative, this may result in protracted process assimilation. Sometimes, behaviours may be seen as being adjacent or constructive from the ground up, and at very grassroot levels and while they are central to the purpose, an unfortunate consequence is a sense of isolation in 'figuring things out', as opposed to already knowing what is to be done.

Other experiences include those of missing processes, like a lag in sharing information, problem-sharing and solving them together, since people tend to think they have to solve them on their own from a behavior of acquired prerogatives, which challenges our core use of our own resources. Individual problems may not always be need to be solved by everyone, however, the problems of the individual are also problems of the group and the solutions to these problems also belong to the group and this is a big key shift in the mind-set and heralds an arrival of sorts, which brings deeper entrenchment in the social sector.

This could pose challenges for the fellows and partner NGOs since they tend to operate in constraint and tend to expect a lot from a little. For the fellows, the experience is an operation in a reality in which a constant comparison abides between at least two distinct worlds- the corporate profit-driven sector and the social not-for profit sector. The use and non-use of time, energy, education, skills, competence and money resources goes through a very interesting and engaging sieve, one that exposes where these resources may be getting misused in the one sector and where, it can be directed to flow, in the social sector. The process of the Metta Fellowship impacts these areas of need, and brings change and transformation and fully expects the individual to take those actions that are consistent with these learnings, insights and guidance. This, in turn brings the experience of the individual’s actions to impact on the plural for positive change in both corporate and social sectors and culture and society in general.

In contrast, people coming from the social sector education background with prior experience in handling a project come with a lot more knowledge of frameworks, precedents, what works and doesn’t, growth hacks, skills and a level of competence consistent with such exposure, that would make the process seem a lot easier.

For instance, nowhere in any of the educational backgrounds or resumes of the six participants will we find any of these industry specific exposures but expectations may override basic acknowledgement of this fact, and set people up for failure. Is it even okay to be able to say for instance,  'I really don't know about such and such, since I haven't actually worked for any length of time on a project involving such and such.' Is it even okay to have people take cognizance of the fact that this is an entry level question trying to be answered by the best of people's mid-senior level capabilities. This can be challenging to them in and of itself. Their personal inquiries could still only amount to guesswork and cannot be compared to those coming with more experience, know-how and current competence in the sector. In this sense, overselling of the participant's skill sets to the partner NGOs could backfire if expectation setting does not address this in an efficient way. It may require a one-to-one buddy system with the NGOs, it may require a rethinking of the roles that can reasonable be expected to be played by the participants, which would need to be mutually agreed to, on an ongoing basis.

Therefore, cumulative individual and collective participation and shared growth over time could be considered a metric of success, in which integrity of the fellowship is maintained by building the bridge between the corporate and the social sectors and the Metta Fellowship enables and facilitates this process which will also extend beyond the duration of the Fellowship itself, for each individual and batch of participants.

CASE STUDY: Living the examined life under the Metta Fellowship has brought to the fore, an ongoing point of concern for Participant A who is challenging the dogma of privilege and the abuse of the same in the corporate sector in an ongoing matter concerning workplace sexual harassment and bringing justice at an individual level which in turn impacts the social sector since this justice and attendant resources will flow back to NGOs which support the rights and rehabilitation of minorities who are the victims of the abuse of privilege, like men and women who are harassed in the workplace, rape survivors and child abuse survivors.

(Case studies from other participants to about the impact of being a fellow in their lives, to be added here- in the form of videos, testimonials, etc)

THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE GROUP: A BEHAVIOURAL OVERVIEW AND ITS COLLECTIVE IMPACT

It is important to understand why and how changes in behavior or behavioral markers in individuals also affect the whole group and moreover, how these behaviours associated with 'social sector thinking'  reflect a change in fundamental value systems. It is important to recognise this as a process and continuously log learnings and insights, which would give us behavioral markers that will indicate helpful alignment and create internal cohesion and integrity. For this purpose, this pilot group is a focus group, which will collect data and derive insights from the data to create better working models for the present and future.

