On the last day of the Summit on the Global Agenda in Dubai, Professor David Bloom of Harvard, Chair of our Global Agenda Council on Education & Skills, asked me: “Were you there at the dinner last night? I mentioned your work at my table and we wanted to see your demo.” I nodded, I was there. How could I possibly pass up a gala dinner on the banks of Dubai Creek?

“Tarun was there, do you know Tarun Khanna? He was curious.” I knew Professor Khanna only through his insightful book, Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India Are Reshaping Their Futures and Yours. The tug I was feeling at a lost demo opportunity grew stronger. When I first laid eyes on Professor Khanna’s book some time back, it struck me that we share a fascination for the “B” word. “Literacy for a Billion!” is the tagline of our non-profit, PlanetRead.

Professor Bloom must have read my mind. “I’m meeting Tarun next week. If you give me a copy of your demo, I’d be happy to show it to him.” I got to work immediately, thrilled at getting my Bollywood songs with same language subtitling and impact slides onto his laptop.

On the way back to Pondicherry, I found myself thinking about the power of a nudge from a neutral and respected “other”. As social entrepreneurs (SEs), we are innately passionate advocates of our all-consuming work. What we could spark a bit more of is to get others to talk about it. The power of even a weak nudge by the “other” is often more powerful than what we can achieve through our endless spiels.

We are fortunate when a Harvard professor picks out our work for mention. Every social entrepreneur thrives on such powerful advocates. But they do not come easy or frequently enough. What might come easier is a resource we all have – each other. As SEs, our social capital is enormous. To what extent are we giving a nudge to the work of other SEs in our own conversations with influential others? Or writing about each other’s work?

Some of it, no doubt, happens in natural course. Is there room for greater SE-to-SE advocacy? I believe so, as a way of furthering the work of not only other social entrepreneurs, but also the sector and, therefore, one’s own work.

 
Author: Brij Kothari, Director, PlanetRead, India; Social Entrepreneur of the Year, India, 2009

Using the simple tool of same language sub-titling (SLS) on popular television programs, Brij Kothari is addressing the needs of an estimated 300 million so called ‘literates’ in India who, though having attended primary school, have weak reading and comprehension skills. SLS is the simple action of inserting subtitles on video programs in the ‘same’ language as the audio. As a result, reading becomes a by-product of entertainment and popular Bollywood song programs already consumed by the audience.