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Ashoka Fellows: Agents of Change

By Murali Kamma Email By Murali Kamma
August 2011
Ashoka Fellows: Agents of Change In recent months, the controversy surrounding SKS Microfinance has dented the image of microlending in India. But people like Sunanda Mane, Krishna Prasad and Irfan Alam prove that social entrepreneurship is alive and well, doing great work across the country. All three received the prestigious Ashoka fellowship earlier this year.

Mane is the founder of LAHI, short for Lend-A-Hand India, which provides innovative vocational training to young people and offers employment opportunities. Their Plan100 is an attempt to train 20,000 students in 100 rural schools across the nation for admission to engineering colleges. Prasad, who started Sahaja Samrudha, promotes sustainable organic farming by creating networks and producing traditional varieties of seeds. He has, over the past 15 years, set up 34 seed banks in India. The SammaaN Foundation, launched by Alam, takes on the concerns of rickshaw operators. The half-a-million strong organization is spread across five Indian cities, although they plan to expand. The operators get loans at affordable rates to buy vehicles and they also have easier access to other services, such as healthcare and insurance.

Over the last three decades, Ashoka—which has a sprawling tree as its emblem—has conferred well over 2500 fellowships to social entrepreneurs spread across 60 nations.

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