Social Emotional Learning: Organization Spotlight (urban)

इस ब्लॉग को हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए, यहाँ क्लिक करें।

हा ब्लॉग मराठी मध्ये वाचण्यासाठी, येथे क्लिक करा.

According to a research by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, there are nearly 5 crore Indian children suffering from mental disorders, and this number will increase if the adolescent population is considered as well. (Sources: NCBI) Given the gravity of the mental health crisis our country is facing, access to interventions of all kinds – preventive, promotive, and curative will be critical to the wellbeing of children and young people. One of the tried and tested methods adopted for promotive and preventive work on wellbeing in schools is the design and implementation of a robust Social Emotional Learning (SEL)  programme.  SEL programming can have a positive impact up to 18 years later on academics, conduct problems, emotional distress, and drug use. (Sources:

For many of you who are considering starting an SEL programme or wondering about how to operationalize it, we bring to you a series of articles that spotlights the work of organizations in the urban and rural context.  Let’s begin by understanding what is SEL?

What is Social Emotional Learning? 

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. (Sources:

Organizations like CASEL and the Teacher Foundation present frameworks for how programmes for SEL can be designed when working with children. We explored the different ways in which some organizations in Mumbai have operationalized SEL programmes in their work.  


We reached out to four Mumbai-based organizations (Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (SNEHA), Akanksha, Muktangan, Apni Shala) working with children and looked at different aspects of their SEL programmes in their respective contexts. We looked at the following main areas of work in this exploration: frameworks of design, structure, and format of programme, assessment, professional development for teams, challenges, the impact of the pandemic on the programme design and implementation.


  • SNEHA’s EHSAS (Empowerment, Health and Sexuality of Adolescents) Programme conducts individual therapy, Group Therapy sessions and Workshops for Psychosocial support with adolescents and parents on different topics under mental health. The organisation developed an SEL framework centering human rights and sustainable development goals (SDGs)  in its design. The modules created by the team are updated regularly based on the feedback received from the staff and researchers. The design focuses on building agency, self-worth, decision making, awareness of physical and mental health, and economic opportunities

  • The Akanksha Foundation follows the  Social Emotional and Ethical Learning (SEE Learning) framework in their organisation. In their work with children, the competencies that they aim to develop are self-awareness, self-management, critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration.
  • At Muktangan, SEL is designed and implemented using the CASCADE framework. It is a pragmatic tool developed for use with stakeholders working with children and young people (CYP) to identify levels of joint working. They follow the WHO skills of the 21st century focusing on critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration.  
  • Apni Shala has designed its programme using the CASEL model as its base. CASEL suggests working at four levels – classroom, school, home, and communities. The programme curriculum is designed to focus on the following competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. 

Structure and Format

  • SNEHA’s EHSAS programme works on community-based SEL. The intervention is conducted using Emotional Resilience modules with adolescents and Psychosocial Support workshops with the youth in the communities that SNEHA works in. Each session facilitated by the team of SNEHA’s facilitators is around 1 to 2 hours long.
  • The Akanksha Foundation works on SEL in the Akanksha schools through whole-class interventions as well as school-wide SEL practices. There are two circle time sessions lasting 40 minutes conducted every week and an individual support plan is also created where necessary. Additionally, they also work with parents and families through community-based interventions to ensure support for their students. 
  • Muktangan’s work on SEL in school is done through integrating SEL in its school curriculum. They run one-hour long Quality Circle Time sessions, and have made support accessible for counseling. Circle times are also facilitated while working with the caregivers of the students.   
  • Apni Shala runs the SEL programme in partnership with Government-run (MCGM) schools, NGOs, and other community-based interventions. The facilitators facilitate weekly SEL sessions for students for one hour every week (using the curriculum designed on the 5 SEL competencies). Other than this there are sessions conducted with teachers for their own wellbeing, for increasing awareness on mental health, and for influencing school-wide SEL practices. Sessions are also conducted with caregivers of the students to help make systems around the students more compassionate and caring. Apni Shala also envisions building an SEL integrated school – Khoj (currently a learning centre). At Khoj, teachers run circle-time sessions each day with students. Teachers also include Social emotional development as a key area that is included in the sharing during the parent teachers conferences


