Parag Mankeekar

Ashoka Fellow
Pune, MM, India
Fellow Since 2008


This profile was prepared when Parag Mankeekar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Governmental disaster management programs in India focus on mitigating the post-event impact on a population by providing emergency health care, rescue, and clean up. This approach neglects the potential that people have in preparing for a disaster or responding to a disaster, and it also encourages citizens to passively rely on government services while they could organize themselves as effective first responders. The challenge is thus to find new ways of building a community's capacity to respond in the event of a disaster that do not rely solely on traditional power brokers such as the government and international aid agencies. Parag’s insight is that people, especially young people, can be trained to respond quickly and powerfully using local materials and manpower.

Parag has founded disaster camps that train through experiential learning and ultimately enable children to come up with collective solutions in the event of a disaster. These camps overcome the children’s lack of awareness in the event of a disaster and prepare them to mobilize effectively through a pre-planned community wide response. The camps are hosted at para governmental facilities that house professional disaster responders. The rapid success of these camps has led to school requests to organize more such camps for other youth groups and classrooms and also started the thought process of formalizing the camps as a part of the curriculum.

The second part of Parag’s new idea is to use gaming—specifically computer and cell phone software—to reinforce his message about disaster preparedness. He has designed games based on popular Indian board games, which convey information in a fun and noninvasive manner. The use of gaming stands in opposition to the traditional method of disseminating information on disasters such as pamphlets, which are useless to the illiterate population and usually fail to hold the reader’s attention. In contrast, his games attract young people who in turn educate their families and friends. In this way, youth are natural “message multipliers,” returning home to tell their families about what they have learned and showing them the techniques and games that they have picked up at the camp and through their school.

Parag's approach is currently being tested in flood prone areas. He has launched the disaster camps and is testing the gaming software in Pune. Schools have asked Parag to introduce more disaster scenarios into their curriculum and government disaster campuses have invited him to hold more camps in other locations including Gujarat and Orissa.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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