Friday, 25 November 2011

Have Wings, Will Fly

During our mobilization campaign for first batch of ACE at Saharanpur, I met a girl. Seeing our banner she approached us with doubts on our claims.

Employment assistance after three months course…..?

Is it possible to cover Spoken English, Basic Computers, Personality Development and Sales Marketing in three months…?

How will you teach tenth pass to speak in English…?




Many similar questions were asked over three visits on three different days…..She was satisfied….Her parents were satisfied.

ACE got its first student…
Anamika Sharma
Roll no . SRE-2011-102-8

“Bhaiya  ek admission to ho gaya”…Abid  smiled

With the bad news of  Sachin Tendulkar, falling once again short of his much talked about 100th century, we the team at ACE (Agrasar Center for Employability) Saharanpur have something to cheer about.

The same girl, Roll No SRE_2011_102_8 who is just 10th pass got placed as Project Executive in an Event Management Company.

Question marks are converted into smiles….

Thanks team for the brilliant effort and commitment.
Have Wings, Will Fly

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A period of content-ment!

During the last few months at Edulever, the focus has been on developing specialized learning content for our clients. As the Edulever website would tell you, the three main themes to our work are Training of Teachers, Curriculum, and Assessment & Evaluation. While the last of these has been largely an ongoing activity since we began two years ago, work related to training and curriculum (or content development) has come in phases.

Since May this year, we've done three projects related to content development. Each of these has stretched us to step outside our comfort zone (hence expanding this zone for us!), has been a great learning experience, and has been immensely satisfying. The first one was for International Youth Foundation (IYF), a US based agency that asked us to develop modules related to Oral Hygiene for underprivileged youth in India. We were linked to a Portuguese organization called Mundo A Sorrir (literally, a Smiling World) who provided us with the technical support for this project. The challenge was to convert these technical inputs into simple, actionable, and of course interesting topics and activities that young Indian learners could relate to. Shruti and her team had to wade through reams of content on oral health - a topic completely alien to all of us at Edulever - in order to accomplish the project. Since the topics covered included "diseases of the mouth", some of the content had pretty grotesque images to look at (search for "mouth diseases" on Google images, and you'll get the drift). Though only five modules had to be done, the project took nearly two months to complete, and the end results were quite satisfying. This is what Julia Freed, the Program Manager at IYF had to say in her closing email to us: "It has been a pleasure working with you on this project, and I would recommend Edulever to any colleagues looking for this type of skill set – you have done a fabulous job." Thank you, Julia!

The second project took the challenge to a higher level. This time, the mandate was to develop Life Skills and Hospitality lesson plans - something we've done plenty of in these two years. But this time, we were supposed to do it for a group of hearing impaired learners for the Noida Deaf Society. We were exposed to the heartwarming world of those who have been spared the excesses of noise - and got to understand their near-perfect communication using sign language. However, the challenge was to develop these modules in a way where the learners could not only understand and absorb the concepts and skills, but also reflect upon them in order to internalize them. The challenge was made more daunting by the fact that a large number of words and phrases that we tend to take for granted in our language, do not exist in the thought-context of those who cannot hear the spoken sound. Layers and shades of meaning do not exist for them. They also tend to take words literally, so "hate" can only mean extreme despise and loathing, and not just a dislike, as in "I hate being alone at home on a Saturday evening". In the content development process, we were hugely helped by Ruma Roka, the founder of NDS, and one of the most passionate and enthusiastic individuals we've known. The project, sponsored by American India Foundation, is now in the final stages, and we do hope that the spirited youth we met at NDS can gain from this.

The third project, which began in June and is still continuing, is for a telecom major - and we are expected to  create byte-sized content on topics related to Life Skills and Financial Literacy. I can't talk much about this here as we have a non-disclosure agreement, but suffice to say that the Edulever office sometimes resembles a "tweet factory" these days!  


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Silent Sufferings of Keyword Optimization

Have you ever noticed the advertisement links that appear while you read and write emails on Gmail?

Do your eyes ever stray around to the pictures and commercials on the right side while viewing photos on FaceBook?

Did you trash the matrimonial and dating messages on your Rediff and Hotmail Inbox today?

You are lucky if you haven't!
You have been spared from a few embarrassing moments.
You don't believe me? Read on ....

The other day, I uploaded few pictures on FB, the popular social networking website. The album was titled "Moo/Shoo .... Missing you guys!" in fond remembrance of India visit of my Brother/Sister-in-Law. Lo and Behold! A beautiful girl appeared flaunting her smooth limbs selling permanent Hair Removal Solutions along with hot Lingerie displays and finally a link to Gurgaon Singles Club .... all appearing on the right side of the page. Good Heavens!

Then, I remember exchanging a series of mails over Gmail with a plain acquaintance updating him with latest news from my end like my mother's sad demise 7 years back. Amidst the strictly formal sentences of the mails, I could read hilarious Ad link prompts on the right such as "Love Aaj Kal songs", "An answer to your lonely heart?", "Love poems and Romantic lines free download". I became jittery feeling a hot flush come over my forehead and it compelled me to re-read the string of mails just to make sure my language was not too mushy hinting at an unintended intimacy between the lines. Jeez!

