Giving back: Team Why Segregate members revisit their schools to create waste management related awareness in Bangalore

9 Jan

Genesis:

For the team ‘Why Segregate’ comprising of two mentors and four mentees the purpose of joning hands in Impact Together was very clear, to work on a civic issue that struck a chord – Bangalore’s garbage problem.

After identifying the problem they would like to address they carried out many rounds of field work, talking to different stakeholders to gauge the ground reality. They started with an initial idea of promoting composting, which is a process of converting organic waste into a simple fertilizer. Though the idea was good, it involved a much greater investment in time and money than what people seemed willing to make.

Using the design thinking methodology their research indicated that awareness about the garbage issue wasn’t too high. Citizens of Bangalore were unaware as to why changes were needed in the first place. These factors led them to consider conclude on an awareness campaign to inform and educate the masses about the problem, and to propose simple solutions, with a focus on segregation. The team further engaged in active brainstorming with the subject expert Rana Chakrabarti of SAP and came to the conclusion that it made sense to target school children through videos, presentations and activities, thereby impressing upon them the importance of the issue. They also thought they would touch upon how it affected them and what they could do about it. Their focus then moved towards implementing these ideas.

One of the team’s mentors Shishir describes the journey undertaken by the group in three phases. They have been discussed below-

Planning:

The team members started on multiple tracks – creating/sourcing material for the presentations, connecting with schools to get the requisite permissions, brainstorming over the methodology they would employ in presenting the information and so on. In order to cut down on the cost involved in creating a custom made video the team decided to use material in the public domain to convey their message.Simultaneously the active mentees of the group went to their schools to explain propose a session and seek the required permissions. It was their strong ties with the school management that got them a quick and comprehensive approval.
In order to familiarize themselves with the school atmosphere and to gather input for creating a final design the team visited one of their target schools. Drawing heavily from the design thinking principles of prototype the team engaged in a low-cost, medium touch engagement with their user base (students in this case). At this event they hosted an information session for two classes using a laptop. They showed them a series if three videos identified by the group and provided the requisite context. They even tried to elicit reactions from the students to actively involve them in the discussion. One of the team members remarked “we were pleasantly surprised by their knowledgeable and thoughtful responses.” “This also helped make the session feel less intimidating than a lecture or a sermon.” Encouraged by their audience’s response they decided to go ahead with their plan, targeting the entire school this time instead of just two classes.

Execution:

The initial plan was to target two adjoining schools in one day, by hosting students from each school in a large auditorium and using a projector to present the informative material. However, based on their previous dry run, they felt that using a laptop in a classroom provided a more direct platform, and helped them to engage their audience better. So the team members decided to change tack and address the students’ class-wise. The presentations were made in two rooms where batches of students were seated for the discussions. The team then ran three sessions lasting forty-five minutes each, where they discussed the issue, how it affected everyone and what could be done about it, with segregation as a first step. These sessions drew a fair amount of interest and the students did respond to varying degrees. Of course all batches had their own dynamics, which were also dictated by the time of the day and their energy levels. On the whole, team members echoed the feeling that they did make a connection but it was not easy to validate how strong it was. The fun part was having students sign pledge sheets to indicate their commitment, which went down really well.

Wrap up:

As mentioned earlier, the team saw varying levels of interest and interactions, but overall the sessions did appear to make an impact. To drive home the point, the team now plans to have activity sessions around the theme of garbage and waste management. They also aim to approach some more schools to expand their campaign. Finally, they are trying to fine tune their delivery so that the message delivery is more effective and actually leads to a change in the team’s mentees’ neighborhoods.

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