Meet Upasana and Vivek

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This week, ABC welcomes two new employees. Here they describe themselves in their own words.

I am obsessed with elephants and wish to foster one in the future.
— Upasana Hembram

I was born and brought up in Hyderabad and fell in love with Mumbai when I moved here. I took with me several experiences of working with NGOs and social enterprises, who were involved in the education sector in some capacity or the other, along with an electrical engineering degree from IIT Bombay.

After spending the last 3 years dabbling in professions as diverse as an applied physics researcher to assisting an MLA with his constituency development, I've joined ABC, and the fit couldn’t have been more perfect.

I am both a tea and a coffee person, love cats and dogs, like the indoors as well as the outdoors. You can find me cozied up in a corner with a book in hand on a weekend or just not be able to find me because I’m off camping or trekking somewhere.

I am obsessed with elephants and wish to foster one in the future. I also pride myself on being a budget consumer – deals, coupons you name it. I am a DC girl all the way, but if I had to choose between a pepperoni pizza and Batman, I would pick the pizza.

I am a recovering gaming addict and an avid anime enthusiast.
— Vivek Mohan

After floundering for years in the vast ocean of education, getting tangled in every subject from Computer Science to Biology and from Statistics to Population Studies, I decided to take a break from academics to build a career in a field of my own interest.

This led to roles as a teaching assistant-junior research fellow at IIT Bombay and a technical writer in the UNICEF-funded Swabhimaan project at IIPS, Mumbai, and finally, my current engagement as an associate at Aparna Bhasin Consulting.

I am a recovering gaming addict and an avid anime enthusiast.

My other interests, assuming that the aforementioned qualify, include reading, writing appalling stories, and the occasional dabbling in modern art, because that’s what they ultimately turn out to be.

I am not, however much I may bear a resemblance, to be mistaken with any creature that spends its time cooped up in tiny dark places. I do enjoy the sunshine and the great outdoors, and sports like wrestling and rugby fascinate me.

However, knowing fully well that I would mostly be at the receiving end, I prefer to stick to less risky ventures such as badminton, cricket, football and carom as my choice of extra-curricular activities.

You have reached the end of this abomination. Congratulations on successfully wasting a few seconds of your life reading it.

*Thunderous applause*

A Career with Purpose

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A Career with Purpose

- Camille Barreto

Camille Barreto worked as an Intern, Associate and Senior Associate (M&E) in her almost two years at  Aparna Bhasin Consulting. She is currently pursuing an MBA at the Rotman School of Management.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher. I always enjoyed working with children and volunteered extensively through school and college. However, peer pressure got the better of me and after I graduated I joined a corporate consulting firm. I was good at my job and learned a lot but I woke up one day and asked myself if I was making any difference. I couldn’t find purpose in my work and so I started volunteering again, teaching children life skills through games and the arts. I enjoyed it so much that I knew it was my calling. I quit my job and set out to find that sweet spot where I could merge my passion with the professional skills I had developed.

This is what brought me to work at Aparna Bhasin Consulting. It gave me the exposure that I was looking for to the development sector, but in a professional consulting environment. In addition to a sector change, I also moved from a global organisation to a start-up. It was a massive shift, but so enriching, and impossible without the tremendous support and direction from Aparna and the rest of the team.

While at ABC I traveled across India with our NGO partners to observe their work through a third person lens and advise them on improvements to their programs, trainings, operations etc. We visited schools in urban and rural areas and met with students, parents and teachers. It was hard for me to take in everything I was seeing as I had practically lived in a bubble before. These visits opened my eyes to see the huge disparities in facilities and opportunities available in these areas, which in turn impacted education and ultimately left these people in the poverty cycle. On the bright side, our NGO partners were doing some great work and it was incredible to see how even small changes could make such a difference.

I was exposed to the design thinking approach while at ABC. I had never before realised the importance of learning from and involving the people you are designing for. Designing and delivering iGNITE with the team was a challenging but exciting experience. From the early days of penning down the challenge and the idea, to the exploratory research, designing the program, finding partner institutions, raising funds and ultimately running the pilot, it was a constant process of learning and iteration.

My two years at ABC were my most transformative years yet. Aparna encouraged and guided me to develop skills I didn’t know existed, to think out of the box and most importantly, to manage my time. It was a difficult decision to leave and pursue my MBA, but I knew that doors weren’t closing. I am one of the few in my class who constantly says “I miss my previous job!” while everyone looks at me strangely. My ABC team were more than just colleagues, they were mentors and they were friends and continue to be. Thank you ABC, for my biggest learning experience to date and the one that has shaped my career goals!

Camille would be happy to answer any questions you might have, you can find her on LinkedIn.

 

The ABCs of ABC

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When we started our journey in 2015 we thought about the values and principles we considered important. These were molded by our own experiences working in social development, into an approach we adopt towards every project.

Focusing on Impact
Contributing to impact is the very reason ABC was formed – we only take on projects where we can create, support, or magnify the impact of the initiatives we work with. While our work varies greatly, some examples include working collaboratively with NGO leadership to build strategic objectives, assessing existent programs to provide the information necessary for informed decision-making, creating content to better engage program beneficiaries, and training master trainers to strengthen the impact of program delivery.

We often encourage our partners to use data to establish their impact – while recognising that impact can’t always be boiled down to a single number, and more importantly it need not be. We place an emphasis on qualitative tools to support the numbers wherever possible. This could be in the form of case studies to document the story of a specific individual, images and video that capture experiences, and more in depth qualitative studies to report on a variety of beneficiary impact.

Designing Ground Up
Having our roots in the non-profit sector, a ground-up approach to program design is non-negotiable. We strive to avoid making assumptions when understanding a problem or ideating solutions and firmly believe the best source of information and inspiration are the stakeholders we are working for. For example when we recently designed a program for junior college students, we took the time to identify and understand the target demographic; we conducted interviews and focus group discussions with former and active students, visited the colleges where target youth usually apply, and spent time in the environments (both inside and outside the college) they experience. This gave us unique insight into their needs and realities which were not self-evident at the onset of the project.

Relying on Evidence
We derive all our output from research, especially research relevant for local communities. We recognise that there is wealth of knowledge available at the global level – so we don’t always want to reinvent the wheel. We also, however, know that local contexts are unique and the local evidence-base is limited. Thus we try to leverage the former and expand on and build on the latter.

Working at Scale
In a country like India, the ability to work at scale is of vital importance, and our team is experienced in doing so. Working at scale means that a solution works in a real world setting, and is replicable in a variety of scenarios, beyond the one for which it was created, and regardless of the size of its application. This means that when we work on a task, no matter the depth or magnitude, we keep our eye on the big picture as well.

However, this does not mean we only work on projects that plan to scale. We recognise the individuality of each partner, their needs and priorities, and have the ability to work on projects ranging from local to national, adapting our paradigm to the need of the hour.

Building Partner Capacity
Last, but definitely not least, is the importance of collaboration in our work. We always want to go beyond simply providing an ‘output’. Rather, we strive to incorporate a collaborative approach that includes our partners every step of the way. That’s the reason why we do not think of the teams we work with as ‘clients’ but as partners!

Over the next few months we hope to explore each of these principles in greater depth, in the context of real projects we have undertaken. In the mean time do reach out - we’d love to tell you more about the work we have done, and the work we hope to undertake in the years to come!