Social Capital Credits: Community Currency for Social Good
SoCCs remove the friction of money poverty, improve communities, and help people get livelihood skills and access to enterprise funding etc
Pitch us on your solution
Our vision is to redefine wealth to include financial, social, and ecological capital. SoCCs (Social Capital Credits) enable people to leverage their own social capital for holistic development. The SoCCs system enables those without money to access critical resources like education, healthcare, skill empowerment, digital or financial literacy, insurance, and low interest loans, simply by contributing to their own community. Individuals earn SoCCs for the aforementioned items by participating in activities that improve their communities such as peer mentoring, tree planting, clean up drives, or joining micro credit groups.
SoCCs has the potential to impact global populations, raise the level of financial capital in marginalized communities and strengthen community spirit and happiness. SoCCs can also help corporations measure their social engagement and positive impact, building a world community that demands corporations do holistic accounting, reporting financial, social and ecological bottom lines.
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What is the problem you are solving?
SoCCs seeks to bridge the widening income and resource gaps in growing economies, and is a tool for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Impressive economic growth in many countries is not reaching the very poor because they lack education and social networks to climb out of poverty. This is especially true of women. SoCCs seek to bridge this divide by helping people climb out of poverty, with dignity. Lack of money results in transactional friction, which SoCCs overcomes to increase the velocity of local transactions, freeing up limited financial resources to access and create income producing opportunities.
We believe that financial security and social capital are linked. Poor communities that lack financial capital but are rich in social capital can use SoCCs to measure and leverage their social capital to increase their financial wealth.
SoCCs are earned for acts of social good such as tutoring children, tree plantation, and infrastructure repair per the SoCCs Earning and Redeeming menus created by the community during SoCCratic dialogues and SoCC games. SoCCs can then be redeemed for low interest loans, skill classes, school fees, business training, and healthcare etc. that enable individuals to get employment, or create and scale up businesses.
Who are you serving?
SoCCs currently serves underserved communities in India, Ghana, Kenya and the United States, but is ready to be scaled up to serve people around the world in both the developed and developing countries. Many of our initiatives empower women- who then empower their families and their communities, while we run programs for other demographic groups as well. SoCCs are customized for specific communities and their problems, as articulated by them in a bottom up manner. Local buy- in and development of local capacities, social capital and leadership are the hallmarks of the SoCCs programs. In 2018 alone, we directly served 5,000 women and indirectly served 20,000 individuals through our 15 live projects in India, Kenya and the United States. However, if we can get access to funds for scaling up, we can reach up to two million people in five years.
We partner with governments and NGOs with knowledge and trust of local communities for implementing the SoCCs program. We assist beneficiaries in the use of technology by supporting computer networked Resource Centers in underserved urban and rural communities, such as in tribal villages like in Mahad or Dehradoon Tongia and urban slums like in Lucknow.
What is your solution?
SoCCs incentivise activities that result in social good, and can be redeemed for livelihood empowerment, low interest loans, and other means of climbing out of poverty. SoCC menus are created through SoCCratic dialogues, which enables communities to identify what is most important to them and what they are willing to do to fix problems such as environmental degradation, infrastructure degradation, or lack of access to financial capital. The SoCC Manager helps the community stay on track with their set goals, organizes events such as tree planting campaigns, and tutoring schedules where adults and older children help younger children do homework etc. The SoCC manager also helps in verification and uploading of SoCCs.
Having successfully tested SoCCs in several countries in various economic and social situations, Asia Initiatives is now poised to scale SoCCs to a global scale via the SoCCs App. We will release two versions of the app. The basic version will be free to any community of up to 100 people wanting to improve their economic situation or neighborhood. The SoCCs+ version will be fee based, for which Asia Initiatives will provide a full range of services, from conducting SoCCratic dialogues, creating and managing menus and analyzing data and providing support from our trained and experienced staff to any project around the world. In a consulting role, we have successfully implemented the SoCCs+ strategy for our clients WomenStrong International in Ghana and Kenya in 2015-2018, and are currently providing fee based SoCCs consulting to the Government of Andhra Pradesh, India, for the new capital of Amaravati that they are developing.
We also plan to create a social platform where all SoCCs users can communicate and collaborate. This feature would enable any user to select their locality, input a new project or view an existing one, view lists of past solutions and learn from other communities nearby, creating a global knowledge sharing network.
