Practice

Putting people on the radar of learning and livelihood opportunities through open networks

In college, I received a scholarship from the Institute of Social and Economic Change (ISEC). The only reason I knew about it was because my college made announcements for students to apply. When I met other students from different colleges who received this scholarship, a pattern emerged around how each one of us had discovered this scholarship. There was no way either one of us would have organically learnt about the scholarship because, to even begin looking for a scholarship, we would first need to be aware of its existence – which in this case, none of us did. With access to this scholarship, we also received access to a mentor network, skilling opportunities and knowledge bases, which we would have otherwise missed out on. So, what can put every individual on the ‘radar of such opportunities’?

In addition to discoverability, I realised several other frictions hinder people from accessing learning and livelihood opportunities in India. Some of these frictions include affordability and applicability – even if I can discover a scholarship, can I fill out the lengthy forms and produce all required credentials? Are these scholarships even catering to my needs such as exam prep or learning new-age industry-relevant skills? Do I have access to education and skilling infrastructure such as WiFi, laptop, mobile phone and geographical proximity to training centres?

It became clear that the dynamically evolving demands of the industry and socio-cultural factors also impact access to education opportunities and thus giving rise to inadequate quality of learning experiences.

Open Network for Education and Skilling Transformation (ONEST) is on a quest to reimagine what access to learning and livelihood opportunities looks like through an open network approach by addressing these and more frictions. 

But why did ONEST choose an open network approach? 

Why open networks? 

Open protocols are like a universal language, transcending borders and cultures, much like hand gestures. The gesture of using my fingers to indicate quantity – whether it’s for water, souvenirs, or clothes – is the same whether I’m in a bustling market in Phuket or a noisy pub in Dublin. Similarly, a universal language of commerce allows platforms to work with / talk to each other, seamlessly. It’s like one platform speaks in English and another in French, but integrating a set of protocols makes it easy for them to communicate with each other. This is known as interoperability. 

Protocols catalyse open networks and make it easy for platforms to join and realise more value-creation opportunities. Thus, these open and interoperable protocols (or common language) do not “replace platforms, but rather amplify the existence of multiple platforms”.  

This common language has three main benefits: 

  • It lowers barriers to entry and allows more and more players to join 
  • It restores the agency of users to access and choose from multiple options and thereby, 
  • Fostering an environment where innovation springs up due to competition and increasing choice. 

One platform alone may be able to meet the many various manifestations of needs that exist in the learning landscape, at scale. Hence, ONEST chose to think beyond platforms to open networks, to reach more people and bring together the many platforms catering to different dimensions of learning and skilling.

How does ONEST work? 

ONEST is revolutionising the way people think about learning and livelihoods. Learning and livelihoods are not one-time events but rather as life-long journeys that play a part in determining our livelihood. 

ONEST enhances collaboration by onboarding a diverse set of Providers who function on the supply side (learning experiences, work opportunities, expert connect or financial aid) and Seekers who are on the demand side (organisations across private sector and government that are plugged into the users. Provider organisations bring in a diverse set of capabilities to the network while Seeker organisations enable digital profiles of users via their own platform, which puts each user on the ‘radar of learning and livelihood opportunities’ and also allows them to apply to these opportunities in 1-click, easily. In doing so, each network player has to primarily focus on doing what they do best without worrying about doing it all. Secondly, when they are part of the network it is easy for them to leverage and access help from other network players whose specialisation is a gap they need to fill. 

ONEST is built on the open interoperable Beckn protocol, to create the ONEST protocol – the transaction semantic for the education and livelihoods landscape.  To join the ONEST network, people must ensure that their platform adheres to the ONEST protocol to integrate seamlessly and they are ready to kick start things.

ONEST in action 

Vidyasaarathi is a platform by Protean eGov Technologies Limited for applying to various scholarships provided by corporates but the platform does not necessarily interact with the end user directly. Then there’s Namma Yatri, an auto-ride booking app that wants to provide scholarships for its autopreneurs’ children.

When Protean and Namma Yatri plug into the ONEST network, they can leverage each other’s capabilities. Namma Yatri adds a button similar to the Purple Rides, that informs its auto drivers that they / their families can apply for the scholarships, via a pop-up message or a new app feature. This amalgamation allows auto drivers to discover scholarships for their children, apply for and access them, all without leaving the Namma Yatri app, in addition to serving their primary purpose of serving booked auto rides. This is made possible because Namma Yatri and Protean Vidyasaarthi are part of the ONEST network. 

Similarly, Haqdarshak streamlines the discovery of government welfare schemes by integrating them into various touchpoints, making the process more seamless. By embedding applicable welfare scheme options in the ONEST network, they not only simplify the process of discovering available scholarships to the network but also enhance the overall accessibility of learning and livelihood opportunities for individuals across diverse backgrounds.

The blue cohort of the ONEST network places its focus on servicing blue-collar workers and their families. A different set of actors may want to service the learning and livelihood needs of persons with disabilities, while others can work on climate education, early childhood education, and distance learning … the possibilities are endless! And each of these diverse actors, with vastly different offerings but with the common goal of providing learning and livelihood opportunities can co-exist, co-create and collaborate on the network.

The struggle I faced during college while trying to discover the ISEC scholarship is a common issue among students – lack of awareness about available scholarships. Having spent a little over a year with Societal Thinking and its ecosystem, I now understand the need for exponential thinking. The core idea behind Societal Thinking is to enable exponential change, together. By building upon each other’s work and reusing what helps us get to our exponential better and sooner, people can create a more inclusive educational ecosystem where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Imagine the impact at scale if every student could easily find and apply for the right scholarship at the right time. Open networks have the potential to empower millions by putting them on the ‘radar of opportunities’, and this particular one is mobilising and sustaining a more inclusive learning and livelihoods ecosystem.

You can be a part of the ONEST network here.

*Written with inputs from Gaurav Gupta, Chief Growth Officer and the ONEST team.


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About the Author
Rishika Gopinath