April 23, 2020 Print

Prashant Narang of India’s Centre for Civil Society (CCS) has won the 2020 Asia Think Tank Shark Tank competition—held online—with his plan for “Lawyers for Liberty,” a legal aid campaign designed to empower street vendors to fight the system when their livelihoods are threatened by official harassment. CCS will receive $10,000 in seed funding for the project. 


View Narang's winning pitch for the 2020 Asia Think Tank Shark Tank Competition.

Narang narrowly bested two outstanding challengers: Casey Russell of the New Zealand Taxpayer Union and her “Ditch the Double Dip” project, and Akash Shrestha of Nepal’s Samriddhi Foundation and his “Incubating Freedom” proposal. This year’s panel of judges included Wolfgang Heinze of Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Simon Paterno of Foundation for Economic Freedom, both in the Philippines; and Marc Chenn of SaltStack and Casey Pifer of Atlas Network, both in the United States. For the first time, an online poll enabled event attendees to vote on the winner alongside the four main judges. 

“Lawyers for Liberty” will be led by a qualified attorney who will create templates, petitions, and other easy-to-use legal resources that will be publicly available, and will rely on digital technologies to educate people who have limited access to assistance. A legal team will also be available to help with more complex cases when necessary.

“We understand that everything is in lockdown, but that doesn’t stop us,” said Narang, explaining how CCS has pivoted their plans to take advantage of virtual platforms, WhatsApp, and mass communication via podcasts. By the end of the project’s first year, the CCS team expects to reach out to at least 10,000 street vendors, assisting with filing complaints of harassment and helping this underserved population understand their legal rights. 

CCS has a long and successful history of working with street vendors to help them secure their livelihoods. Their work was critical to the passage of the Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending Act, which is helping hawkers have a voice in the system. Atlas Network told the story of Dinesh, a New Delhi street vendor who has become a homeowner and respected member of his community as a result of CCS’ efforts to empower vendors like him.

The Asia Think Tank Shark Tank award is generously sponsored by Smith Family Foundation and is the first of 2020’s four regional competitions to support new and innovative projects that advance freedom around the world. An international competition is also held at Atlas Network’s Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner, which takes place in New York City in November.