With Ashoka behind my back now, I felt more confident than before to pursue an outreach programme. We soon gave a name to this outreach effort – City Idols Ambassadors Programme. Initially it was a heavy lift to even get this outreach effort going. I tried several means of getting to people who may be interested in writing articles for City Idols or to people/ organizations who may have a network of people who may be interested in writing such articles. Some of the organisations I reached out are Youth for Seva, INTACH, Spicmacay, etc.
However, despite their willingness to help, none of these efforts actually led to any school or student signing up for the City Idols Ambassadors Programme. At this stage, I also got the opportunity to do an interview on Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM. It was a 20 minute conversation on City Idols. City Idols was also featured in an article on the front page of Bangalore Mirror and in a Telugu newspaper as well! Eventually, I also wrote an article for the online platform of Citizen Matters. This engagement with the media was very exciting and felt surreal at times.
During this period, another very interesting incident took place. When I was speaking to a senior business leader about City Idols, she asked me a very interesting question – what percentage of roads in Bangalore are named after women? Upon Googling this, I came across an interesting article that had some statistics that answered my question. And, the article quoted that the numbers had been obtained from a company called Mapbox. My thinking was that if Mapbox knew the percentage of roads in Bangalore named after women, then they must surely have a list of all the road names in Bangalore that are named after people. And I had been searching for such a list for quite some time. I eagerly emailed them, and to my pleasant surprise, they got back. Then a couple of things happened. Firstly, I was able to get the list of road names that I had been wanting, with their help. Secondly, being an open source mapping platform, they very generously agreed to create a special map for City Idols that mapped only the roads and parks in Bangalore that are named after people. And moreover, they did this for free! So, for almost a month, I worked with senior software engineers to help create this special map which is now up and running on our website! It was a really exciting process, and a good learning experience.
By now, the outreach effort had shaped up pretty well and I had the opportunity of delivering presentations to students at the Edify School, Sri Sri Ravishankar Vidya Mandir, and Sri Kumaran Public School (ICSE). In all, we engaged about 400 students, of which around 180 students signed up to submit entries on different roads. However, the big blow struck us when we received only 8-9 articles by the day of the deadline for submission. This was not even close to the success ratio that we had at my school initially. I was very disappointed but surely not disheartened.
While thinking about what may have caused for these unfavourable statistics, it struck me that maybe the Rs. 100 we had charged the students of Kumaran initially had compelled a reasonable number of students to write for City Idols. And, that maybe if we had charged a certain sum of money to the students of these schools as well, rather than delivering free orientation sessions, the outcome may have turned out to be better. Although things had not worked in our favour, at least I was trying to reflect and learn lessons.
Now we had reached a sort of saturation point, where we were relatively unsure about how to proceed. Then, I decided that it might be a good idea to approach Google Maps! This idea of meeting and collaborating with Google Maps had always been on my mind ever since this project began. And, so I was introduced to a senior representative of Google, who is part of the Geo for Good Initiative Team. I went to the Google Office at Bangalore, where I made a presentation. However, my meeting with him was not fruitful since I learnt that there were several limitations within Google that would not permit for it collaborate with an initiative like City Idols. Nevertheless, one fun thing that happened during the meeting was that I got to tour Google’s Office!
Now at this stage I felt that I had tried several avenues of pursuing City Idols and none of it had worked successfully as of yet. So, just when I was considering slowing down on this project, and maybe moving on to different things, I found another very different means of carrying forward City Idols… stay tuned to know the rest!