Amlan Kusum Ganguly, the Founder Director of Salt Lake City Prayasam, was selected as an Ashoka Fellow in 2006 for his signature concept of “Area Health Minders”. For the last 21 years, Amlan has been putting in youth in charge from various underserved communities to become changemakers in their own sphere of life and work. Amlan has pioneered from child rights to youth participation at different stages of his work, where the children and youth are not just the mere beneficiaries but they are the partners spearheading the process of advocacy and change. Putting young people in charge is one of key principals employed by Amlan as he believes that when young people lead, it's magical. A strong believer of Everyone a Changemaker world, four mentees of Amlan, one becoming Ashoka Youth Venturer are now branching out with their own social enterprise inspired by his concept.
Salim Shekh, mentored by Amlan for 11 years, is the Chief Desk Officer of Prayasam Visual Basics, a platform to engage and empower youth to become independent storytellers using the medium of digital media. It is a YouTube-based production hub with varied content episodic visuals, short films, web series, all developed by community youth. Salim is a TEDx speaker and was a guest speaker at Skoll World Forum, Global Vaccine Summit, Ashoka Future Forum, and the Indian Parliament, to name a few. Salim is tapping the local community human resources to effectively use digital media to communicate and advocate youth issues and their rights. In eastern India, there is a lack of YouTube production houses creating effective content. Prayasam Visual Basics caters to this content vacuum. Also, there are youth who have powerful stories but they lack platform where they can make films in terms of infrastructural facilities and production crew. This Production House will cater to their needs. Being trained in filmmaking under the mentorship of Amlan, Salim graduated from Scottsdale Community College in Social Media. Salim conceptualized Prayasam Visual Basics to be a holistic Production House creating meaningful content through bottom-up approach, tapping community resources and channelizing them into different aspects of filmmaking creating community digital revolution.
Community Visual News Network (CVNN) is a platform of grassroots journalism, gleaning news that largely remains unrepresented in the popular news media, headed by Manish Chowdhury. Amlan has been working with Manish for the 8 years who have graduated from Northeast Wisconsin Community College with a degree in Social Media. CVNN is an online news channel upholding news from and of the communities which are non-biased, non-sensational and portrays the real scenario of communities- the Unsung Heroes, the positive stories of daily life as well as their problems and issues, but without any exaggeration. The community youth act as Youth News Journalist and Community Researchers. Last year, under the guidance of Amlan, Manish was selected for an international youth exchange programme to Kenya called Media for Mentors, supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. CVNN builds upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive, using information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of data creation and sharing, lobbying and advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, thereby improving social and economic spaces.
sAshoka Youth Venturer, Sikha Patra Chief Desk Officer of Kalanjali, the art space. She uses dance movement therapy at her social enterprise which is a platform where especially girls and women of marginalized communities can pursue dance, irrespective of their age and marital status. Here girls speak their minds through dance and melody. Through dance productions, Kalanjali mirrors the prevailing social and intersectional issues, how the day to day life of an average individual revolves and how our mentality and behavior are shaped by social norms. Sikha is one of the characters to be profiled in the docu-feature, The Revolutionary Optimists, which demonstrates Amlan’s processes for putting youth. She was a speaker at TEDx, Skoll World Forum, and the Global Vaccine Summit. She is striving to create a space where youth can freely learn, practice and rehearse; they express their feelings, angst, pent-up emotions, free from inhibition or judgment through the rigid lens of society as well as cultivate their inner creative talent. Kalanjali is spreading the message of education through dance, making the girls more confident, and independent.
There are many food stores in India and the numbers are multiplying every year, but there are none that offers an insight into the culture of India through its cuisine. Prasaad provides delicacies from different regions of India, particularly the ones which are prepared by the natives but are largely unknown and unavailable in restaurants or food stores. Sujit Dutta, Chief Desk Officer of Prasaad: The Community Kitchen, is embracing the Indian culture through cuisine and is simultaneously ensuring that the food provided are hygienic but tasty and at an affordable price so that people from a different cross-section of society can avail. He recently graduated in early childhood education from Mesa Community College. Prasaad is run by the community youth under Prayasam’s Earn While Learn initiative.
These four success stories of young people only surface the tip of the iceberg of Amlan's work in weaving young forces together. Amlan’s work is a great testimony of how to put young people in charge moreover enabling them to lead. He is inculcating entrepreneurial values on one side and social values on the other.