Getting ready for the Immersion Programme: Hyderabad, India

I have to pinch myself sometimes – this year i’m going to Kenya, India and Brazil and we’ve decided we’re going to test the viability of us taking people to either Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka or Costa Rica. The location that gets most traction will likely be up and running by the end of the year.

I love that social media and our potential customers play such a huge role in where we go – not just because it takes the pressure off us having to make any serious decisions!

Keeping both feet firmly on the ground, the question often pops into my head – how did we get here so quickly? Only six months ago I was working from my parent’s home office whilst trying to pick up some freelance work, remortgage my flat and find a way to get myself back to Kenya.

Our Kenya pilot, a whirlwind of incredible moments and valuable learnings kept us busy till the end of the year. We couldn’t have run that pilot without our volunteer consultants Jennifer and Melanie, and much of what the programme is shaping up to be is due to their involvement. Our first programme this year is dedicated to them. And each and every programme will be continue to be co-created by and dedicated to the people who join us.

Christmas then passed. Burying ourselves into our work – researching, writing and designing the Immersion Programme, New Year celebrations felt different. There’d be no resolutions this year. We are already doing it! As the sun rose up on day one of 2014, I had wanted to create work for myself that involved my passion for travel, and my love of social entrepreneurship.

People often ask me what it is that i’ve been doing this last six months and it’s not always a quick answer. _SocialStarters has a lot of facets to it. Although I found myself saying the other day that we’ve been testing the validity of an overseas career development programme that is part The Apprentice, part Lean Start Up Machine and part Incubator. We’ll be testing this concept in India. Ask me again in three months and the programme could be something different. Albeit with the same ultimate goal.

This has always been from the start about – very simply – bringing together talented people from different worlds to create change.

And we’ve been gifted brilliant people. When we found an Innovation Consultant in China who had a calling to head to India – we rather easily twisted his harm to run our programme. Unbeknownst to us, a former colleague and Social Enterprise specialist from London, had career-breaked in Goa over Christmas. Falling in love with the culture and people, and recognising the opportunity, she has decided to head back in February to support us and our programme.

In addition to that, we have recruited eight Trainee Social Enterprise Consultants. They were specifically chosen because they come with their own unique skill set – from a UX designer to a Construction Project Manager and every thing between. We think Hyderabad will be the perfect environment for them to take some time out and explore what the future could mean for them.

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The famous Hyderabad Biryani, home of the first ever Biriyani.

Famous for inventing the biriyani, Hyderabad is also known as India’s tech city (google & Microsoft are based there). But it’s so much more than a high profile corporate hub. Hyderabad has got an incredibly rich history, including a twin city within the city – Secunderabad – which used to be under British rule, and subsequently has its own unique culture and identity. Together with Secunderabad, Hyderabad is the forth largest city in India.

For those looking to connect with something of a higher nature, Osho – the Indian philosopher, spiritual guru and mystic, has a meditation retreat in Hyderabad that draws crowds of followers every year.

There are plenty of lakes too in and around Hyderabad so we can expect incredible sunsets and idyllic fresh water swimming spots. Plus it’s status as a ‘dry’ city guarantees it to be an intriguing place if nothing for it’s subversive hint of some sort of underground/prohibition era-esque scene, surely required to keep the ex-pats entertained.

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The Hussain Sagar Lake at dusk, with the Gautama Buddha lit up. The Gautama Buddha means ‘awakened one’ or ‘enlightened one’. He was a sage who’s teachings formed the early basis of Buddhism.

Having never been to India before, it’s an incredibly exciting journey for us that feels a little bit half into  the unknown and half into over-preparedness. We’ve gotten really ready for this, but we’re also ready for the unexpected. As our advisor Neil often says ‘you can think you’ve seen it all – and then you go to India’.

We’re expecting some surprises. And for some things (maybe many things) to not go according to plan. But that’s all part of the fun, right?

If you’d like to join us on our next programme to India, you can find out more information on escapethecity or you can apply by simply sending us your CV with a cover note as to why you think you’d like to take part, and what you have done in your life that you think has led to this moment. email us at info@socialstarters.org.

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