Anshu Gupta is restoring dignity to those receiving charity, by using donations to facilitate an economic bridge between the rich and the poor. Through his organization GOONJ, he is using the important resource of cloth towards catalyzing village development activities, improving health, and restoring dignity in rural communities across India.
Observing the lack of suitable resources at the time of natural disasters despite the abundant supplies from well-meaning donors, Anshu created GOONJ to address critical needs of vulnerable communities. However, Anshu saw that the traditional exchange of charity denied dignity to those receiving it. In response, GOONJ developed a working system, the “Cloth for Work” program, which initiates village-level development activities and rewards communities for their labor, allowing them to preserve their dignity. Moreover, this program transforms cloth into a development resource that generates employment. Furthermore, the “Cloth for Work” program generates developmental lessons that are shared among villages and inspire community wells, schools, gardens, and farms.
Considered one of the leading social enterprises in India, GOONJ is creating an alternative economy by bringing together booming cities and rural villages. By moving resources from the former, to the latter, GOONJ is promoting a culture of giving or a ‘parallel economy’, built on recycling. Through his collection sites in urban centres, he is able to sort, process, and adapt donated resources to the critical needs of rural villages and disaster areas. Meanwhile, the diversity of objects at collection sites allow for Anshu to respond nimbly to areas of priority such as natural disasters.
Under Anshu’s leadership, GOONJ has expanded into a nationwide movement that now acts in 21 states of India, shipping over 70,000 kgs of material a month. Through its programs, GOONJ has sparked a paradigm-shift in the mindset and methodology of community service in India. In recognition of their important work, GOONJ has recently been awarded the Japanese Award for Most Innovative Development Project by the Global Development Fund.
Anshu’s efforts to bring wider attention to the most ignored basic need of humans, clothing, has led many organizations to replicate GOONJ’s initiatives and methods. Seeing clothing as currency, Anshu positions it as not just a basic need but a symbol of dignity for all of us. He hopes to spread this cultural change - conscious giving, not thoughtless dumping - to become one of the largest civic participation movements in the country.
Note: This was updated in July, 2014. Read on for the ELECTION profile.