It’s one thing to have a vision and make pledges to help. It’s entirely another to stand next to someone, look into her eyes and share in a moment of revelation. That’s what happened when our partner delegation arrived in Odisha, India, after some traveled for almost 2 days to get there.

We were in Odisha (formerly Orissa) to take part in a pre-pilot workshop as part of our Commitment to Action pledge with the Clinton Global Initiative to
financially empower 25,000 women in developing nations through smartphones.

But, it requires more than simply giving 25,000 women smartphones and walking away. To achieve our aim of financial empowerment for women so that they can break the cycle of poverty, we need to lay the groundwork for success and that lies in ensuring that the technology responds to their needs and the barriers to financial inclusion they face.

Odisha Pilot

The Odisha Pilot in India is the first of many more to implement the vision for the 100 Million Women CGI commitment. And like any new venture, there is a steep learning curve where assumptions are tested, mistakes made, lessons learned and knowledge applied. In addition, as a collaboration of partner organizations, we are also learning how to work together to successfully implement the pilot projects.

Partners for the roll-out of the Odisha Pilot are Tata Communications, Tone, Trickle Up, and Brightstar. In order to validate our approach, it was essential to get on-site, meet with Trickle Up’s team on the ground, and most critically, speak with the women who would be participating in the pilot.

Next 3B Delegation Odisha IndiaWorkshop

We decided to hold a workshop in Odisha to see for ourselves how the smartphones would be used and have the women who will be using them give us feedback on the test model application we prepared for them.  Meeting the women and hearing their feedback will inform the development of the application.


how the smartphones would be used, test our assumptions about the content needed on the smartphones and meet the women who would be using them.

Meeting together on-site in Odisha, our Pilot partners delegation included team members from Tata Communications (Montreal and New York), Tone (New York) and Trickle Up (New York and India).

And, of course the essential part of the workshop was a representative group of 20 women who were chosen from the pilot participants to help guide us through their needs and the realities of their lives that would be impacted by this initiative.

Trickle Up has been working with women in Odisha for almost two years and chose the workshop participants from their recent programme graduates. As a poverty reduction NGO, they use a “Graduation Approach” to enable the extreme poor to lift themselves out of poverty with risk-free capital, access to savings and credit and skills training.

As our last-mile partner, Trickle Up’s team on the ground in Odisha are our essential link to implementing the training for the women who will be receiving smartphones. They provide our team with the cultural and the programmatic expertise to ensure that the project increases the financial inclusion of the participants living in extreme poverty.

Odisha Workshop Group


Going into the workshop, we needed to validate and test our assumptions about how the Odisha Pilot would take shape. We wanted to introduce ourselves and introduce the women to the smartphones that our partner Brightstar donated.

Essential to the pilot is the content on the smartphones. Would it be right for them? Would it really help their livelihood? Adding to our challenge is that our first pilot participants are illiterate, and naturally, they speak the language of Odisha: Oriya.

Working with our content partner Tone for messaging and weather content, we included content from Digital Green in the local language of Oriya as well.

We divided the workshop participants into 4 groups with translators, one smartphone per table and a list of questions and we recorded their reactions and feedback. The women were very enthusiastic about participating in the pilot and willing to test and learn along with us.

We’ll be posting more about the outcomes of the workshop, the challenges that we encountered along the way and how we are working together, one step at a time, to help the women in our Odisha Pilot break the cycle of poverty.

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