Hubli lessons to fight poverty in Massachusetts

The US-based Deshpande Foundation, which manages the ‘Social Innovation Sandbox project’ in Belgaum, Dharwad, Gadag, Haveri, and Uttara Kannada, is now trying the idea in the Boston area, incorporating lessons learnt from North Karnataka.

The Sandbox project seeks to fund local innovative solutions to local problems and has supported 15 projects in Karnataka, including the renowned Akshay Patra mid-day meals project.

Deshpande Foundation is set up by serial technology entrepreneur Gururaj ‘Desh’  Deshpande, who hails from Hubli and now lives in Boston, US.

Speaking at the Nasscom Leadership Forum 2011 on Tuesday, he said India had emerged as a hub for social innovations, many of which were relevant to other parts of the world, including the US. His foundation recently decided to take the Sandbox project to the US where the bottom 30 to 40 per cent of the people needed to learn to innovate to survive, he said.

Later speaking to Deccan Herald,he said the foundation had chosen Lawrence, a Massachusetts city that was ranked the 43rd poorest region of the US, to introduce the Sandbox project. Though Boston was the intellectual capital of the US and had several NGOs, the needs of the Lawrence area went unaddressed, prompting him to import the Sandbox idea from Karnataka. The approach of Sandbox Massachusetts was similar to the Hubli project, he said.

The North Karnataka experience had convinced him that the top-down approaches would not work and to find workable solutions, beneficiaries had to be involved as co-creators of the solution. The Sandbox project at Lawrence has begun to reach out to 30,000 college students under a leadership development programme.

This is similar to a Sandbox leadership development programme in Karnataka which covers 10,000 students. It is also working to popularise science education among school children in Karnataka villages.

Sandbox works in agriculture, health, education and livelihood sectors in Karnataka.  The project in the US would reflect local priorities and there was no plan to launch a project similar to Akshaya Patra in the US, he said.

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