How Ankit, Founder of We, included. is Working with Grassroots to Address the Global Goals Challenges
Ankit Pandey, Founder of We, included. and a Gandhi Fellow at the Piramal School of Leadership in Piramal Foundation has graduated from the School of Ecology and Environment Studies from Nalanda University and did Materials Science and Engineering from the National Institute of Technology, and in his previous roles with leading Council of Scientific & Industrial Research Laboratory and JSW Steel Ltd. firms in India, he has worked extensively on energy projects and public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the infrastructure and Research and Development (R&D) space.
The We, included. is all about reimagining leadership, together! Under this initiative, they have the vision to build the world’s leading lab and platform for innovative, implementable, and scalable solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By using the innovative mindset of young people and partner talents with leading companies, research institutions, foundations, non-profits, and investors, they aspire to provide next-generation solutions for the SDGs. He says, “Our mission is to accelerate disruptive ideas by engaging top talents in problem-solving and co-creation activities and by providing the support needed to bring the best ideas to life”.
Encounters with the people whose stories were of the millions living in India – lead to the start of We, included. platform. An initiative that got seeded by Ankit Pandey when he was doing his MS in the Nalanda University. He says, In the current world, the problems are not domain-specific, rather they are very much interconnected and complexly interwoven, and we need to look at these issues holistically. With an objective to address the harsh realities of the unserved and under-served populations. We, included. has till now collaborated with more than 15 national and international organizations including Harvard Research, The Queens Child Project, Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, Fridays For Future Europe; and City & Climate Action, etc. We, included. works on research findings, data analysis, case studies, and mobilizing stakeholders and communities to develop the right leadership both at centralized and decentralized levels to have a higher penetration of the impacts at the grassroots.
The Stories, of Hope!
2017: Rumana, 18, who finished her Intermediate boards in Srinagar, Kashmir always wishes for peace and justice in her valley which she thinks has faded away because of the frequent unrest in Kashmir. This according to her has not only derailed the economy of state but has also infected the education, poverty, violence and corruption.
2018: Manish Kumar, 32, a farmer based in Pipra, Bihar, belongs to a family that has been farming for at least 40 years now. Pipra, where the majority of the households are still not on the map of grid electrification, about 1.5 years ago, Manish and his community members received decentralized solar PV panels from some Public-Private-Partner entity. But now these panels lay under the sun unused and decaying. (Video Link)
2019: Rajendra, 27, a Municipal cleaner, works at Sangram Sagar, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. Rajendra said to Ankit, “Once famous for its lakes, in the city Jabalpur this lake including others like Hanuman Taal and Supa Lake have been shrinking at an abnormally high rate. Further, he added up the reasons such that; Often due to their eutrophic conversion and containing more harmful algal blooms than other types of lakes. Activities such as septic system failure or farming have led to an increase in the green color of lakes through nutrient inputs which act as fertilizer for algae.
2020: Nazmi, 14, a student of class 9th of the Government Secondary School in a rural remote village Bhimsar of Jhunjhunu district in Rajasthan. Her father is a mason, and her family come from a deplorable socio-economic condition. Despite being the topper of her batch, she doesn’t know much different career options, she has no dreams and has accepted her fate that she will be married as soon as she finishes her school.
The Operations of Think-and-Action Tank: We, included.
Before coming to Nalanda, Ankit was in Kashmir for four years from where he also did his Engineering from NIT Srinagar; he experienced what he had only heard through news media and people who had never visited Kashmir themselves ever. He experienced that the place called the heaven on Earth was struggling for the least – peace!
Then came Bihar, where he spent two years. One of the most fertile lands in India which not only had the potential for enormous agricultural and economic growth but has also given great leaders and bureaucrats to the country – remains one of the least developed states of India and is always addressed as the BIMARU state. It was here that Ankit realised that the crucial problems behind the stories that he encountered was because of the lack of effective and impactful leadership in India.
Under his We, included. initiative he started researching with Prof. Sarnam Singh from Nalanda University who held the position of Group Director, Earth Resources and System Studies Group at IIRS, ISRO and has worked in the organisation for more than 28 years. One of the reasons they both found out for Bihar being the under-developed state in the country was Electricity – the Energy Poverty!
