The Optimist Citizen

This Mumbai girl is building a collective of new-age Compassionate and Feminist Youth Leaders

“If you see something that needs to change but no one’s changing that, then you have to change it.” These strong words of resolution come from Vandita Morarka, a young founder who is building compassionate youth leadership through her non-profit organisation One Future Collective. Started 14 months ago in the city of Mumbai, One Future Collective is a not for profit organisation that works towards building compassionate youth social leadership that enables youth to take on leadership and action in their micro-communities: towards creating large scale societal transformation. They do this through the use of art, education, community intervention and policy advocacy and consulting – across verticals of gender justice, mental health, legal reform and development policy. 

In a nutshell, One Future Collective aims to drive large scale societal change through youth leadership. In the short passage of 14 months, the organisation has trained 2,500+ social leaders directly and impacted more than 40,000 people indirectly. With a team of 17 young people, One Future Collective is working towards making each individual a change-maker in society and also giving them a platform for their voice to be heard and mobilised for action. Their idea is to work towards one future that is positive, equal, feminist and intersectional (that’s also how their name came up!).

Building New-Age Feminist Youth Leadership

Now how do they build feminist youth leadership? One Future Collective believes that there is no one size fits all solution for doing so, they are guided by three key elements of compassion, inclusion and mainstreaming social development, which they execute through multiple interventions focused on art, education, community intervention, policy advocacy and consulting.

Incorporating the three elements, OFC runs multiple projects towards achieving its larger mission. One Future Collective’s work is centred around knowledge building, through education and research. Under education, they offer workshops, long-term training, and specialised certificate courses for different groups of people: to build awareness and knowledge and to guide the social change process. The workshops include lectures, participatory learning modules, mentoring, field visits, and an action component. About the learning process, Vandita says, “We all learn together. Our attitude isn’t that of us only giving and of the participants only receiving. We see our role more as that of facilitators: directing their energy and knowledge, creating newer bodies of knowledge and filling in the gaps when needed” says Vandita.  They also help to build empathy, kindness and compassion: the skills of the future as they call it, among the youth leaders.

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Another of One Future Collective’s flagship projects, ‘The Thought Project’ creates a space to encourage youth-led digital advocacy through dissent, dialogue and conversation on key development challenges. It is also a place for young writers to create social impact and new age thought leadership through their writing. This project also has a few distinct digital campaigns. The prominent ones being: ‘One Future Inspire’, a series of interviews with young inspirational people across the country whose stories are often left unheard; and the ‘Rainbow Heart’ campaign, which was created and is centred around the power of queer persons telling their stories of acceptance and of their struggles.

The Brain behind One Future Collective 

Founder - One Future Collective
Vandita Morarka – Founder of One Future Collective

Vandita, the brain behind the initiative, was only 23 when she founded One Future Collective. A human rights activist and policy consultant by profession, Vandita has received the Young Leaders Creating a Better World For All Award by Women’s Economic Forum, amongst other honours.  When she was 18, she co-founded an initiative called “Students for Social Reform,” where she, along with 120 youth worked in underserved communities in and around Mumbai. “When I was working in these areas of Mumbai, for the first time in my life I came face to face with what not being allowed to dream because of one’s circumstances looks like: most of them had big ambitious dreams but these dreams were constrained by the harrowing reality they live in. The right of each person to achieve their full potential was being violated because we were failing to create an enabling environment for them” she said. Her experiences in the communities and people she worked with guided her work and learning curve over the next few years. Vandita founded One Future Collective as a way to bring in systemic reform in our communities and countries with the ambitious goals of building a new generation of social leaders who are inclusive and empathetic in their thoughts and actions and of making change making each person’s job. 

The Bumpy Ride to Success

“I was very young and I didn’t know a thing about the legalities and logistics around non-profit organizations. I knew I wanted to do this and do it in a formalised manner, but I didn’t know how, and neither did I have the finances to get someone to consult on this. Fortunately, I was a law student and I decided to go ahead with some trust in my personal expertise along with the support of some wonderful mentors who very openly shared their knowledge and expertise.” says Vandita. Even after its successful expedition for the past 14 months, the young team of One Future Collective still faces challenges. Along with the concerns of funding, the team is also roadblocks because of their age. “While we have trained parents, teachers, educators, policymakers, government officers etc., who are older to us, it comes with certain complications. Many people ask us for someone more senior (they mean older) to talk to. It is often hard for them to accept that young people are running this organization. They take time to trust our expertise, but once they do, they never go back elsewhere”  mentions Vandita.  Also, the fact that the leadership team is only-woman creates challenges too: “We have never hired on the basis of gender but it is difficult for people to understand that maybe women were just the more qualified candidates to hold these positions.” she adds. However, the team still manages to pull out of the rubble and keeps pushing against their limits. Vandita says that she owes the impact One Future Collective is able to make to her team that has always provided her unflinching support; and a wonderful cohort of advisors, mentors, partners and donors – that have placed unconditional faith in OFC’s work; and that they have a long way to go before achieving their mission. 

The Road Ahead.

The organization has recently expanded to Bangalore and Delhi and has plans to reach out to the rural pockets of India in the coming months. The team is currently working on its new digital campaign ‘From Ma, with Love’ which will talk about feminist lessons people learnt from their mothers and an online petition asking for the repeal of the law allowing for restitution of conjugal rights. The organization is also working on a new legal aid project to provide free legal services to unserved communities and a more in-depth social leadership program. 

One Future Collective is not just another non-profit organization. It is so much more. It is an embodiment of a peaceful, social and harmonious approach to building a new political scenario.

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