India Has a Social Enterprise Train, Here Are 10 Reasons To Climb Onboard
One train, 12 Indian cities, 8000km and 500 young people interested in social enterprise. If that’s not enough to make you climb onboard Jagriti Yatra, Zhang Xin Tian has 10 more good reasons to check it out.
Jagriti Yatra, literally “awakening trip” is an annual youth social entrepreneurship programme that takes “social changers” across India on a train! The programme was started 8 years ago by a group of experienced Indian business leaders who wanted to bring young people through the country to build the nation through social entrepreneurship - solving social problems in sectors such as education, agriculture, and energy not through charity, but through sustainable business.
I have always been fascinated with tackling social challenges in a sustainable way, and I know India has an amazingly vibrant social entrepreneurship scene. So when I heard about the train trip, I jumped at the chance. The experience was simply full of surprises – you never know what you will find out until you hit the road and talk to people on the ground.
Here are my 10 reasons why Jagriti Yatra should not be missed!
1.15 train trip around India
The amazing trip doubles as the best cross-country train tour of one of the world’s most amazing countries. Plus, throughout the trip, the train takes you around India, visiting many places that even locals have not heard of.
2. Getting into the heart of Indian social entrepreneurial scene
You don’t just visit social enterprises; you get to meet the souls – the change makers who have built up these social enterprises. From the leaders to volunteers, from budding entrepreneurs to beneficiaries, you get different perspectives.
Among all the amazing social entreprises, Barefoot College impressed me the most. The founder Bunker Roy believes that everybody, especially a woman villager is a genius. If given a chance, she is able to learn knowledge and put into practical use with ease. Barefoot College sponsors female villagers from all over the world to learn skills here, and they go return home with their new skills to nurture their villages.
3. Meet inspiring people
What is better than traveling on a train with 500 enthusiastic change-makers-to-be? You can only expect many genuine and inspiring conversations, with literally, anybody. There are college students and young entrepreneurs who know the latest trends, and also experts in different fields who are willing to share their wealth of experiences. The train is an unlimited resource of great ideas, all you need to do is ask! There are experts from very different backgrounds, helping you to understand the world from various perspectives. Among them, there are business leaders and social entrepreneurs to give practical advice. On my trip there was even a UN Secretary General Advisor.
4. Spontaneous Lectures & Workshops
Perhaps one of the best things about being stuck on a moving train with super interesting people, is that people willingly share their expertise and skills spontaneously. Just some examples from my trip: the power of positive thinking by a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) expert, creative writing workshop by a journalist, and sustainable development by an agriculture expert. These spontaneous workshops enriched my train journey. They gave me opportunities to expand my horizon on top of entrepreneurial-specific knowledge and experiences.
I particularly enjoyed the creative writing workshop organized by a journalist from Yourstory (http://yourstory.com - a website featuring entrepreneurial stories). He encouraged us to write down moments that touched us, and share. Too often, the new experiences during the train trip were too overwhelming that we forgot to reflect. I liked how the journalist made us think about our personal journey through writing.
5. Sharing Indian snacks and chat with literally anybody in the train
You will never go starve or feel bored with Indian friends. They share with you homemade snacks, and want to tell you all about their country. I tried so many different kinds of Indian snacks that I can’t even remember their names. Although most of them are too sweet for my taste, I never miss any chance to try any homemade delicacy! Of course, they are curious about your country and background too. So do expect questions from them about your life. There is no boundary between people, random conversations are welcomed anytime, anywhere. Surprisingly, despite the diversity, you always find commonality between you and another person.
6. Business Case Competition for social challenges
You will experience pitching a social enterprise plan in 3 minutes to a panel of judges along the way in one of the villages. This is a rare chance to solve real social problems by exercising your creative muscle and demonstrating your presentation skills. If your idea is chosen, your group will be invited for further incubation sessions to make it happen! How exciting is that? My team pitched an idea about providing vocational education in Middle India after spending an afternoon talking to villagers in Deoria. We realized that for many rural children, vocational training is actually more useful compared to giving tuition. Surprisingly, our idea was well-liked that we won the “most inclusive” award.
7. New Year’s eve Party On A Train
How many people can claim to have the whole train as their music lounge to dance to dawn? (Well, me ;) )I thoroughly enjoyed welcoming in the new year with Bollywood music, Indian dance, and lots of youthful energy.
8. Build a strong network in India
Together, thousands of Jagriti Yatra alumni form a strong network. From business to social change, and anything in between, you will find like-minded individuals who want to continue the journey of social change with you.
9. Make friends for life.
The journey does not end the moment you step out of the train with your luggage. The unique 15-day train journey forms a strong bond between you and the people you shared this memory with. Whenever you feel frustrated with not making as much change as you want, you know there is this group of friends who share exactly the same sentiment.
10. Be a part of the Jagriti Yatra history
Jagriti Yatra has been around for 8 years, and there is more to come. Internationally, the French and American participants have initiated their version of Jagriti Yatra in their countries, why can’t you? Here are the France-based Ticket for Change (http://www.ticketforchange.org) and U.S.-based Millennial Trains Project (http://www.millennialtrain.co)
Have a great journey! I know I did.
Jagiriti Yatra is planned for 24 Dec 2016 to 8 Jan 2017. Applications for youth participants (20-27 years old) and facilitators (professionals over 25 years old) are open now on www.jagritiyatra.com