Getting their hands dirty, one solution at a time.
‘Get your hands dirty’ is a phrase bandied about at Reap Benefit very often. It means a number of things: literally get your hands dirty by composting or DISS-ing a black spot or planting a garden. It means not sitting back and just talking about the world’s problems but actually doing something about them. It means creating solutions to the problems that plague our communities.
Over the years Solve Ninjas have invented 542 innovative solutions that have solved civic and environmental issues in their schools and communities: from simple DIY water aerators to overhead tank alarms. We’ve always wanted to open this community up to Samaj, and bring more voices, perspectives and yes, hands into the fray.
In 2020 we formed a Solutions Community that would bring Solve Ninjas, mentors and other members of society interested in creating tech enabled solutions for good together. We caught up with Pallavi Madhukar, a key member of the solutions community, and a Youth Board Member from 2018–2021, to find out what they hope to achieve.
The Solutions Community
Pallavi Madhukar took part in one of the first Boot Camp sessions Reap Benefit conducted at Sri Kumaran Children’s Home School, Bengaluru.
“It was such a fun experience. We built and implemented small solutions, like water aerators and drip irrigation systems and did a water audit.”
While studying Engineering, Pallavi realised she wanted reconnect with energy, enthusiasm and fun of the boot camp days. So she reached out to Reap Benefit and started building small tech based solutions with purpose along with co-founder Gautam Prakash and former mentors Rizwan Pasha, Sairam. Pallavi soon began developing solutions like automatic light sensors,compost monitors and water meters and documenting them for mentors.
“I love the organisation’s maker attitude that things can get fixed if you just get your hands dirty,” Pallavi says, adding that Reap Benefit’s sense of community and impact over individual has always appealed to her.
Both these qualities find expression within the community.
In November 2020, after completing an internship Pallavi began working on bringing together a community of makers, thinkers and innovators to work on ideas and build solutions. Since then she’s been signing people up, onboarding members, facilitating monthly community calls and more.
“Some of our members are Solve Ninjas in middle and high school and others are students of engineering and science,” Pallavi shares about the 30 member strong group.
“Tech skills are a plus, but more than anything it’s an interest to learn and solve that’s crucial.”
While some members come ready with ideas and solutions they want to work on, others have a desire to do something but don’t know where to start. “So we find an idea that they’re interested in or an issue they want to work on, or group people together and help them get started.”
The community has a coven of mentors with experience in varied fields who are there to help problem solve, troubleshoot and more. “We’re also planning upskilling sessions with experts in data science, business model development and more. We had Reap Benefit mentor Tejas conduct a session on problem solving frameworks which was well received.”
Though a young and small community, they have already tasted some success! Two of the four solutions they submitted to the BSF Small Grants project were selected for funding. Pallavi shared details about these projects.
Air Quality Monitor
Collaborators: Naman Jain, Tejas Mahajan, Tech+Social Good(PES University)
With air pollution having an insidious impact on the environment and well-being of the population, air quality is a necessary metric to measure. This venture aims to deploy portable air quality monitors that will be mounted on public and private vehicles, enabling collection of localized yet comprehensive air quality data. Data will be available online, making it easily accessible. When air pollution is quantified, it is easier to make communities realize the direct harm to them, and therefore act on improving air quality. By hosting civic engagement drives, we hope to create a dialogue with citizens and encourage integration of sustainable practices into their everyday lives. We also strive to work alongside government authorities and local civic bodies.
Civic Crowdsourcing using Technology
Collaborators — Puja Kalivarapu, Sudhanva Rajesh, Amritesh, Vivek Patil
Decisions made for public good are often taken by representatives, government, scholars or policy makers. If the actual stakeholders, the public, are involved, then this will result in more substantial outcomes. The Reap Benefit Chatbot aims to leverage civic engagement for this purpose. Citizens will be able to report two issues using the Chatbot- broken/dirty public toilets and garbage spots. This choice enables us to draw two parallels between the resolution of issues — while we will rely on authorities for the fixing of public toilets, we will take matters into our own hands with respect to the garbage spots by involving communities, organizing clean up drives and spot-fixing. The end goal of this project is to create a cycle of report and resolve that is facilitated by a platform that acts as a medium between the public and the authorities.
The other two projects submitted explore analysing the needs of underserved communities and water quality in lakes.
Underserved Community Analysis
Collaborators — Lavitra Madan, Nidhi Prakash, Prajwal KP
Pallavi is excited about a data science project that does Underserved Community Analysis. “We want to understand the lives of the underserved people better. Starting with a questionnaire, data will be collected and analyzed to identify actionable insights from the problems faced by the community.”
“The second wave lockdown was announced the week before the planned excursion to distribute questionnaires. Since progress depends on the data collected, the group was initially resigned to let the project be at a standstill, but then decided to develop pipelines for when data comes in.”
Lake Water Quality Analysis
Collaborators — Rachana Chetan, Chandana Magapu
Pranav Shikarpur’s FloBot is a flotation device that has the ability to measure parameters that determine water quality such as pH, temperature, electrical conductivity, dissolved oxygen. Taking it forward, the team is working on a dashboard that can display our findings and also provide an estimate of lake water quality on user-entered data.
Pallavi says the biggest challenge has been in keeping people’s energy levels up, which can’t be easy against the backdrop of the pandemic. In the months ahead, Pallavi looks forward to bring more people into the community, find more members and collaborators with universities and explore a more distributed leadership model withing the team, all while finding time to work on solutions around air and water. She’s clearly exploring all the ways she can get her hands dirty!
If you’d like to join our Solutions Community, you can write to firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up here.