Since large corporations in India are legally required to give 2% of their profits for Corporate Social Responsibility, we have been working with corporations such as Oxygen Inc. to provide an easy, transparent and fully accountable way to channel their giving, for a fee. We expect this revenue source also to grow.
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Where is your solution team headquartered?New York, NY, USA
Our solution's stage of development:Growth
Select one of the below:New business model or process
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
SoCCs is a groundbreaking and revolutionary system that translates the link between financial capital and social capital to show measurable increases in people’s income and wellbeing. All of our 15 running projects have highly localized and unique SoCCs menus that cater to specific problems, making SoCCs an individualized, community centric solution to global problems of poverty, lack of access to jobs, resources and social capital
SoCCs offers an effective alternative to the exploitative financial system that is destroying our planet and communities, and keeping the poor people from the education, skills and social networks needed to get out of poverty.
SoCCs is also innovative in that our projects are completely built from the ground up, in an accountable “auto feedback” way. From the SoCCratic dialogue phase, we ensure that the community designs and owns the project. This ensures respect for the local knowledge, culture, leadership, dignity, and sustainability of the projects.
Since the operation of SoCCs relies on technology through our online platform accessed from smart phones and computers, barcode and QR Code readers, SoCCs become a good stepping stone for people to become comfortable with digital technology. We also hold financial literacy sessions in all our programs, so the newly learnt smart phone skills can be used for job search, and connection to government run programs. People earn SoCCs for using e-banking, and for saving money regularly. People also earn SoCCs for helping others learn how to fill the many forms for government programs.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
Robust technology to crowdsource goodness and report transparent results is the key to our success.
To ensure scalability and sustainability, we are currently designing a SoCCs platform and a complimentary App that will enable anyone anywhere in the world to perform acts of social good and earn/redeem SoCCs towards their own economic growth. The app will include mechanisms for communities to articulate their needs, goals and capacities through designing SoCCs Earning and Redeeming menus and . The app will also allow data uploads.
Our new app will enable monitoring of attendance at SoCC activities and assess trends in program participation. Conducting SoCCs projects in a variety of socioeconomic, cultural and geographical settings, we will get detailed impact data and refine the algorithm and technology for this App. A process of community review like at Yelp, and leaderboards will be used to establish online engagement and accountability.
We are also exploring Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence or other technologies for approving SoCC transactions. Tech people from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Facebook and Blockchain Inc. who are excited about our concept have offered to us their time to guide us in this exploration, but sustained mentorship would help us tremendously so partner corporations can get clear and detailed reports of the impact of their CSR donations.
Our upcoming SoCCs app also has elements of fun and gamification, so that people are eased into becoming increasingly tech savvy.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Our Theory of Change is that Social Capital of a community can be leveraged to improve people’s Financial and Ecological Capital.
SoCCs work because instead of traditional methods of aid, which rely on handouts, we empower communities to help themselves- creating systems that will remain long after our intervention. SoCCs are designed to enhance local leadership and problem solving skills, self confidence, hope and community spirit that is critical at the time of climate, financial, and other shocks.
SoCCs also work because of localization that is central to the concept. Each SoCC project is specifically designed to cater to that community’s problem- it is not a ‘fix-all’ approach, but acknowledges and works with the incredible creativity and specificity of each community.
We partner with a local NGO or government who know the community, and bring together all stakeholders over “SoCCratic Dialogue/s and SoCCs games that we have designed. These help the community articulate, often for the very first time, what it needs in order to improve its wellbeing and financial opportunities, and set goals. The next step is to ask people what they themselves will be willing to do towards the goals. This culminates in the creation of SoCCs Earning and Redeeming menus.
So the immediate change is bringing together people and stakeholders who may have never come together before. The short-term benefit is that people learn to envision a better community for themselves. The longterm benefit is the behavior change and strengthening of social capital and happiness.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
We have successfully implemented SoCCs in eighteen sites in 5 continents over the past four years, serving over 50,000 people so far. In 2018 alone, we helped 5,000 women and their families (approx. 20,000 people) increase their income and wellbeing. In the next 5 years, we hope to increase this number to 2 million. Some of our highlights of what we achieved just in 2018 are below:
- 1002 people formed the first ever credit cooperative in Maharashtra formed by the tribal population, with a women’s majority.
- 1,200 women established kitchen gardens for improved nutrition and income for their families.
