‘The Power of One’ shines the spotlight on stories that remind us that even the smallest shift of the needle is significant. It keeps reminding us in EdelGive Foundation, of why we do what we do.
Given the scale of problems and solutions in India, our conversations tend to revolve around big numbers and even bigger problems. One can get overwhelmed by the sense of magnitude on looking at the big picture. For EdelGive, keeping the big picture in mind while supporting the small and medium initiatives in the complex development sector of India has been a learning journey in itself. Last year we celebrated EdelGive’s first decade in philanthropy with ‘The Power of Ten’. We wanted to talk about the cumulative impact of all our efforts and demonstrate that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That one size does not fit all. Especially within the diversity of India. This year, we decided to flip this narrative on its head and shift focus to all the parts that make us whole. The independent threads that collectively form an indestructible social fabric.
‘The Power of One’ shines the spotlight on stories that remind us that even the smallest shift of the needle is significant. It keeps reminding us in EdelGive, of why we do what we do. Imagine an issue like Education in its scope and complexity. Such a task is daunting for a single person, let alone a large group of people working together. We’d be hard-pressed to decide where it begins and ends, since it is so entrenched in our society, culture and economy. On the other hand, if we zero in on a few schools in a small district of Maharashtra, a path starts to emerge. One that can then be scaled or adapted for another small set, and another, and so on. We can then narrow down even further on Mr. Harish Chandra Awhad, a teacher at the Zila Parishad school in Dakanpada, in Nandurbar district of Maharashtra, who is helping his students develop their imagination through creative writing. This process of zooming in and out is what working in the development sector is largely about. There is the big picture, where we face huge, complex problems such as social inequity, injustice and the denial of basic rights to entire sections of society; and there are micro-issues, which stem from complex power structures down to individual values. Our way to make progress in solving these problems is by breaking them down into smaller, manoeuvrable challenges. For us, by attending to one child, one school or one action at a time, there may be a resolution. Our growth and understanding of how we view the landscape of issues and possible solutions is a study in introspection and a continuous desire to learn from all participants of this landscape. And while scale is aspirational for us, and The Collaborators for Transformation Education is a significant step in approaching a problem with a systems approach to large scale solutioning, we find ourselves enamoured by the Power of One, that we keep encountering.
We have thus analysed examples of change and its impact using three distinct lenses:
One-person Army of Change…
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” –Dalai Lama
In a country of 1.3 billion people, it’s easy to be disheartened into believing that one person simply cannot make a difference, no matter how hard they try. But we have to start somewhere. It can be with small steps helping those nearest to us, or in the case of Dashrath Manjhi, by taking on an impossible mission himself carving a path around a mountain. After losing his wife in a fatal accident while climbing the mountain outside Manjhi’s village, he armed himself with hammer and chisel, and single-handedly created a 360-feet long, 30-feet high, and 30-feet wide passage that effectively shortened a distance of 55 kms into only 15. Rather than waiting for someone else to help him, the ‘Mountain Man’ decided to “be the change”. I have had the privilege to meet many other inspirational men and women like Manjhi who have singlehandedly worked towards affecting change. Anshu Gupta of GOONJ, Aditya Nataraj of Kaivalya Education Foundation, Osama Manzar of Digital Empowerment Foundation, Sujata Khandekar of CORO, Chetna Gala Sinha of Mann Deshi, Flavia Agnes of Majlis; and so many others who took the untrod path and kept at it. They are living examples of what can happen with the humble beginnings of ONE.
