“Let’s do something about it!” There’s no waiting around for someone else to fix things for these guys, they’re taking matters in their own hands — from skiing to raise money for the leprosy-afflicted to rewriting an unbiased history of India and Pakistan; recycling tyres and pushing solar energy to solutions for the hearing impaired and making earthquake relief count. Motherland picks out a bunch of promising superheroes from across the country, determined to light up the world we live in.
Aashish Beergi’s quest to bring about social change began early. A school project on waste management sparked off a chain of events leading to a full-blown company called Green Planet Waste Management, which Aashish set up. It’s now one of the bigger organisations working toward waste management in the country, he claims. Two years out of college, and all of 24 years, Aashish has already cofounded the MASH Project, an initiative that aims to become a go-to platform for information as well as collaborations for all social entrepreneurs.
“The idea came to me during a UNESCO youth forum in Paris that I was a part of two years ago, which brought together young people from across the world who were passionate about initiating change and already involved in some work towards that. A lot of my friends also wanted to volunteer but ended up facing logistical issues. I had already formed these plans to build a platform where people could be anywhere in the world and yet volunteer their time and skills for some cause. Then, at the UNESCO forum, one particular delegate programme called Youth Mobile focussed on how social media was extensively used across the world to mobilise people over important issues, and everything came together. The Egypt Revolution and the Citizen movement had just happened.”
He got together with MASH Project co-founder Kartik Jain, an old school friend of his, to work on an app that would give people information on the UN Millennium Development goals and also provide them opportunities to work or volunteer. They started MASH (Mobile Application for Sustainable Habitat) for this very purpose, but soon they were clear they also wanted to propel technology toward creating social impact. “The UN Million Development goals and Sustainable development goals incited a lot of conversation around that time, but as young volunteers, we had no clue how to work on them, and we decided to build an app that would do just that.”
However, the app soon took a different direction, and MASH became a platform focussed on promoting technology to help in social entrepreneurship. “MASH has three basic purposes. The first is aggregation: we build communities around specific interests — say, getting a community for social entrepreneurs that can then seek out the tech community on MASH. For instance, if someone wants to build an app for women’s safety, we connect them to our community of tech experts, and we monitor the progress. If deadlines are not met, we move to other parties. There are a lot of tech organisations and freelancers who are ready to put in time and effort.”
MASH is currently also involved in offline engagements, including workshops. Two of their recurring events are Mash Ups and Mash Mixers. Mash Mixers are social events for like-minded people to come together and share ideas. These are open to the public, held at co-working spaces in Delhi and Bangalore. Aashish is quick to clarify that these events are held abroad as well, and each one features a specific theme. “This month’s event is on Start-Up India, a networking event for people to get started and build a community. Mash-Up, on the other hand, has a start-up weekend format, where you work on your idea over the weekend, get mentored, and then get judged at the end of the event.”
His organisation is one of only 15, around the world, to be a part of UNESCO’s youth initiative Youth Mobile, and they aim to become official Indian partners for the programme next year, focussing on conducting special workshops in coding and programming for beginners who want to work on sustainable development. “The numbers vary, and it is difficult to measure the impact that MASH has, but internally and externally, we have seen people benefit from its existence, whether it is reaping the benefits of working in the social sector and getting into Ivy League universities, or starting your own organization that is commonplace in every MASH mixer that we hold.”