‘Solve small, dent big’

What started as an effort by Reap Benefit to build problem-solving skills in students is transforming into a movement

February 09, 2019 04:09 pm | Updated 04:09 pm IST

When Pracheth, a class IX student of TVS Tumkur noticed the depleting quality of air in his locality, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He developed a low-cost carbon collector using a can and filter paper. When fitted to the exhaust pipe of vehicles, the device could collect carbon and convert it into ink. He is currently working on perfecting his invention.

Jonathan, a student of class XII in Delhi Public School, North Bengaluru, captured data on water usage from 20 houses in his community. He was then able to identify behaviour changes that could reduce water usage and run a campaign to convince households to install Usage Point Optimisers.

Pracheth and Jonathan have something in common besides a burning desire to effect positive change in their communities — they are both ‘Solve Ninjas’ mentored by Reap Benefit, a social enterprise that works with young people to solve environmental and civic problems using local data and affordable civic solutions.

Championing change

In a country where less than one per cent of citizens are believed to be engaged in local communities, Reap Benefit aims to be a platform for the youth to become action-based citizen champions. “The vision of Reap Benefit is to inspire and activate every citizen to solve small and dent big through citizen actions in their local communities. Our mission is to increase the civic muscle of young people,” explains Kuldeep Dantewadia, CEO and co-founder of the organisation.

The approach is two-pronged. The first is through extensive grassroots mobilisation programmes to engage youngsters in a cycle of problem solving. Through various programmes in schools and colleges, students are introduced to the concept of problem solving — they discover and investigate local civic and environment issues, co-create solutions, and share their stories. ‘Solve Ninjas’ are categorised into four personas based on their work — Reporting Rhino, Campaign Chameleon, Hands on Hippo and Techno Tiger. Since its launch in 2012, Reap Benefit has engaged about 24,000 ‘Solve Ninjas’, with 5,00,000 hours of citizen problem solving. Owing to the civic solutions developed, 44 million tonnes of water and 1.7 million units of electricity have been saved.

Apart from long term engagement, Reap Benefit also engages students in one-to-two hour sessions called ‘Solvathons’. “Before a Reap Benefit intervention, most young people would have never even taken an action in their community. Now, we see that, on an average they at least take one or two actions during our intervention,” observes Kuldeep.

Digital drive

The second strategy that the organisation is looking to harness is technology. What started as an effort to build problem-solving skills in students is transforming into a movement of public problem-solving, through the Solve Ninja app, a virtual platform that accelerates public problem solving and enables a collaborative network. Launched in 2018, the app enables users to report issues in their localities, crowdsource local solutions and connect with the local government. They could also start campaigns to garner support and funds for a cause.

Armed with problem-solving skills and technology tools, the future is exciting for Reap Benefit. The mission is to activate one million Solve Ninjas by 2022. “Our future plan is to build an army of Solve Ninjas who can start solving local issues in their neighbourhood and we hope to do it through grassroot mobilisation and technology, and using local data, local solutions and local communities,” signs off Kuldeep.

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