Enabling SDG champions

Connecting Dreams Foundation is creating sustainable solutions based on systemic models of entrepreneurship to key SDG challenges in urban and rural communities

Published on December 20, 2020 at 3:08 pm

Updated on March 20, 2021 at 06:51 am

Women taking part in Apna Tech Tree programme.

India has 21.9% of the population that continues to live below the national poverty line (as per Census 2011) with the unemployment rates skyrocketing to a three year high of 8.5% (Down To Earth, October 2019). The country is currently grappling with the issues of employment and stable sources of income, wherein the key development concerns in India are seen across all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as defined by the United Nations. The Indian scenario is further hampered by the existing rural-urban divide, wherein 68.8% of the population resides in rural areas with a massive burden of low levels of human development. At the same time, India is undergoing a demographic transition, wherein the youth population has increased from 168 million in 1971 to 422 million in 2011, as per Census 2011. This potential of the youth can be a dividend or a nightmare!

Connecting Dreams Foundation (CDF) aims to address the problems of rural-urban divide, as well as the deficit in percolation of employment and entrepreneurship opportunities to the bottom of the pyramid. CDF is a non-profit organisation working largely to utilise the potential of the youth and directing it towards activities that will lead to inclusive social development, enabling achievement of SDGs. It works to resolve a diverse set of challenges which align with the global narrative of sustainable development goals, focusing on the multi-dimensionality of development ranging from job creation to health to the environment. It has created urban and rural models for solving the key SDG challenges through systemic models of entrepreneurship.

Youth engagement programme at Sri Ram College of Commerce in New Delhi.

CDF’s i2a Academy i.e. Idea to Action Academy provides the necessary skills and trains youth to enable the process of creating change to solve the issues of the social sector that haunt the world. It works on a simple theoretical framework and focuses on a ‘user-centric’ approach, with a commitment to creating a wave of change in India.

Model of youth networks
CDF engages with colleges across multiple cities, engaging with the youth, training them and tapping the potential to create SDG Champions. Through its vast network of colleges, mentors and experts, CDF has enabled the origin as well as the growth of a youth network working on sustainable development goals and creates SDG Champions. Utilising the potential of the SDG Champions, CDF’s rural model is bridging the gap between the two spaces and balancing the set of opportunities and engaging the youth to uplift the microenterprises and creating a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurial activities. Similarly, the urban model engages the youth with the community and the corporate houses, pushing for entrepreneurial endeavours, enabling sustainability, scale and impact. The core belief of CDF is ensuring sustainability and creating the young SDG Champions, hoping to connect 10 million SDG dreams by 2025.

The journey
Connecting Dreams Foundation had a humble start in 2013 with Dr Amit Tuteja, the Founder and Director, who identified gaps between rural and urban spaces, and how accessibility to key resources for sustainable development remained a key challenge in the space. In order to address the problem, a tech-based and internet-powered model called ‘Apna Tech Tree (ATT)’ was initiated for the projects in seven villages of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand. The tech-model enabled setting up a village enterprise, run by local women groups in partnership with a local NGO. This empowered the community to learn to grow and connect with the cities to share best practices. Till date, the ATT model is bridging the gap between rural and urban India, empowering women and using technology to resolve a few of the many opportunities and access challenges across the SDGs. Thereon, CDF ventured into creating digital libraries which are installed in rural schools to encourage learning through audio-visual demonstrations for better learning, in Jakheti, Uttarakhand in 2013.

Current endeavours
CDF has multiple programmes running under its unique framework, creating solutions and changing lives. One of CDF’s most successful programmes called ‘Connect and Change (CNC)’ is running successfully, wherein its foundation is laid in the core beliefs of creating change with sustainability. CNC is a youth engagement urban programme that taps the potential of the youth, creating SDG Champions, and directs it towards the creation of sustainable social entrepreneurship models, which will be beneficial for the society. CDF has created a space for potential SDG Champions in multiple colleges in Delhi NCR and Mumbai to be part of CDF, adopt communities, understand problems and together impact lives.

The programme not only benefits communities by engaging them and creating sustainable solutions for them but also trains the SDG Champions who find themselves passionate and invested in issues such as poverty, health, education and other sustainable development goals.

Many of the projects under CNC have been tremendously successful, one of which is Project Kilkari, under Kalindi College, University of Delhi, where SDG champions have run bridge schools for students under the Right to Education and support them in improving their learning outcomes. The SDG Champions of Project Arpan, under Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi, have been able to provide a source of income for 8-10 women in urban slums by enabling the underprivileged individuals to create low-smoke incense sticks using floral waste from temples. Project Transformation created under CDF’s college chapter of Aryabhatta College, University of Delhi, has created a model of sensitisation talks called ‘Transformation Talks’ for the youth, spreading awareness on the lives and struggles of LGBTIQ community.

After the success in Delhi, CDF has now expanded the CNC model to a new city, Mumbai, and hopes to create more success and impact in many more cities. CNC has the support of its mentors and experts and hopes to flourish with the same. Till date, CDF has engaged with more than 50 colleges across India.

Participants at a Connect and Change programme workshop in Mumbai.

Under the rural model, CDF is currently working on a Social Impact Accelerator which connects the talent and the enthusiasm of youth from many elite colleges of University of Mumbai and experts in Palghar district to solve challenges across a spectrum of Sustainable Development Goals. The youth is engaged with rural entrepreneurs in villages in Palghar district, working across a diverse set of products and services, such as the production of cloth bags, which engages women from 31 villages who have come together to create self-sustainable businesses. Farmers in Dhapti village have come together to create a sustainable model of entrepreneurship, focusing on the production and sale of nachini and urad dal.

Through the plethora of actions and efforts of the team and supporting mentors, advisors and experts, CDF has been able to impact the lives of 4 lakh individuals, connecting their dreams and achieving sustainable development goals across seven states. CDF has successfully engaged with over 2,500 SDG champions and created more than 115 projects. With reference to the rural model, CDF has engaged with more than 50 microenterprises, predominantly in the unorganised spaces and impacted more than 6,000 lives in rural spaces.

With massive youth network creation and the enabling of SDG Champions, CDF hopes to connect 10 million SDG dreams by 2025 and is on its way to expand its programmes. CDF hopes to take its unique model of SDG Champions and entrepreneurship and take a leap towards impacting millions of lives.
• Dreams Connected: 4,00,000+
• States Covered: 7+
• Projects Created: 115+
• SDG Champions Enabled: 2,500+



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