Raising our VOICES to the Next Level

As a start-up nonprofit, the three of us at VOICE have been keeping our heads to the ground, working around the clock, and out in the field, turning our proposals and planning into reality.  So much so, that the last blog post was from back before camp!  After this hard work put into the pilot program, we have taken a step back and are looking at how we can get more stakeholders on board, reach more girls, and further improve our product by understanding what adolescent girls need to know so they can grow to be happier, healthier women.

With these efforts, we connected with Dasra (http://www.dasra.org/), an organization committed to expanding the outreach and social impact of social entrepreneurs by providing education on common challenges and opportunities to build our network of partners.  We were thrilled to be accepted into their 6th cohort of Dasra Social Impact, a three week training course focused on everything from theories of change, business pitches, communication strategies, scaling impact seminars, and gaining funding.

So off I went to mumbai to connect with 42 other representatives from organizations large and small, all doing innovative work in the social sphere in India.  Sitting in the room the first night and looking around, I was struck by the impressive organizations we were surrounded by, all looking for additional support in reaching large targets of beneficiaries or developing new verticals to further their missions.  What was surprising but very exciting was the number of organizations focused on education, and particularly those with focus on supporting girls.

The next day started with a session on funding, where I was actually impressed to know that a number of funding organizations firmly believe in the power of educating girl children, and that fact alone is not one we have to work to “prove”.  Instead, they now want to know specifically how our solution addresses the prevalent problems that girls face, and further, they wanted to know what makes us different and unique from the other organizations out there trying to address the same problems!  We were then pushed to think about what is you “Theory of Change”.

This is a pretty new concept within the nonprofit world, where you pitch the mission and vision to the curb and instead think through the logic model of: “If I could change this problem, then this would be the initial outcome.  And given that initial outcome, this is how the world will be better in the long run.”  The concept is simple, yet complex.  In fact, I sat with a pad of paper and pencil for hours, scratching through words, rewriting and really trying to distill my thoughts down to the core of how we see our program systematically changing the lives of women.

I had about 24 hours of soul searching in fact, I sat at lunch with a number of individuals from established Indian organizations, answering various questions about what VOICE is and what we do. They broke into their own conversation around the power of what English can do for people from low income communities and the social and economical value that it brings people.  This ignited the thoughts that I was trying to put together the whole time! I finished my meal quickly, and sprinted back to the conference room to write the two basic sentences that comprise our theory of change:

If girls had an engaging way to learn English while addressing other barriers causing gender inequality, then their confidence and communication skills would improve.  Over time, this increase in social value and marketable skills, will help girls grow up to be strong, independent women with the power to succeed.

With this in mind, we firmly believe Girls can, and should, be a catalyst for change within their families and communities not only in Hyderabad, India, but globally.

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