Welcome Aboard iBus – Empowerment on Wheels

My colleague and dear friend has an extraordinary vision to empower young women throughout India. I invite you to take a look at her recent project and provide feedback.
This post was originally published on the Sambhava blog. 

Introducing Sambhava’s pet project – iBus!

iBus

iBus, empowerment on wheels, will aggregate and bring growth opportunities for girls at their doorstep! iBus is in the ideational stage and designed to be applied in India. Hopefully, Sambhava can gather the required feedback, experience and funding for the iBus soon.

The Idea

iBus (can be interpreted in Hindi as ‘bus has come’) is conceived as a mobile training and informational program for girls in India who need extra guidance and encouragement to achieve their dreams. This initiative will offer a menu of workshops including professional development, innovative leadership, technical skills, health care, home-based entrepreneurship and personal counseling to the girls enrolled in the Government schools in India. Government schools cater to the lower economic strata of society and offer basic educational facilities. Students in government schools, especially girls, are not encouraged to fully develop their capabilities and support their livelihoods. iBus, a mobile training/counseling facility, will impart the necessary skills and guidance to enable the girls to create new visions and realities.

The Need

Literacy promotion in India is generally approached not as tool for empowerment but as a mere statistical goal. This turns literacy into an end rather than a means to develop capabilities or make optimal use of opportunities in society. Large numbers of girls in India from challenged economic backgrounds manage to receive basic education qualifying them as literate but lack skills essential for their overall development. Most of these girls are under-employed and not equipped to take on bigger challenges. These girls are not trained in critical reasoning, technological abilities, objective decision making, career development and personal growth.

The Approach

iBus is conceived as a community space on a bus that will be designed to facilitate trainings and discussions for girls, between ages 12-18, enrolled in government schools. Each iBus will be assigned 2 government schools and will make a stop close to each designated school for 3 days every week. Girls will be encouraged to hop on the iBus for informational and training sessions mentioned below and can use the bus at the end of the day’s session to commute back home. The menu of trainings is designed for girls at various grades in school and each iBus can offer a different schedule for girls in specific range of grade levels.

iBus adopts a two pronged approach – i) complement basic literacy of the target segment with facilities to develop their diverse capabilities and skills ii) connect the target segment with specific opportunities where they can use and further enhance their skills to fully realize their potential.

iBus menu of training

• Basic computer literacy • Education counseling • Career counseling

• Home-based entrepreneurship • Personal and financial skills • iBaithak

Crowdsourcing empowerment efforts

There are several projects in India contributing to empower girls across the country. iBus seeks to tap the these initiatives through a collective approach. iBus will establish partnerships with organizations currently offering educational, and professional mentorship, basic technological and home-based business trainings, health and personal education to girls. The iBus approach is to aggregate the scattered empowerment initiatives under a single banner and use the bus to reach the target segment. Rather than expecting the girls to go to multiple training centers or organizations, the iBus will bring these facilities to the girls enhancing accessibility and inspiring other members of the community. Other players engaged with girl-centric issues in India can contribute through partnerships.

Making iBus Sambhav (possible)

Before iBus approaches sponsors and partners, it would be great to hear your comments and feedback. Idea of the iBus is still evolving and you can contribute to make it better. Share your thoughts and be a part of this venture…iBus needs your thoughtful comments before it can hit the road!

Sambhava will share more on different aspects of the iBus in the weeks ahead and is looking forward to the discussions.

Creating a Communications Strategy

If you haven’t heard of the Sweet Dreams Cooperative, you should. It’s a group of young, innovative women who design and sew beautiful hand-made products in San Francisco. My friend Arezoo and I were introduced to this organization through Spark (another organization I highly recommend getting to know!). We were asked to host a social media workshop designed to help the women market their products to a wider audience. Eight months later, we’re still working with these women and couldn’t be having more fun!

Sweet Dreams Zip Cases.
Image Credit: Sweet Dreams.

Sweet Dreams has many similarities to other programs I’ve consulted with: highly interested in social media, yet missing a communications strategy. Social media is fun, engaging, and exciting. It’s only natural to want to go ahead and dive right in. However, without a communications strategy in place, messages are often misconstrued, leaving the audience questioning your credibility. A communications strategy will be the backbone to your organization and will guide you through every outreach adventure. Let’s begin!

1. Define your organization. Simply put: who are you and what do you do? Try to make this as clear and concise as possible. Remember that when marketing online, anyone can see your content. These are often individuals who do not have an understanding of your mission or what you sell. If you’re representing a non-profit or social enterprise, clearly describe how your organization impacts a given issue. Your audience will not invest in your organization unless they believe your work has meaning and value.

