Thursday, January 28, 2010

E4SI - Internship Apps Available Jan 29th

E4SI internship applications available - Jan 29th, 2010. In the last two editions, the top 5% of applicants from among India's top 15 engineering schools were accepted as Engineers for Social Impact Fellows. Our Fellows participated in challenging and highly entrepreneurial immersion experiences at leading for-profit enterprises such as iDiscoveri, D.Light, SELCO, Intellecap, Ujjivan and Vaatsalya. The assignments were diverse, across the sectors of energy, education, healthcare and financial services, and with multi-functional roles spanning research, policy, design and developing technology.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Argument Vs. Opinion: How do You Negotiate?

The thing to know before negotiating is: its not about winning; its about compromise. This is no secret. The thing about a successful negotiation is that everybody comes out of it feeling like a winner. That is the secret. If even one party feels like a loser, it is not a successful negotiation- because if you feel like a loser, you don't buy into the followup action and you don't trust the other party - ever! That's how we are.
How do you negotiate?
Do you distinguish between an argument and an opinion? Keep personality, judgement and value systems out of it? Approximating Samuel Johnson - opinion is like an arrow shot from a bow; as strong as the man who draws it. "Argument is like an arrow from a cross-bow, which has equal force though shot by a child.... You cannot help paying regard to their arguments, if they are good." Conduct negotiation with arguments, not opinions. Arguments stand on their own (like proofs in geometry) and open doors for learning for all parties and in taking the discussion forward. Opinions are shutouts implying judgement, a value, around which there can be no acceptable compromise, thus forcing the other party to get further entrenched into their starting position. To help yourself do this in real time, enter a negotiation with the idea that you will learn at least one new thing. Identify assumptions and preconceived notions (consultants call it frames of reference) if you can before getting into a negotiation.
Fortunately, on the way to acquiring a win-win mindset, there is immediate help in the form of value neutral language. Yes, watch your words. Is a value judgement inherent in the word? Get rid of it. One person's irritant is another's joy. A rose bush in a wheat-field is a weed but a wheat-stalk in a rose garden is also a weed. Pollution implies bad stuff but emission is value neutral (emission can be good or bad, e.g. breathing is a good emission).
And lastly, when a negotiation fails, it is generally a failure of process - since nobody goes into a negotiation unless desirous of a solution (the other type is called posturing :-) or just to lose. So when things do fail, let it go; don't let it stop you from going back to the table.
Relationships allow you to work things out, even becoming stronger in the process. A negotiation is the first investment in building a relationship.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Media for Social Change Initiatives - $25,000; Deadline Jan 20

Ashoka’s Changemakers is sponsoring an initiative that focuses on using media to change the world. It is a tremendous opportunity to showcase your idea and could be the seed funding needed to start 2010 off right.

The opportunity is open for anyone and everyone.

Last year, aside from the two $25,000 winners, so many of the finalists who got to make their pitch found investors and made invaluable connections.

It’s simple to participate: the WeMedia PitchIt! Challenge website has all the details an entrant would need. They can access the entry form by clicking the “enter an idea” light bulb. They’ll need a free Changemakers account and it takes less than a minute to get one. The deadline is really quickly approaching on January 20th, 2010. It’s a chance not to be missed! Only 8 days left to apply.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Social Entrepreneurship Challenge Competition

BASES Social E-Challenge: The Social Entrepreneurship Challenge is a business plan competition for entrepreneurial ventures that effect social change. Participants range from For-profit businesses with a strong sense of social responsibility to Nonprofits with sustainable revenue-generation models. These companies all have a positive impact on our society and the environment. The Social E-Challenge provides participants with $50,000 in total final round prizes, as well as the resources and training to launch their startups: mixers, workshops, mentorship, and individual feedback from renowned judges.

Past winners include, D.Light Design, re:motion designs, and Samasource.

Info session: Wednesday, January 13th, 7:00-9:00pm, Stanford Paul Brest Hall, Munger Residence, Snacks and Drinks Provided. RSVP

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Not Money, Not Markets, Its a Mindset: Game Changing Technology

2010- start of a new decade and amidst all the hype about the decade that was (best, worst, etc.) a newsitem that caught my eye wasTata's launch of a water filter (Swach- means clean in Hindi) for rural poor (less than Rs. 1,000 or $21.50) which needs no electricity or running water. "It took over a decade of research but it is opening up a complete new market said Tata Chemicals' boss R. Mukundan".

What's a decade? Nothing - when you think about the global problem that is healthcare and the billions spent on treating poverty associated diseases that affect 5 billion people - a decade of research seems really worthwhile. Renewable Eenergy and healthcare are supposed to be the new growth areas for business, yet how many corporations are getting into the space with innovation in mind?

Tata is getting into the lower cost housing market (I hope with innovation) and has already reset expectations for fuel efficiency and renewable energy use with the Nano car. So, I expect their filter will also generate financial as well as social benefit and be good for the environment. It took about 44 scientists at Tata Research Development and Design Centre, a subsidiary of Tata Consultancy Service and has the potential to save billions in wasted spend while helping billions of people.

So why is it that technology for the next billion customer seems to be such a stretch for the world? We cite lack of capital (where's the ROI?) or markets (how can the poor pay?) and put off climate change concerns.

But maybe the new decade starting with 2010 will be a decade when profit, people and planet - all will matter in playing the game. The fact that large corporations are getting into it is significant - they have capital as well as the marketing to reach large numbers of consumers.

After reading about the filter I also read about the cheapest refrigerator ($69) - the portable, top-opening unit weighs only 7.8kg, uses high-end insulation to stay cool for hours without power and consumes half the energy used by regular refrigerators - from the Indian conglomerate Godrej & Boyce. And then there is Vihaan Networks Ltd (VNL), the Indian telecom company whose solar powered base station can be built for one-tenth the cost of a regular one, is profitable at just $2 of revenue per user per month and will go to market in India, Africa and Southeast Asia. VNL is one among 26 global firms selected by the World Economic Forum as "Technology Pioneers 2010" -- the most innovative start-ups from around the world that will have a critical impact on the future of business and society.

So, I start the decade full of hope. If we can imagine it we can do it- Innovation is a mindset that changes the game - markets will follow - even developed markets.