Magic Bus is a non-profit organization that uses sport based activities to help underpriveledged kids learn life skills. In a radical shift from how other non-profits work, it uses a community based approach that puts activity at the centre. Operating like a startup rather than a charity, it has made its mark in the NGO world, winning awards for its unique business model and its ingenuity in fundraising.
When Cleartrip co-founder Matthew Spacie founded Magic Bus in 1999, it was an idea that sprung out of Mumbai’s slums. Magic Bus, a not-for-profit organisation, is today on course to reaching out to 4,50,000 children in 22 states in India this year, and has big global plans.
Spacie, a 48-year-old British national, said he wants to make Magic Bus a multinational organisation. In fact, it rolled out its international operations in London with a pilot in January in two public schools.
Over the next two years, he wants to take Magic Bus to Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Indonesia.
The non-governmental organisation (NGO) will roll out its programme in four more schools in London in September. It has also partnered with a government agency for creating a programme that will be implemented in select government primary schools and funded by the UK government.
The NGO uses an activity-based curriculum to address a variety of issues such as gender equality, health, education and livelihoods through a 10-year mentoring programme.
Magic Bus has traditionally raised more than 50% of its funds from international donors like BMW Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Coca-Cola Foundation and has fund-raising offices in countries such as the UK, the US, Germany and Singapore.
“After seeing our work in India, there has been a lot of interest from countries such as the UK, the US and Singapore to contextualize our Indian programme to their country. It is a fallacy that there is no poverty in the developed world,” said Spacie.
India is a social bed of innovations and if something can work in India, it can work anywhere else, said Deval Sanghavi, co-founder, Dasra, a foundation that connects NGOs to donors. “For someone to incubate a fresh idea, it takes a lot of time. Indian NGOs with established models will be able to hit the ground running in new geographies,” he added.
In 2013, there were 3.5 million children, or 27% of all children, living in poverty in the UK, according to the UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions.
A high proportion of children in the UK schools partnering Magic Bus come from disadvantaged families. The NGO engages with children in the age group of seven to 11 years and early teenage girls to address social and emotional issues that lead to violence, drug addiction and teenage pregnancies.
“We use activities like football and basketball, and use metaphors from sport to deliver our curriculum to build their social and emotional skills, which is the model we use in India, but to address different issues,” said Priyanka Sharma, programme manager, Magic Bus UK.
“We will partner with the development sector and NGOs and build a curriculum on a need-based audit in these countries. Ultimately, it will be a childhood to livelihood programme,” said Spacie.
Your Product Is Your Business Model. Changes in one impact the other and in the best cases they play off each other.
Experiment, fail, learn and repeat. Try things at a small scale and at a low cost, and quickly assess if they work or not and then take a call on what is worth scaling up. The experiments should either stop or continue based on consumer feedback.
Using technology to create a new economic model, Greendust’s ambitious founder talks about creating a “parallel universe” where the young and aspirational can sell old products and buy heavily discounted factory seconds.
Those that make it through are not unscathed – they have battle wounds. The challenges of the first year take their toll… emotionally, organizationally, culturally. While the first year has likely felt like a sprint, it is important to remember that this is a marathon and it is impossible to continue to run a marathon at a sprint pace.
How we see the market opportunity in India. Lightbox partners Sandeep Murthy, Sid Talwar, Prashant Mehta, Jeremy Wenokur, talk about fragmentation