Life beyond the margins: how Bright Future is changing young lives in India

A Bright Future student presents to fellow students

15 September 2020

The majority of Bright Future students in Mumbai are the first generation in their family to receive a formal education. But 87% of them still receive no educational or career guidance1. Knowing all too well what it’s like to grow up without suitable role models in India’s slums, Kishor Palve wanted to help marginalised young people create meaningful and financially stable lives – and break out of the perpetual cycle of poverty.

“Through my own experience, I knew that parents, teachers and the entire ecosystem in which these children live could be more supportive,” he says. “Young people have no role models or aspirations - and they don’t know what to do with their lives.”

So in 2008 Palve started running career guidance sessions in Worli, Mumbai. This quickly became the foundation for Bright Future – an organisation dedicated to empowering young people in India to make informed decisions about their career.

A Bright Future teacher speaks to a classroom of students

An ecosystem of support

“Bright Future works on three parameters: social, educational and economic disadvantage, which cause the significant problem of aimless education – one without purpose or goals,” Palve explains. “We work with children and young people to develop their confidence and give them skills that enable them to transform their passion into gainful employment.”

Bright Future also helps parents build positive parenting skills and improve communication with their children. It works closely with teachers to enable them to support children more effectively and works with school principals to ensure they create platforms that allow children to learn about different career options.

The organisation reaches young people through two key programs. The Step to Livelihood program helps adolescents between the age of 13 and 18 in the community and in schools develop basic life skills and encourages them to pursue their passions.

“Through the community drama program, we help young people develop important skills like communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration in the community,” Palve says. “At school, we focus on creating environments that inspire students and build their capacity through career guidance and exhibitions, and expert presentations.”

Bright Future also runs the Livelihood Program – a three-month training program that equips 18 to 25-year-olds with important skills for employment such as English and IT. With additional career development, mentoring and placement opportunities, the program helps young people find a successful and meaningful career pathway.

Namrata Navnath Waghmare enrolled in the Livelihood Program in 2017 to increase her chances of employment so she could help her family financially. With her grandmother the only income earner, and her mother living with a disability, her family struggled to make ends meet. So Namrata’s career goals were not considered a priority.

“I had no confidence,” Namrata recalls. “My childhood aspiration was to become a teacher, but a lack of support from my family and lack of opportunities made this impossible.”

But since enrolling in Bright Future’s program Namrata’s life has changed dramatically. The confidence and skills she developed through the program have allowed her to get a job at a local bakery, significantly improving life for her family. Through education and career planning sessions, Namrata also decided to pursue a career in service and sales through continuing her education – and she is currently in her final year of a Bachelor of Arts degree.

“I got a lot of clarity about what I have to do with my life, which was previously moving without any direction. I want to be positive about my life and grow as a person both professionally and academically,” Namrata says.

Bright Future has recently launched a new initiative helping underprivileged young entrepreneurs from marginalised communities in Mumbai learn how to run a business. It offers personalised mentoring support and teaches entrepreneurship skills, helping young people start, grow and scale their businesses.

Since its inception in 2009, the organisation has supported more than 24,900 young people like Namrata and continues to reach out to another 18,000 every year.

The Bright Future class of 2019

Building capacity for a brighter future

To be able to deliver quality guidance and training at this scale, Bright Future needed to fill some gaps within the organisation.

Macquarie Group Foundation has been working with Bright Future since 2016 to support education and employment opportunities for vulnerable youth in India. By providing funding for Bright Future’s HR needs – from people management to job descriptions and KPIs – Macquarie is building capacity into the non profit organisation.

“We need to get the right people in the organisation, then build the right systems and processes to allow us to reach more youth and make a bigger impact,” says Palve. “Macquarie helped identify the gaps that were preventing us from onboarding the people we needed, and worked with us on improving the quality of our training programs.”

Macquarie also funds the newly created HR, marketing and sustainability departments at the organisation, which has had a growth in staff from 26 in 2016 to 100 in 2020.

“With Macquarie’s support, we onboarded a Head of HR to strengthen our organisation. We were also able to bring in technology support that further improves the quality of our programs. We’ve seen the average monthly earnings of our beneficiaries increase by INR 4,000 from INR 7000 in 2016 to INR 11000 since making these changes.”

Individual Macquarie volunteers also help Bright Future’s beneficiaries improve their skills. Abhishek Bhandari, Senior Research Analyst, at Macquarie has been running mock interviews with students for the past two years.

“Through these sessions, I’ve learned how passion and determination can help you break through many barriers in life. I am inspired by the commitment these youth put into their training to overcome the challenges they face,” he says.

Bhandari is excited to be able to make an impact in young people’s lives through Bright Future.

“The organisation has been able to create a significant amount of positive impact in communities. They have helped many families improve their financial security. Hearing the success stories of students who now have rewarding jobs and careers gives me immense pleasure.”

  1. New Resolution India study, 2009, Bright Future.
    Images sourced from Bright Future