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Social Entrepreneur of the Year: Goonj makes its mark
November 8, 2012

Anshu Gupta from Goonj has been declared as Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) India 2012, by Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, a sister organization of World Economic Forum, in partnership with Jubilant Bhartia Foundation. The award was conferred by Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit.  

Goonj has demonstrated that cloth can be a powerful resource for the development of India’s poorest communities. It channels excess resources lying waste in urban households to impoverished rural and disaster-prone areas. Materials include clothes, furniture, electronic equipment and medical supplies. Village and slum communities, in exchange of cloth and material, conduct self-organized local development and infrastructure building programmes, leading to more than 500 infrastructure projects every year – such as the setting up of schools, concrete roads, bridges, wells, irrigation canals and toilets across an estimated 1,500 villages.    

Sourcing its material at collection camps in urban neighbourhoods and corporate offices, Goonj delivers about 1,000 tons of material every year through an extensive network of 500 volunteers, 200 schools, 200 corporate houses and 250 NGO partners across 21 states of India. Goonj’s expansive ‘last mile’ networks have made it one of the most recognized channels for large-scale disaster rehabilitation in the country. Its programmes have spurred gradual behaviour change on both the demand and supply sides: marginal communities have begun to believe in their own capacity for catalysing change while urban India is learning to contribute (rather than dispense) material, based on what the poor need. 

Speaking at the awards ceremony, the Chief Minister said, ‘Social entrepreneurship as a concept has grown over the years from just small entities. Now we have reached a stage where entrepreneurs who are doing great work in the society need to be recognised for their efforts, but there are very few avenues for this. We need more social entrepreneurs to come forward and help those still in the growing stage and thus help the community at large.’  

Hilde Schwab, Co-founder & Chairperson, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, informed, ‘India continues to be one of our strongest countries in putting forth a large number of high-quality social enterprises. This is also the first year in which all SEOY finalists have impact or activities concentrated in remote regions where the need for healthcare, skills development, and infrastructure remains acute.’ 

The other two finalists for the award were Sameer Sawarkar and Rajeev Kumar of Neurosynaptic Communications Pvt Ltd (NCPL) and Vanita Vishwanath of Udyogini. More than 180 applicants had entered the eighth annual SEOY selection process for India.   

The winner of this year’s India award enters the Schwab Foundation’s global community of 230 social innovators. Social entrepreneurs are defined by their mission to create substantial social change and promote inclusive growth, developing new products and service models that benefit underserved communities.  

Photo caption: Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister, Government of NCT of Delhi, and Anshu Gupta from Goonj  

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