Design For Change

Design For Change

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Nandini Sood - India
Global Catalyst

Story told by David Wygant

Vision is the ability to think about and plan the future with imagination and wisdom.  It does several important things for us as individuals and for the organizations we belong to.  It points a direction and gives us a push to begin moving. Within an organization it unites everyone’s efforts.  

Here’s Nandini’s reply when I asked her about the Design for Change (DFC) India vision:

“The plan is to scale the DFC Movement in India and work with the institutional partners. The end goal is to develop a bouquet of ‘design thinking’ products and services, and transit DFC India into a sustainable social enterprise.”

She related a plan to me that calls for the creation of a range of design thinking products and services. This effort is well underway.  For example, the Design Thinking Guide (DTG) is currently in the pilot stage in the eighth grades of 60 schools across India. 

The DTG nurtures the natural ability of children and students to imagine.  Using the FEEL-IMAGINE-DO-SHARE framework, it equips them with the tools they will use over their lifetimes to shape a better world.  It will keep alive and grow what we know is true.  Children are dreamers, and they have the vision to see the future completed in advance. 

After the pilot stage, the plan is to offer the DTG to schools across the country.  The final stage will be to adapt and implement the DTG across all grade and age levels. 

When viewed positively, and used properly, mistakes made can lead to lessons learned, and an increase in energy pushing any effort forward.  Nandini quickly identified the single most important lesson.

“The single most important lesson learned has been persistence; to BELIEVE in the cause of DFC and to not give up despite multiple challenges.  YES WE CAN!!”

Nandini’s persistence includes obstinate continuance, or, to always move forward in spite of difficulty and challenge.  She clearly identified the largest challenge that DFC India faces. 

Funding! Funding! Funding! This has been the biggest challenge yet!  The only way to overcome it is to keep making the pitches and get better at it.  Also important is to seek feedback, refine one’s communication, and ensure that it is more outside in, more user centered.”  

So, I asked her what DFC India has done to raise funds.  What’s worked?  Nandini described fundraising efforts in three categories: Domestic funding organizations, corporate sponsors and high net worth individuals.  The greatest success has been with the second two.  Recently, out of the second category, a three year sponsorship connection was made with an Indian corporation called Parle G.  They are the world’s largest selling brand of biscuits and are a good example of a situation where the vision and mission of the brand aligned well with DFC.  Out of the third category, a number of wealthy individuals have been generous with their resources.  

The combination of vision, lessons learned and persistence often leads to inspiring results.  It did for DFC India in 2014.  There is evidence.  What do you get when you gather 500 students from 85 plus schools?  In Nandini’s own words, 

Over the last year the most inspiring moment was to see the auditorium teeming over at the I CAN Awards 2014! Over 500 students and teachers joined us. Some of the children had travelled out of their remote villages for the very first time to come to Ahmedabad to be acknowledged and facilitated as Superheroes of CHANGE!”

This year the combination of vision, lessons learned, and persistence was celebrated at the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDI).  1992 projects were submitted from across India representing the largest number received since the beginning of the DFC movement in 2009.  In the first year under Nandini’s leadership DFC India submissions were more than double the previous highest number.  100 schools were invited to the I CAN Awards with over 85 attending.

I asked Nandini what her most personally inspiring moment was.  She recalled a telephone call she received.

“On September 5th which is celebrated as Teacher’s day in India, I received a call from a very enthusiastic teacher who was participating in the DFC I CAN School Challenge. She brought me to tears with her generous praise of the movement and thanked me profusely for helping her recognize the potential of her students.”

Yes, it was quite a year for Nandini and DFC Team India.  Job well done!  What’s next?  The upward spiral continues.  The vision is still there.  Lessons will continue to be learned, and persistence will build more success.


Nandini was born in Calcutta in the eastern part of India.  Currently, she lives outside of New Delhi in the suburb of Gurgaon. 

She is a communication designer and graduate of the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad.

Early in her career, Nandini was in advertising selling detergent and cookies.  Before long, she heard the call from education.  She answered that call and has been in education for sixteen years.  Nandini has applied her energy and enthusiasm across a wide spectrum of education  segments.  She has designed e-learning for the Test Prep industry, and helped set up and scale an urban K-12 school chain.  She lead the design and development of a “school in a box,” aimed at creating a workable social enterprise model for budget schools to serve the poor in rural India.  More recently, in January 2014, Nandini joined Design for Change to lead the India effort, and is CEO of Design for Change-India.

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