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Monday, April 28, 2014

Youthikaa | Youth for Interaction, Knowledge, Awareness and Action

An oft repeated cliché goes like this- “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It embodies everything we dare to believe in- hope, passion, tenacity, determination and the desire to succeed. Unfortunately, only one in a thousand wearied out, broken and bent travellers finish their journey. The other 999 odd unfortunate souls give up or are forced to give up, due to a host of reasons ranging from insurmountable obstacles to plain loss of interest and enthusiasm, brought on by failure or, as mentioned above obstacles deemed too difficult.

Having established this very obvious fact, we delve into the Indian context of establishing a Non Profit Organisation from the scratch solely involving the youth of the nation. We are young, we are free, we are passionate, and we are determined to change the sorry state of affairs all across the country. Our fire is usually ignited in the aftermath of a horrific incident that stirs our innards and brings forth the fire inside us. Some of us even sustain it for long enough to actually do something about it. We set up organisations, organise protests and try to do our bit for the upliftment of the nation. However, like the 999 unfortunate souls, most of us just give up at some point or the other. Having said that, very few among us, still hope to reignite the flame for change even when the going gets tough and all that they have worked for, seems to fade to oblivion. Vinay Bahety is one such soul.

Vinay Bahety is just like all young entrepreneurs. He wanted to make a difference, but in the Social form. His initiative was fuelled by a burning desire to take up social issues focusing on political peace and work on them using lateral, parallel and creative mediums. A triggering event led to the coming together of equally driven friends and starts Youthikaa, an NGO as an amalgamation of vigour, passion and a consciousness towards the country. The initiation of setting up Youthikaa was triggered by the bomb blast at the German bakery bomb blast in Pune that occurred on 13th February 2010 wherein 4 Kolkatans lost their lives, one of them being their close friend. As they say until it hits you, one doesn’t sit up and act. Youthikaa was a NGO set up for and by the youth to generate civil awareness, the need to get involved in the legislative system and use all forms of creative mediums to empower and enable the youth in doing so.However problems pertaining to sustaining an NGO are complex and deep-rooted, and the effort to address them brings with it a whole other set of challenges.

Vinay Bahety, General Secretary of Youthikaa, Lately, share’s their experiences earned and lessons learned.

You are an Advertising Professional who went from a BBA student to the General Secretary of an NGO organisation. How did this Great willingness to serve with and for the Youth come about?

Youthikaa was set up in memory of the victims of the Pune bomb blast in 2010 and with the motive to spread awareness among the youth. Engage them in social and civil issues, take a stand, and be opinionated. Most importantly empower the youth by giving them a platform where they could channelize their energy into positive outcomes for the society's welfare at a macro level and their own conviction of things at a micro level. The need of the hour was for the youth to take up issues and ensure they are solved. Much like the ALM concept or community welfare abroad. We need to be the change we want to see.

How did Youthikaa as an NGO come together and what projects did it take up?

Post the bomb blasts which occurred on 13th Feb, 2010 we had organised an apolitical peace march attended by over 2000 students in Kolkata on 21st Feb 2010. This initiative took place simultaneously in Mumbai, Ranchi, Pune and Jaipur on the same day. The idea was to trigger a nationwide movement. The overwhelming response and the discussions we had at the venue of the march led us to believe that there were a lot of young school and college students who wanted to do something. They just needed a common ground to come together and ideate. We collected the database of all the attendees and then went on to register Youthikaa (Youth for Interaction, Knowledge, Awareness and Action.) as an NGO under the West Bengal Societies Registration Act.

We have so far conducted various projects involving the youth of Kolkata and also the specially enabled and the under-privileged children in an attempt to generate awareness. Our first project was conducting an art workshop – RAAS for school and college students. The 6-hour workshop was conducted by eminent painters of Kolkata. To mark the 150th anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore the theme was "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high - Peace and the young mind". The paintings where then showcased and the winners felicitated at a fund-raising musical concert held on 15th August, 2010. We have further organised inter-college short film making competitions, art exhibitions and dialogue sessions, events for underprivileged kids etc.

From a growing NGO making its presence felt all over, Youthikaa proceeded to close down on within a span of 2 years. What changed?

Youthikaa has faced quite a few upheavals in its functioning, the biggest issue being the gradual diminishing of interest of the members. What we realised was the because of the incident, the emotions were strong among people and they were very active. But such a platform cannot look at immediate result oriented activities. It requires a lot of tenacity and time to set things in motion that too when you don’t know the impact and outcome. Gradually people started getting busy with their lives and it became quite a task to encourage people to play an active role and encourage corporate to fund initiatives.

One more problem was to accept the losing interest of people and still keep striving. We eventually shut the NGO down in 2012. Youthikaa which was an identity for a lot of people started losing its own identity.

Is reviving Youthikaa on the Cards? If yes then what changes in approach would you incorporate this time around?

I certainly cherish a dream of reviving Youthikaa and its there on my bucket list. I feel it still has a lot to offer. With the emergence of the AAP, I feel people are a lot more conscious in their roles towards their society. I want to convert Youthikaa into a young firebrand of cultural and ideological exchange.

Being working in the advertising has opened doors for me where I can utilise both the creative and corporate mediums to broadcast social messages.

One important change in the structure of Youthikaa that I would strive to make is converting it into an entrepreneurial venture which has a revenue streaming model. It should not be bogged down by lack of funds or marketing. I want to build it into a brand similar to Kala Ghoda Festival or a NH7 and use all creative mediums to explore and express. In advertising where we continuously strive to innovate and clients also often harp on the need to focus on developmental marketing in campaigns, Youthikaa would start a wing to collaborate on the same.

His advice to other start up founders is simple yet motivating, “If you are passionate about something, you should go for it. You may not realise your goals in the short-term but you need to hang on. Because shutting it down is the easiest way out.”


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