The Global Social Impact Practicum is a new course led by Booth's Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) and supported by the Tata Trusts, India’s largest philanthropic organization. Beginning with a trip to India and culminating at the end of Winter Quarter, students will work with the Trusts on a consulting project aimed at making bamboo a crop of choice for clean energy and as a potential driver of employment in rural India.

Here, Sruti Balakrishnan, '17, share insights from GSIP's final presentation to the Tata Trusts. GSIP Sruti


I’m writing this post just a few days after our class presented our final recommendations to senior leadership at the Tata Trusts, including R. Venkat, the Trusts’ CEO. It’s been an amazing ride, to say the least, and I’m glad to have this opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learned.

Our presentation was called, “Assessing bamboo-based power and its potential for impact in India.” We started by presenting what we believed to be the right model for implementing bamboo-based power systems in India. Next we discussed where the pilot site locations for the model should be and then went over some of the potential financial and social impact of this business model. We ended our presentation with an execution plan that the Tata Trusts could hopefully pick up and begin implementing right away.

In short, it was a huge amount of content to cover in a two-hour presentation, and I’m incredibly impressed by the sheer amount of knowledge and insight that my class was able to gather in a few weeks.

I personally worked on pilot site selection, and I’d like to share a brief part of my analysis to give a flavor for what we found. My classmate Saurabh Garg and I worked closely with Todd Schuble, a Geographic Information System (GIS) specialist at the University of Chicago; we used his help to perform a geospatial mapping of Assam, our selected state in India.

Based on my initial research, I identified characteristics of an “ideal” pilot site location, such as easy access to highways, proximity to bamboo forests and agricultural land, and so forth. Using geographic data on Assam, we were able to apply these criteria and narrow in on an actual list of villages that would make good pilot site candidates. Here is one of the maps from this analysis, showing Kamrup (a district in Assam):

GSIP Map

I really enjoyed presenting these results to the Trusts, and – as our client Mr. Venkat pointed out – GIS mapping can be applied to all kinds of projects that the Trusts are working on right now, such as irrigation/water source initiatives.

I’d like to close with two final thoughts from the presentation: First, it was inspiring to see the enthusiasm with which our recommendations were received by Mr. Venkat and the Trusts. It was clear that they were committed to implementing our work (we closed by discussing grant deadlines to get project funding), and I’m excited to see where this project will lead in the next year.

Second, our final presentation made it really clear just how mutually beneficial a partnership between the university and the Tata Trusts can be. I hope that the Trusts has benefited from University of Chicago students’ unique way of approaching a problem, and I know that we have taken away a lot of learnings from this project.

In short, GSIP has been a great experiment this quarter, and an experience that I could have only had at Booth.