There has been a mention of at least two behavioural consequences of engaging with the Metta fellowship in the document so far, that of 'acquired prerogatives' and of 'personal initiative', and this part deserves more attention and documentation, since this a first of its kind social experiment and it could be useful to orient subsequent groups and make available a sort of guide of 'what to expect' and serve to validate their experiences, both positive and negative, which at present is very much is the form of a collection of abstractions, facts, insights, experiences and conclusions of an observed reality as it happens, in the unique way that a Metta Fellow undergoes them.
Researchers and speakers in the social innovation space have pointed out that burdening decisions with 'moral duty' results in more immature decision-making than when people come from their own studied ethical autonomy. The Metta program could be an experiment that successfully creates a supportive environment to develop and follow the voice of this kind of empowered ethical autonomy.

THE WAY FORWARD

Sometimes, the overwhelming psychological size of challenges dwarf the many small steps taken towards overcoming those challenges which make it seem as if failure is more likely than success, since multi-dimensional factors that are not always in our control are at play. But it would also seem short-sighted to indulge this view, since evidence of impactful and positive progress, even if a bit slow, along the road is also not ignorable. It is commendable.

In comparing individual viewpoint with the collective, we sometimes ask ourselves, will I fail? Perhaps. But can we really fail that badly? The odds say NO because together, the collective enabled by the fellowship and its network is one of extraordinary strength and one of the great daily success of the fellowship is in enabling the power of the collective to be engaged variously and fully in the lives of each of the individual members, by activating their conscious participation in the empowerment itself. This is both deep and complex but also at heart, very simple. Bringing people together and motivating them in the context of social causes brings out the true spirit of engagement within themselves which in turn brings out values that firmly and centrally cause them to become agents of change and inspire others in the process.

 Given that Sustainable Development Goals (previously, the Millennium Development Goals) signed and ratified by most countries of the world form the underlying context of all social sector initiatives across the world today, we need now more than ever to come together and be a part of the solutions, especially NOW, since these goals are active and are taking full cognizance of the impact of our multi-dimensional real-world, real-time developments  on the timelines attached to these goals.

Additional references: 

PROGRESS- an Experimental Short-film.

Synopsis: A man walks through the woods with a square building block projecting ideas of 'progress' as he understand it. One of the blocks begins to invade his space and he realizes there is more to nature than he would've thought.

Concept Note: The ideas in this film show how the obsession and the ambition for progress in our fast developing world is often careless and blind about its impact on the environment. Will we realize that the power of nature is omnipresent and will stay alive no matter what, in time?

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Pad Thai and the Art of Unwinding

I would have been around 25, growing up, working and studying in Melbourne, Australia. The whole city is filled up with travelers, backpackers hostels around every corner of the CBD and quaint little coffee shops boasting currencies from all parts of the world as part of the wall décor. I used to frequent them as often as I had the chance and not once, but many times over, I was told to make Thailand and South East Asia  a part of my little itinerary.

Over these smoking hot shakshukas and lattes, I made plans, but as often happens; other things take prominence over these plans. So for personal and professional reasons, I had to postpone my trip to Thailand and other places in my little notebook, and switch off holiday mode altogether for over 5 years.
Recently, my beloved father, a completely home-loving comfort obsessed creature, who paradoxically has a globe trotter for a daughter, passed away. He tried for many years to make a docile domestic goddess of his daughter, but he should know, that the day after he passed away, I woke up, fired up my phone and booked a ticket to Thailand.

So this trip was in many ways a peep through the looking glass and finding that people are who they are, and my way of celebrating his life and idiosyncrasies.

