Social Enterprise Hackathon with Paryavaran Mitra

Colourful bags ready for the rag picking activity

We asked Mercy Okoro, an International MSc Development student, about her experience of the Social Enterprise Hackathon the Basecamp Enterprise Team put on with Paryavaran Mitra in October 2019.

Paryavaran Mitra is a social enterprise based in Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad, India, which uses waste management as a tool to empower women who pick rags. 

Using a simulation activity, the Hackathon aimed to equip budding social entrepreneurs with the tools to solve the realworld problem of urban waste management and women’s empowerment in India, addressing United Nations Millennium Development Goals.  Here’s what Mercy had to say. 

Where did you first hear about the Social Enterprise Hackathon with Paryavaran Mitra?  

I got to know about the Social Enterprise Hackathon on Paryavaran Mitra from an email sent by the Careers Service.  

What made you want to apply for the Social Enterprise Hackathon? 

A member of Paryavaran Mitra delivering a brief for the workshop activity

I have always been interested in waste recycling so on seeing that it was related to my interest I immediately registered. I felt it would be a very good time to engage and learn more about something I was keen on and it turned out to be worth my time and commitment. 

How was the day structured and how did you find the activities?  

The way the activities were structured was a very good way to get us engaged in the subject. We were put into real life situations of what the enterprise were working on. I had to work with a team which was wonderful as I was able to meet new people and hear others’ thoughts and strategies. 

Did you find the Hackathon event offered any new perspectives about the topics being discussed?

I was able to have a better understanding about waste generation, disposal, collection and recycling. I was given an opportunity to see the both sides of the coin and that lead me to thinking up other social enterprise ideas that could help recycle waste. I was also able to communicate my ideas in a group as I worked with others to think up ways of solving some challenges presented to us by the social enterprise. I will say it greatly added to my problem solving, team building and communication skills. 

Would you recommend a similar event in the future to anyone else thinking about attending a Hackathon? 

To be honest, the event beat my expectations as I experienced more than I was expecting. I would encourage others to attend similar event as this very good experience has left me looking forward to other similar events being organised by the Careers Service.  

Some more information about the work Paryavaran Mitra are doing:

Ineffective waste management in India means littered roads are a common sight. Women who live in slums go out in the early hours of everyday picking up this dry recyclable waste from the roadside and sell it to earn an income to provide for their family. Unfortunately, these women get exploited and do not get a fair return or respect for their work.

Paryavaran Mitra have intervened in the market, with the aim of providing holistic improvements for these women. They maximise the economic returns for the women’s waste collection by giving fair returns and improving the value-chain, treat the women with love and respect, provide health services and organise leisure activities for them. PM is partnered with the United Nations Development Programme and over the course of 5 years has facilitated the recycling of over 1.5 million kg, thereby empowering over 300 women and their families. 

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