With support from the U.S. Department of State, Swechha harnesses technology, inspires individuals and advocates for environmental change across India.
As events, meetings and learning activities went online in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Vimlendu Jha and Ashim Bery saw a unique opportunity. People throughout India could be engaged virtually and empowered to enhance their communities’ resilience—and to battle the effects of climate change at the same time.
Jha, an alumnus of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, is the founder of Swechha, an innovative New Delhi-based foundation dedicated to the creation of “a just, equitable and sustainable society, for everyone and forever,” according to the organization’s website. Bery is a project coordinator at Swechha, where he focuses on digital outreach to advance the foundation’s mission. With the help of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Jha, Bery, and their Swechha teammates are using the Internet to bring that vision to life.
In late 2020, Swechha launched the first video in its “Green The Map Podcast and Masterclass Series,” a collection of free online resources intended to provide viewers with education, inspiration, and real-world solutions to everyday problems related to sustainability and the environment.
That first podcast, published in December 2020, features an interview with retired forest officer Manoj Misra in conversation with Jha. Together, the two discuss ways to clean and preserve the Yamuna river, which is a vital source of water for millions of people.
Green The Map’s next offering, its first online masterclass, was published in early January. Hosted by nonprofit founder and urban farmer Pragati Chaswal, the presentation seeks to teach city-dwellers techniques for growing and harvesting their own food, even if they only have a small balcony or kitchen window in which to do it. And another resource, published in March, highlights the work of Meenakshi Sharma, founder of the social enterprise Use Me Works. Sharma explores the concept of upcycling, and walks viewers through a tutorial on how to create party banners and dream catcher talismans from old clothing that would otherwise be tossed out as trash.
These diverse efforts are just the beginning. The U.S. Department of State’s grant support will allow Swechha to create five master classes and six podcasts in total, all focusing on topics that include waste management, air pollution reduction, composting and more.
Thus far, the results have paid off, with Swechha’s productions reaching tens of thousands of viewers and participants. “One of the major reasons we decided to focus on podcasts and online masterclasses is because we realized that digital reach has a much larger audience,” says Bery. “Through these digital interventions, we have been able to expand our audiences and reach out to a much larger group, while simultaneously engaging our patrons and other stakeholders around several issues.” Regardless of the topic or audience, Swechha has made a point of featuring top experts and practitioners in its online presentations and workshops, in order to provide information to viewers that will help them to improve their lives and environments right away.
“The grant to Swechha has been designed to reimagine and rebuild our world through relevant and practical solutions that meet real needs of individuals, families, neighborhoods and communities,” says Bery. “Through this grant, we also seek to build the capacities of individuals as well as communities on future preparedness vis-à-vis ecological issues.”
Bery encourages anyone interested in learning more about environmental sustainability, and about what individuals and communities can do to help, to watch, read and share Swechha’s Green The Map offerings online. “We post all our content across our social media profiles,” he says. Viewers can also dig deeper and explore beyond Swechha’s podcast and masterclass series by viewing infographics, panel discussions, town halls and more on Swechha’s homepage or social media feeds.
Michael Gallant is the founder and chief executive officer of Gallant Music. He lives in New York City.