At the 14th Dasra Philanthropy Week, diverse stakeholders from the social impact sector gathered to convene and collaborate on ideas for sustained action for a transformed India. The event featured diverse leaders of grassroot organisations, think-tanks, family philanthropists, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) leaders, institutional players, and development sector organisations.
‘India has changed tremendously in the last decade, but we still have a long way to go. We must strive to be a hopeful presence in a stressful world, exactly what all of you in the social sector are doing today.’, said Nisaba Godrej, Executive Chairperson of Godrej Consumer Products, while opening the plenary sessions on 2nd March 2023 to the attendees gathered.
With a proud and hopeful glance around the room, Suparna Gupta, Chairperson of Dasra added, ‘Looking around today, I see diversity. And when we all come together as equal partners, we all have a seat at the table, skin in the game, and are able to realise the ambitious goal of #ABillionThriving‘.
Empowering those who serve the communities
The first plenary discussion of the day kicked off with Nandita, Director of Martha Farrell Foundation highlighting the need for grassroots organisations to be able to respond to the changing realities on the ground and doing so with agility. KN Gopinath, Executive Director at Dhwani Foundation echoed this sentiment and added that this could be accelerated by ‘building internal systems to adapt and sustain’.
The panel further reiterated Deep Jyoti’s (Co-founder and Director, Farm2Food Foundation) call for ‘active collaboration for overall development’, and the need to ‘stop reinventing the wheel’ to create efficiencies for better impact. On this note, Smarinita Shetty, Co-founder & CEO, India Development Review, highlighted the need for support to build resilience of NGOs and in establishing shared infrastructure and shared services.
All panel members stressed the need for a common vocabulary on what is required by community-based organisations, and the value of trust amongst all the stakeholders for moving ahead. ‘Resource-rich and ideas-rich need to co-create the narratives’, said Anita Patil from Goonj, emphasising a community-centric approach.
Further, while reflecting on Dasra’s journey over the last 23 years, Sonal Sachdev Patel, CEO GMSP Foundation and Board Members at Dasra, Deval Sanghvi and Neera Nundy shared their thoughts on the imperative to go deeper into the communities of India to understand the root causes of social problems to create a lasting impact.
The past, present and future of Indian philanthropy
In a plenary discussion that was driven by Jishnu Batabyal, Partner Bain & Company and Neera Nundy, it was stated by Sumit Tayal, COO of Give, that most of the retail giving in India is peer-to-peer and community-driven, with only 20% being organised. On top of the already robust growth in CSR over the years, Gayatri Divecha, Head- Sustainability & CSR, Godrej Industries Ltd, pointed to the increasing importance of CSR, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19, and how employees took the responsibility for working with communities.
While talking about the findings in the ‘Indian Philanthropy Report 2023’, it was identified that the New-Gen givers are evolving the traditional family philanthropy approaches by focusing on underrepresented causes and adopting catalytic giving approaches. According to Rizwan Koita, Director of Koita Foundation, family philanthropy is increasingly becoming more socially aware, and is developing meaningful philosophies and guiding principles for being more effective.
In terms of the road ahead, moderators summarised the need for philanthropic infrastructure as a common denominator across funder segments, which when strengthened, can unlock greater funding for the development sector at large.
Taking a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens to development
Parmesh Shahani, Curator, and Inclusion Consultant, in his lightning talk, underlined the importance of ‘thinking small, but in a meaningful way, with a focus on listening to the voices of underrepresented and underserved communities.’
Further, in a plenary discussion, corporate leaders and influencers discussed their perspectives on promoting workers’ well-being, strengthening the ‘S’ of ESG, and a ‘worker centric’ vision to ensure sustainable growth of businesses. Sameer Khera, MD of SEE Linkages Pvt. Ltd, highlighted the increasing global requirement for ESG compliance, with ESG audits becoming mandatory. ‘S of ESG is an investment, and there will be a return’, he said.
Namrata Mehra, Lead- ESG, CSR & Sustainability, Godrej Properties, further added the importance of linking ESG aspirations to CSR and the growing pertinence of tracking social metrics. This was also addressed by Joseph Francis, Markets leader of ESG platform at PWC India, who spoke about plugging the gaps in Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting (BRSR) by corporates, especially regarding the wellbeing of all employees and workers who are a part of the value chain.
All panellists echoed the importance of using ESG standards to help the informal sector and extending the social compact to them, which would require long-term capital.
Enabling gender-equitable leadership in India
Later in the day, champions of gender equitable leadership shared their perspectives on enablers, gaps, and opportunities to change the conventional dynamics of workspaces. Shailja Mehta, Director, Dasra, and Dipa Nag Chowdhury, Senior Advisor, Dasra, quoted statistics highlighting the growing disparity in representation in top roles. According to them, women occupy only 20% of leadership roles in India, despite the large number of women entering the sector. This is due to limited pathways in advancement to leadership.
On workplace dynamics, Zainab Patel, Lead Inclusion and Diversity, Pernod Richard India, expressed that ‘often, in the workplace, women aren’t given the space, or the understanding to have shortcomings, failures or even the inability to do things, and unless we do that, we will always fall short.’
Exploring intersectionalities with climate action in India
Addressing the last session of the day, Tarun Jotwani, Founding Partner, Naviter Capital and Chairperson, Dasra Global Council said ‘the progress we are making on SDGs will not happen at all with the climate crisis. We have rising ocean levels, melting glaciers, floods, droughts, heatwaves, forest fires and worse phenomena to follow. This is not to create alarm bells for later, this is happening now.’
Panellists including Aarthi Sridhar, Founder of Trustee Dakshin Foundation; Chetna Sinha, Founder of Mann Deshi Foundation; Parnasha Banerjee, Associate Director at Dasra and Sameer Sisodia, CEO of Rainmatter Foundation, discussed the vulnerability of workers in the informal sector to the effects of climate change, while also noting their potential role in mitigating its impact. They brought to attention the potential that addressing climate change has in terms of its multiplier effects and highlighted the relevance of taking an intersectional approach to the issue. The speakers provided insights into how this could help build community resilience, emphasising the urgency of such efforts to address India’s climate crisis effectively and the role that philanthropy can play to facilitate this.
Aarti Mohan, Kriti Jain, Palagati Lekhya Reddy, Sattva Consulting