iProbono works with Goonj in their endeavour to provide basic daily necessities for the poor, educate people about the sensitivities of giving, and create a culture of mindful giving.
Social entrepreneurs Anshu and Meenakshi Gupta founded Goonj in 1999. Over the past two decades, they have not only built a robust network of communities across urban and rural India committed to their mission but have also created a sustainable model that can mitigate poverty. They have transformed the culture of giving and highlighted the use of materials as a development resource.
Over the years, the organisation has built a network that channels material goods as a tool to address crucial gaps in infrastructure, environment, livelihood, education, health, and disaster relief and rehabilitation. For instance, the School to School programme is an award-winning initiative that addresses the educational needs of thousands of resource-starved schools.
Goonj is also involved in various disaster relief and rehabilitation efforts from earthquakes to the 2004 tsunami, cyclones, and floods. Since its inception, their program Rahat has evolved into an active, reliable and time-tested network of stakeholders, ensuring a timely response for generating need-based disaster relief and rehabilitation efforts. Goonj also draws our attention to preventable disasters like reducing the death and suffering of the homeless during the winter, primarily due to the lack of appropriate winter clothing.
They work on turning old material into a resource for rural development activities and promote a circular economy by ensuring maximum use of each material. Their model of development implemented through various initiatives proposes a more inclusive alternative economy where everyone is an equal stakeholder.
In 2019, Goonj approached us to support them with an overall legal health check, and since then, iProbono has assisted them on several legal concerns and questions. “As an organisation, we never had a legal wing, but we connected with the iProbono team when we needed crucial assistance on organisational compliances and legal diagnostics. iProbono has also given us guidance on matters like Memoranda of Understandings (MOUs), welfare cases, and branding”, says Meenakshi Gupta, the co-founder of Goonj. The brief details of support provided to Goonj are listed below:
- Legal Due Diligence Report: Our first project with Goonj in May 2019, was a due diligence report that was handled by a lawyer in iProbono’s community — Probir Chowdhury — and his team from the law firm Jyoti Sagar and Associates (JSA). The JSA team carried out an extensive legal check and documented their observations on specific issues like statutory compliances, personnel systems, material contracts, property and permits.
- Advice on Provident Fund (PF) Claim: In September 2019, Goonj approached us to support one of their employee’s PF claims and to advise them on the procedure. iProbono panel lawyer Faraz Maqbool drafted a cessation affidavit and provided the necessary legal assistance to them for the PF application.
- Review of MOUs: In February 2020, Goonj requested advice on an MOU for the purchase of a vehicle that would enable them to collect and transport donated material. iProbono community lawyers Aditya Gupta and Kruttika Vijay along with their team from IRA Law handled the review.
- Review of Goonj’s MOUs with partner organisations: In April 2020, Goonj was working on the ground to provide relief to migrant workers and their families during the COVID-19 lockdown. They approached us for advice and to review the MOUs with these organisations. Aditya Gupta and his team from IRA Law handled this matter as well.
- Advice on trademark registrations: In April 2020, Goonj required advice in opposing an advertised trademark. Advocate Monica Dutta from iProbono’s community and her team from Sai Krishna & Associates provided them with the appropriate legal advice for this project.
Goonj works consistently to rehabilitate, develop, and support communities to become self-sufficient, and their efforts have continued even in these unprecedented circumstances. It is this singular commitment to empowering those facing precarity that ties with the ethos of iProbono. Meenakshi adds, “The iProbono team appreciates and understands the regulations for NGOs and provides assistance accordingly. Their services and system of providing pro bono legal assistance are an asset for organisations working in the social space.”
Photo credits: Goonj