Avni Conference, Goa, January 2023 - My Takeaways and Outcomes

January 21, 2023 by Maha Lakshme S

In this blog, I have covered my takeaways and outcomes of the Avni Conference at Goa, January 2023.

On hearing the word Goa, what comes to your mind? Beaches? Night life? Portuguese colony? For me it is the Avni Jan 2023 sprint! Since that’s where I met my people. For the first three days in Goa, I worked with my colleagues preparing for the conference and understanding the different implementations for which Avni product is used. The next 2 days(Sunday and Monday) were packed with NGOs presentations, Avni feature walkthrough and roadmap, and ofcourse lots of fun!

avni tshirt group photo
Avni family in Avni t-shirts

My takeaways from the sprint:

Impact of Avni product on ground:

  • Survey to surveillance: I realised how Avni has helped NGOs to shift from survey to surveillance of beneficiaries with the help of features like visit scheduling and decisions.
  • Community data: Also from talks of Ravi, Jan Swasthya Sahyog and Abhay, Yenepoya, I understood the important role Avni product is playing by enabling gathering of community data to complement with the hospital records and how family data is going to be a great resource.
  • Field workers life made easier: Rupesh from Piramal foundation mentioned the case where ASHA workers used to carry all their paperwork to consolidate them digitally to get their incentives. Now with a custom extension added on Avni they can consolidate their work on a button click, which they can use to get paid.
  • Beneficiaries life made easier: Madhuri from Indus Action mentioned how by integrating their system with Avni, they are attempting to move the process of availing benefits from scheme-centric to household-centric to simplify the process.

There is always an another way:

I always thought that, it is by working with the government, we can make a large-scale impact. But some NGOs who attended the sprint proved me wrong. NGOs who attended the sprint were of two kinds.

  • One was working with the government trying to improve the efficiency of delivery of schemes and influencing policy change. Eg: Poverty reduction by Indus Action.
  • The other kind was establishing a parallel system with the government to bring-in change. Eg: Comprehensive health care to rural poor by Jan Swasthya Sahyog.

Both kinds had their own challenges and accomplishments.

High tech-crunch:

  • Over the different discussions, there were so many requirements from different NGOs, that we were unable to accommodate everything for this year's roadmap. Hiring software developers for Avni product, has never been easy.
  • Discussions in the conference helped me better understand the two-fold reasons for the same:

    • Social impact sector can only afford less and hence pay less, but need the same level of technical expertise that corporates get.
    • People with technical expertise who join the social impact sector as well, want to go to field, so retaining them in their role becomes a challenge.
  • From the talk of Tech4Dev, came to know about an interesting concept, Fractional CxOs(CTO + CDO) that they introduced to combat a facet of the above challenge. Fractional CxOs support non-profits by providing Tech and Data Strategy assistance. They support 2-3 Nonprofits at the same time.

I always wanted to be in an irreplaceable role via which I can make a greater impact. I realised that, to achieve that I need not be at a higher level in hierarchy like District Magistrate which anyways have so much supply but less demand. Considering the demand here, working as a software developer in the social impact sector is in itself an irreplaceable role.

Need to work together as a community:

During different discussions, I realised how working together as a community can be more powerful in the social impact sector than working in a client-vendor relationship.

  • This very conference is an example: This conference itself was a result of the efforts of Tech4Dev, which attempts to create an ecosystem to provide tech solutions for the social impact sector.
  • Multi-dimensional problems: “How to track homeless people?” is a question that Jagadisha from Azim Premji Foundation, which attempts to solve malnutrition, raised. Answers for such questions can be found only when we come together. Eg: One solution could be Azim Premji Foundation collaborating with Shelter Associates which focuses on providing social housing with Avni helping to track the status of beneficiaries.
  • Persistent problems: Funding, hiring and tech crunch has always been a problem here. Hence, NGOs learning from each other and sharing the feature development costs becomes crucial. This conference helped different NGOs understand the Avni features that other NGOs are using, thereby helping them to think through if the same will be useful for them.

Why requirements gathering need to be bottom-up?

  • One solution, many use-cases: When Dhiren from Sewa rural(works in community health) mentioned about the importance of providing behavioural nudges to beneficiaries and when Abhay from Yenepoya(works in developing Health and Demographic Surveillance System) mentioned about the need of visits data to be shared with the beneficiaries, I realised the power of Glific integration with Avni, since it can help in achieving them on-ground, though it was developed for Lend A Hand India to send webinar updates to students. To accommodate such diverse use-cases in a product feature, understanding the ground reality and the work of the NGOs are indispensable.
  • Unique requirements that reflect the ground reality: Avni is designed to work offline, to be able to use in places with poor internet connectivity, and hence has a sync feature. When doing the Glific(chatbot) integration demo, Jagadisha from Azim Premji Foundation raised the need for layered sync, so that the beneficiaries data syncs first to deliver the configured messages faster to them. These kind of requirements are difficult to envision unless we work close to the ground.

Long way ahead, though have travelled a long way:

  • It was exciting to know the future plans that NGOs had, and how Avni can play a role in them. One was being able to adapt to the requirements of Ayushman Bharat Digital mission.
  • Scalability: ATE Chandra wanted to scale the tracking for silt removal using Avni, to 10K waterbodies in 2023 from 1K in 2022, and LAHI wanted to reach 1M students to steer their school to work transition. Accordingly, our Avni team also need to scale the technical infrastructure and make performance optimizations to accommodate the high traffic and data.


Higher trust:

Accommodating the NGOs expectations in the conference, sharing the next 1 year roadmap, collecting feedback on a continuous basis, combined retro of the sprint with the NGOs, I feel helped in ending the sprint with a high positive vibe.

Increased empathy:

Avni team was able to understand the ground-level challenges that NGOs have. And NGOs also empathised that a small Avni team is working to cater to many NGO’s requirements and not just theirs.

Better connect:

Akash from Lend A Hand India, was helping me find my specs, that I lost when playing on the beach, for more than an hour. At the end of the day it is these kinds of face-to-face interactions and not the mechanical digital interactions, I feel will help us to develop better connect.

Next steps and feedback:

One of the interesting thought raised by NGOs was to have a conference involving the actual field workers who use the app, like the ASHAs, volunteers etc., Across different talks of NGOs, we collected feedback and expectations from them. Having followed Agile processes for day-to-day work, collecting feedback and incorporating expectations were imbibed in the design of the conference as well.

The above have made our bonds stronger like never before!


When I was working for the corporate sector, I was always confused about the utility of my work and hence my very existence. Then having failed clearing the Civil Services exam a couple of times, I was searching for clarity to find the right place for me where I can contribute my skills for the greater good. Having listened to all the discussions, I feel this conference has reinforced that I am in the right place and has increased my resolve to work 10x harder.

I searched for light and in turn got the sun!

mahalakshme holding sun
At Baina beach. Picture Courtesy: One of the shacks worker

Itni shakti humein dena daata mann ka vishvas kamzor ho na
Hum chale nek raste pe humse bhulkar bhi koi bhool ho na

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