Thursday, June 21, 2018

Urban Social Entrepreneurships Can Help Build Healthy Cities

Posted On : March 02,2017

Kamal Narayan

In urban India today, we suffer from the onslaught of a deadly plague – rampant pollution. On top of that, there are growing concerns about the sanitation facilities available to the public at large, and the safety and security dilemmas, especially for women. These wide raging issues have seriously deteriorated the overall health of some of the smartest urban cities, which were considered the pride of the nation, but are choking today under pressures of unplanned growth and inevitable migration.

As has been seen from experience, mere government intervention is not enough to combat these issues. More often than not, people do not take kindly to certain initiatives by the government and generally, even blame them for the mismanagement of urban India. A recent example is the car rationing experiment by the Delhi government that received flak initially but turned out to be successful when individuals from the society came out to support the initiative for common good. This brings us to the need to encourage social entrepreneurship in the urban sectorSocial entrepreneurs act as agents of change and can often turn the wind around for our smart, but not healthy, cities. Be it through focus on sanitation, health clinics or new safety measures, this form of urban social entrepreneurship is key to building healthy cities and restoring the environment as well as health of the nation.

Recycling and Garbage Disposal System

There has been a lot of talk about ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’. But without proper participation of the masses, such an initiative loses steam and becomes a mere photo op. Social entrepreneurship can especially be encouraged in the sector of recycling industrial and residential waste, with emphasis on garbage management, a major problem in all cities.

From conducting workshops on safe disposal of garbage, to finding new and improved methods for recycling of toxic industrial through proper research and innovation, there is a scope for a plethora of ideas in this segment, to exonerate water and air pollution and encourage high level of sanitation.
Once you discharge these polluting elements from the fringe, only then can one totally envision a healthy city. Led by visionary social entrepreneurs, residential colonies can come together to adopt environment friendly garbage disposal mechanisms and inspire others to do the same.

Filling the gap in health sector

At the same time, with growing number of slums around cities, and increasing migration from the rural to urban areas, the number of poor has escalated heavily in the cities. Most people from these communities, especially the children and street urchins, are most vulnerable to air borne and water borne diseases and at danger during epidemics. Unfortunately, there is a huge deficiency in the number of healthcare units and medical professionals available to such public. Social health entrepreneurs can fill this gap and provide the necessary service to such people, by tying up with different NGOs and government initiatives for free clinics and good health service. A number of activists today are active in the ‘jhuggis’ and ‘bastis’ of cities like Delhi and Mumbai, and help provide healthcare facilities. What we need is to encourage more innovative solutions that can partake from the existing healthcare system and extend support to such communities.

Transport and Commute Opportunities

Many citizens rue about the overcrowding in public transport, especially the metro, and the high cost, both in terms of energy waste and prices, of private transport. To solve these important issues in commuting in big cities, social entrepreneurs can build platforms for cost effective and energy efficient modes of transport.

New technology can be exploited to ensure fuel efficient vehicular transport with investment in research and development. An interesting business model, as developed by the likes of Uber, Ola, and others, can also be explored further to offer unique features. For a social approach to the problem, there can be an emphasis on helping accident victims, women stranded in isolated areas, and giving priority on needs basis in such situations.

Coming back to the car rationing experiment in Delhi, the odd even rule can become a regular norm if social entrepreneurs step in with solutions like car pooling.
Safety for Women

Our city’s health is vastly ruined by the rising rate of crimes against women. At this age of technology and growing social media presence, social entrepreneurs can pitch ideas to help the female population in the city from any unwanted advances. There are already many applications, installed by the state government and police in various cities, to protect women from such attacks.
More innovative solutions such as location tracking devices, safety kits can be generated to help women feel safer in the city.

Cities can truly benefit from the onset of urban social entrepreneurship in many ways, and become as healthy as envisioned by all.