2. Define your target audience. Who are you trying to reach and why? Make a list, and keep in mind that having several target audiences is very common. At IIE, we have about ten including young adults, program alumni, and like-minded organizations. Why? We need active people who engage on social media to spread the word about our work. We need to reach out to alumni because they are already invested in our organization and will (hopefully) continue to support us. With like-minded organizations, we can establish a mutual partnership that will allow us to support their events and programs while they do the same for us. Like-minded organizations are an asset not the competition.

3. Define your outreach goals. Why are you marketing? Do you want to sell more products? Do you want more donations, more volunteers and/or more people at your events? Make a list, try to keep it broad and try to keep it to five main bullet points. Keep in mind that this will be an evolving list.

These are the first steps in developing or reconstructing your communications strategy. It’s a great way to create the “big picture” strategy by brainstorming with your colleagues. Have fun during this process and always feel free to ask me questions!

Vi kommer att sakna dig, Heather!

Heather-

We could not be more excited for you to start a new adventure in Sweden! A couple of us came together to dedicate this post to you and write about what we’ll miss most while you’re away (yes, you’re coming back). This is our way of saying that we absolutely love you and you will be dearly missed.

She is so Tall and I’m so Little!

The day I met Heather Murphy, I was very intimidated by her. She is so tall and I’m so little!

When I started working with her on E-Mediat, her first conversation with me was: “I’m on the Board of a non-profit, Mira and the organization is hosting a fundraising event, it would be great if you can come.” And I thought to myself, never heard of such a young woman to be a Board member of a non-profit. I was very impressed but that didn’t do much the break the ice between us.

However, once I started to work with her more closely following the changes on our team, I realized that she is a super-cool person. The one thing that Heather has taught me is, how not to stress under pressure. Another thing that I love about Heather is her fashion sense – stylish yet very cool; true California Girl!

Though I’ve known her only for a year, she is a dear friend and I’m going to miss her a lot. I also realize that given Heather’s Facebook activity it will never be an issue to stay connected with her!

Have fun in Sweden and hope to see our Uppsala graduate in the United Nations resolving global conflicts!

-Madhavi Bashin

Expense Reports, Happy Hours and Clothing Exchanges

I know one thing Heather will not miss about IIE – expense reports.  Although, I was always happy when Heather had an expense report to do, because that would give me an excuse to go hang out with her in her office for multiple hours while we would decipher what to do with her challenging reports.  Heather-  I will not only miss doing expense reports with you but hanging out at happy hours and clothing exchanges and in the kitchen at work.  I am so excited to hear all about your adventures and accomplishments in the future, because I know there will be many.  Please stay in touch! We will miss you so much!

-Elisa Manheim

 I Will be Lost Without Your Muscle Shows

I will be lost without your boxing obsession, your “muscle shows”, your horrible jokes (like mine are so much better!) and your extensive knowledge on almost every random fact! I will miss you teaching me how to cook, our happy hours, and long chats about life. You’ve been a genuine friend since the day I met you and I wish you only the best in the next chapter of your life.  Good luck, have fun, and make room because I’ll be coming to visit!

-Nicole Wood

A Good Friend and Colleague

Heather,

I can’t even imagine this place without you. Thank you for being such a good friend and colleague. You will be sooooo missed, but I know we’ll see you on down the line. Have an amazing time in Sweden. I know you’ll rock it-  I have no doubt!

-Allyson Martinez

I Totally Want to be Her When I Grow Up!

Heather is actually the reason I started volunteering at IVLP. I met her through  a previous manager I had as an intern and Heather agreed to meet with me for coffee and tell me about IIE. She told me all about her job and I thought to myself, “that chick is awesome, I totally want to be her when I grow up!” She suggested I start by volunteering with IVLP which I did a few weeks later.

What I will miss most about Heather is having someone in the office who I can tell my most juicy and embarrassing stories to and know, without a doubt, that she’ll tease me about them later after sharing some of her own. She always makes a point to stop by and say hi, probably just because we have candy in our office but still very much appreciated, and she’s the only person who really understands the absolute necessity of owning way too many pairs of shoes. Hanging out with Heather is always a rockin’ good time and I wish we had played more pool together…maybe when I come visit.

-Korin Hoffman

I’ll Miss Feeling “Old” Together

Gosh, I can’t imagine walking into the office on Monday and Heather not being there. After working together for nearly four years, it will be a hard transition. I will miss her flexing her muscles, reminiscing about our GW days, and lounging on her couch. I’ll miss feeling “old” together… now I will need to stomach this reality all by my lonesome. I’ll miss going to her for advice about work… and life too 🙂 I’ll miss our lunches, happy hours, and sleepovers, and I’ll miss regularly losing to her at word games. Heather, you will be terribly missed. Thank goodness we will get to see you again in October. Best of luck my dear friend!!!

-Arezoo Miot