#XYNTEOLIFE: Behavioural change is critical to create impact

12 Aug 2019

“Changing someone’s mindset is critical to bring about lasting change and it begins with education,” says Sanya Chawla, Insights Advisor at Xynteo’s Mumbai office. This month, on International Youth Day, Sanya reflects on transforming education.

Sanya, born and raised in Delhi, wanted to be an investment banker; but an 8000-kilometre train ride sparked her interest in social impact work. During the Jagriti Yatra - loosely translated to ‘an awareness journey’ - a train journey across India to meet with innovators working to ‘build India through enterprise’, she met social entrepreneurs creating social and economic change in their communities. This made her realise that social impact is not restricted to non-profits and charities, but that the private and public sector have an important role to play as well.

Sanya was also selected for the Young India Fellowship, a year-long liberal arts fellowship. She spent a year delving into various subjects including economics, public policy and digital humanities. This furthered her interest in inclusive and sustainable business models for positive change.

Sanya Chawla is part of Xynteo's Insights team in Mumbai.
Sanya Chawla is part of Xynteo's Insights team in Mumbai.

At Xynteo, she is part of the Waste to Value team. While exploring workable business models for end-to-end waste management, the team realised that the bigger challenge of ‘segregation at source’ had to be tackled first. In a country with large scale poverty and hunger issues, waste management becomes low priority. However, the need to prioritise this problem and make people conscious of its impact, especially on future generations, is equally critical.

While changing mindsets and habits of adults towards segregation and waste management is difficult, the team knew that children would respond well to these issues if engaged well. Education became an important driving factor for this purpose and for the development of the pilot project Plastic Safari and its revised version, Waste No More.

Waste No More is an interactive, digital curriculum which educates children on waste management and how we can address it, with a specific focus on segregation of waste. Working in partnership with the School Education Department of Government of Maharashtra, Waste No More aims to take the digital curriculum to all state-aided schools in Maharashtra, beginning with Kolhapur district in the first phase.

Waste No More aims to educate children on waste management.
Waste No More aims to educate children on waste management.

Reflecting more on the idea of ‘Transforming Education’ and unpacking the motivation behind the digital curriculum for Waste No More that incorporates experiential pedagogy and learnings from behavioural sciences, Sanya says that it is crucial to develop an approach that strikes a chord with children and sustains their enthusiasm by keeping them motivated.

She also emphasises the significance of engaging with the youth through channels that can be considered unconventional in education. Referencing Johnny Harris’ talk at Xynteo Exchange/Norway 2018, Sanya says that the youth want to consume content in more engaging formats and want to be involved in important policy decisions. Therefore, educators must capitalise on this while being cautious, conscious and responsible about it.

“The youth can be agents of behaviour change in their families and communities if we empower them as future citizens of the world,” reiterates Sanya.

Finally, addressing the more practical side of matters, she says that implementing education programmes at scale can only happen in partnership with the local government bodies – thinking for scale, developing local capacity and building strong governance structures is crucial.

Her diverse experiences with different stakeholders have made her realise the potential of multi-stakeholder solutions to social challenges. After all, ‘‘If you want to go fast, go alone; If you want to go far, go together” is the motto she lives by!