- Another 500 women started micro poultry farms and earned and saved money for the first time in their lives,
- 600 farmers in arid parts of Maharashtra implemented advanced organic farming techniques and nearly doubled their income
- 200 women traded their SoCCs for low interest cattle loans and formed a dairy farming cooperative with the help of our local partner M.S. Swaminathan Foundation in Tamil Nadu
- 540 individuals in tribal villages in Maharashtra were given access to government services including insurance
- 1200 girls in the Lucknow program are learning computer skills, spoken English and business skills. 200 young girls and boys in this program were connected to the Government's Yuva training program, which guarantees employment after training.
- 50 women in our Zuri program in Nairobi, Kenya have become saleswomen for organic cosmetics produced by Zuri, getting sales training and financial skills.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Our three goals next year are:
- To develop our app and have 100,000 registered users. This will include people in our SoCCs as well as SoCCs+ programs, with AI serving as a consultant in the SoCCs+ projects.
- To introduce Blockchain and other relevant technologies to enhance our monitoring and management capabilities, ensuring smooth oversight from our headquarters in NYC.
- To partner with corporations and B-Corps around the world who are interested in using SoCCs to effectively implement their Corporate Social Responsibility funds in a transparent way. Our selling point is that SoCCs multiply the impact of every development dollar, and our process and results are completely transparent in showing their social and ecological impact, which can help them in their triple bottom line accounting.
Our next five year goals are:
- To have over 2 million registered users for our app, with a considerable number who have increased their wellbeing, incomes or income potential.
- To have integrated Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and/or other technologies that would enable users not known to us to implement and benefit from SoCCs easily and effectively.
- To have at least 5 corporations and B-Corps use SoCCs to effectively implement their Corporate Social Responsibility funds in a transparent way.
- To have launched a platform where SoCC users from around the world can post their solutions to local problems, and learn from each other.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
Our major barrier is the difficulty of recording and managing SoCCs as the number of participants in our projects is growing exponentially. Manual SoCC books are becoming cumbersome for SoCC Managers. Our online platform SoCCmarket.org has helped in some cases, but because laptop and tablet availability in very poor communities is limiteingd, we need an Andriod App at this moment of lift, when the demand for scale up from our local partners around the world is very high
The App is also expected to solve the issue of integrity. While SoCCs is based upon faith in people's propensity to do good, there is a risk that once the scale of SoCCs projects increases exponentially beyond known communities, people may try to game the system to report fake acts of goodness to get an unfair share of the rewards.
There is also an unlikely risk is that we will not get a critical mass of users fast enough to make SoCCs a viable medium for exchange between users in communities.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
We are currently designing the SoCCs App for Android smartphones which have excellent digital penetration in the developing world/ We will then create an App for ios after this.
Getting the prize money will enable us to make this App more robust and add features to it that we are currently unable to integrate due to lack of funds.
To pre-empt risk of people misreporting acts of social good without actually doing them, we are carefully researching tech design tools for making our app foolproof. We are currently building a SafeSoCCs App in partnership with SafeLIFE foundation for the Mumbai Pune Expressway safety project, which will be used by anybody driving on the highway. This is enabling us to learn about how to make our App foolproof for communities that are much larger than the communities we currently work with, where people know each other and there is social pressure to stay honest and to help the community.
To ensure that we obtain enough users to make this viable, we plan to mount public relations campaigns as we scale up. We are also conducting behavioral psychology research into components of establishing trust in a community currency and potentially bring in advisors who are experts in the anthropology of currency and its link to money.
Select an option below:Nonprofit
How many people work on your solution team?
Full time: 5
Part time: 3
Active Volunteers: 25
App Developer (MapUnity);
App User Interface Designer: Wen Jun
Accountant/auditor: Mike Hassanali
AI also has a network across many industries and countries with 40 people on our Board of Directors, Board of Advisors, and Junior Board.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Asia Initiatives has been in existence since 1999, supporting projects in sustainable development. However, when we developed the SoCCs concept in 2014 and started implementing it, our effectiveness and scale has shot up several fold.
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Asia Initiatives is an NGO and thinktank of innovators. We come from diverse backgrounds of architecture, business and art and have lived or worked in developing countries and passionate about poverty alleviation.
Our SoCCs methodology is 4.5 years old and our experience supporting projects in sustainable development over 20 years has given us deep understanding of the power of Social Capital.
Our founding was inspired by our continued mentor Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, world renowned agricultural scientist and humanist. We have been granted UN- ECOSOC consultative status.
