2017-01-07 Shukla Bose
Last week I had an interesting discussion with my school leadership team about the difference between authority and power. We call these informal discussions in my office, at the end of the day, our “Chats for Clarity”. There is no agenda, no time hard stops, and lots of coffee, fair amount of giggles and intense discussions on issues that may have cropped up recently and our take on that. These issues could range from school affairs to personal matters but what is most important about these chats is the analysis we do to check if we are all on the same page. I find it useful for bonding, reviewing where we are, and what we have learnt recently.
So, as we chatted this particular evening, we realized that although power and authority stem from the same concept, they are both very different as they contain deeper meanings.
The main difference between power and authority is the degree of control and influence they have for individuals. While authority is the sanctioned right given to a person to get things done in an official capacity, power is the ownership of authority and control to influence the opinions, movements and behavior of others. Traditionally and technically, authority is the right given to a person to give orders to subordinates; power has a wider scope and enables one to do what they want. Again as per the textbook, authority can be taken away as it is official, whereas power cannot be taken away because it is personal and linked with the individual’s personality, wealth and not designation.
As we continued chatting that evening, we realized that in Parikrma we experience the concepts of power and authority very differently. We realized that here is another way Parikrma is so different. Right from the day we started our organisation, our education philosophy discouraged any hierarchy and bureaucratic processes. So, while we have some teachers who have more responsibilities and are made more accountable, they are in no way more formidable and definitely never, above questioning. Our open-door policy of dealing with issues leads to transparency in decision-making and greater degree of ownership of the outcomes by everybody. I remember that in the early days of our operation there was a great deal of discomfort amongst the newly hired senior and experienced teachers because they felt that they had no power and authority and would not be taken seriously by their colleagues. It has taken us several years to define the norm that power comes from designation but authority comes from attitude. Our approach to the concepts of “order and discipline” is a total antithesis to the textbook and tradition. We believe that leaders need to author their own style and processes, which gives them the authority, that comes from within and not from any designation or label. In Parikrma we believe that power comes from external factors and is prone to corruption and artificiality. In our schools, we believe that each one of us needs to author our vision for the organization and that is what gives us the authority that has little power but high degree of will.
It is with these beliefs that we have survived the last fourteen years and shown impact that has been unprecedented. We are now poised to take these beliefs to a larger number of state-run schools and see how we can influence change in a greater scale.
Each one of us in Parikrma has immense authority but very little power. And, with this we are empowering our students, our agents of change to bring a difference in the quality of life of their family and community. And that change is on….
2018-01-25 Shukla Bose
As the chapter of one year is being set aside and preparation for another chapter of 365 pages begins, I need to reflect on what counts and what does not.
What counts are some lessons learnt, a few painfully and others somewhat gainfully. I learnt that change is not easy however much I may desire it and whatever passion I may pump into it. It is easy to excite people but it is another thing to ignite them into action. But we cannot give up, so grit is most important for anyone in the development sector. We keep hearing of how important it is to stay positive. I have learnt that in this kind of work, if I am not positive, I cannot survive. I am just too small, too insignificant to matter in the course of life and yet I have to be a giant in my self-belief to keep going irrespective of the road bends.
What counts is when people begin to trust us. We have had times when we could not do what we had promised, exactly when we said we would. But if the people we work with trusts us then they will wait for us to deliver. The trust that people have in us, be it our beneficiaries, our employees, our donors, our partners, is the most vital lifeline in our kind of work. On no account can that trust ever be violated. It is quite possible for us to make errors of judgment and pay the price for it, but if any time we betray the trust reposed on us then that is committing hara-kiri.
What counts is the humility to acknowledge that we know very little. This humility allows us to listen and that listening shows us what to do. After having been in the social sector for about eighteen years there have been times when I felt I knew how the poor community would think and react. And what a fallacy that has been! It is impossible for anyone who has been born in a different social and economic background to ever totally understand what is going through the mind of someone from the slums. There are of course some emotions that are universal, emotions like love for one’s child, desire to be loved and cared for. But how one prioritises love and need, is very personal and yet influenced by the social background. Therefore it is impossible to predict responses with hundred percent certainty.. We have therefore learnt that it is not just experience but sensitivity that counts.
What definitely does not count is what others think of me. The faster that I learnt that we have to live for oneself and for people that matter, the quicker did I stop playing for the galleries. It does not count to do anything where our heart is not present because it is then that we buy misery for ourselves. It definitely does not count to get lost in the myriad of trees and lose sight of the forest. I have found it is necessary sometimes to take a backseat and look at the situation in a very detached manner to take the best rational decision.
What counts is to love and the ability to show your love. That has worked for me every time, with my students, their parents, my teachers and everyone around.
So in the year of 2018. I want to continue to work for what counts and avoid all that does not.
So here I begin….I would like to thank you for your caring and support. I seek your friendship to jointly serve those that have not been given a voice so far. Lets together make the next 365 days count.
Two hundred students from schools in Bangalore including 4 government schools got an opportunity to understand the science behind AIR and its multiple facets first-hand through leading scientists of the city!
1. Bharat Ratna awardee, eminent scientist and Head of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India, Professor C.N.R. Rao, inaugurated the festival with a speech.
