Fieldscope: The Origin Story
Why Co-Founders Nav & Priya want to build a platform for India’s social-impact sector and ‘Do Good Better’
I first came across Fieldscope while frantically looking for a flexible job. I was seeking some financial stability as I pursued my own creative ventures, but did not want to lose touch with the social sciences. As a strong believer of challenging the traditional 9–5 work culture, Fieldscope’s goals immediately aligned with my own: using technology to catalyze collaborations for the social-sector in a way that is inclusive of diverse skills and the changing nature of work.
Compared to past experiences, where I hesitated to share my varied interests during interviews, a conversation with Fieldscope’s Co-Founder, Priya Kekre, felt like a breath of fresh air! Instead of viewing my diverse interests and “side-gigs” as a threat to commitment, she embraced this versatility as an asset. Specifically, she recognized that the opportunity for someone like me, a Political Science graduate from Ashoka University to contribute a few hours of my niche talent to social-sector organizations can be a great resource. Soon enough, I came on-board to promote something that I felt youth like myself passionately wanted across the country. I now work part-time to propagate a culture of meaningful and impactful part-time work!
Simply put, Fieldscope is an online platform for social-sector professionals to connect and collaborate on flexible and remote-work opportunities. On the supply-side, the platform not only attracts entrepreneurial graduates on a gap year like me, but so many others who wish to contribute to the resource-needs of the sector in ways that are beyond the traditional format. The “Service Provider” on Fieldscope could be an NGO staff on parental leave; a talented and ambitious student; a grassroots social-worker needing supplemental income; or a skilled professional looking to transition to a career in social impact.
This is the pool of talent that Fieldscope works hard to curate, so that social-sector organizations can access a wide variety of pre-screened providers for their immediate project needs. But, it’s not just about connecting clients to that talent — it is equally about improving the experience of working with skilled professionals in a digital environment. Fieldscope’s online platform manages the entire work process: from contracts to payments and all the work-flows in between with a mission to save the social-sector time and money. This unique application of technology to a niche problem in the sector is the result of the Co-Founders’ independent journeys.
After working in global health and tech entrepreneurship respectively, Priya and Nav relocated to Bangalore in 2018 with the purpose of co-creating something that leverages their experiences for meaningful impact. With Nav’s drive for wanting to build interesting products that can solve problems at scale, and Priya’s informed understanding of the social-sector’s operational gaps, in her own words, Fieldscope is a “literal marriage of their worlds”!
Fieldscope’s origin traces back to Bihar, where Priya was working on a community health project, part of a large-scale, multi-partner initiative to improve Bihar’s health status through evidence-informed policy making.
After a routine massive data collection exercise, she recalls days where a helpful office staff spent hours of his day scanning handwritten interview transcripts to digitize them. The waste of his human potential and the inefficiency of the process infuriated her! This situation resulted from them not finding the right resource at the right time; specifically a translator who met three criteria:
(1) Understood Hindi, Bhojpuri and English, (2) Was somewhat familiar with the concepts of community health & development, and (3) Had digital skills like typing in Hindi and using email. The lack of access to such niche resources in a convenient and cost-effective way without compromising quality, was repeatedly evident in different aspects of her and her colleagues’ work.
At that same time, Nav was working miles away in Silicon Valley, at the peak of cutting-edge technology. His innate tendency as a problem-solver and an eye for potentially disruptive ideas, has guided his career in technology so far. When Priya and Nav exchanged notes about their work, the stark differences between their operational setups became a common discussion point. Despite both of them working with passionate people solving complex problems; one had a much scarcer set of resources available to do their best job. These glaring differences further strengthened their resolve that those working to create social change in India deserved better tools and processes than the status-quo offered.
Since then, Nav and Priya discussed the problems of skilled talent procurement with friends, colleagues and mentors who worked in versatile roles across different social impact organizations. The resounding sentiment was that operational efficiency and resource acquisition in the sector has been largely neglected. Moreover, there is an under-tapped talent pool outside of urban centers that can benefit from and contribute to the sector’s growing needs through a remote-work model. The emerging research on the future of work in India also optimistically positions technology as a tool for more inclusive and productive work. One such comprehensive study led by the Observer Research Foundation paints a hopeful scenario:
“Online tools and platforms present an opportunity for improving access to information for job seekers, enhancing awareness about the changing skill requirements and job roles, providing mentoring and counseling services and access to work experience through project-based work.The under-utilization of human resources constrains productivity and economic growth. Emerging technologies can provide India with a unique opportunity to level the playing field.”
Motivated by this potential, Nav and Priya decided that this is an idea worth pursuing full-time.
“What if we amplify the “shared digital economy” of skilled talent for a sector that is constrained by bandwidth and budgets?” — the Founding Question behind Fieldscope.
Over the last year and a half, they have built Fieldscope bit-by-bit as a bootstrapped social enterprise; following the Lean Entrepreneurship model. They have tested their beta product with two verticals: translation and transcription, offered by their curated pool of Service Providers; and will soon expand to other on-demand services. Since its early days, Fieldscope has organically grown to a pool of over 150 providers, who have met the needs of more than 35 organizations across 800 projects in the domains of livelihoods, health, sanitation, education, welfare entitlements and more.
The founders know that these are early beginnings in their Lean Startup approach to building Fieldscope. Using the Build-Measure-Learn loop, they continue to iterate on the platform while gaining critical user feedback. From this stage, they are looking to scale Fieldscope to meet the sector’s various demands and catalyze a systemic change in getting things done more efficiently, sustainably and accessibly. In short, they want to Do Good Better!
As I work with them, I can see how Fieldscope is a blend of Priya and Nav’s values and is borne out of the cusp of their pursuits: entrepreneurial innovation and advancing social impact. With their past experience behind them, they view their ability to work on Fieldscope, as both a responsibility and an opportunity. Most “Tech4good” solutions in the sector are focussed on the program or service delivery aspect (example ed-tech), while social impact professionals don’t have the time to prioritize operations over other complex problems they’re trying to address. This leaves a gap that Fieldscope is motivated to fill.
If Fieldscope can leave a long-term legacy in changing the way things are done in the sector to save organizations time and money, while creating meaningful opportunities for a wide-variety of professionals, the founders will feel that their vision is validated.
Priya asserts — “Why can’t this sector benefit from sophisticated and customized tools that can significantly transform how work is done, enabling more time for impact?”
Questions like these push her and Nav to work harder to make Fieldscope’s impact reach far and wide across the country, and disrupt the powerful idea of “doing good better” each day.
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Written by Anupriya Kukreja, with contributions from Priya & Nav.
Anupriya leads Communications & Social Media for Fieldscope. She is a recent graduate from Ashoka University and is passionate about Social Impact, Psychology, Non- Fiction writing, and making music.