The weekend of November 30th and December 1st, 2018 has been one of the most fulfilling weekends for us at Shelter Associates. We got a chance to showcase, learn and discuss our experiences with technologies with a variety of industry veterans and self-starters at the Tech4Dev Conference organized by the Chintu Gudiya Foundation and Social Alpha in Pune. It was quite an enriching experience where we got a deeper look into the functioning of Open Source Technologies, tactical problem solving methodologies adopted by NGOs like ours and a feeling of comfort knowing that we are not alone in the process of trying to solve the most pressing needs of the society using technology.
The first day started with a keynote given by our founder Mrs. Pratima Joshi, where she outlined her journey of 25 years into key learnings that resonate with most NGOs even today. Briefing everyone with Shelter’s success at coming one step closer to improving sanitary conditions of the urban poor, Mrs. Joshi conveyed how automation using data and technology has been an integral part of the day to day workings at Shelter Associates and how they have been able to achieve economies of scale at a low cost because of the same. Later, Mrs. Joshi advocated the need to institutionalise data with the government so that the burden of information does not stay with the NGOs and is passed on to the people who need it the most for years to come.
The keynote set stage for the “unconference” where people presented technologies ranging from integrated systems for education, health and sanitation to the various visualization techniques to ease decision making processes. The 15 minute presentation format that allowed multiple NGOs to present at the same time facilitated maximum consumption of information within a very limited time period. This coupled with the freedom of movement approach, allowing people to use their feet to move to presentations where they felt they could learn or contribute better, made the whole experience quite exciting and involving. This set the stage for the second day where people would vote on the topics they wanted to deep dive into and learn more about after the first day surface level flirtations. Through this format, we were able to discuss the pros and cons of using one technology over other effectively and the common problems we come to face while using them.
By the end of the second day, the idea of the whole Open Source Community echoed more clearly with all the people present, as we were able to identify the need for creating a symbiotic relationship amongst us. We were not only seeking solutions to the problems we faced, but we were looking out for each other in a much more deeper sense. We were able to understand that making better choices takes work and there is a daily give and take in this open source community but it is worth the effort since we are trying to create something greater than ourselves. We ended the day knowing that our NGO community, is a structure of symbiotic processes working towards the good of every person, process and organisation.