Jivika Rajani, a social entrepreneur, is breaking myths about millennials not making social impact from a young age. To change the world around you, there is no perfect age or time. All you need is the right mindset and motivation to push forward. Read this exclusive interview to learn about Jivika’s journey, how she is bringing social innovation and entrepreneurship education into the mainstream and a few tips to get you started on realizing your entrepreneurship dream.
Hi Jivika, thanks for taking out the time to talk to us. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am from originally from Delhi, though I have grown up in Dubai, and studied at Pomona College in the “city of trees and PhDs;” Claremont, near Los Angeles. As a multipotentialite, I usually have a number of plates spinning at one time, but I am currently focusing my energy on being the Founder and Chief Everything Officer of Aspir8; a social enterprise that strives to bring social innovation and entrepreneurship education into the mainstream.
Tell us about Aspir8. What motivated you to start this initiative?
I had always been told that giving back through service was something one did on the side, and not as a career. That unless I wanted to become a social worker, I should focus on getting a good job and saving up enough money, that I could later on use to make whatever impact I pleased.
When I went to College and stumbled upon social entrepreneurship, I realized of course that this was not true. It is 110% possible to do good while living well as a young person, but this narrative doesn’t (yet) have an extensive reach.
I started Aspir8 to expose more students and young people to the view that yes; they can make a difference in the world, they can start making a difference now, and it doesn’t mean they will have to give up their dreams of having that nice house or Tesla or whatever other symbol of conventional success they’ve always wanted to gift their parents or have for themselves either.
There are a growing number of amazing, diverse organisations working hard to change the world, and I wanted to do my bit getting talent that is just as amazing to at least start thinking about careers in social change as early as possible.
Tell us about your curriculum. Is there a practicum element to it as well?
What is so effective about our curriculum is that it is actually all practical. We’ve never had to think about adding on a “practicum element,” because the applicability of the program has been at the forefront of our work since day one.
We believe that hands-on learning through doing is the best path towards transformative thinking, and incorporate activities pioneered by industry leaders such as the Transformative Action Institute and Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program. Our curriculum has been developed and tested in consultation with leading social innovation educators and design thinking practitioners from Stanford University, as well as from other top institutions from around the world.
Having ample opportunity to apply my learning was one of the best and most motivating parts of my international education, and Aspir8 has proven to be a very effective vehicle in bringing this experience to others, who may not have had access to similar opportunities before.
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I really didn’t grow up knowing what an “entrepreneur,” was, but at the same time I have always loved “starting things.” Whether it be arts and music showcases in the community, or new clubs and charity drives at school, I have always loved being a creator, so I think that has definitely impacted the way I view the world and fed into my entrepreneurial journey. The number one differentiator I have seen in those who consider themselves entrepreneurial and those who do not, is the constant search for opportunity. Whether or not an opportunity clearly presents itself, I’m certainly always on the lookout!
5.What have been the big wins for Aspir8 thus far?
I’m grateful to say that there have been a lot of big wins for Aspir8 lately, and proud to say that pure, honest hard work is an even bigger reason for that. Most noteworthy I would say is the number of talented organisations and individuals we have been able to attract with our mission, and the bold plans for the future we have co-envisioned. As a small team, the number of students we have been able to reach (over 500 in six months) and the amount of positive press and excitement we have been able to generate on the local and international level, without any sort of publicity team, are two things we are particularly pleased about this week!
Tell us about the future plans of Aspir8 in India. What activities are coming up?
We just conducted a pilot Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in partnership with Teach For India in Pune. The feedback from both students and the TFI team has been phenomenal, and we are working on figuring out how to best sustain engagement, monitor impact and expand this particular program. We are also looking into partnerships that will allow more students to benefit from our curriculum, and potentially develop additional ventures that speak more directly to the Indian student experience.
How did make your partnership with Teach for India happen?
My sister and I had volunteered with Teach For India in our teens and kept in touch with the Fellows and other staff members we met. The organization has a fairly flat structure, so once we explained what we wanted to do; teach students how to apply changemaking skills and measurably increase their creative confidence, the program managers quickly got onboard and we were able to figure out most of the details over email.
8. According to you, what is the one quality that an entrepreneur can’t do without?
I think the “one quality an entrepreneur needs,” can change depending on the situation one finds themselves in (and more often that not has to pull themselves out of…), but there is one quality that makes dealing with anything life throws at you easier; resilience.
Winston Churchill once said that “success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm,” and this is true. There are so many intense ups and downs on this journey – you truly have to believe in yourself to keep going, and it is your ability to bounce back after falling down 47 times that may well to eventual success on the 48th attempt, though it could be even more attempts. Being an entrepreneur is really not something one does to be glamorous. It’s a long, arduous and terrifically convoluted path to (your idea of) personal success and eventual fulfilment.
Please recommend an inspiring book for our readers.
The book I recommend is “Design Your Life” by Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. It’s a great, practical handbook with lessons anyone can apply to their lives, no matter what stage of it they find themselves at, and especially for those who may be (even slightly) unsure of the next steps in their career or educational journey. And if you are wondering (spoiler alert); the secret to living your best and most fulfilling life probably does not involve quitting your job and moving to Bali 😉
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