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Now, more than ever before, it's time to honour changemakers

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January 03, 2013
Times of India

NEW DELHI: In gloomy, depressing times, they serve as a beacon of hope. In a nation that too often abandons its underprivileged with a careless shrug, they roll up their sleeves and work to make a difference - selflessly and largely anonymously. Last year, in the first such exercise of its kind, 12 organizations and individuals were honoured with the inaugural Times of India Social Impact Awards in association with JP Morgan.

The function "in which the winners received awards from beneficiaries of their work and which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh graciously attended " was described by many present there as one of the most moving and inspiring evenings of their lives. Now, it's time to get inspired once again. On Thursday, a distinguished eight- member jury who have themselves made a huge impact on India will pick the winners of the second instalment of the awards.

The awards, which will be presented within the next month, are in five sectors: Education, Health, Livelihoods, Advocacy and Empowerment and Environment. Within each sector, there are three categories: Corporate, Government and NGO. There are also two jury awards: 'Lifetime Contribution' and 'International Contribution to India'.

The final shortlist of 41 organizations before the jury is a testament to the range of problems India battles, and to the variety of solutions " some tried and tested, others innovative but well thought out " that are evolving in response.

There's the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) that has been empowering underprivileged women since 1972 and has 1.35 million members. Bala Vikas Social Service Society from Andhra Pradesh believes that bringing clean drinking water to the homes of the poor is the best way to ensure their wellbeing. The district administration of Gwalior serves citizens by providing them access to 76 services at one local centre and ensuring time-bound redressal of complaints. The Association for Democratic Reforms has long campaigned for electoral and political reform through transparency and accountability.

And these are just some of the many changemakers who have made it to the final shortlist.The jury will have to play a fine balancing act, weighing scale against potential, long years of success against innovation. This will be the task before the all-star jury of four women and four men who will meet today.

Awardees to be chosen after 6-month process

The winners of this year's Social Impact Awards will be picked by a jury consisting of Unique Identification Authority of India chairperson Nandan Nilekani; Magsaysay awardee and National Advisory Council (NAC) member Aruna Roy; super-bureaucrat (former Cabinet Secretary, Ambassador to the US, advisor to the PM) Naresh Chandra; Magsaysay awardee and former Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh; HDFC chairman and advisor to successive governments Deepak Parekh; NAC member, business leader and Rajya Sabha MP Anu Aga; Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed ; and internationallyrenowned environmentalist Sunita Narain.

Thursday's deliberations will mark the culmination of a process that began more than six months ago to find and honour people doing the monumental work of empowering and uplifting hundreds of millions of marginalized people. Online applications were accepted between October 2 and 30 2012 through a dedicated website.

This year, a National Search Panel of eight eminent persons with long experience in the development sector was also constituted in early August, which identified 126 organizations worth consideration, who were then motivated to apply. Facebook and Twitter pages helped answer questions about application procedures and kickstart a discussion. Finally, over 1,500 entries were received, spanning the length and breadth of the country. The majority of applications were from NGOs.

The eight key parameters to evaluate the entries were significance of the issue addressed, scale, replicability, sustainability, finances, people's participation, innovativeness and promotion of equity. Every claim had to be backed up with documents and financial details had to be transparent. To screen the entries, a specialist group consisting of philanthropy specialists from Dasra, GiveIndia and GuideStar India was formed in Mumbai. They removed ineligible organizations and made a preliminary short list of 75 entries after ranking all entries on the basis of scale of impact, followed by expenditure (sustainability) and replicability.

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