Working on social development is not a choice anymore

Date : Sep 24 , 2019 | Alumni

Following her participation at the ILSS Leadership Program, Deepti Beri has set up a pioneering venture for young readers and also mentors non-profits in the education space. She writes about the learnings that led her to take up these causes.

In 2017, when I first heard of India Leaders for Social Sector (ILSS), I had built a corporate career of around 18 years in consulting, operations and executive roles in technology, media and internet industry. Having worked in multiple start-ups, which had given me abundant opportunities to learn and diversify, I was happy about how my professional journey had shaped up.

After joining SHEROES in 2017 as their Chief Commercial Officer, I started looking at my career very differently. SHEROES is a technology company that aims to solve the real problems of women by constantly innovating on how technology can make their lives better, how they can earn better, live better. Internet for women is about freedom and opportunities: women-led start-ups, self-employment, gig work, social commerce, credit, lending, social engagement, communities, writing, art, counseling, education, etc.

Around that time, I met Anu Prasad, who was launching the ILSS leadership program. While the program was primarily for professionals to consider transitioning to the social sector, I decided to sign up for the January 2018 edition for the following reasons:

A world of learning in nine days

The nine-day program was a systematic introduction to the development landscape by specialists and prominent names in the sector who spoke about issues ranging from hunger and health to gender, education, accessibility, caste, politics, public policy, funding and environment. The speakers included senior corporate professionals who had either transitioned to social sector roles or were building social enterprises – which was particularly inspiring and encouraging for a cohort of seasoned corporate people.

We also underwent two immersion sessions, one of which was at the Goonj processing centre in Delhi, where Anshu Gupta spoke to us about his journey and his motivation to continue doing the wonderful work he  does.

Our rigorous routine at the program included group reflection sessions after every experience. No book or theory can work the wonder that these sessions can. And I brought back with me the power of that ritual.

Suffice to say that, for such a short duration, the learning from the nine days was humongous and the message was quite clear: working on social development issues is not a choice anymore, but a compulsion.

Reducing inequities and bringing socio-economic changes are also the responsibilities of individuals and corporates and can’t be just left to the government and non-profit organisations to solve. And ILSS is doing a terrific job of enabling people to apply professional expertise to take up their higher calling and solve complex issues.

Doing my bit

At the end of 2018, I started building Curious Times, a news application exclusively for children. It is my honest effort at bringing about social consciousness, general awareness and empathy among children through content and communication. We aim at incorporating reading, thinking and learning to start at primary school level by bringing age-appropriate, curriculum-aligned, positive and progressive news.

With popular social media platforms geared toward sensational and biased content, there are few platforms for children to develop empathy and critical thinking by building awareness on national and global issues and sustainability goals. New-age educators and senior professionals write the curricula-aligned content for Curious Times.

We have also launched “ME – My Expressions”, a safe space for children to express their views on themes they feel strongly about. It has been heartening to see how children express globally relevant issues through articles, poems, stories and art—we have so far received entries in English, Hindi and Tamil. Educators and experts also share their views on Teaching in the 21st Century. And some of the ILSS alumni have been solid partners since the time I started thinking of this venture.

Just five months since we launched Curious Times, we have 5,000 users and have touched 100+ locations. Our dream is to reach out to a large number of children in big and small cities and in different languages so that they can benefit from Curious Times.

Alongside building this platform, I continue as Chief Financial Advisor at SHEROES, building women’s internet with purpose. I also serve as a Senior Finance Advisor at  Saarthi Education, a non-profit in the space of early education. To sum up, as Dr Seuss says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Deepti Beri is the Founder of Curious Times. She has over 20 years of experience across consulting, operations and finance in IT, ITES and internet industry. She has served organisations like Exlservice, Apollo Health, Network 18 Group, American Swan and Sheroes at their start-up stage. An SRCC alumna, Deepti is a Chartered Accountant who trained at PwC. She attended the January 2018 edition of the ILSS Leadership Program. She believes education and internet are the pillars of the next build of a flat world. With Curious Times, Deepti aims to develop critical 21st century skills among young children through information and news content

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