For a newly started skill development initiative in a small town, the amount of effort required for outreach and awareness of the courses, is enormous. We approached this challenge, with a two-pronged strategy. One, through our marketing efforts and second, through our mobilization efforts. The marketing efforts came in various formats: hoardings, banners, a video ad in telugu in local cable channel enacted by our youth volunteers, newspaper advertisements, a YouTube clip, a web page, standees and pamphlets.
On the other hand, our outreach and mobilization efforts endeavoured to reach to the youth through a more grass-roots level engagement in local colleges, hostels and villages. In addition, we also sourced potential candidate contacts through family and friends, through local contacts in the government bodies and other units running similar programs. In parallel, our volunteers called these contacts to explain about our courses and invite them to our center for a discussion.
We invited parents of our current students and some locals who were interested in a small focus group to engage with them, to understand their conditions and spread the word about our course offerings. To visit Narasampalli, we joined hands with some volunteers from the Sri Sathya Sai University and explained about our project at the temple of the local deity.
In a unique effort to interact with parents and emphasize their important role in the development of their wards, and also as a connect to spread word about our courses, the Director visited the village home of each and every current student and invited the parents personally to visit the center on Parent’s Day.
Since most of the students who enrol in our GDA courses are women, and skill development can be greatly empowering a woman’s ability to rise in society, the Director also took the opportunity of Women’s Equality Day to create awareness about the same during the Women’s Equality Day celebrations at the Bukkapatnam Degree college. We had also visited this college as part of our needs analysis survey earlier. A report of the talk entitled, ‘Equal role for women in all sectors’ also appeared in the local newspaper Praja Sakthi on 26th August 2019. Speaking at the function, the Director underlined the role the women can play in the development of society and emphasized the need for women to be aware of their rights first, and then to take responsibility to spread awareness about the same.
We also found that it was important to engage in the skill development narrative, not in isolation, but in consonance with other locally relevant constraints and problems. Being connected with their lives in a larger context, enables us to bring forth conversations regarding stable income, career, ambition and skill development. To this end, in association with the local municipality, we also took up a 4-day long river-cleaning exercise of a stretch of the Chitrvathi river which flows besides the town, around Diwali holidays. A report of the same can be found here.
The inauguration of the Center and our outreach efforts also evoked interest in the Press to spread information about our courses, since it is locally relevant and useful. Subsequent to a visit to our center and interactions with our students, a report entitled ‘Skill Development Training for the youth’ appeared in the telugu newspaper ‘Praja Sakthi’ on 14th July 2019. The report highlighted a popular punchline from our telugu ad, ‘Not for the one who has succeeded, but for the 99 who want to succeed‘. Carrying a picture of the mannequin from our GDA lab, the report spoke about our courses, the career possibilities after the course and it’s relevance in today’s world.
On 4th December 2019, we went to two of the villages served by the Sri Sathya Sai Mobile Clinic, where our GDA students to for On-the-job training, Cherlopalli and Venkalammacheruvu. Some of our current students hail from these villages, they described to us the conditions of youth in these villages. At Venkalammacheruvu, our current students enacted a street play at a village corner. Delivered in a combination of dialogues, sign language and voice-over, the play captured the typical journey of an unprepared, unskilled young man dropping in for an interview, only to be humiliated for want of skill and then being counselled by another young man to skill himself professionally and with communication skills. The students then also spoke of their own journey of growth.
We also visited the government hostel for college students at Bukkapatnam on 11th December 2019, to create awareness about our courses. We found that the students had a strong urge for the Youth Development Modules of Tata Strive. The students here are from DIET college, Bukkapatnam which runs Education and Training courses, Sri Vidya College, Kothacheruvu and Sai Teja College, Kothacheruvu, which runs the MPHW course. On 10th December 2019, a few girl students from the nearby Mangalakara college also visited our center and wanted to improve their communication skills to pursue a better career.
Even as we tour all the villages and explore more and more options to create awareness about our courses, like with any rural development work, challenges remain. Getting more and more youth to gather at our meets, having them to sustain their interest after our initial connect, making them to visit to the center, counselling them with interest inventory , enrolling them and then retaining them after enrolment : at each of these stages, we find that the roots lie the ability to break the laid-back-wala motivation deficit and to spark the growth mentality ; making them discover their own inherent potential to change the status quo and break out of their poverty cocoons. To that end, we look forward to devising more and more mobilisation engagements and innovative formats to spread the word.