By – Aashish Beergi
With a youth population of over 600 million, India is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. However, as the economy grows, so does the unresolved challenge of disparate socio-economic realities for a majority of the population. In such a scenario, to have sustained and scalable growth, it becomes imperative to channelise the potential of the youth towards addressing some of the pressing problems of the country. But the big question is how do we do that?
The Beginning of MASH Project Foundation
To answer this, MASH Project Foundation (MASH), a youth-led organisation was formed in 2013 with a vision to create an ecosystem for young changemakers. The aim is to build a bridge between aspiring youth who wish to create change and the ones who can support them in this journey. Over the last six years, MASH has impacted over 100K youth through its various initiatives and programs.
- Celebrating International Youth Day with UN Volunteers, India
In 2013, right before MASH was established, there were many initiatives undertaken to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) before its deadline in 2015. During that course, it was observed that there were certain gaps that restricted youth volunteering. These included but we’re not limited to the use of technology by development organisations, multi-stakeholder involvement and accessible platforms for youth to contribute through volunteering.
During the UNESCO Youth Forum in Paris in 2013,I had an opportunity to attend a workshop on‘Youth Mobile’, which highlighted the use of mobile applications for social impact, that workshop gave an instant idea to create a virtual space for youth to volunteer for different MDGs through a virtual platform. This got evolved into ecosystem development with a larger focus on technology, partnerships, and accessibility with an aim to have greater youth to volunteer.
The Model of Volunteering at MASH Project Foundation
Realising the importance of volunteering, MASH has created a unique model to empower youth by focusing on SDG 17,that is,Partnerships for Goals.With the understanding that meaningful partnerships create a greater impact, at MASH, we’ve identified certain key communities and stakeholders in the process of development- government and policymakers,corporations,civil society organisations, and academic institutions- that we consistently engage to create cross-sector linkages. In order to engage meaningfully with multi-stakeholders, through MASH, we have created various channels of interventions that focus on building an ecosystem for young social changemakers through different verticals that include- community building,capacity development,and amplification.
Our extensive base of youth volunteers across the country(MashKots) have demonstrated a strong interest in the social impact space, have high-potential skills, and commitment with an eagerness to learn. They undertake various initiatives and programmes, and have created a mechanism of accountability, communication and reporting to ensure smooth flow of work.
- Experiential Learning Session for MashKots
At MASH, there’s a lot of investment in the personal growth of MashKots, which helps to build their capacities and carve a long-term roadmap to pursuing a career in the social impact space through mentorship, connecting them to different programs/organisations and skill-development programs. Over the years, their learnings on empathy, leadership, team-work, and critical problem-solving skills, have made them ready to become changemakers for the future.
Along with these initiatives, MASH focuses a lot on building a strong culture and team-bonding among its members. There are regular initiatives that are based on MASH’s core values – Learning, Leadership, Inclusiveness, Fun, and Excellence (LLIFE).
MASH has committed itself to promoting greater youth volunteering for the SDGs specific to certain indicators such as women empowerment, youth employment, and
road safety among others. For instance, we’ve worked on incubation on women-led social enterprises with the Government of Telangana, where we designed and ran capacity-building workshops for women entrepreneurs, leading towards better
livelihoods and sustained enterprises. Our work on youth employment has taken the form of training and sensitising unemployed youth to become microentrepreneurs in order to reduce the employment gap and create more stable economies. We’ve also supported different youth-led micro-enterprises in India like Khetify, Guna Organics, and the Prodigal Farm to help reach bigger markets and create awareness in the ecosystem. These initiatives have been designed and implemented with support from our youth volunteers.
- TikTok for Good Workshops for Civil Society Organisations
We’re also trying to influence policy spaces through our partnerships with CSOs like UN Volunteers and Government partners like National Service Scheme (NSS) under the Government of India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to bring the new National Youth Policy which will focus on creating a more enabling environment for youth volunteering and lays importance on Social Entrepreneurship.
The Future of Volunteering
With just 10 years to go for the SDGs deadline in 2030, there is a need for greater participation from all stakeholders to work towards achieving the global goals. As the driving force behind change, the youth’s participation will remain critical to ensure that the ‘Decade of Delivery’ is realised in its true sense for all and creating a more active citizenry – the basis of long-lasting impact. Looking ahead into the future, that is largely technologically-driven and global, volunteering will also take shape accordingly. The growing millennial population that is passionate and aware about sustainable development will regularly seek opportunities to support the same across geographical boundaries and beyond physical spaces.
While the contours of volunteering continually evolve, the necessity of measuring its impact also strengthens and is a core focus. Volunteering is no longer understood as it was years ago, and youth volunteers today emphasise on action that has results beyond paper and mere numbers. Thus, an important area for us is to be able to measure the impact MASH creates through our volunteering model through statistical measurement of the scale. We’re working on a new methodology that will be based on a data-driven approach and will use sophisticated tools like Salesforce’s Nonprofit Cloud.
- V-Hive Session with UN Volunteers India on Countering Hate Speech
As the work at MASH continues,the belief remains that India can turn its youth potential into an asset with the right use of available resources,facilitating more multi-stakeholder partnerships, bringing policy level changes,and the use of technology to make the process of volunteering more seamless and assessing its impact regularly.