And this last one walks away with the cake .... My father was visiting me a few days back and asked me to check his mailbox after misplacing his spectacles. I logged in to witness at least 4-5 mails with ridiculous subject lines .... "Hi shivendra98, waiting for your dream date?" .... "Dear shivendra98, find your soulmate today!" and the last one had me hit the roof with my trademarked hysterical laughter ...."Hi shivendra98! Want to make it LONG and STRONG?" and I teased Baba relentlessly about it!

Imagine an elderly senior citizen like him who has always been respectfully addressed as Dasgupta ji, aged 72 years, a widower for the last 7 years after losing his wife in a tragic road accident getting such trash mails with a completely bizarre identity shivendra98.

I am really curious about the functioning of Web Marketing Services. The success criteria of any Advert or Promotion lies in reaching to the correct Market Segment at the most appropriate time. I mean, why is it so difficult to avoid sending a Matrimonial Ad to a 72 year old person when he fills up his birthday as mandatory info while registering on the website? Why have the Google crawlers been blindly programmed to prompt senseless Ad Links just on the basis of a few words getting repeated during a conversation? Needless to mention the discomfort one faces when irrelevant mails clog his Inbox. Does anyone monitor the effectiveness of such Marketing methods?

No wonder why Marshall McLuhan, the noted Canadian educator, scholar and philosopher describes Advertising as -

Advertising is an environmental striptease for a world of abundance.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Training of Trainers

Time and again, Edulever has provided me with wonderful opportunities to be a part of ToT (Training of Trainers) Workshops meant for quite diverse groups. Mainly, these were conducted on behalf of International Funding Agencies for their Program Implementing Partner NGOs, for NGOs working towards Employability and Women Empowerment and for Hospitality Trainers on Staff Capacity Building. 

Pic 1 - Executive Training Workshop for a leading 5-star Hotel on Staff Learning and Development
Pic 2 - ToT for Vocational Training Faculty of various implementing NGOs for an Youth Employability Program 
by an International Foundation 
Pic 3 - ToT for Life Skills Trainers of various NGOs working on a Youth Empowerment Program

Although the trainer groups were diverse, surprisingly, the key training challenges while conducting the sessions were quite similar in flavour. The trainers (especially the senior members) found a part of their belief and understanding unclear on :
  1. Program Objectives - As we know that there are multiple stakeholders to any program - the funding body, the promoters, the transaction bodies, the beneficiary etc. Now, all the stakeholders have a common unified objective to begin with .... but as the work progresses, we see slight digression or a different prioritization in the perception of objectives by each stakeholder. More often than not, this disillusions a few of the faculty members. And, these clarifications are often sought during the ToT sessions.
  2. Program Implementation - The most frequent doubts relate to logistics and infrastructure but I have also come across a few community related issues. Such challenges deepen when any fresh component of learning gets introduced.
  3. Program Evaluation and Learner Assessment - Most of the assessments and evaluations sought and appreciated by funding groups and promoters are objective in nature with a lot of numerical data. This skews the motivation levels of many trainers and implementation bodies who face many intangible and subjective issues during program implementation. 
  4. Facilitation and Learner Management Skills of Self - A lot of times, all the above accumulate into self-doubt by the program facilitators. It becomes imperative to re-kindle their self-belief through such ToT sessions. 
Then how do we address these issues?

Well, there are no short-cuts. The only way to address these challenges is through an honest Training Report and a solid on-site process follow-up. Edulever emphasizes on both of these and detailed Action Plan is chalked out based on the ToTs, snapshots of which are as below:

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Postcards from the hinterland...

I love my job!

Especially on days when it takes me to some far-away, less-traveled destination. Over the past year-and-a-half, thanks to a project on evaluating the work of NGOs working on migrant workers, I've had the chance to visit several such locations across the country. Each visit has given me the chance to look at our land closely, to see nature at its most pristine. Here's a glimpse of some of these visits...

This stretch of desert land comes to your left on the road from Jodhpur to Barmer in western Rajasthan. It's not the whole desert - just a small slice of it - as if nature decided to give you a sneak preview of the real thing that starts beyond Barmer. Needless to say, this came as a huge surprise as the rest of the land around is barren, but not really a desert.
Sunrise near a hamlet called Devli in Mirzapur district, U.P. The Arthik Anusandhan Kendra runs a training centre at Devli, which springs at you in the middle of nowhere. I'd spent a night here, and was greeted the next morning with some beautiful scenery around me.
Kotda block in Udaipur district in southern Rajasthan. I was lucky to be here during the monsoons, and the  verdant beauty around me was simply breathtaking. Kotda is a predominantly tribal land, and the tribal community, I was told, actually encourages couples who are engaged to live-in for sometime before they're formally married! 
Rairakhol in western Orissa has a small railway station, one of those that usually zip past us as we travel on the Rajdhani. I'd actually taken a train from here to Bhubaneswar, and the sunset was just beautiful!
This was taken at Faizabad district in central U.P. Their father, a construction worker, is in Ghaziabad, and the mother works the fields.
Chaita village in Samastipur district of central Bihar. I'd written about this village in an earlier post...hope you've read that as well!