How This Shepreneur is Creating Social Impact Through Data
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Her research startup has changed the way data is collected and utilized for social schemes and programs by academics, policy makers, private stakeholders and the Indian government. Founded in 2012, with a strong presence across rural India, her organisation has worked across 23 states, over 4000 villages and interviewed over 3 million stakeholders with an indirect reach over 30 million offline people.
Meet Prerna Mukharya, founder of Outline India - a for-profit, social enterprise that stands for creating social impact through data. “Outline India engages in data collection - both quantitative and qualitative - to build impact metrics, to evaluate social programs and schemes. It helps CSR bodies understand who to partner with, who to measure the value add of their programs, to audit and assess social schemes and to determine scalability and replicability, explained Mukharya, who was featured on Fortune magazine's’ 40 under 40 list for her disruptive work with ground level data in 2017 and again in 2018.
She is currently focusing on building Track Your Metrics (TYM) - a web platform and application that will be India’s first self reporting tool. “This is an assessment tool for small NGOs and big funders to enable building of impact metrics and to bring in accountability across the development world, thereby changing the way we track and finance social programs,” shared Mukharya, a 2018 CRISP fellow awarded by the UK Government in tandem with Rolce Royce at Oxford University. Outline India is currently beta testing - Track Your Metrics.
In 2012- while working as a researcher Mukharya toiled with drafting social schemes, tracking donor money to communities and building policies without the support of primary research or studying stakeholders – as there was no system of collecting data at various points of intervention. It is while going through this hardship that Mukharya ideated her business opportunity. The fact that there are (nearly) no businesses focusing on data collection in the development sector, was an advantage for her.
Today Mukharya is working with team is a group of young, very driven, researchers from the social science community largely including geographers, anthropologists, sociologists, mathematicians and statisticians together with members with backgrounds spanning from law and communications to engineering. Together they have already touched three million lives directly and 30 million indirectly
Benefitting Society and Engendering Development
Mukharya’s work has fed into Government of India’s effort to improve Swacch Bharat (water and sanitation) across 13 states, to improve content on television for young children to teach them about banking across three states, to tangibly measure child labour for the first time effectively across certain communities in Jharkhand and to measure whether ‘Beti bachao, beti padao’, campaign has created any behavioural change at all across two states.
“We have helped academics and policymakers work towards improving the lives of cotton farmers in MP. We are 24 states and about 4000+ villages strong, come rain, flood, heat, and drought, our field team has traded through some of the most challenging terrains, and worked with some of the most remote communities. Our work is real. It is measurable. And it affects the lives of the person next to you in some manner,” she asserted.
Development Must be Data Driven
In India it is a known truth that often the small NGOs who have no funds, no research capacity, fail to prove their impact. In the absence of data, these NGOs cannot seek funding and hence gets into the cycle of no metrics and no growth. On the other hand, big funders can order audits and assessments once or twice a year and that too with a subset of their grantees, i.e. with a sample and not everyone benefited. How do they then track whether their funds are being utilised efficiently? How do they decide to induct a new not-for -profit onto its list of ‘fundable organisations’? It cannot be based on gut or a glossy report!
“These decisions have to be data driven!” asserted Mukharya before adding, “That is precisely what Track Your Metrics will do. We are super excited as we just won a grant for it and as we go through a phase of doing user and price testing, we are commencing our search for impact investment!”
Prerna Mukharya is a delightful example that gender doesn’t determine the future of an organisation. This 33 year old she-preneur is out in a level playing field, toying in a zone that is less frequented with a for-profit development and tech driven venture that is 5.5 years old and going strong!