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Evolution of Nexus of Good

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"Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier" -Mother Teresa

It was just past noon when the plane landed in Lucknow. The year was 2016, and I recently took over as Secretary, of School Education, and Literacy, at the Government of India. It was an official visit to the state of Uttar Pradesh. I was scheduled to proceed to the state Guest House as all the official business was after lunch. However, I chose to take an unscheduled detour (I had come to understand that such visits gave me a feel of the ground reality) to visit a government primary school.

When I reached the school, it was lunch break, and the mid-day meal was served. When I introduced myself to the teacher, she looked at me incredulously. She could not believe that the Secretary had come to the school, unannounced. She soon regained her composure and offered me the mid-day meal being served. Despite a short stint so far in the sector, I had heard horrid stories about the quality of such meals. Hence, I wanted to get a taste of it myself. When I tasted the food, I could not believe that such delicious food could be served as part of the mid-day meal. I jokingly told my wife, accompanying me, that even she didn’t cook as delicious a meal. I inquired the teacher about the source of this food. She said that Akshay Patra was providing it. My ignorance about the organization was writ large on my face. The teacher was perceptive. She immediately gauged it and gave me a brief explanation about the organization that served this food.

Nexus of Good

When I reached the state headquarters, I ascertained more details about Akshay Patra which was partnering with the state in two Districts to serve food in schools. Grains and some amount as was admissible under the mid-day meal scheme of the Government of India were provided by the government. Akshay Patra added some more ingredients and provided cooked food from their central kitchens. I invited the state head of Akshay Patra for a discussion later in the afternoon. After complimenting him and the organization for his tremendous contribution, I asked him why this good work was limited to only two of the eighty districts of the state. He thanked me for the compliment but stated that the decision to extend the facility to other Districts would be taken by the head office in Bangalore. 

Impressed with what I had seen and to explore the possibility of how this ‘good’ could be scaled, I flew to Bangalore within the next week. The visit to The ISKCON temple at Bangalore, also the headquarters of Akshay Patra, was rewarding. I got a better understanding of the organization and its activities.

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I also discussed how the activities could be scaled and how a ‘nexus’ could be built up between the state’s government and Akshay Patra to scale their expertise in providing quality food to children for the mid-day meals. Thereafter, I ceased to be just the Secretary, of the Government of India and became the principal facilitator to scaling such good practices. From experiences like these, the ‘Nexus of Good’ movement was well and truly born!

To begin with, there was just a Twitter handle @nexusofgood. However, it subsequently evolved as a movement to bring together people to identify, understand, appreciate, replicate, and scale good work done in society as a whole. The idea was to evolve an alternative narrative to the negativity that was becoming all-pervasive in social media and other media of communication. Such negativity was impacting the thoughts and actions of many people, especially young minds. 

Also Read: Akshaya Patra: 1.4 million mouths to feed

There is no doubt that much good work is happening around us, but, unfortunately, it gets lost on account of this all-pervasive negativity. The ‘premium’ on good work seems lost in the high decibel din used to promote negativity. I am reminded of the poet’s words: The best lack conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity.

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The ‘good’ are struggling for recognition. Many of them are fighting their battles against a much more organized set of ‘negativity mongers’ alone. The questions were:  Can the good work in tandem? Should the good work be in tandem? Is it possible to convey the benefits of positive thinking and good work?

The idea is not to discuss ideas, and the objective is to ideate from a practice that has worked on the ground. The aim is not merely to appreciate this good work, which indeed is the commendable initial step; it is to explore the potential of replicating and scaling this practice. It is also essential to foster public-private partnerships because the understanding is that quality usually comes from the private domain and scales from the public. There are many such examples. The likes of Humana People to People India, Muktangan, Lend A Hand Foundation, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Arpan, Peepul, Shyamchee Aiyee Foundation, Million Spark Foundation, and Kaivalya Foundation are demonstrating that good work can be replicated and scaled through a public-private partnership.

There are also many faceless individuals, like those at Akshay Patra, around. There are putting their heart and soul into making things happen in collaboration with state governments and their agencies. We need to locate and appreciate faceless individuals who have done good work and learn from them to replicate their good work and best practices. That is what Nexus of Good is all about. The movement has already got going with hundreds of positive stories on the portal www.nexusofgood.org.in, most of them set to be replicated and scaled. There are thousands of people that are following the movement. Many of the city chapters of Nexus of Good have got going to roadshow the good work happening in their areas. The maiden Annual Awards witnessed an excellent response. The Nexus of Good movement is gathering pace.

As Eleanor Roosevelt, said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

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Anil Swarup IAS (Retd)
Anil Swarup IAS (Retd)
Anil Swarup is a former 1981 batch, Uttar Pradesh cadre  IAS officer, and was awarded Director's gold medal for "best officer trainee" at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA). He served the Government of India in various capacities for 38 years and went on to become Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy and the Coal Secretary of India. He also served as Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Additional Secretary, Labour & Empowerment, Export Commissioner in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry of India and as the District Magistrate of Lakhimpur Kheri. He couldn’t make it to the “elite” Indian Administrative Service (IAS) on his first attempt but qualified for the Indian Police Service where he worked for one year before clearing IAS in his next attempt. He is today an author of several looks like 'No More a Civil Servant,' ‘Ethical dilemmas of a civil servant’ and ‘Not just a civilservant’. The views expressed are his own.


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