  • SNEHA uses the GEM Scale, Connors Davidson Resilience Scale, and a Pre and post Observation for their assessment.
  • At the Akanksha Foundation, assessments are done using a Debrief Feedback Tool. Observations are also recorded using qualitative data.
  • Muktangan has worked on an in-house assessment tool that is used to gather data and they also conduct focus group discussions with their alumni. 
  • Apni Shala uses an observation tool created in-house that is informed by the Life Skills Assessment Scale (Dream a Dream) to gather data on what areas are impacted by engagement in the programme.  Additionally, the Rosenberg (Self Esteem) assessment tool is used for self-reporting.  Qualitative feedback from teachers, caregivers, and documented Classroom conversations also add as testimonials to the impact.  

Professional Development for facilitators, teachers, and counsellors

  • The facilitators at SNEHA Foundation consist of a team of experts in the areas of Gender, sexuality, and mental health. 
  • The facilitators are trained by the counseling team at the Akanksha Foundation
  • At Muktangan, teachers are trained by their head counsellors on the facilitation of quality circle time.
  • Apni Shala facilitators attend ongoing training on Mental Health, Diversity and inclusion, Narrative Practices, Curriculum and pedagogy, Mindfulness, and Child Development and Disability. Some training is facilitated in-house and others are done in partnership with organizations such as Ummeed, the National Seed Project, and Inner Space

Challenges in design and delivery

  • At SNEHA, moving to virtual work with adolescents was a challenge since it depended heavily on resources like phones, money to recharge, access to the internet, etc. One of the ways that the team worked around this was to move to telephonic individual sessions and psychosocial support group sessions on online meeting platforms. For group therapy and to offer other exposure collaborations such as the one with the Saturday Art Class proved to be fruitful. Although the privacy and comfort of sharing in face-to-face sessions were missed by many, it helped to involve parents in the process of addressing anxiety arising in families, and other mental health concerns. 
  • The team at the Akanksha Foundation shared that at the start of the lockdown efforts were directed at checking in with students at high risk for abuse, violence, or high-distress. However with the extension of the lockdown and noticing the high levels of distress arising from financial constraints, lack of resources, and fear of infection an organization-wide system of Wellbeing check-in was introduced. This entailed weekly, documented calls to each student, emails to respective school teams to indicate any red flags, and need-based support to students and parents. Gradually, other initiatives were restarted moving them to the virtual platform. These included Circle Time, Student empowerment, Advisory, Focused support groups for students and parents, Teacher wellbeing spaces integrating SEE learning practices in each of these initiatives. In this process, the team did face challenges of the limitations of the online mode such as lack of access to devices, or limited internet bandwidth and adapting to creating innovative and dynamic content to engage all kinds of learners. However, with ongoing training, collaboration with organizations, engaging teacher and student leadership the team was able to work through these. The team though does still sense that students do get frustrated due to the lack of interaction they used to get in the physical space.
  • At Apni Shala, being a programme partner meant that the team did not directly have access to students and their families’ contact numbers. However, with the support from the partner school teachers, the facilitators were able to reach out to students initially for wellbeing check-ins. As classes started moving online, the curriculum team worked to modify and design the SEL programme content to ensure access in synchronous and asynchronous ways. Sessions that were designed to be one hour long, were moved to 20 minute long sessions. Gradually, awareness sessions on mental health with teachers and the caregivers were also moved online. In making this possible the team faced challenges like making sessions inclusive given the difficulty in access to internet and smartphone devices but continued to work in partnership with the schools to create access to SEL. 

The organizations spotlighted in our article hopefully have helped spark ideas for many of you to think of SEL programming for your contexts. Given below is some more information on the organizations you read about. In our next article in this series, we will spotlight the work of organizations doing SEL in the rural context. 

The Akanksha Foundation

The Akanksha Foundation is a non-profit organisation with a mission to build the largest network of innovative schools that empowers children to maximise their potential and that influences systemic reform.


A secular, Mumbai-based non-profit organization, SNEHA believes that investing in women’s health is essential to building viable communities.


Muktangan is an innovative model of education located within mainstream Government schools providing quality, child-centred, inclusive English-medium schooling to thousands of children in Mumbai.


Rukaiya Kalawedwala from SNEHA, Zarna Sanghrajka and Anusha Manjani from Akanksha Foundation , Nihal Anabel from Muktangan.

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