At the 6th AFI Annual Forum, we were fortunate to have a powerful cohort of young social entrepreneurs, an eclectic cohort of "influencers" drawn from various domains and a stellar line-up of keynote speakers and panelists. Living up to the theme of "Technology For Transformation", this year’s Forum revolved around the role of technology in scaling social impact and multiple stakeholders were brought to the fore to present their perspectives and ideas.
If you missed being a part of the event or would like a quick refresher of what happened there, we are soon coming up with short video clippings of each session (here is the Forum Handbook containing the profiles of speakers & the AFI 100 cohort of social entrepreneurs for 2017).
Dr. Pitroda has been the inspiration and guiding force behind AFI since its inception. He addressed the gathering over Skype and found it heartening to see the brightest minds of the country make a conscious move to choose social entrepreneurship vs corporate/government jobs. Emphasizing the need to build sustainable business models for social enterprises, he remarked, "Happiness is positive cash-flows" – one of the many insights he shared with the gathered social entrepreneurs.
Prof. Ramesh Raskar, who heads the Camera Culture Group at MIT Media Lab, elaborated on how REDX is a bottom-up innovation platform designed for addressing big challenges by following a peer-to-peer model.
The three thematic panel discussions on the first day, were based on:
The three eminent and progressive Members of Parliament, Prof. Rajeev Gowda, Mrs. Meenakshi Lekhi and Mr. Baijayant (Jay) Panda, graced the Forum with their candor, vision and technology-savviness. Talking of the roles of technology in their respective fields and methods of work, they elaborated their priority agendas and how the social entrepreneurs can complement and support the initiatives of the State and vice-versa.
The Forum became all the more interesting when Sector-Champions from the six key areas of Education, Healthcare, Agriculture, Energy, Livelihoods and FinTech, led and moderated six engaging panels comprising of a focused group of influencers and social entrepreneurs. A round of collective brainstorming followed preparation of a set of practicable recommendations by the Champions, which were presented to a panel led by Mr. Pradeep Gupta (Managing Director of Cyber Media (India) Limited), Mr. Mahesh Kanumury (Managing Partner, Arivali Partners), Mr. Vipin Kumar (Resident Commissioner of Bihar at Delhi) and Mr. Hemanth Achaya (Senior Advisor, AFI).
For all the Champions, Speakers, Senior Members and Semi-Finalists of the Silicon Valley Challenge, a fine evening dinner was hosted by the team of Emerging Worlds. The Emerging Worlds SIG is focused on emerging opportunities to address pressing challenges, and leapfrog existing solutions. Some interesting conversations ensued between the delegates and the participants, which set the stage for the next day
Mr. Swarup (Secretary, School Education) shed light on how technology is being used to the hilt by the Department to improve learning outcomes. He remarked that technology is helping in creating transparency, something the people do not credit Governments with.
Mr. Anshu Gupta (Founder, Goonj) delivered an eye-opening speech on his trysts with the ground realities in slums and underserved sections. He categorically stated that slums are not extensions of cities – they are extensions of the village into cities.
Following the course of the first day, the three panel discussions were focused on-
All the 100 AFI Social Entrepreneurs installed the explainer posters of their ventures in the central arena. Influencers, investors, philanthropists and business veterans learnt about the problems being solved by each venture, the innovative solutions offered, the growth path and top needs of the entrepreneurs. This session created a very fertile ground for exchange of knowledge, generating leads, forging potential collaborations and gaining visibility.
The most exciting part of the Forum was the Silicon Valley Challenge Finale. For the last three years, five handpicked social enterprises were taken on a two-week all-expense-paid trip to Silicon Valley, for greater visibility and connects with the leading investors, entrepreneurs, and tech executives. This year, from over 300 submissions, the top 100 were invited to the Forum after several rounds of evaluation. 25 semi-finalists were evaluated on the evening of Day 1 and the final 10 were announced. These 10 start-ups offered tough competition to each other as they pitched their ventures for 3 minutes to the jury and the panelists. The jury comprised of Prof. Raskar, Mr. Karunakaran, Mr. Kishore Kumar, Ms. Karpagam (all based in Silicon Valley) and Mr. Pradeep Gupta. These five winning start-ups are (Meet all finalists here):
The last five years have been an interesting ride for us. The tremendous growth of the Indian social entrepreneurial ecosystem has been nothing short of a movement. And we have been proud witnesses to its 'Genesis'. We all have a long way to go together and several unventured roads to tread. At the Forum this year, we unveiled a compendium of the ‘hows’, ‘whys’, ‘whats’ and ‘what next’ of the AFI journey – you can read it here.
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