One Purpose Harnesses the Power of Many…
In a gentle way, you can shake the world. –Mahatma Gandhi
On 6th September, 2018, the Supreme Court overturned Section 377 of the penal code in a landmark judgement decriminalising homosexuality in India. This was the result of thousands of people, fighting for some decades, demanding that they should be treated as equal citizens in the eyes of the law. The archaic law proved no match for the collective strength of the common man. These people used no violence, but by joining hands they spoke with one forceful voice. Sometimes, one tragic incident too can shake the foundations of society to its core. Nirbhaya’s rape shocked the country. United in horror, the common man once again rose up to put pressure on the government, leading to the amendment of Indian rape laws. It was the death of one child labourer and two Dalit labourers that provoked Ashif Shaikh to launch Jan Sahas, an organisation working to eradicate bondage in all its forms through the empowerment of women and girls, providing legal justice, food security and empowering barefoot leaders who can take communities out of poverty
There is the big picture, where we face huge, complex problems such as social inequity, injustice and the denial of basic rights to entire sections of society; and there are micro-issues, which stem from complex power structures down to individual values.
One Voice Can Start a Movement…
When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful. –Malala Yousafzai
Any story of change is at its core also about a choice – choosing not to throw one’s hands up in defeat but persevering towards what many consider an impossible goal. History offers many such examples. While still a teenager, Malala Yousafzai showed true grit when she stood up in the face of violence and began her fight for education for girls everywhere. And long before Malala, India’s first feminist Savitribai Phule was paving the way for women’s rights and education. Sampat Pal Devi’s ‘Gulabi Gang’ has empowered over 270,000 women to speak out against domestic violence and archaic practices like dowry, child marriage and desertion. A short distance from EdelGive Foundation’s offices in Mumbai, lawyer Afroz Shah, along with his 84-year old neighbour Harbansh Mathur set their sights on cleaning Versova beach in 2015. One by one, concerned citizens joined them in picking up all kinds of trash. 20 million kilos of garbage later, this initiative went on to become the world’s largest beach clean-up exercise.
We are humbled by the Power of One. And as we move towards scaling ourselves and our partners, we continue to appreciate what this power can unleash. In the last year, EdelGive Foundation has had its own share of victories and milestones that are the culmination of the three approaches outlined above. We launched two ambitious collaborative efforts – The Influencers and the Coalition for Women Empowerment (CWE) — aimed towards a more equal and respectful India. We also launched phase two of our education coalition, The Collaborators for Transforming Education and continue to see remarkable improvements in learning outcomes of children. We rely on robust data to be both accountable and effective in our investment decisions. To this end, we have fortified our Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) capabilities through the development of the Measure for Impact (M4I) tool. We believe that binding together the many individuals and organisations working independently with the right resources can create exponential impact. After all, our team and extended network of NGO Partners and funding partners is a collective of many ‘ones’ joining together to power real change.
EDGE 2019 is all about the small ideas that have evolved into actions that have enabled change for thousand others. Ideas that have changed lives! Ideas that have shaped thinking!
Join us as we celebrate these real stories of change, and hear the inspirational journeys of vision and dedication of our esteemed speakers at EDGE 2019.
EDGE is a collaborative platform initiated by EdelGive Foundation with the aim to connect exceptional non-profit organisations with the funding fraternity, in-turn facilitating conversations on collective impact. Apart from speakers and panel discussions, the EDGE Talks platform will showcase EdelGive’s NGO partners as they share their journeys of change.
If you wish to attend EDGE 2019, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on EdelGive Foundation, visit: www.edelgive.org
India made a significant stride towards a system of structured philanthropy, with the introduction of Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013, mandating a 2% share of profits (of qualifying companies) to be put towards CSR. This amendment commissioned on April 1st, 2014 was institutionalized as an attempt to engage the corporate world with the country’s development agenda and supplement the government’s efforts of delivering benefits on ground.
An overall increase in spending
As the CSR mandates completed five years of its existence, it has had significant impact on corporate giving. The CRISIL CSR Yearbook 20191, a report showcasing the CSR spending of Indian companies has shown that the cumulative spending of the last four years (up-till the last quarter of 2018) has topped INR 50,000 crore (including INR 34,000 crore by listed companies and nearly INR 19,000 crore by the unlisted ones). The report also shows that spending by listed companies has risen 12% on-year in fiscal 2018 to INR 10,000 crore – the first time it has reached this mark.