2. Professor Ramananda Chakrabarti, assistant professor CES, IISc gives a talk on the evolution of oxygen.
3. What is an emission test – why is it important? How do we conduct such a test? Children get a first-hand dekho of emission test, while taking down readings (live)
4. A think-tank of architects, urbanists and technologists in Bengaluru with a core focus on making cities healthier, safe and more inclusive – Sensing Local made kids map the distance from home to school, the mode of transport they use, to calculate each child’s carbon footprint.
1. A documentary on air pollution by Sunita Narain
2. A talk on clouds and monsoons by Dr. Sulochana Gadgil, Professor at the Indian Institute of Science, an Indian meteorologist at the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (CAOS).
3. An inspirational talk about teaching and passion by Dr Indumati Rao
4. Dr Nagbushan on air pollution and health.
5. Dr SN Omkar, Chief Research Scientist at the Department of Aerospace Engineering, IISc on aerodynamics
6. Children got to watch and understand the working of a drone and a quadcopter and witnessed them take to the air and watched how a wind tunnel works.
1. Starting this year, at the festival of science, we will recognise and celebrate an Indian scientist who has contributed immensely to science post-independence. This year we celebrate Dr. Satish Dhavan. Satish Dhawan was an Indian aerospace engineer, widely regarded as the father of experimental fluid dynamics research in India. Professor Padmanabhan Balaram an internationally renowned, leading bio-organic chemist and the receiver of the Indian Civilian honor of the Padma Bhushan introduces us to Dr Satish Dhavan. Padma Vibushan winner, Professor Roddam Narasimha also shares his personal experience of being a student under Professor Satish Dhavan.
2. The hackathon: a corporate proposes to set up an IT Park near a clean, quiet locality (residents are children). Stakeholders representing the IT, BBMP, Uber, MLA and the green activists pitch their view to proposals to children. What will the residents (children) do? What will they settle for? What will they demand?
3. Air Summit: Children representing different polluted countries across the globe took to the stage to explain the state of pollution in their countries and why they need the fund and how they will use it sustainably to tackle the problem.
As yet another Festival of Science draws to an end… children from all schools take an oath - pledging their support, promising to be responsible citizens & work towards a safe and a clean environment and a better planet.
2018-01-25 Swara Ramaswamy
The Parikrma Humanity Foundation in India is dedicated to serving underprivileged children. They have established four schools at different locations, offering K-12 education for 1,300 children from 53 slums and 5 orphanages. In addition, they provide 3 nutritious meals for their children, healthcare, and social programs. Parikrma’s goal is to lower the dropout rate for high schoolers in India. They want to provide the poorest of slums in India with equal opportunities for success. This foundation is one of many that have started recently in countries where education isn’t readily available to everyone. This goal is common throughout many areas of the world, and the initiative of providing every child with equal education is quickly being implemented everywhere. After being introduced to the mission of Parikrma, I decided to implement my knowledge and experience to contribute to this cause in any way I could. Over the years, I have made steps towards providing ways to help these kids further their education. While on my trip to India this past summer and during the fall of 2013, I had the chance to spend time with the children while volunteering at Parikrma. During the time that I was there, I came to realize the hardships that these children go through in their daily lives. Each child’s background, home life, and family situations were different and difficult to imagine. Despite these troubles, each and every child was eager to learn and grasp every opportunity to expand their knowledge. Through the experiences I had with these children, I understand the value of education, and how people from every corner of the world deserve the best chance at a bright future that they can have.
In the June of 2013, I conducted a book drive at my school for the school in Bangalore, where over 200 slightly used books were donated for this school. I organized a school supply drive as well, where we were able to provide school supplies to over 300 children. In the next few months, I started video call sessions with the 3rd and 4th grade children in India via Google Hangouts. I provide them with exposure to things that these kids would otherwise not learn. In one-hour sessions, I give these children insight to many different subjects, such as famous people, famous holidays, and interesting information about the U.S.A. Some of my classmates had an interest in working with the kids as well. I took the opportunity to have these classmates participate in the video calls along with me, so I could provide an enriching experience, and expose them to different perspectives and different interests. The children from Parikrma learned a lot of new information about many important people, like Rosa Parks, Barack Obama and George Washington. After learning a little about someone new to them, the students talked about an acclaimed person that they already knew about. As a result, I learned quite a lot about Mahatma Gandhi and Kailash Satyarthi, the Nobel Peace prize winner in 2014 along with Malala Yousafzai. The students put together a museum about all the new people that they had learned about. In the museum, the kids created a myriad of interesting posters and diagrams about people like Helen Keller, Martin Luther King Jr, and Abraham Lincoln. I received many photos and videos updating me on their progress with this museum.
Along with providing new forms of learning for these children, I was also recognized as one of the regional winners by the Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program, and received a $1,000 scholarship from the program, because of the work I had done with the children from Parikrma. Over the course of the four years that I have been working with these children, I am glad that I have not only been able to provide them with new knowledge, but that I have learned much from them as well. These kids have truly opened my eyes to the value of higher learning, human kindness, and what it means to be a good citizen. The stories of the children from the Parikrma Humanity Foundation should impact decisions about providing education to every child. I am sure that the future of our world will be positively affected by the bright minds of these children, and their contributions will have been made possible by the education that they were able to receive. As Nelson Mandela has famously stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Our priority for children everywhere must be to provide them with the highest level of education, so that we can groom the bright minds of the world into powerful new leaders of the future.
Swara is a 15 year old sophomore at Hillsborough High School in Hillsborough, New Jersey. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her work with the Parikrma Humanity Foundation is what inspired her to write this article for Hillsborough Newsletter