Beneath the rickety three floors of red and blue pellet racks, behind the bus stand on the ever-gridlocked Double Road, through the serene garden café, there is an office space where things work wonderfully. There you will find two large tables around which every employee of this crazy organization works. The CEO sits next to the 18-year-old intern, exchanging ideas and playing absentmindedly with the surprisingly aggressive office dog, Berlin. It’s Jaaga and it works.
Jaaga works because of the amazing culture that has been cultivated there. It’s a culture of collaboration more than anything but also of ownership, of excitement, of non-hierarchical structure.
After three months as an IDEX fellow, I think that is my biggest insight into social enterprises, and work places in general: office culture is unbelievably important. Not only for the happiness of employees but also for productivity of the organization. When people care about their projects, when they have ownership, when their opinions count, they work harder to achieve the best results.
I’m not quite sure how this miracle of a work environment was achieved but somehow Archana and Freeman, the founders of Jaaga, have created positive force for good in Bangalore. I suppose being a community-based organization whose purpose it is to encourage collaboration helps. But it’s more than that. People are excited about new ideas, excited to hear each other’s plans, and excited about what they’re working on. And I think in a startup, especially one with social aims, that excitement is absolutely vital to the long-term success of the company. When resources are limited and the intended impact large, monetary compensation will not be enough to keep people up the late nights, working the long hours it will take to be successful. It takes passionate employees working hard for a cause that they believe in. And people are passionate about projects that they have a say in.
**Insight: collaboration is key, excitement is key, ownership is key. ***By Zoe Hamilton. **Zoe is an IDEX fellow working at Jaaga as a Program Manager. *