1. Dr. Geeta Mehta, founder/president, was affected by injustices in access to education and income generating potential in her native India. An architect/urban designer and faculty member in the urban design program at Columbia University, she worked in 18 countries and understands grassroots issues of poverty and development. More about her is at https://www.arch.columbia.edu/faculty/52-geeta-mehta
2. Surabhi Prabhu, our Program Director has most on- ground experience with implementing SoCCs, co-leads SoCCs with Geeta. She has a Master's degree in finance and data management and over 10 years of work experience, four of it with Asia Initiatives.
3. Shreya Malu has a graduate degree from Columbia and is our Project Manager, overseeing SoCCs App
4. Hikaru Kato is our data analyst. She holds a B.Sc in finance and analytics, and worked in investment banking before joining Asia Initiatives.
5. Project Manager/ Office Manager: We recently hired Annesha Chowdhury, who has several years of development experience, and expects to get her PhD this year.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
While we have worked with many NGOs since our founding, our first SoCCs partner was the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Geeta was an advisor to the Millennium Cities Initiative and was asked to implement SoCCs in their projects in Ghana and Kenya. When those projects were taken over by WomenStrong International, Asia Initiatives became a paid consultant to them. Our current partners include:
Government of Andhra Pradesh: We are implementing SoCCs for the new capital of Amaravati City
SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Organization). We have done a project with them in Ahmedabad, and are currently partnering in Delhi.
SES: Our two projects with them impact around 8,000 individuals, teaching girls critical skills and helping women start micro-poultry businesses
MS Swaminathan Research Foundation: SoCCs are used to encourage organic farming and dairy farming.
Shramjivi Jana Sahayak Mandal, Maharashtra: We work with SJSM to set up kitchen gardens to help increase nutritional indicators amongst women.
Parmarth, UP: We work in the Beed district, a drought prone region of India, to encourage sustainable water practices.
Zuri: We are working with them in Kenya to help women create natural hair-care products, and improve neighborhoods.
What is your business model?
Our value proposition is to disrupt poverty by removing the friction caused by money poverty to increase the velocity of transactions in poor communities using SoCCs. People can use SoCCs to exchange home repairs, child care, rides to work etc. Money thus saved or earned can be used for further economic development. People earn SoCCs for improving the environment, infrastructure and services in their communities, and spend SoCCs on getting further access to education, healthcare, skill empowerment, and loans to start enterprises. SoCCs bring communities together which also strengthens their happiness through giving people hope and dignity when people can see that they are in the driver’s seat in SoCCs projects, and can overcome money poverty by doing social good.
Our key customers and beneficiaries are poor cash strapped communities, especially women and young girls and boys.
We work with local partners, who we wet carefully and who have sufficient traction on the ground. However, we plan to make SoCCs available for anyone to implement on their own. However, we will also continue our SoCCs+ product, where Asia Initiatives provides full services to clients such as was the case for WomenSrong International in Ghana and Kenya.
We also plan to serve large corporations who can fulfill their Corporate Social Responsibility obligations using SoCCs to get a multiplier effect for every development dollar. This is because people in our projects “earn” things like education scholarships, health insurance of other benefits that a corporation may wish to donate by doing social good.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We are planning to release two versions of the SoCCs App. The basic version will be free to any community of up to 100 people wanting to come together to improve their economic situation or neighborhood. This version will be free, and available in several languages. We are also planning a SoCCs+ version, which will be fee based, for which Asia Initiatives will provide a full range of services, from conducting SoCCratic dialogues, creating and managing menus, managing SoCCs data, analyzing it to improve programs, and helping SoCC projects to become self funding.
In a consulting role, we successfully implemented the SoCCs+ strategy for our clients WomenStrong International in Ghana and Kenya from 2015-2018, and are currently providing fee based SoCCs consulting to the Government of Andhra Pradesh, India, for the new capital of Amaravati that they are developing. We expect this revenue to also increase.
Since large corporations in India are legally required to give 2% of their profits for Corporate Social Responsibility, we have been working with corporations such as Oxygen Inc. to provide an easy, transparent and fully accountable way to channel their giving, for a fee. We expect this revenue source also to grow, and help make us self sustaining.
Why are you applying to Solve?
We will benefit from Solve and use the prize funding to hire staff and appropriate consultants to enhance and onboard technology. New staff/consultants we need include:
- App Development Specialist/s
- Algorithms and Blockchain Specialist
- Behavioral Psychologist
- Another Project Manager
- Another Data Analyst
- PR and social media Manager
Technology upgrades that will become affordable upon receipt of this prize include expanding the scope and quality of our online platform and Android App and development of an ios App. We are currently designing a relatively simple App version1, and holding off several features of the App due to resource constraints. This prize money will also help us determine how Blockchain, artificial intelligence and other technologies can be used to make SoCCs available to everyone in the world.