Education & skill development were two domains which have received maximum investments under the act, amounting to 35% of total CSR spend. Healthcare & sanitation came in second, with 24%. Among others, rural development, empowerment, and benefits for armed force veterans also saw growing investments. Sadly, this is not surprising as both these sectors provide a mechanism of evaluation which can showcase quantitative or physical impact as compared to a project on slum development for example, which will account for several regulations and is a lengthy process towards showcasing results.
Besides the numbers, the need for a structured format for conducting CSR is essential as it ensures that more companies, meeting the profit criteria contribute to social progress.
This can be extremely beneficial for industries that have large manufacturing facilities and as a result of the same, interact with the local populations at an increasing pace. For such companies, a social commitment to the community where companies operate from, can help maintain smooth industrial relations.
Additionally, with the mandate opening up, career opportunities for those in the social sector have also increased with the sector slowly evolving as one of the primary career destinations. It has moved beyond the traditional roles of volunteering or field jobs, into specialised roles catering to the challenges, limitations and essentials of the field.
Making CSR impactful
Even with the above positive changes, the quality and impact of spending still remain a challenge for corporate India. Answering the important questions such as, “Is our contribution actually creating impact?’; ‘Are we partnering with the right organizations?’ and “How can we create more value to our beneficiary against our spending?”
At EdelGive we have looked closely at answering these very questions. The evolution of EdelGive was guided by an early but not clearly articulated understanding of stakeholder capitalism as opposed to shareholder capitalism where the focus is only on creating value for the shareholder. Stakeholder capitalism involves building the ability to manage multiple bottom lines beyond the bottom line related to profits; such as those related to customer centricity, employee welfare, government and regulator interactions and most importantly the value added to society by creating jobs, making efficient investments and directing CSR budgets, strategically and thoughtfully.
It is not wrong to say however that the new development of the Companies Act which restricts spending on expenditure (5% of total CSR spending), will create a road-block to companies from enhancing their in-house capabilities. At EdelGive we have tried to bridge this gap with increasing our focus on co-funding. We are able to find partners and collaborations that will enable us to create a wider pool of investments and relieve the burden of some of those additional expenses incurred.
Focus on Monitoring and Evaluation
From a NGO view point, the companies act has also affected the way in which NGOs are reporting and documenting their journeys. Given the mandates focus on documentation, companies want to engage with credible organizations, who will be able to monitor these figures effectively. So, as due-diligence mechanisms increase at the corporate end, organizational development and capacity building will increase for NGOs. The role of third-party evaluations has also grown because of this. There is increasingly a need for evaluations at all stages of a CSR program – from choosing the NGO to work with; to setting up goals and targets; to documenting how these goals and targets have been achieved.
CSR towards SDGs
In 2017 however, the rules of the game changed. The Companies (Amendment) Act, 2017, changed the eligibility criteria to be based on financials of the ‘immediately preceding financial year’ rather than the earlier stipulation of ‘any three preceding financial years’. Estimates from the CRISIL report shows that this can shrink the giving universe in years to come, in terms of both number of companies and their total spend. This is worrisome when we look at it from the point of view of achieving our ambitious Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
As an extension of the (Millennium Development Goals) MDGs, the SDGs have widely included the corporate sector to bring in innovation and a business management approach towards achieving these goals. Thus the potential for private sector participation will be very high. In fact, Schedule VII of the Act, enables companies to spend on a sector liked directly to SDGs. By restricting the eligibility criteria, there could be a shortfall and a limitation in the number of participating companies involved in CSR spending.
What we cannot ignore in this equation is the role of private funding towards CSR. Indian ultra-rich and corporations need to step up further to bridge this gap.
There is also a lot more potential to work together and focus our energies on co-funding projects, innovations in capacity building, creating coalitions and collaborations and creating a connected social sector in India. I am certain this will ensure a more effective philanthropic approach and will enable more players to join in and work towards social goals.
Five years of mandated structured philanthropy in India
India made a significant stride towards a system of structured philanthropy, with the introduction of Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013.read more