Thailand also, happens to be this often used word exotic, and idiosyncratic. It has an economy that defies most other economies of the world, its history is marvelously studded in ancient quests and the bustling streets of Bangkok coo and caw hints and clues to uncovering some of this treasure. Like most people of my generation, Leonardo Di Caprio in his role in The Beach encapsulated the thrill of high adventure and its costs and when it released, the dare was out. Anybody who called themselves a traveler worth any salt had to make this journey, drink snake blood on Khao San Road and make it through a full moon party not knowing whether they would indeed turn up on the return ticket, and be there to admire the adventure from an internet café halfway across the world, like the hero of this movie did. I was chicken. I did not go to Thailand then.

 I, on the other hand, plonked myself in one of the many bars on Khao San Road and ordered a happy hour Moo Moo (Cranberry Juice and Vodka) to local Thai boys renditioning Wonderwall by Oasis, to wafts of Pad Thai and other curious travellers and kept stunning myself, my mind raving mad at the this truly exotic configuration of the same Rubik’s Cube. I had become the kind of tourist The Beach was all about avoiding.

At any other point through my adventures, I was the Tilda Swinton of the Beach, first at the scene of trouble, making every bit of count, designing and concocting the nature of these daredevilian adventures, pushing my luck as hard and far as I could. As I sat there on the couch, I realized why the era of rebellion and new tricks had forever gone. Now there was no-one to really call me out on anything. So I sipped the Moo Moo, took my docile ass to the massage chair and got home to a lovely, toasty ladies dormitory where a bunch of us told stories of all that we saw that day and snacked on dried sugared paw paw and went to bed.


I had another day left and I didn’t even want to get out of bed. But there I was, in Thailand, so I dragged myself out and checked into a bus tour of the ancient city of Ayutthaya. I made interesting but nonsensical all the same discoveries about the Ramayana. Ayutthayya being another version of Ayodhya.

I let my mind wander. I found myself hypothesizing that The BJP in India with it right-centered politics and Hindutva really didn’t know that the God King Rama somehow up and went east, to the country of his wife’s birth, then Mithila and there, after King Asoka’s resolution to drop his arms for peace, Buddhists have been recounting the Ramayana in ways all their own and very dichotomously so. The monarchy in Thailand retains Lord Rama’s title and the local news there take pot shots of this king, whose somewhat sacrilegious antics like turning up in underwear with his mistress in public. But the city is full of his father’s edifying glory, with statues and humongous posters decorating public buildings. In Thailand, is a version of the ideal man, Lord Rama’s debauched life. If it is ever proven, that he is indeed a direct descendant of the line of Lord Rama and Sita, it would be interesting to see what the BJP makes of this.

Most of all, the Thai have a very curveball accent of English, which I couldn’t hear enough of. The usual toothless man, this time driving a taxi to get me from the airport to the hostel where I stayed in Silom Road, goes Lub D! 400 baht! (the name of the hostel which I think comes from Loved it!).The woman making the pad thai has a sing song way of telling me my options- egg, chicken, pork, prawns, scallops, chillies soaked in rice wine vinegar, peanuts and those garnee onions that go on top. The best thing about this part was that I got to tell my dad, I’m gobbling this. You are not.
Thailand for me is the trotter seeing to it that the world never wants for a dab of the unreal.

Fisherman in village
String tugging at little fish
They won’t be caught!






















Friday, 4 November 2016

MOVE 360 by HRX Active Indigo






HRX by Hrithik Roshan - Active Indigo Collection
Agency : Famous Innovations
CCO : Raj Kamble
Creative : Surendra Gohey, Shruthi Subramaniam, Utsavi Jhaveri
Servicing : Mithila Saraf, Swarupa Sridharan

Production House : Eleven Elements Films
Producer :P.Tejesh Kiran
DoP: Saurabh Goswami
Editor : Jyolsna Panicker
Post Production Studio : After

Flame artist : Harpreet
Original Music : Joe Panicker
Grade : Nicola Gasparri
Hair & Make-up : Pushpa Kishan Kallianpur
Stylist : Tanya Eldred Bhat
Athletes : Chaos Faktory
1st AD : Supriya Panchangam
Additional Animation : Imran Baig

Director : Rajaram Rajendran