Philanthropic collaboratives in India are relatively young, yet interest in them is accelerating. India’s collaboratives are distinctive, in that most consist of multiple stakeholders—not just funders, but other actors including implementing organizations, government, intermediaries, and technical experts. It is no easy thing to organize many stakeholders around a mission, agree on their respective roles, align on a strategy, and build consensus when circumstances change and midflight corrections are required.
Five of the most effective philanthropic collaboratives
1. India Climate Collaborative
According to a 2018 report by HSBC Global Research, out of 67 developed, emerging, and frontier-market countries, no other country is more vulnerable than India to climate change. Unfortunately, a unified response to this existential threat has been slowed by cavernous gaps in the field’s capabilities, such as insufficient awareness across India’s social sector of climate change’s downstream impact on people’s livelihoods and education, health and nutrition; a dearth of technical expertise necessary to craft holistic policies; and the lack of a common taxonomy that would help philanthropies, NGOs, and government align on actions.
The India Climate Collaborative (ICC) views those gaps as an opportunity to help Indian philanthropists’ coordinate a united response. To this end, in 2018, the ICC identified two objectives to strengthen the field and address the climate challenge. On the demand side, the philanthropic collaborative aims to promote the field by connecting and strengthening the Indian climate community. Specifically, the ICC seeks to stimulate more widespread, informed discourse around climate action in India. On the supply side, the ICC will buttress the field by helping organizations access technical expertise, so as to build the field’s capacity to respond more effectively to the climate change threat.
2. The Collaborators
In 2016, faced with the challenge of improving the language and math skills of every child in the state of Maharashtra, EdelGive Foundation helped form the Collaborators for Transforming Education (the Collaborators), an aptly named philanthropic collaborative that brings together seven donors, NGOs, and the government of Maharashtra.
The Collaborators has partnered with two NGOs—Kaivalya Education Foundation and Gyan Prakash Foundation—to engage 1,044 government functionaries and train headmasters and headteachers on how to coach teachers and analyze data on students’ performance. These headmasters and headteachers, in turn, have worked with more than 45,000 teachers, to elevate their classroom performance and teaching methods. Since the Collaborators came together, students’ overall learning outcomes have increased by 14% in the four special-focus districts in which the collaborative works. Learnings from the districts are being used to design and implement the State Transformation Programme and also inform state education policies.
3. Bhavishya Alliance
During the six years of its existence—from 2006 to 2012—the Bhavishya Alliance was a multi-stakeholder alliance consisting of funders, key government agencies, international organizations, and leading business and civil society organizations working to reduce the scourge of undernutrition among children in Maharashtra.
Over the course of its lifetime, the Alliance rolled out 11 innovative pilot projects, including initiatives to address the root causes of undernutrition. For example, the Alliance, in partnership with Tata Consultancy Services, NGO partner VACHAN and the government, implemented the computer-aided project for adult literacy, health and nutrition awareness (CAALP). The programme enlisted women from 30 communities with the highest rates of female illiteracy in Maharashtra’s Nashik district. Through CAALP, 63% of those women achieved functional literacy and 23% successfully completed the health and nutrition training over a one-year period.
In April 2012, the Alliance’s governing council determined that the collaborative had demonstrated that by co-creating solutions, there was a higher likelihood of making progress against child undernutrition in India. Consequently, the Alliance was dissolved. At the end of its lifetime, four pilots had been taken up by other stakeholders for scaling or replication.
4. Internet Saathi
Internet Saathi has grown out of a unique partnership between the social and private sectors. Google and Tata Trusts came together to increase digital literacy among rural women. Their initiative, Internet Saathi, develops local women trainers (Internet Saathis) to train other women on how to use the internet, which in turn helps them improve their income and overall quality of life.
Internet Saathi adopts a novel approach to addressing a white space in internet literacy and usage for rural women in India. This approach empowers rural women to serve as trainers and helps to break down social barriers facing women in these areas. The initiative has expanded to more than 15 million women across 150,000 villages; over 80% of the women who have been trained by Saathis say they have a better understanding of the internet.
The two organizations behind Internet Saathi, Google and Tata Trusts, contribute specific capabilities and assets. Google brings its deep technological knowledge to bear, including approaches to training the Saathis and designing the initiative’s digital underpinnings. Tata Trusts, on the other hand, shares an extensive understanding of and experience in building partnerships with local governments and nonprofits in rural areas, as well as a mutual trust with local populations.
Additionally, Tata Trusts’ experience in managing large-scale field projects helps ensure that managers are well-positioned to implement the initiative. Partnerships with local nonprofits bolster the organization’s work. For example, Internet Saathi’s partner Jagriti Sewa Sansthan provides field-level planning, interviews job applicants, and lends day-to-day support to Saathis. The nonprofit is the initiative’s “eyes and ears” at the grassroots level.
5. 10to19: Dasra Adolescents Collaborative
India is home to more adolescents than any other country. Yet, this group—particularly adolescent girls — still faces immense social and economic challenges that complicate their transition from childhood to adulthood. Dasra launched the Dasra Girl Alliance in 2013 to direct awareness, funding and resources to the field of adolescents in India.
Over four years, this initiative evolved into a multi-stakeholder initiative, the 10to19: Dasra Adolescents Collaborative. Launched in partnership with The Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, the Collaborative is an outcomes-led, national platform that aligns the expertise and perspectives of multiple stakeholders, across national, state and local levels, to ensure sustainable empowerment for 5 million adolescents in India, through transformative efforts. The key outcomes for 10to19 DAC link to broader Sustainable Development Goals relating to health and well-being, equitable education and gender equality.
10to19 promotes cross-learning between partners and enables strengthening of their individual programmes for adolescents. For example, Quest Alliance is leveraging CINI’s expertise on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights to strengthen their out-of-school programmes. Similarly, C3 is seeking knowledge support from Quest Alliance’s established methodology for assessment of at-risk students. Being outcomes-led has also enabled pooling of funds from varied funder groups, ranging from multilateral organisations to domestic individual philanthropists. This has allowed the 10to19 collaborative to use a range of risk appetite and fund sizes, to enable innovation and holistic action towards ambitious outcomes for adolescents.