ARCH is a section 8 social enterprise providing customized solutions for companies and foundations to deliver impactful social initiatives, leveraging the strengths of diverse stakeholders in the social sector. Projects by ARCH manifests working with companies and organization to shape and implement their CSR strategies and assess the on-ground impact of such initiatives. ARCH works towards designing and implementing social development projects or programmes across multiple causes including Education, women’s empowerment, skill and livelihood and financial literacy to name a few.
Sonkee Shah, Founder and CEO of Arch Foundation shared her perspective on various social development innovations and in manner which foundation is creating significant impact to the lives of people. Excerpts:
Please tell us about The Arch Foundation.
The Arch Foundation is a section 8 social enterprise that works to provide companies and foundations with end to end solutions for carrying out various social initiatives as part of their CSR activities. We provide consultation to our partners that help them to design and implement CSR strategies and also assess the impact of such activities on the community.
We believe in providing our partners with tailor made programs which caters to the needs of the community members and helps in creating a positive impact in the lives of the people. Working in the social development sector we provide with strategic project plans which are impactful and sustainable in the long run. Moreover we intend not to change the existing system but to support and strengthen it through different innovative ways ensuring more local community participation and involvement of all the related stakeholders.
Please tell us about the relief support drives ARCH Foundation is conducting for the affected people across the country in this pandemic.
Covid-19 has brought a change in the lifestyle of every individual. People of every age group have been affected in some or the other way due to the pandemic. ARCH Foundation has been working with students of under privileged society for the last 5 years. The pandemic has disrupted the entire education process. Parents are thinking of discontinuing their child’s education due to loss of income and today survival with basic necessities is more important issue.
In this regard we started an initiative “i-Learn” with an aim to develop willingness and enthusiasm amongst the underprivileged children to pursue and continue with their formal school education even during the pandemic. During the pandemic children are forced to work and earn for the family and not continue their education. Thus through this project we aim to protect all children from such misery and help them continue with their education.
The concept behind “i-Learn” is of community classroom, where we have formed different clusters of 50 students in different villages and it is run by the self motivated volunteers from these villages only. Peer learning is the focus where learners use their own skills to motivate each other to learn new things.
What are your core focus areas and the types of development interventions you have undertaken so far?
Though the Foundation works across different development areas, our major focus area is Education, Women Empowerment, Skill and Livelihood Development and Financial Literacy. Other than these we also focus on Research and Volunteering in order to improve the existing system. Partnering with various agencies, currently we have our presence in 5 States of India viz: Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
I would like to interventions about interventions:
Mini Science Lab – To ignite scientific interest in children and help connect their classroom learning with the real life daily experiences. Under this project we have set up 143 Science Labs across 4 States benefiting more than 1, 50, 000 students.
Umang Centres – The objective is “Making learning Fun”, this project has been developed in order to improve the quality of education of the Primary schools which are run by the Government mainly in rural parts of our country. Under this project we are working with 37 Government schools to help them become more self reliant and more productive in nature through experiential and self learning techniques that adds fun to the process of education.
Project Naya Savera – Project Naya Savera has been specially designed to support and empower the differently abled by providing them skill development training and providing them with job placements. The main objective of this project is to ensure equal human rights for the differently abled so that they can also live a dignified life in our society.
How many people have benefitted through your Arch Foundation till in FY 2019-20?
In the FY. 19-20 ARCH worked with 180 schools covering over 2,50,000 children, more than 3,000 Teachers in the education sector. Efforts of inclusion and integration of the differently abled is also a key focus of the interventions and thus more than 500 differently abed individuals have been benefited through the efforts. 600 women farmers have also been benefited through various strategic interventions. Equal emphasis for creating a cadre of trained personnel is also made under which more than 400 volunteers have benefited from corporate, colleges and individual interns. The focus is on quality rather than quantity and thus, efforts are made to work with the same set of people in order to make their skill sets sustainable and self-reliant.
What are the focus areas for FY21 Arch Foundation social activities?
Education, Health and Livelihood are the major stepping stones to development and ARCH supports the idea that any major development activity starts with a small effort. The future projects of ARCH would focus in the areas of quality education, active learning, skill development and largely health initiatives. The interventions would focus more on children as they are the major carriers of information and thus, focussed areas of intervention include the primary schools.
How has been the journey of The Arch Foundation over the years?
The journey of ARCH has been a modest one. ARCH has come a long way, from being a consultant to being involved actively at the ground level, the vision has expanded manifold. While technically ARCH means a supporting structure, the work at ARCH foundation is based on the premise that ideas come best with involvement at the grass root and thus ARCH has been actively involved into not only designing the projects, but implementing those as well.
Which new partnerships and projects is your team most enthusiastic about?
We are very enthusiastic about i-Learn project. This is the era where education cannot stop and learning under the shadow of the pandemic has to drive new ways where the education is not compromised. Project i-Learn is all about channelizing the inner willingness to learn through the available resources. Learning has become virtual, however, most that the teachers can do now is make the resources available. The real challenge is for the children from the under privileged classes. It becomes imperative for us to drive the inner passion for learning in the right manner where the children can become self reliant in learning through the available resources. It is important to nurture this willingness through innovative pedagogy, processes and web portals. This is the new methodology, the new normal.
This project is not only about the child alone, but a way to get the community to mobilise action towards ensuring that no child is left behind in the process of learning.
How has the Covid-19 crisis impacted the social sector in India? In your view, how will the road to recovery pan out?
Covid- 19 has only intensified the burning issues in the social sector. While efforts are being made to ensure that the implications are reduced, it is a long road to recovery. Each sector has suffered losses and the biggest people at loss are the children. Just like hunger and malnourishment cannot be compromised with, education cannot be compromised either.
The focus of activities at ARCH is panned out in the areas of education and livelihood. The idea is to focus on the areas with a small number of people as to bring about quality in the work done. While this is possible at a small scale, welfare schemes which cater to the masses have to identify the issues that need urgent attention. Trickling down of efforts is quite essential for which we need to identify the intermediaries who can be trained to carry forward the efforts. Volunteering efforts work at manifold level, one they fill the dearth of trained personnel, if inducted correctly, second they help in trickling the efforts across the required sections of the society and keep the work going.
What is your vision for the next decade on Social Development and education?
One thing that is changeless is change. We have to keep adopting to change and adapting it to be sustainable in our efforts. The decade ahead is the one where we have to keep ourselves updated and open to new challenges, understanding that we cannot compromise on the basic necessities. Food, shelter, clothing and education are the basics and we just cannot compromise on that. While at the small scale level it is easier to identify the urgent needs and channelize our energies to meet those needs, the problem at the larger scale can be and is a bit tough. As a social sector organisation, the need of the hour is to identify how best the skills can be upgraded to meet the growing challenges that would be thrown out to the human service organisation in the next decade. We need to be upgraded, open and largely befitting ourselves to be able to identify the needs of the society and serve them in the best possible manner.