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Now Open: A University for Change-Makers

There are many volunteer-based programs in Bengaluru that are helping towards sustainable living and community building. However, what they may lack is proper structure, guidance and funds.

The University of Commons (UoC), a Bengaluru-based organisation, is helping citizens/communities, social innovators, engineers and volunteers connect to create campaigns, events and programs that would lead to social change.

Started by Prashant Mehra, a techie-turned-farmer, and Satyam Gambhir, who was actively working with neighbourhoods in Bengaluru to streamline a waste collection supply chain, the UoC’s aim is to involve young minds, aiming mostly at those under 30, in social projects. The initiative is backed by Mindtree, a technology consulting firm.

Through tie-ups with schools and colleges along with giving out fellowships to those with ideas and projects for social change, it is looking at inculcating service-learning in education and promoting professionals to integrate their careers with community advancement.

As co-founder Satyam Gambhir explains in his blog, “For instance, if one wants to learn more about the techniques of sales and marketing, he/she can learn it by working with a waste-picker to set up business or by asking a neighbourhood to employ the waste-picker.”

Why ‘Commons?’

The project is inspired by Creative Commons, open source model and crowdsourcing, which adds up the power of individual effort to build an active community that functions on principles of sharing, collaboration and integration. Further, Commons refers to co-created and co-owned resources belonging to a community, something UoC aspires to do through its various departments.

“The UoC envisages engaged citizens and volunteers as community entrepreneurs. Armed with this new identity, they can re-imagine society and create a road map to achieve the change they wish to achieve,” writes Gambhir.

UoC has four curiously designed departments. The Department of Stories aims at creating social fiction, or stories that blend real and imaginative solutions to envision an ideal and futuristic society, the Department of Journeys will take you on a social adventure through curated paths that help you engage with yourself as well as the community as you travel, the Department of Engineering empowers social change with technology to get things done smartly and the Department of Entrepreneurship backs startups and social enterprises that work towards social change.

UoC will be picking its first batch of fellows through the Communities of the Future Summit (COTF) Ideathon 2017. For more details on the event, visit the website here.

(Written by Fatema Diwan)

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