Partner From
10/31/2017 - On Going
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Supported by: Wipro

About Kanavu

“Kanavu” means “dreams.” A small team with big dreams, we dream of an India where circumstance does not dictate destiny. We empower rural schools and communities of rural Cuddalore by bridging the skill and opportunity gap. We presently work with schools and allied communities set up by the ASSEFA Foundation in rural Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu. We work across two thematic areas – Education and Community Development.

Kanavu is registered as a trust under the ‘Indian Trust Registration Act’ in 2019. In 2021, we received our 12A and 80G certifications. Currently, our work spans four programs. On the education front, we continue to work toward school transformation in four schools serving 1000 children with the mission of delivering holistic education sustainably. To bring more people to this ecosystem, we run a fellowship program, Kanavu Rural Education Fellowship (KREF). On the community development front, we provide certified skill training for sewing and livelihood generation for 10 women. We bridge the information gap in communities for over 2500 rural women through a two-way 24-hour mobile radio (IVRS).

Current Operations and Context

The school year began with knowing around 900 students were back in school post-pandemic. It was a year of welcoming students back to schools feeling safe and welcome, irrespective of whether they had access to learning opportunities through the pandemic or not. The post- pandemic school also gave an idea of what holistic education can look like – elements like sewing lessons for 6 th to 10 th standard and art lessons for all classes started, and learnings were presented in three different exhibitions (community members were invited for the same). School renovation projects were undertaken ably supported by donors and local community members.

This paved the way for a lot of joy and a sense of belonging. Through the Kanavu Rural Education Fellowship, one fellow has enabled nature education in our classrooms and schools. The year opened opportunities to get back to in-person training for teachers – Over 15 days of training have happened this year. Lots of collaborative spaces for teachers and educators from various backgrounds were enabled through Kanavu camps.

Kaytu Paar, our community engagement mobile radio platform, turned into a platform to support communities with news and student-led radio shows – showcasing student voices. In the livelihoods wing of our work, we continue to run a cloth-based enterprise, Sura, (largely led by rural women) generating consistent livelihood opportunities for 10 women.

Learnings and challenges from the past year

The year started with us designing for impact across various programs – it led us to imagine hiring for a variety of roles from local communities. Capacity building for these people in leadership roles – starting from digital literacy to HR aspects of managing performance has been a challenge. It has involved challenging several years of belief in how to work with people.

This years capacity building has left us with ideas and strategies for organizational development. We have learned that having a functional operational calendar with built-in capacity-building opportunities for stakeholders in key managerial positions will strengthen program delivery. We learned about the power of spaces – bringing together diverse people like teachers, students, and parents with a common purpose, like an art exhibition, is powerful.

A big challenge of our work remains staff attrition. While a strategy of hire fast, fire fast was applied; and expanded lead generation for hires from villages, the transitions between hiring and firing were a struggle to manage. Another aspect that continues to be a challenge is finding partners for program design and implementation who are willing to overcome challenges posed by demography, to come and support programs consistently. Balancing time and resources across new and existing programs has been challenging. It has resulted in some months of having to reinforce existing programmatic routines, like a back-to-basic phase.

Plan for the next 1-3 years

The next three years hold greater significance for Kanavu as we embark on expanding the breadth and depth of our work in rural Cuddalore. We are very excited to venture into government schools with our art program in 2023-24. Our Kanavu Rural Education Fellowship will expand in its scope with more fellows envisioned to join our work. Our belief and dependence on the community is an integral part of our work that will take us much deeper into the community to design meaningful interventions. Kanavu will have crossed its 5-year mark, and we will have an advisory/governance board supporting us in the journey.