Life is indeed a mystery, and nothing reveals this more than surprise fleeting adventures. Four months ago, I would never have imagined that I would be given this amazing opportunity to visit India and make a small, yet valuable contribution to their colorful society. Volunteerism has always been an important aspect of my life. I love to travel, but more so, the challenges in my own life had gifted me with a special kind of empathy and awareness. It’s easy to understand the struggles many faces because I myself have lived a challenging life and have had to overcome many obstacles. I remember the day when this program was first advertised, my mind lit up, and there was not a moment of hesitation. I would have gone to any corner of the globe, and taken any placement given; even though I worked out this could mean a possible 42-hours flight! And that it was, but with the click of a button, and my heart was already filled with an as-yet-unnamed cause.
India – same-same, but oh-so different
As I traversed the streets of India, I couldn’t help but think of home as I felt the familiarity with aspects similar, but at the same time was awed by how unique and different life in India is to anywhere else imaginable. I was struck by the harmony in the chaos of the cultural and social aspects of India. Their culture is so rich and that’s something that nobody can deny India’s people. From the many Uber Tuk-Tuks, motorbikes and cars to holy cows casually laying around as if they were on vacation, the ubiquitous honking of horns through the streets, and traffic like I have never seen before; I was all wide-eyed wonder from the moment I arrived. I was so fascinated by how disorderly things were but during my two weeks, I witnessed not one accident. There is definitely some magic to the madness! The food in India was absolutely delicious. At the hotel, we were delighted with breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. I looked forward to the peculiar breakfast selection each morning, trying something new every opportunity I got.
And then there was my first experience of the squattie pottie. If I ever had problems squatting at the gym that would be no issue in India because I would be a most proficient squatter if all bathroom breaks involved Looms (toilets) which are little more than a hole in the ground.
The experience would not have been the same, were it not for the other 3Mers in the group. This diverse group met and instantly felt a shared spirit, with souls from as far as Jamaica, Canada, Italy, Chile, Dubai, and USA, but drawn together by our purpose. Even with diverse backgrounds, we were one people in the mystery and promise of visiting India. We were connected by our mission to make an impact for the betterment of the world. We called our group Inspired in India (i3) but I myself was also inspired by every single one of these individuals, each so passionate about making a change as we worked tirelessly to make it happen. We all had different personalities, a different style of doing things but that did not stop us from working as a team and achieving the overall goal, which was to make our clients satisfied and make a positive impact.
The Dream Database Team
My team was tasked with spending two weeks in Bangalore, India, to collaborate with a not for profit organization called ENSYDE, to help solve a burning issue within their organization. It was also aimed at making a positive economic or social impact on the community and strengthening our leadership skills, developing market insights, and to spur innovative thinking. Even with all these high-level goals, after two immersive weeks in India, hearing the words, “I am grateful, I am happy” was the greatest personal reward. Through this experience, we not only accomplished the goal but we exceeded it. India is a feast of small miracles, small acts of gratitude and kindness, and small changes which make a big difference. I too am grateful as my leadership skills have definitely improved from the experience which taught us to take initiative in the face of uncertainty, and the solution that was developed is like nothing I have ever done before so innovation was definitely at the forefront.
To be paired with an organization that focuses on the collection of electronic waste in communities was awesome, being in the technological industry myself. Understanding how dangerous these devices can be to the environment if they are not disposed of properly was a big take away for me. This was the main reason for creating awareness campaigns because not everyone is aware of these very real threats to our fragile environment. It was important to understand that the problem doesn’t lie with the device itself, but if we crack the back of these devices open there are many metals and chemicals that if not disposed of correctly can be very dangerous to humans.
ENSYDE conducts campaigns through the bE-Responsible program to sensitize stakeholders about the need for formal and responsible collection, treatment, recycling, and disposal of e-waste (electronic waste), as well as to share knowledge on the environmental, safety, and health implications of the informal system that exists today. They run campaigns at public events, schools, colleges, churches, malls, hospitals, and resident welfare associations in the form of workshops, campaigns, emails, and social media. I was immediately struck by the impact they had or the potential impact on the lives of so many, but the question remained of how we could robustly measure and reveal the true impact.
The problem was that they were not keeping track of information correctly. Monitoring and Evaluation are coming increasingly to the forefront of debate around the progress and sustainability of non-profit work. To really show impact, we needed data, and at ENSYDE everything to date had been entered on the basis of need. There was no strategic planning to information management, and few resources to develop a robust M&E system. Without a consistent framework of parameters linking the campaigns to the desired outcomes, the organization couldn’t report on impact in a meaningful way. We immediately rose to the challenge. My teammate and I were tasked with creating a database system to manage the data they collect and provide proper reporting for the sustainability of their business. Grant has a background in Analytics and myself a background in IT, which means Pyxera was strategic in their selection process. We hit the ground running and started off with a meeting before our trip to India, as a team and also with our hosting organization to familiarize ourselves with the needs for the project, so we went to India pumped and ready to go!
We were given 2 weeks to complete this assignment but we ended up with only one week after we had to change course. We had built the vision for the solution on home soil where anything was possible, but we arrived to implement our solution, and the reality was an awakening. ENSYDE did not have the necessary infrastructure needed to get the job done. No network, no server, no standalone machine that could host the database. Our original approach was a fail and we had to regroup and strategize and get the job done in one week. At this point, the true spirit of teamwork was shown as we developed contingency plans, and I assured my teammate that it could be done!
The result was that we created a database system in Excel that enables the users to enter the information gathered as well as update it as it navigates through the different stages. We ensured that we created a very friendly user interface, that’s clear and easy to use so that the users have no confusion. We created graphs for reporting that will help the users to track their conversions and view how they are doing by region, status or type amongst other categories. We also created search features to help the user to search for campaign numbers. Even though it was just two of us, we formed a strong team, laughed when we needed to, worked as hard as we could, and encouraged each other as we built a bond that will outlast this beautiful adventure. We did it Grant and we made our clients happy. We realized our goal and achieved so much on our own personal learning journeys.
I must commend Pyxera Global for creating such an amazing program and for selecting such passionate people, all driven by a common vision to achieve positive change. Thank you for also selecting excellent hosts, without which this experience would not have been the same. John and Jayanthi have been absolutely amazing. They did a great job at ensuring that we were well taken care of, they took an interest in our projects and even took the time to show us around the chaotic streets, laced with a special kind of magic we may otherwise have missed.
Thank you, 3M, for joining forces with Pyxera and participating in this project. You should be proud because I am. Just watching the other teams present their projects had me near tears because we did that all in 2 weeks and I could see how grateful and happy the clients were to have us. The opportunity to share such a wealth of heartfelt gratitude from every individual involved is rare indeed. We really did make an impact and gave them something that can help with the sustainability of their business. In the vein of Karma – thank you for the opportunity to give.
And finally, thank you to ENSYDE for opening your universe of knowledge to us, for teaching us so much about the work that you do with such skill. Your message is one I will take with me as I return to 3M with new awareness. Thank you for being so honest with us about your challenges and needs, and for allowing us to dig deep into your organizational structure. ENSYDE and the work being done by this amazing group of people has taken a place in my heart. Thank you for the opportunity to learn, and to add a little more to your work. I hope that we can keep in touch and that the system will allow you to leverage sustainability and experience growth.