Nexus of good
In order to counter the all-pervasive negativity across social media, a narrative of good deeds and initiatives — ones born of public-private partnerships — is required
It was just past noon when the plane landed in Lucknow. The year was 2016 and I had recently taken over as Secretary, School Education and Literacy, Government of India. It was an official visit to Uttar Pradesh. I was scheduled to proceed to the state guest house as all the official business was after lunch. However, I chose to take an unscheduled detour (I had come to understand that such visits gave me a feel of the ground reality) to visit a government primary school. When I reached the school, it was lunch break and the mid-day meal was being served. When I introduced myself to the teacher, she looked at me incredulously. She couldn't believe that the Secretary had come to the school, unannounced. She soon regained her composure and offered me mid-day-meal that was being served. Despite a short stint so far in the sector, I had heard horrid stories about the quality of such meals. Hence, I wanted to get the experience myself. When I did taste the food, I couldn't believe that such delicious food could be served as part of a mid-day-meal. I jokingly told my wife who was accompanying me that even she didn't cook as delicious a meal. I inquired from the teacher about the source of this food. She said that it was being provided by Akshay Patra. My ignorance about the organisation was writ large on my face. The teacher was perceptive. She immediately gauged it and gave me a brief explanation about the organisation that served this food.
When I reached the state headquarters, I ascertained more details about Akshay Patra that was partnering with the state in two Districts to serve food in schools. Grains and some amount as was admissible under the mid-day meal scheme of Government of India was provided by the Government. Akshay Patra added some more ingredients and provided cooked food from central kitchens set up by them. I invited the state head of Akshay Patra for a discussion later in the afternoon. After complimenting him and the organisation for the wonderful contribution they were making, I asked him why this good work was being limited to only two of the eighty districts of the state. He thanked for the compliment but stated that the decision to extend the facility to other districts would be taken by the head-office that was at Bangalore.
Impressed with what I had seen and to explore the possibility of how this 'good' could be scaled, I flew to Bangalore within the next week. The visit to The ISKCON temple at Bangalore that also was the headquarter of Akshay Patra was a rewarding one. I got a better understanding of the organisation and its activities. I also discussed how the activities could be scaled, how a 'nexus' could be built between the state governments and Akshay Patra to scale their indulgence in providing quality food to children by way of mid-day-meal. Thereafter I ceased to be Secretary, Government of India and became the principal facilitator to bring about the scaling of such good practices. It was experiences like these that the 'Nexus of Good' movement was well and truly born
To begin with there was just a Twitter handle but now it is evolving as a movement to bring around people to identify, understand, appreciate, replicate and scale good work that is being done in the society as a whole. The idea is to evolve an alternative narrative to the negativity that is becoming all-pervasive in social media and other mediums of communication. Such negativity is impacting thoughts and actions of a large number of people, especially the young minds.
There is no doubt that a lot of good work is happening around us but unfortunately, on account of all pervasive negativity, it gets lost. The 'premium' on good work seems to have been lost in the din of the high decibels used for promoting negativity
The 'good' are struggling for recognition and a number of them are fighting their battles against a much more organised set of 'negative mongers' all alone. Can the good work in tandem? Should the good work in tandem? Is it possible to convey the benefits of positive thinking and good work?
The idea is not to discuss ideas. The objective is to ideate from a practice that has worked on the ground. The aim is not merely to appreciate this good work which indeed is the initial step, it is to explore the potential of replicating and scaling this practice. It also to foster public-private partnership because the belief is that quality usually comes from the private domain and scale from the public. There are a number of such examples. Likes of Humana People to People India, Muktangan, Lend A Hand Foundation, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Arpan, Peepul, Shyamchi Aai Foundation, Million Spark Foundation and Kaivalya Foundation, are demonstrating that good work can be replicated and scaled through a public-private partnership.
There are also a large number of faceless individuals like those at Akshay Patra, around. They are putting their heart and soul to make things happen in collaboration with state governments and their agencies. We need to locate them, understand what they have done and how they have done it and then attempt to replicate and scale these practices. That is what 'Nexus of Good' all about. The movement has already got going with hundreds of positive stories on the portal www.nexusofgood.org.in, most of them set to be replicated and scaled.
Views expressed are personal