THE CROAK is a weekly environmental newsletter put out by the eCoexist team. It is the voice of the environment on its last legs, the final croak that can either be a plea for attention or a call of triumph as the frogs jump out of the well of ignorance and denial.

Careers for Conservation
How is the next generation making career choices? Are they more sensitive to societal needs or are their ambitions more personal? We were recently joined by a new team member at eCoexist, Shraddha Potdar, whose career path was good news to us. It highlights how, some youth, are choosing differently, and attempting to have a more rounded education that can help them address issues of sustainability. Here is her story...
Growing up in Dahanu

Namaste! Presenting this small piece of writing to walk you through my journey from being an architect to being a social designer.I grew up in a small beautiful coastal town of Dahanu in the State of Maharashtra. That is where the seeds of my atypical journey were sown. The nurturing happened with my upbringing, the humane encounters, natural surroundings and experiencing the closeness within the community. The result of this made me strong willed and curious. It influenced my thoughts and made me question my purpose.

My passion for doing social good through design with community engagement developed due to the time I spend on our farms and the neighbouring villages amongst the Adivasis. I was amazed by their skills in building their own Karvi (a local grass) huts, painting their abodes with Warli paintings, decorating with handmade furnishings, growing their own vegetables.The simplicity and their skills if used appropriately can help create something beautiful.

Architecture of the city

Owning to my creative impulse, I decided to take up architecture. My architectural curriculum at BNCA, Pune was mainly focused on westernized concepts, discussions about foreign designers, modernist views with biases in input deliveries to students. I couldn’t focus much and realized that architects are produced in dozens with little sensitivity to sustainability. Architecture studies being mainstream and rigid it got me thinking of how I could design like the Adivasis did, design beyond forms, bold self-expression and decoration. I worked as an architect for 3 years, designing commercial and residential buildings. The language of the design didn’t appeal to me.  It made me question of how I could make architecture and design about context, people, their needs and the ecology.

I was very intimidated with the city when I moved to Fergusson College, Pune from Dahanu when I was 16. The image of the humble life in Dahanu hadn’t left me. The buildings and the hustle of the city were making me claustrophobic.  We had untouched and carefree lives in the town. I still feel out of place in the city.  My friends say ‘I came out of Dahanu, but I can’t take Dahanu out of me’.

A Change of Perspective

Our forefathers with the minimal available resources led very wholesome and sustainable life. With advent of new materials, technology, R&D, design preferences began to change, their way of life being challenged. Found in the whirlwind our only escape is to go back to sustainable living. To contribute my bit I wanted to use my passion along with my skills to positively impact my planet.

Pursuing masters in Social entrepreneurship from NMIMS, Mumbai was a step in that direction. 2 years at NMIMS were thought provoking and immensely enriching. Lectures of professors like Dr. Meena Galliara and Dr. Satish opened my eyes to a different gamut of concepts like sustainable businesses, social enterprises, community development, rural marketing and others.Dr. Satish who was also an architect and alumni of IIM-Calcutta taught us livelihood management with his many years of experience in the sector made me confident of doing something for rural development by putting to use my design skills.Being the only architect in a class of 30, I felt the relevance of social design more than ever. I was struck with an urge to start my own company that promotes social design that’s financially viable.

The Entrepreneurial Dream

I started my enterprise named Hasti based in Dahanu. I trained a few ladies in making handmade newspaper pens. It was a thrilling experience to market products made by hand and ecofriendly. The capacity building of the women along with income generation helped in making the women confident. Initially it was okay but later I experienced pitfalls with respect to maintaining order flow, lack of experience in running an organisation and relocation. I joined eCoexist to fill in these gaps of learning, to use my skills as a designer, actually see how a social enterprise functions, the systems and the practices.

I am strengthening my roots by the learning and experience I get here at eCoexist. My volunteering experiences at the Dharmalya institute in Himachal and at various tribal schools near my hometown gave me deeper insight into their lives. After garnering all the enriching experiences, my plan is to restart my enterprise and then never look back. I wish to create a platform for empowering women socially and financially.

According to me social design is a platform, a means of inclusiveness, supports community engagement and provides human as well as humane touch to design. It promotes positive attitude towards people and their needs. It also influences their needs. I wish to restart on the same principles when I re-launch my enterprise. Moreover I feel the effects of the current third world problems like climate change can be reversed through social design. Social design caters to both humans and the environment.

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The Croak is a weekly environmental newsletter put out by the eCoexist team. It is the voice of the environment on its last legs, the final croak that can either be a plea for attention or a call of triumph as the frogs jump out of the well of ignorance and denial. Satirical, urgent and wise the newsletter brings to your attention, topics of global environmental relevance as well as emerging encouraging alternatives. Put together by a team of passionate Nature lovers, The Croak hopes to look at the environmental crisis in its face. It is a tool to reconnect readers to Nature, through questioning and self reflection. To understand the outer environment as a reflection of our own inner state, individually and as a species. And to take responsibility for enabling change.
If you would like to contribute articles on ecology consciousness and sustainability please get in touch with us.

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