Every year, some 12 million young Indians join the workforce, according to a recent EY study, and 64% of the population is likely to be of working age by 2020-21. That’s at the heart of India’s much-vaunted demographic dividend, which is supposed to propel its GDP—but there is a huge disconnect between job creation and GDP growth. The key is to ignite bottom-up, inclusive growth through job creation, something China has successfully done, rather than jobless GDP growth.
It seems a perfect match with the priorities of the Modi government, which is throwing its might behind job creation through three high-decibel programmes—Make in India, Smart Cities, and Digital India. These programmes come in the wake of the decade from 2005, when only 3 million additional jobs were created while 60 million job-seekers were entering the workforce.
In 2016, Social Venture Partners (SVP) India’s founding chairman, Ravi Venkatesan, announced Million Jobs Mission. The ambitious mission aims at creating an ecosystem to train and skill one million Indians by 2020. SVP India was founded in Bangalore in 2012 as a member of the global SVP network. The first American chapter emerged in Seattle in 1997 from the desire of successful technology professionals to improve the impact of their charitable giving by leveraging their professional skills and business networks.
At a joint interaction with the core team, including Dr. Ganesh Natarajan, Chairman, SVP India, Govind Iyer, Egon Zehnder and the founders of Srujna in Mumbai, I learnt that livelihood, including job creation and vocational training, is an overarching national focus area for all chapters. SVP India chapters have mobilised well over 180 business leaders, philanthropists and active citizens to become one of the largest networks of engaged donors in India.
Unique approach in India
SVP India began by adopting the tried and tested grant-making processes of SVP chapters around the world, assisted by SVP’s network office and close personal ties with chapters in Seattle, Portland and other American cities. But the scale of India’s social problems coupled with the entrepreneurial fibre of those who joined the Indian chapters raised many questions about scale and impact.
Making small grants to non-profit organisations in the classical SVP style was a necessary and appropriate starting point for a group of people addressing social problems through collective action. But several partners realised it was not enough to move a few out of poverty and into employment by funding small initiatives, but rather to invent new models that can scale efficiently, attack structural impediments, and even influence policies.
Fulfilling the moral imperative to achieve greater impact required SVP India to “come up with creative solutions, not live in a silo,” said Dr Natarajan, who is also Chairman, Pune City Connect (a collaborative platform that enables corporations to work with the Government on social and city innovation) and 5F World, a platform for skills, start-ups and social ventures. He was Chairman of NASSCOM Foundation for three years from 2014 to 2017. SVP’s partners in India could lean on a large body of experience and insights from U.S. chapters, but ultimately they had to find an Indian way forward that worked effectively in the local cultural context.
“One pathway for scaling social impact is to find more established organisations and work with them to help scale their impact. If they are on a trajectory to impact 25,000 lives over a period of time, our engagement would aim to scale this to say one lakh people,” said Dr Natarajan.
The chapters’ support of LabourNet, Pune City Connect and NGOs like Srujna exemplify this additional pathway, with individual partners adding value to grants by advising senior managers at nonprofits on business strategies for sustainable growth, mobilising third party funding, assisting with access to technology solutions, or introducing nonprofits to potential corporate partners.
The ecosystem mentioned earlier is a livelihood platform comprising diverse stakeholders including nonprofits, skills agencies, donors, investors, employers and government who often operate in silos without cross-institution collaboration. SVP India envisaged a platform that would bring stakeholders together, connecting them for new partnerships with shared objectives and efficiencies.
Coming back to the Million Jobs Mission, at the time when it was announced, plans for how such an ambitious goal would be achieved were sketchy. The ecosystem stakeholders convened at the inaugural conclave of the Million Jobs Mission (MJM) held in New Delhi in January 2017. MJM will be a platform for multi-stakeholder collaboration that will support nonprofits with the potential to create jobs and enhance incomes at scale.
Collective impact framework
SVP has created a backbone organisation needed to provide its chapters and consortium partners with the secretariat support of the sort associated with the Collective Impact framework.
Lead Partners from SVP provide significant amounts of time mentoring and guiding the design partners to achieve their goals as the secretariat engages with other large players (government agencies, donors) for long-term institutional support. The movement will only grow as similar conclaves are being planned every year, each adding a further 10-15 design partners into the mix in addition to a larger number of consortium partners.
Said Dr Natarajan, “SVP India sees this as a tremendous opportunity to successfully demonstrate the power of collective action in solving a very challenging social problem for India: creating a million jobs!”