Recognition from being selected to Solve will make it easier for us to engage high level staff, targeted publicity to engage more corporations, partners, local communities and governments.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
Large NGO partners in various countries who see the potential of SoCCs in fulfilling their mission.
- We especially like to work with governments where high level officers can understand and appreciate the value of SoCCs, as was the case with the Mayor of Curridabat in Costa Rica, and the APCRDA in the Andhra Pradesh government. This is because they can help to upscale SoCCs across their other projects.
- App Development Specialist/s
- Algorithms and Blockchain Specialist
- Behavioral Psychologist
- Data Analysts
- PR help to spread the word about SoCCs, and manage social media
If you would like to apply for the GM Prize on Community-Driven Innovation, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
With the prize money, Asia Initiatives will be able to launch a goat rearing project for 250 women and their families, that has been awaiting funding.
We recently helped 1002 people from the Katkari tribe in Maharashtra, India, form the first ever credit cooperative formed by the tribal population, with a women’s majority. We have been working with these people along with our local partner SJSM for the past two years. We first started with a micro poultry farming project for 100 women. This was done as most of the women tested were found to be anaemic, and chicken and eggs would supplement their diets and incomes. Based upon the success of that project, there is now demand from 250 women and their families to start goat rearing.
Asia Initiatives and SJSM will provide training in goat rearing and book-keeping, and veterinary help, During this period, families will earn SoCCs by helping improve their neighborhood school and public spaces. Women who have earned enough SoCCs will be given loans to purchase kid goats. Purchase and sale of goats and goat milk will be done with the help of SJSM. Women will be able to return the loans from the sale of the goats, and make a profit, which they can use to purchase more goats. The returned loans will be re-invested to purchase more goats in a revolving system.
More about this project is at http://asiainitiatives.org/education-initiatives/shramijivi-and-soccs/
If you would like to apply for the Innovation for Women Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
Every thing we do at Asia Initiatives is pro-women, pro-poor and pro-environment. This prize money will help us to increase the number of girls in our project in slum areas of Lucknow from the current 1,200 to 3,000. Since we started the SoCCs project with 500 girls two years ago, many other girls have asked to be included, but we are unable to accommodate them for lack of resources.
Girls in this project face the issues of child marriage, pressure to drop out of school and help their mothers to work as maids or care for siblings. Our project helps them stay in school, and provides them with help in STEM subject, life skills, information about reproductive healthcare, self confidence and the ability to get jobs after high school. We also connect them to government run and private job programs for young people. Parents of these girls also earn SoCCs to take an oath in a community gathering to not marry off the girls till they are 18 years old.
The girls earn SoCCs by tutoring and providing homework help to children who are three or more years younger than them. Since most parents in these slums are not literate, such help is necessary for children to succeed in school. The girls spend the SoCCs thus earned to attend classes in computer literacy or spoken English, and for sanitary supplies.
More about this project is at http://asiainitiatives.org/lucknow-peer-mentoring-mentoring-girls/
If you would like to apply for the Morgridge Family Foundation Community-Driven Innovation Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
We will use this prize for our pilot project in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) project in Polo Grounds in Harlem, New York. Like many low income housing projects in New York, this project has deteriorated over time due to poor maintenance, crime, drug issues, rapes, and general lack of hope among residents. This has resulted in breakdown of the community spirit, which further exacerbates the problems. People now do not feel safe using public spaces, or even walking home after dark.
A group of urban design students from Columbia University who have designed improvements in the public spaces in this housing project who knew about Prof. Mehta’s work in Social Capital Credits (SoCCS), have requested Asia Initiatives to work with them to enlist community participation into their work. Asia Initiatives has considerable experience incentivising citizen participation in design, maintenance and programming of public spaces as a way of bringing the community together, improve neighborhoods, and building social capital. We believe that this social capital can then help people improve their education and job skills to start getting out of poverty. This is especially important for young people.
Our partner in this project will be the New York Mayor’s office who had appointed a project director for this pilot, and the students from Columbia University. We have already held the initial meetings. The prize will enable Asia Initiatives to help the community create SoCCs Earning and Redeeming menus, and to fund some of the Redeeming items.
- Dr. Geeta Mehta Co-founder/President, Asia Initiatives