It’s been really long since I wrote a post. Let me quickly update you on what’s been happening with Acara. We have been working on three fronts during the last few months:

  • Planning for Acara Challenge 2011
  • Strengthening operations in India
  • Planning for the 2011  Summer Institute

As for the 2011 Acara Challenge, we have ‘Food and Water Security’ as the topic. Teams should address a problem related to food and/or water, and could be related, but not limited, to the production, transport, marketing/selling, processing, storage, treatment or consumption of food and/or water.

  • Production: Irrigation, seeds, pest control, fertilizer, harvesting
  • Transport: Getting crop to market or water to consumer
  • Marketing/selling: How is it sold, to whom, where, middle men
  • Processing: How is raw harvested crop converted to something else, or how is water treated.
  • Storage: Storage of food or water by end consumer or someone
  • Consumption: How do consumers buy it, prepare it

Poor nutrition, lack of enough food or water, wasteful practices, poor infrastructure, and poor market information, all contribute to lack of food or water security.  According to the 1996 World Food Summit of United Nations, “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Water security is an analogous situation, namely that people should have at all times, access to safe and clean water. According to the UN, 900 million people globally do not have access to clean water. We hope that all our team across India, US and Mexican universities will actively address these issues in their local communities.

Along with Challenge planning, we are working on strengthening our operations in India, by hiring a full-time staff member. We are partnering with IIT Bombay and Honeywell to strengthen our goal of encouraging and supporting markets based solution to community problems. We want to improve our curriculum, reach more students, enhance the structure of the Challenge, create stronger systems and processes to manage partner universities and teams, and build a stronger mentor network.  In case you have ideas, thoughts or suggestions, regarding the Challenge, feel free to write to us.

The Summer Institute that we organized in 2009 and 2010 was our own boot-camp for budding entrepreneurs who want to build social businesses. We supported four proto-business teams through the Institute, including sending team members from the U.S. to India, and from India to the U.S. Acara provided mentorship, guidance, and classroom instruction, and helped connect the team with appropriate experts and potential funders in the U.S. and  in India. In 2011, we will select a set of winning teams, 5 or 6, and give them a fixed amount of funding (likely in the $6K range). We will be hosting the Summer Institute entirely in India. There will be field work, as was done this year, and classroom work (at TERI University in New Delhi). There will be a couple of sessions of each, totalling about 5 weeks. This will be in June, 2011.