Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Ridhima Singh: Impactful and Innovative Journey of the Founder of ImpactEd

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IRidhima Singh is a student, committed to bringing about a change and making an impact in society. Her thoughts and ideas aim to rev olutionize the education system and create a much-needed space for not only students and teachers, but everyone in the community to find their passion and socially impact others. Her work towards this cause is reflected by the startup she founded, ImpactEd.

Here is the dedicated Ridhima Singh in a conversation with Icy Tales.

Q) Your formative years must have influenced your success today. Can you tell us about that? Did you always know what you wanted to achieve in life?

Ridhima Singh: Definitely not. In terms of formative years, something that has stayed with me throughout is my upbringing by my parents. It has been very off-beat in the nature that I have never felt the pressure of academics, the larger focus has always been on extra-curricular, social impact and for me to find something I am really passionate about.

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That sort of off-beat parenting has helped me look for things I am passionate about and once I find them, I have been able to do well in them. One thing I have always heard from my parents is it is okay to get ten percent less, just pick up a skill and do well at it, make some impact, influence someone even if it is just a friend or some stranger. So that was very helpful.

Q) The pandemic has had an undeniable impact on everyone. How has it affected you?

Ridhima Singh: The pandemic has been strenuous for everyone. My heart goes out to everyone who lost someone or was impacted by it in any way. For me personally, I come from a more privileged space so, I cannot say so much for people who have been impacted in a much worse manner.

But at a much more personal level, I have had the privilege of staying at home, I have my family, I have my mother around me. Two of my family members don’t stay with us so it was very scary throughout to have people in different areas when cases were rising.

At home, my entire family had covid, I was the only person who didn’t. I was lucky in some way, everyone in my whole building had covid and I was the odd one out. The reason I figured out later, was me being stuck in my room because I was working on Covid relief work, and it was very draining to stay online every day, so I just stayed in and never interacted with anybody. I was safe in that regard.

But it has been very scary, I have realized that social impact is very important because of the amount of kindness that has been shown even children, teens, and young adults have been so much and it has made people feel so much better and help each other in times of crisis. So the pandemic has not only been scary but has also taught me.

Q) You have interned at multiple reputable organizations. Can you tell us a few things you learned from your experiences there?

Ridhima Singh: I think the most loved experience I have had is with my internship at EY-Parthenon. I worked with them for a period of six months. I worked in the Global Education Practice, with the Indian team and they were absolutely amazing.

One potential takeaway from that is that there are always people being impacted. Even if it is not a full-fledged, on-ground, social work experience. Even if you are working at the corporate end of things there are people being impacted very actively through your work.

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I think the people that I worked with were so talented and passionate about their work is sort of why I grew passionate about the space of management consulting and about education at large.

I could have these conversations with people, which really mattered to me as a student, as an individual, as someone who would be joining the workforce. So I think that such a work experience was super valuable and taught me that my work can have an impact and that was super encouraging.

Q) As a student, you have already started a start-up. What inspired this? Can you give us an insight into ImpactEd?

Ridhima Singh: So essentially what inspired this was my interest in education, a sector I would say I have been following since school and I have always had questions that I could link to the off-beat parenting that I have had, that is no focus on academics as such and as much as I have loved that it has pushed me to a space which other peers don’t discover.

Which was in terms of social impact work, starting from school, from the get-go. Being associated at a young age as an intern or as a volunteer is something that has made me better and it was the most fulfilling work that I have ever done.

I was with this organization called Our Voix Foundation. They work on child rights protection and sexual abuse prevention and I worked with the founder directly and we worked on India’s first comic book on child rights and animated movies which the government took up and the amount of work that went into something that was so creative and cute but had reached lakhs of people throughout.

So I think doing that at a younger age when I was a minor, I was creating educational resource material of course with expert guidance and people coming in to guide me. I was impacting people of my age.

That particular experience made me value social work as a student a lot more. ImpactEd has the vision to actualize that for other students as well. In the sense that children more often than not, in the CBSE curriculum or State curriculum, social work is not something that is emphasized at all.

Education systems have a very factory set-up in my personal opinion. You have thirty chairs, fill them, one hour open SST books, bell rings, go out then shift to another subject. There is no space for critical thinking, reasoning questions. There is no space to have an equal power dynamic with the teachers.

