A child-centric view of the 2018 AVPN Conference


Mary Ellen and Azad Oommen


As organisations working on education in India, we were excited to be at AVPN to connect with other organisations interested in education, be inspired by ideas from across Asia and learn how other sectors are addressing complex societal challenges. 

For us, the learning began from the very beginning of the conference. With the tone set by AVPN’s member’s day opening plenary, everyone knew this conference was going be different. In a room full of adults, a bubbly enthusiastic character named Chamki appeared on the dais.

Chamki is a role model to millions of young girls across India. She, like them, loves to play with her friends, attend school and has big dreams about what she wants to be when she grows up. Unlike her fans, Chamki is a character on Galli Galli Sim Sim, and can’t go anywhere without her friend and puppeteer Gazal.

Chamki’s presence connected us to the conference by creating a spirit of joyfullness and learning.  Under the friendliness of Chamki’s world, there was a real focus on making philanthropy more effective.

We were particularly interested in ways in which to align our work with the needs of the sector and funders’ approaches.  We found real value in sessions like one on “Pay for Success Models,” which was looking at Development Impact Bonds.  With speakers from Third Sector Partners, the British Asian Trust and UBS Optimus Foundation, there were insights borne out of deep experience on the topic – all three with first-hand experience of DIBs. Kevin Tan, of Third Sector Partners, summarized 10 years of the fund’s distilled learnings into three simple principles for DIBs:

  • start simple and only complicate to solve for issues coming up,
  • the devil is in the detail,
  • the process is as valuable as the outcome.

In a world in which girls have significantly fewer education opportunities than boys, we learned a lot from Joy Anderson & Kristin Yee of Criterion Institute’s session “Designing Gender Lens Investing Action Plan: A Tool for Investment”. Using examples of work Criterion had done with fund managers in the room, Joy was able to give tangible examples of how a gendered perspective helped these funds avoid risky investments. The Criterion toolkit and a document “Framing Gender Lens Investing” helped us understand how we might truly move their intentions into practice.

Finally, we got a pan-Asian perspective on education from the plenary discussion on education.  With viewpoints represented from India, Indonesia, and other ASEAN countries, we got a sense of a range of initiatives and approaches.  There was a strong sense of the need for investments in early childhood education as a means of creating a base for other interventions at later stages in children’s lives.  And there was an interesting theme around the increasing role of the private sector in contributing to solutions to the challenge of providing quality education to all children in Asia.

The conference offered opportunities to learn in large group sessions, have individual meetings to forge partnerships with funders and other civil society organisations, and experience various resources that organisations have developed in meeting their mission.  We ended with numerous possibilities of collaboration, including some with organisations who are based in India, but we found easier to connect with in Singapore!

Through it all, Chamki’s friendly tone infused the conference.  She transported all of us beyond the jargon of conferences to an aspirational world with limitless possibilities for kids like Chamki’s fans.

Mary Ellen is the CEO of Atma

Azad Oommen is a co-founder of Global School Leaders

Tagged in: AVPN

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