Senior Sharad Sagar was featured in the annual Forbes “30 Under 30″ list for the second year in a row, for his work as CEO and founder of the nonprofit organization Dexterity Global. Sagar’s efforts to promote education among children and teenagers in South Asia landed him on the list for notable social entrepreneurs under the age of 30.
The 24-year-old was selected for the 2016 list, released on Jan. 4, from a pool of over 15,000 nominations worldwide, according to a press release by Dexterity Global. The list was later confirmed by a panel of judges that included actress Sarah Jessica Parker, former Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, business executive Laurene Powell Jobs and the founders of AOL.
According to the press release, previous Forbes “30 Under 30” lists have also honored prominent individuals such as Malala Yousafzai and Mark Zuckerberg.
Sagar said he built Dexterity Global to address inadequate education, particularly in rural parts of South Asia, where access to the internet and online resources can be sparse and education is not as standardized. The organization seeks to fill gaps in education and to promote a positive set of ideals, including public speaking, leadership skills and critical thinking, he said.
Sagar first started Dexterity Global at the age of 16 in order to create a way for students to connect to resources such as scholarships and competitions.
“There needed to be a system so that kids did not have to miss out on opportunities because they did not know about them,” Sagar said.
He explained that after founding Dexterity, he expanded his focus to working with middle school students on building skills throughout their education all the way to college.
Trustee Emeritus of Tufts Bruce Male, who serves on the Dexterity Global Board of Directors, said that the organization’s mission is to democratize education for “students who without the opportunities that the Dexterity Global platforms offer, would not perhaps have the hope and incentives to achieve their potential in life.”
Dexterity Global currently serves over 1.2 million students every year through four separate platforms, each of which focuses on a different area of educational development. The platforms all involve an extensive program that provides resources for students to achieve their potential, Sagar said.
The nonprofit began with a single platform, DexChallenges, which helps students prepare for educational opportunities by training them to “build their critical thinking skills, their communication skills and their leadership skills through a set of creative challenges…and project-based learning.” These connections may be both “scholastic and co-curricular,” Sagar said.
A second Dexterity platform is DexConnect, which aims to serve as the bond between students and these opportunities, according to Sagar.
The third platform Sagar designed is known as DexSchool, or the Dexterity School of Leadership and Entrepreneurship, which Sagar described as “Harvard Business School for a 14-year-old.” He explained that DexSchool has a curriculum that involves analyzing speeches of well-known individuals and interactions with volunteer mentors from various corporate and social backgrounds.
Most recently, the organization has developed the Dexterity to College (D2C) platform, which helps teenagers with transition to college, Sagar said.
Sagar explained that the platforms have proven their effectiveness by producing graduates who go on to work on the United Nation’s Children and Youth Board and become ambassadors to the United Nurses and Allied Professional’s (UNAP) children wing. He added that one DexSchool graduate was listed among Newsweek’s “25 Under 25” most promising young women in the world.
The nonprofit’s Chief Operations Officer Swaraj Priyadarshi is a self-declared “proud Dexterity [alumnus]” and was heavily impacted by Dexterity Global as a student.
“I fortunately won at one of Dexterity Global’s talent identification platforms, and this brought me close to an amazing team of exceptionally successful and inspirational entrepreneurs, mentors and board members,” he told the Daily in an email.
Priyadarshi said he was only 13 when he was brought in by Dexterity as a campaign manager.
“It was an exciting time,” he said. “The learning curve was unimaginable… From being a student who lacked a support system to being able to create opportunities for millions of students now, the journey has simply been fabulous.”
Male said the incredible talents of Dexterity Global‘s team have propelled the company to succeed as a movement.
“A key to entrepreneurship is to see a need and then fulfill it,” he said. “To do so takes creativity, innovation, teamwork, incredible drive and most importantly, passion … Sharad, Swaraj and their team in India possess them and because of this Dexterity Global continues to grow, if not thrive, along with its record of achievement and acknowledgement by socially aware organizations here in the U.S. and abroad.”
Sagar added that one of his main goals is to ensure that the company remains self-sufficient by maintaining sustainable funding. To do so, Sagar has reached out to various businesses to acquire sponsorships for different platforms. He said Dexterity appeals to businesses by demonstrating that sponsorships are excellent marketing opportunities to show young people that the businesses support educational growth.
“We kept building on that and today that model has evolved into a need-blind financial aid policy in the organization,” he said.
Sagar explained that for larger Dexterity programs that provide services for over 10,000 students, the educational opportunities are fully funded and sponsored by larger corporations. The organization’s smaller programs do have nominal fees for participation when participants can afford it, he said.
Sagar explained that he has utilized Tufts resources throughout the years to win scholarships that helped him extend the reach of his company and efforts in the area of education. In 2013, Sagar was the only first-year student to have ever won the Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition at that time. The following year, he was a winner of the Paul and Elizabeth Montle Prize.
Looking ahead, Sagar said he is confident that Dexterity Global will continue to thrive.
“I completely believe that if you are creating value, someone will pay for it,” he said.
Sagar explained that the nonprofit hopes to revolutionize three fields over the next few decades: education, healthcare and microfinance. He hopes that his enterprise can continue to grow and provide the resources to help children reach its full potential as students.
“My end goal is very micro,” Sagar said. “I want to make sure my organization comes in the moment [children]…are born in that family … We want to make sure that child sees his fifth birthday and many more after that.”