His research which involved a comprehensive 350 household survey across the Nalanda district proved that decentralised solar rooftop PV systems could revolutionise the way we use, perceive and understand electricity. That – it not only has the potential of mitigating the impacts of climate change by cutting down the GHGs emissions but can also help reduce the energy and economic disparity among the rural population by providing reliable and affordable energy accessibility. He believes that with the coupling of right policies and leadership, it will create the ability to generate power, to share power, to sell power, all coming from their generating asset sitting on their property. If it does happen, then we get to a point where every home has their independent supply of energy, that will give us the democracy of energy where everyone will have that choice, and everybody knows when they want to switch it on or off; whether they wish to access or store it. That freedom getting back into the hands of the consumer would be the most exciting thing.
It was because of the We, included. work that he was selected as a Smart-City Fellow by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. Here Ankit worked with Mr. Rajat Srivastava, Economic and Policy Advisor, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, GoI alongside two IAS Officers, Smt. Chhavi Bhardwaj, District Collector and Shri. Chandramauli Shukla, Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Jabalpur and Executive Director, Smart City Jabalpur on India’s first-of-its-kind Municipal Solid Waste to Energy (MSWtE) treatment plant and an award-winning project, the Jabalpur MSW (JMPL) to the critically important wetlands. We, included. findings suggested the harvesting of macrophytes – water hyacinth and other nuisance vegetation present in the lake, causing eutrophication, must be removed manually or mechanically which in-turn could be used as the raw materials for the MSWtE treatment plants.
Now, currently working as a Gandhi Fellow at Piramal School of Leadership in Piramal Foundation, he has been engaging with more than 500 students in remote villages of Jhunjhunu district in Rajasthan, all of which are from a highly vulnerable socio-economical rural background in enhancing their life and entrepreneurship skills.
The intermediate future.
With his We, included. initiative, he aims to create opportunities for students to reimagine their future through a structured Competency-Based Life Skills and Entrepreneurship Curriculum, with a focus on real problem solving, counselling for students and industry partnerships. We, included. aspires to implement a model where students in government schools start thinking big and do not restrict their future prospects to low paying jobs in the channelize sector. Through a rigorous and challenging life skill and entrepreneurship curriculum, We, included. aims to improve the life chances of secondary school students by opening them up to the world of innovation, collaboration and leadership, so that they can channelize their potential in multiple directions.
According to Ankit, the ideal state will be once the challenges are achieved and are solved, it would result in the integration of life skills and entrepreneurial skills into the existing syllabus ensuring students become job-ready. Focus on student-led ventures building confidence in students, developing entrepreneurial skills and motivating them to start their own ventures in various domains of national significance such as education, health, women and tribal empowerment, waste management etc.
The Bright Future
He says, “Everyone around me is talking about ideas…ideas that are to bring a large-scale social impact. If society was a person, I wonder how he/she could have handled such pressure from so many dimensions. It seems like organizations have made it an agenda to churn out social entrepreneurs. Nothing bad about it…Nothing bad about it.
At the same time, I have to admit that I am bored of this madness to come up with large scale solutions. Every solution in this world would come from a project proposal. The only way one can change the world is through an intervention model that is low on cost and high on impact. Some messiah had said this once. Since then, everyone is game to change the world. All who wish to change the world have to understand metrics, per unit cost of the intervention, and impress a donor with unbreakable confidence. There will be a model for the children of the nation. There will be a model for the farmers of the nation. There will be a model for the suppressed women of the nation. A model for everyone who has to be changed…and we will have a beautiful world. A world of donors, change-makers, and beneficiaries. The review meetings will capture exaggerated sentences on social change.
And I know We, included. will help develop research findings, mobilizing stakeholders and communities and Evidence-Based Policy Making (EBPM) which in-turn will help develop qualities like values of empathy, compassion and hope to deliver that and will help each of us to develop the right leadership making everyone a social changemaker and a better leader,” says Ankit signing off. Keep visiting Scientific Nation because Citizen of Multiverse has a story.