As our RISE Fellowship draws to a close for our 2020 cohort, we have taken some time to reflect with our fellows on their biggest accomplishments and the lessons that they have learned over the past year. Below, you can read more about our Indian RISE Fellow, Shreya Krishnan, and her achievements whilst piloting The Better Design Foundation (TBDF).
"How did the RISE Fellowship support you to pilot your social enterprise?"
RISE facilitated the construction of a community sanitation complex in Bangalore that benefits 25 people. The field experience we have gained has been instrumental in helping us vision a future organization working across sectors.
RISE has been pivotal in giving me the freedom to experience and experiment in designing for sanitation solutions in urban communities and the support shown by RISE has given me the confidence to see the potential impact TBDF can have across sectors in the future.
We appreciated the tailored element of the RISE fellowship - whether it was accountability check in calls with Rachel or getting connected to Banka Bioloo who will be helping us install additional toilets in rural settings. Unlike some other incubators, RISE didn't try to change our model, rather they added support where we asked for it.
"What are you currently working on?"
I'm studying to obtain an MBA at Säid Business School at the University of Oxford. I decided that this is the right time- Covid has changed a lot and this is the right time to consider a sustainable business model with a social impact lens. I also chose to pursue my business studies in Oxford because of its focus on purposeful business and its ability to grow my network.
My professional dream is to return to The Better Design Foundation and transform it into a social enterprise - expanding the scope of work to include a for-profit arm that supports a range of nonprofit ventures across intersecting spaces that include education, sanitation, health, and gender in underserved communities.
A photo of our RISE Fellow Shreya with her co-founder Kunal in Oxford
"Can you tell us more about your emergency aid work during the COVID-19 lockdown?"
Our Emergency Aid work was stirred by the clear and evident need for immediate support in the communities we worked with. The lockdowns in India drove an incredible number of daily wage earners to the brink and the run-on effects damaged the livelihoods of all of our implementation partners as well - seeing this need pushed me to raise funds to meet their immediate needs and with support from RISE we were able to provide food aid to over 200 families in our community. We did 7 food drives during the first lockdown in India and 13 in the second country wide lockdown.
I was incredibly moved by the resilience shown by the community and the shared sense of ownership amongst the community - hundreds of volunteers came together to help us in our distribution drives and members of the community ensured that those who needed food/rations the most were the first to receive them.
"What advice would you have for your younger self?"
Work on building connections with the community when I was a school teacher at Teach for India - I realize now that I could have worked to understand the various intersecting social benefit systems through the school's channels/connections and this would've helped me think in a more system/integrated manner as we were planning the better design foundations interventions.
The past year has been an incredible learning experience for me on both a personal and professional level. Personally, I've learned from the resilience and resolute will of the members of the communities we interact with, which has renewed my sense of purpose. Professionally, I've realized that scale is increasingly an important factor in sustaining an organization.
Click below to watch a video of the fully constructed sanitation complex.
Feeling inspired to support more female entrepreneurs to become RISE Fellows? You can donate here.