Our action research team has been given an invaluable opportunity to work with social enterprises Anudip and iMerit through the Global Social Benefit Fellowship. The fellowship will provide the framework for us to fully engage with the ideas of experiential learning and social justice underscored by Santa Clara University. Anudip is a nonprofit organization that provides teaching and market aligned skills training (M.A.S.T) in information technology to women and youth in rural and impoverished regions of India. Its sister organization iMerit employs both Anudip graduates and others in need of work and provides quality, scalable, and unique business process outsourcing for technology companies. Run by a highly experienced administration, these enterprises are rapidly scaling in both breadth and depth by aiming to create a deeper impact on current customers, open more centers, and recruit more students. At the same time, the enterprises are still providing their students and workers with education, employment, and most importantly, livelihoods.
For our practical work, each of us has defined our research methods, which include what data we will gather, in what form, and from whom, based upon our unique academic backgrounds. Phil is a communications major and will be focusing mainly on film while in the field. He will create a quick ‘sizzle’ reel, several training videos, and a short documentary for Anudip and iMerit to contribute both to marketing content as well as the standardization of teaching methods across Anudip centers. Phil will interview staff, students, and employees within Anudip and iMerit, as well as family and friends, in order to gauge the effect they have experienced from the enterprises. Lauren is a political science major and will be focusing on photography and social media in the field. Her deliverables to Anudip and iMerit will be photo narratives, blog postings, and using other social media outlets to contribute to marketing content and to tell the inspirational stories of students and graduates of the enterprises as a mode of measuring impact. She will work with similar interviewees to Phil’s throughout the region. Melissa is a computer science and engineering major and will be focusing on tool development and IT training in the field. The tools she will implement in the iMerit centers are an improved optical character recognition program for e-publishing and an XML converter for reading e-books on mobile phones. She will assist in training at Anudip and iMerit centers and help to make iMerit employees’ work more efficient and refined through the development of programs and applications designed for their projects.
In addition to our research plans, we each have detailed work plans with weekly schedules along with descriptions of the in-country partners we will be working with. Between the three of us, we will work with founder Radha Basu, Clinton Fellows Sam Ribnick and Hallie Noble, Anudip students, iMerit employees, other staff of the training and work centers, and community and religious leaders. Although many of the practical plans we have now may change once we arrive in Kolkata, this framework gives us an organized idea of how the work we do in the field will contribute to further research when we return in the fall. Our future work includes production of a film, hard copies and online access of photo narratives, continued use of social media for marketing, and further development of programs and tools for IT training. Each of our projects is designed to measure and assess the social and business outcomes of Anudip and iMerit in different ways, and together we will have a complete picture of the impact of these enterprises and what more they can do in the future to prolong their success. Overall, the specific planning for each of our action research projects, logistic planning for the cultural context in which we will be immersed, and research into the business models and social aspects of our enterprises has provided our team with a thorough and cohesive plan that will guide us through our summer field work.