I’ve grown up wondering how to thank social innovation.
In the aftermath of the gruesome India-Pakistan partition, my grandparents found themselves landless overnight. So, while my grandfather came from humble beginnings, he was always determined to help his family escape their state of abject poverty. As a serial entrepreneur, each business he started was aimed at fulfilling this goal while creating shared prosperity for those around him: making the supply of electricity more accessible in his village in Lahore, pioneering the transition to solar energy in India, and now working with Indusind Bank to help suffering Indian farmers acquire credit and create bank accounts. Watching him induce change in society around him through the ideals of entrepreneurship, I’ve forever been fascinated by the way in which innovation can uniquely integrate the dawn of emerging technologies with the empowerment of the most disenfranchised; fascinated by social innovation.
I owe a lot to social innovation and hope to channelize its potential the way my parents did. So, when my country was grappling with the outbreak of the pandemic, I felt compelled to help. There were clearly a number of problems that needed to be addressed: the economically disadvantaged were disproportionately dying, children began facing unprecedented mental health issues because of being confined at home, and affluent families were confused about how to help out. With the initiative, ‘250timestwo’, I aspired to solve them all.
In essence, along with my peers I created a platform that connected experts with children who wanted to learn. Over live zoom sessions, we offered exciting courses on everything from Songwriting to Effective Altruism to The Art of Acing Interviews by coaches from reputed institutions including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Oxford, and Cambridge. These were available for a flat fee of 500 Rupees (≈$7), and the fee was split 50-50 between the teacher and a COVID-relief organization focused on helping economically vulnerable Indians (we didn’t keep anything).
In just a month we were able to raise 250,000 Rupees in registration and donations and I was able to experience the euphoria of social innovation that I would silently observe in my parents — the satisfaction of bringing together a diverse team and inspiring each individual to achieve their true potential, the resolve when things didn’t go as expected but you had to creatively adapt and move on, and the joy of being able to make a positive, albeit infinitesimal, difference in society.
I still don’t know how to thank social innovation but I am determined to honor its philosophy the way my grandfather did: to uplift those around me while doing what I love during my time at MoGo. Biking around Detroit with Jacob, the program manager at MoGo to visit the adaptive cycle station operated in Downtown Detroit, I saw hues of social innovation shine through the smiles of the elderly, the handicapped and disabled as they raced along the river on MoGo Bikes. Over the two months, I hope to transform these hues into a spectrum of impact through MoGo’s principles of social equity.