The chief of the Corporate Social Responsibility wing of a leading communications services multinational gives an insight into the vision behind the creation of the WPP India Foundation and the results on the ground.
In India, education continues to exert and influence on the behaviour of the youth. The government, civil society and industry have been tackling the quality crisis in education within the country. Changing behaviours and attitudes of the underserved youth adds complexities, especially when they are first-generation learners between the ages of 11 to 18 years trying to understand the value of education and livelihood. While over 100 million children enrol in secondary schools, around 17% of them drop-out between enrolment and completion of their education. Increased drop-outs are seen among girls, even in modern urban and peri-urban settings. Student literacy levels are low, where for example, a 5th grade student is unable to read 2nd grade text. Many of these children find it difficult to get a job after completing their education; hence they are trapped in the unemployment loop.
WPP is a creative transformation company that builds better futures for its clients through communications, experience, commerce and technology. To address the challenges in India, the WPP India CSR Foundation was launched in 2015, with the vision of leading the underserved youth in India from improved educational outcomes to informed livelihood choices. The Foundation aims to work with the community to enable children and youth to achieve their full potential and become productive members of society through its flagship Education to Livelihood program (E2L). The children, all first-generation learners, join the Education to Livelihood (E2L) programme from the time that they enter sixth grade (where each one of them remains a part of it for 7 years), until they complete the first six months of their placement at age 18. Currently, the program is running successfully in 10 underserved government aided schools across Mumbai and Delhi-NCR. Through strategic partnerships with best-of-breed social organizations, the E2L program takes an evidence-based approach in developing frameworks to facilitate successful implementation.
The E2L program covers key themes including education, skills training, life-skills and health
Remedial and tutorials
English learning course
Vocational skills training
Job-readiness skills training
Contemporary dance training
Musical instruments training
Water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives
The program, through its implementation, ensures:
Retention: By reducing drop-out rates and increasing children engagement in schools through the foundation's E2L programmes.
Learning outcomes: In today's digitised world, they want to ensure their children are not left behind due to limited opportunities. So, they have introduced key digital learning programmes to help children learn to code, design 3D models and robotics which open-up new avenues of growth within the STEM education for the children. Further, they are also bridging the academic gaps in Mathematics and English by using innovative teaching methods.
Job-readiness: To close the loop to livelihood, they ensure when their children graduate, that they have the necessary skills to sustain their employment. Therefore, they have introduced career counselling, vocational and job-readiness training for their children. These training modules help them become enterprising and support their personality development.
Addressing deep-rooted social norms: One of the key barriers that hampers the children's successes are some of the discriminatory social norms practiced that may hinder the child's journey from education to livelihood. Children who remain occupied with their daily chores are empowered to think about their futures. Thus, through their programmes, they have worked towards creating gender equality, increase confidence, and improve goal setting among their children.
To provide children with a holistic development, WPP India Foundation believes in addressing the key stakeholders in their eco-system-parents, teachers, peers and community. The Foundation considers the school authorities as co-creators in this journey helping them identify and address the key challenges faced by the schools and the children. WPP Foundation also provides capacity-building trainings to school teachers so they can address the technology gaps in teaching and provide leadership skill training, which directly influences the growth of the children. As the Foundation works on this 360° model of intervention for its children, many of the challenges that we face today are being addressed through its impact.
WPP India Foundation aims to develop a proof of concept based on its Education to livelihood (E2L) program. To help them establish this, the Foundation has developed their theory of change with the help of a Harvard Professor, which directs their programmes towards supporting their children complete their education to livelihood journey.
To evaluate these programmes' impact on the children, they have a third-party evaluator in Kantar IMRB, which conducts a mixed-methods study involving questionnaire surveys and individual interviews with the children to determine the models of interventions that promote the child's development. In a remarkably short span, the E2L program has been able to
Help over 70% children secure their future through employment or higher education
Reduce dropout rates to less than 5%
Initiate better health standards
Double the ability of coding
Reduce gender discrimination
Increase literacy & numeracy
Increase confidence levels
English education is a privilege that is not available to all. Most families in India refrain from spending money on quality education for girls. This is a story of Anjali, who, like every other girl from the marginalised communities, dreamt of being able to speak and understand English. This is where WPP India CSR Foundation has stepped in and started an English Learning Program in schools like the one Anjali goes to. By using simple yet effective learning tools, Anjali was able to improve her vocabulary and in no time, this shy girl transformed into a confident young woman poised to take on the world. Every year over 3000 children such as Anjali, have been impacted by this program that have opened new learning doors from them, thanks to the efforts of the WPP India CSR Foundation.
The Education 2 Livelihood Program of the WPP Foundation enables young individuals to become confident and look at life in a brighter light. In the last 2 years, over 250 children have graduated and were placed in reputable companies like GE Health Care, Marks and Spencer, Godrej, etc. Many have created their own entrepreneurial ventures, with others completing their higher education. The program has enabled the youth to understand the value of education and livelihood and helped them make informed choices for their careers.
As a testimony of its sustained efforts to drive positive social impact, WPP Foundation has been recognised with eminent awards including Special Commendation at the Golden Peacock Awards for CSR in 2019. The Foundation also was also honored at the ET Now CSR Awards for Best CSR Practices, Innovative CSR Practices and CSR Women Leaders Awards, 2019. In the year 2018, the Foundation won Special Category Award for Livelihood at India International CSR Awards, Award for Best Business Campaign and Communication in CSR at the National Excellence in CSR Congress and Awards, Award for the Best CSR Impact Initiative at the National Excellence in CSR Congress and Awards, and National Recognition for Excellence in CSR at the 5th NHRDN-BIMTECH CSR Summit.
Hastkala: In 2018, WPP India CSR Foundation partnered with one of its schools to host one of the school's event--Hastakala, an annual initiative created by the students, for the students. The initiative aims to provide students a platform to develop communication, management, entrepreneurship and marketing skills along with showcasing their creative abilities. Hastakala encourages young minds to explore the world of creativity as a pathway to their livelihood by building confidence, expressing their creativity and developing entrepreneurship skills. For the first time, the initiative expanded its purview from being just an exhibition to a celebration of the community around the theme of 'Spirit of Andheri'. Thousands of students showcased their creativity to highlight varied aspects of Andheri bringing alive its history, geography, transportation, fauna and flora and languages. From a 3D replica of the Gilbert Hill to complex language games, the students inspired the attendees to explore Andheri. The parents who themselves are entrepreneurs in the food industry, came together to host the food stalls for the day. This event brought the diverse field of arts and craft at the forefront for the children to learn new skills and be recognised for them by the key stakeholders in their eco-system.
Initiatives through Digital Technology: The ten schools adopted by WPP Foundation for building a proof of concept are run on state education boards with digital education limited to learning to type on computers, use Microsoft office programs and learn to use paint. With WPP Foundation's Digital Education Program they are reducing the digital education gap between the Foundation's children and the national and international boards.
The Digital Education Program uses experiential learning to teach children the latest technologies in a fun and innovative way. The three key initiatives introduced through our Digital Education program include-KANO computer coding, 3D designing and robotics.
The Foundation hopes to test more, learn more and scale more as they continue to open doors for the children in their journey of education to livelihood.
Rama A. Iyer is the Director General and Board Member, WPP India CSR Foundation. Rama has been instrumental in developing and leading the WPP India Foundation since its inception.