Ashwini Kumar is serving vulnerable communities by way of digital transformation and impact scaling of grassroot NGOs. After 15 years of experience in the cutting-edge medical device software industry, she made an exciting career pivot to the social impact sector and is currently the Head of Digital Transformation at RISE Infinity Foundation.
A dedicated volunteer at Vibha.org (a 100% volunteer-driven organization) she lends a hand in educating underprivileged children. She has held several leadership positions during her 13+ years of volunteering at Vibha.
Hello Ashwini !
Can you tell us more about your organization and the impact it is making to society?
RISE Infinity Foundation, established in 2014, is a social impact non-profit organization whose mission is to nurture progressive, peaceful communities and greener neighborhoods through citizenship and collective action. We are a small team of 15 but our work has positively impacted 1,000,000 vulnerable lives. With over 100 partners in multiple locations across the country we address issues related to poverty, health and environment. During the Covid19 pandemic, RISE Infinity Foundation has been working tirelessly to help the most vulnerable.
RISE Infinity Foundation is the founding organization and secretariat of MahaPECOnet, a coalition of over 65+ organizations convened by UNICEF Maharashtra, with 300+ on the ground volunteers and teams, working round the clock, ready for any emergency during this period of crisis. The network’s efforts have reached over 20 Million individuals in Maharashtra, India.
How and why is technology important for a non profit organization?
Scaling, or multiplying value, is impossible without the use of digital technologies and this is sector-agnostic.
In the social development sector Impact means improving the lives of the vulnerable. It takes caring people and communities to develop solutions from the ground up to create this impact. Technology is an important enabler to scale these fantastic solutions and make it efficient, in order to impact even more lives.
Digital Transformation is a key theme that we typically see in enterprise and corporations. Can you provide light on how ‘digital transformation’ is being applied in the world of NGO?
Digital transformation is a widely used term in the corporate sector, sometimes overused and implying cloud solutions. The way I understand it is that Digital Transformation means re-engineering processes to include digital tools that fundamentally changes the way an organization operates and delivers solutions.
In the world of social impact organizations (NGOs), there are three big challenges.
Are there opportunities available for our readers to volunteer for such a cause? What are some of the means to contribute and action?
In India, and in most parts of the world, there is a huge digital divide between corporate and social organizations. This gap needs to be bridged by generous individuals who understand the work social development organizations do to keep our society safe and healthy.
There are plenty of opportunities for volunteers to contribute in digitizing the NGO sector. A few examples of tasks are - setting up simple spreadsheets, website development, and maintenance, basic data collection apps, cloud drives, creating process maps, identifying KPIs, monitoring and evaluation methodologies, chat-bots.
NGOs with tech-savvy contributors, like RISE Infinity foundation and Vibha.org, have a whole vertical for digital transformation to support grassroot NGOs to become efficient and scalable. We are looking for volunteers and interns to deliver customized tools. Please get involved with us or any other organization committed to the cause of digital transformation of the social sector.
We speak about gender diversity in almost every industry. What is your perception on gender gaps and diversity in the NGO industry sector?
This question reminds me of an african quote that's been etched in my mind ever since I saw it - “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”
The social sector has women in all levels - field staff to CEOs and everything in-between. Women are heavily involved in their communities and drawn to social issues naturally. Most NGOs are, directly or indirectly, working in the Women & children empowerment and safety thematic area. Women have come far, by voicing their concerns and getting involved, but we have a long way to go.
Our organization, the RISE infinity foundation, is working towards realising SDGs in India, laser focussed on the Women, Social and Green sectors. Women and youth empowerment is at the heart of everything we do!
Talk to us about your journey. You have worked in many established enterprises. What motivated you to switch your career trajectory towards an NGO?
After 15 years of experience in the cutting edge medical device software industry, I made an exciting career pivot to the social sector in Jan 2021. As the Head of Digital Transformation, I explore and deploy affordable digital tools that assist grassroot social impact organizations to optimize their operations to scale, evaluate the impact and communicate outcomes.
I have been a Vibha.org volunteer for 14 years and I lend a hand in educating underprivileged children. I have held several leadership positions in our 100% volunteer driven organization and am grateful for the opportunity to serve.
When my husband and I moved to India, I had the opportunity to start a Vibha chapter in Mumbai through which I visited and contributed first-hand to the growth of grassroot NGOs that we support. This is how I got exposed to the gaping digital divide that exists between the corporate sector and social sector. During the COVID crisis, Vibha Mumbai started an NGO group for food relief, and RISE infinity foundation became a part of this.
Determined to digitally transform the social sector and with wholehearted support of the CEO, I joined RISE Infinity Foundation to start this vertical. We have been working on several projects since.
Can you share your future plans on how you intend to leverage technology and transformation to further drive impact?
Digital tools and cloud solutions are becoming affordable and simpler to use. That’s the silver lining I have been looking for. It is a fantastic time to be in this space and influence the sector to become digital. To scale impact, technology plays a critical role. To adopt technology, change management plays a critical role. Both of these need strong diverse leadership with a collaborative mindset. My goal is to be that leader who connects NGOs, volunteers, corporates and tech solution providers to make this a reality.