All of these things can make for very rigid mindsets coming out of the Indian education system and one thing that is severely lacking in public and private schools throughout is a sense of empathy in students. This empathy can only be integrated into people if they become a part of a larger society and if they interact with people beyond their privileged circles and schooling system.

Picture from Aman Singh's LinkedIn Profile

That is what ImpactEd does, it works with schools and students, to put students at the center of projects they care about and find the social work they are passionate about. Like sex education, child rights, animal rights, or whatever they feel passionate about. Everybody at the same time, along with passions that they care about, have different ways of contributing. Some people can be amazing at teaching, could help in teaching at NGOs.

Some could be brilliant at writing, and they could create educational materials so, everyone has different ways of contributing. Every child will have different talents and passions. That sort of impact is what we try to amplify through a learning-based program. We are having a young writers’ fellowship right now that focuses on communication-based advocacy. Students that have a talent for writing, storytelling, poetry, even research writing.

Anything in the writing space, we convert it to advocacy skills through training modules and mapping them out to different NGOs, clients that we work with to work on different projects. So in the current fellowship, some of these students will be mapped out to an International NGO, some of them will work with sex workers in Delhi.

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They will be working for children who need digital libraries to keep up with the pandemic education. So, at the end of the day, it will be a learning experience and something they enjoy, but more than anything, they will have a sense of empathy that they take back that they will hopefully carry through every experience they have going forward.

Q) Who has been your constant support throughout your journey? Who is your inspiration or role model?

Ridhima Singh: Multiple people, throughout the way. In terms of childhood, my brother introduced me to social work and had me volunteer at different places. At that point in time, I didn’t see the point in it. He made me realize this is really important and can make me feel fulfilled in my work. So my brother has definitely been an inspiration.

The second person would be Megha Bhatia. She is the founder of Our Voix Foundation. She is a lawyer from the University of London and she started this foundation. She is wholly and solely dedicated to it. She is the first person I worked with, in a professional capacity when I was just figuring out how professional things work.

The number of opportunities she gave me to work on large-scale projects that would span across India was so much more valuable to me than anything else and I think Neha is one person who has been inspirational to me.

There are a lot of people who have inspired me, one more is my boss at EY-Parthenon, Avantika Tomar. She is someone who mentored me in a space where I realized that even in a corporate space, you can create an impact in the space of education which is not just restricted to India, it can be in a Middle-Eastern market, Indian market, it can be anywhere.

So these are three people that have helped me at every stage, whether it is personal, social impact, or corporate.

Q) As a successful student, do you have any words of wisdom for students?

Ridhima Singh: I would not call myself a successful student in terms of academics, but I would definitely call myself a successful student in terms of how I spent my time in school or college. Even if I am an economics student at LSR and a standard of studying comes with that tag, at the same time I was never a ninety-nine percenter. I was a ninety percenter in the twelfth grade, I have no regrets about how I spent my time.

During twelfth grade, I was either busy having fun, engaging in social service, or extra-curricular activities and that has stayed with me to date. All of that has compounded and helped me get into LSR through the ECA quota. I am very lucky that I got Rank I and could get into the course that I wanted to study.

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Even now it is not like I will study for 8 to 10 hours. There are so many intelligent people in my college that I will look up to for the amount of hard work they have done for board exams or are even still doing.

But my successful student is mostly defined by my learning in terms of how I work with teams, how I work with seniors, juniors, and it has helped me transform and understand what sort of a leader or what sort of a person, I would want to be in the future.

So I have learned, and engaged with everything outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, my focus is passing all tests I can and enjoying my subject more than anything else. That would be my advice for everyone else.

Q) What are your plans for the future? Do you have a message for our readers?

Ridhima Singh: My plans going forward are, I have been placed at Mckinsey and Co. from LSR. So I will be joining as a business analyst in their consulting space from next year. I am super excited and planning on having ImpactEd on the side for as long as we go on. I don’t see an end to this mission and this passion. These are my two plans going forward.

One piece of advice or any message, I would like to give the readers of Icy Tales would be to go out and engage with society. There is so much more you can do than what you imagine right now. In terms of engaging in a conversation, one donation, working in an NGO, staging a protest, anything at all, just engaging with the society. We are social beings, and there is so much more to life than just institutions we are a part of. So that would be my message.

Ridhima Singh’s journey emphasizes the importance of holistic development in students. Academics, though important are not the only things one needs to focus on throughout one’s life. Ridhima Singh is a true example of how you can convert your talents and passion into work that is fulfilling and impactful.

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