The Dasra Philanthropy Week, now in its fifth year, is the largest strategic philanthropy conference in India. The conference has expanded over its five years; this year, it ran for three days, 5 to 7 March, with content for different audiences on each day. The audience has increased threefold, from about 200 attendees last year to 600 attendees this year.
The first day targeted corporate social responsibility teams to provide content relevant to the passing of the Companies Act 2013, which mandates large companies in India to dedicate 2% of profits for corporate social responsibility activities. Sessions on this day dealt with demystifying the new Act, sharing lessons learned, the need for impact assessment in all funding, facilitating employee engagement and choosing the right organizations to fund.
The second day targeted foundations, multilateral agencies and impact investors, focusing on topics such as measuring impact, viewing the sector through a gender lens and harnessing India’s demographic dividend.
The final and most highly anticipated day targeted individual investors such as high net worth individuals concerned about utilizing their philanthropic money in the most scalable and impactful manner. The day began with the launch of the annual Dasra/Bain report on the Indian philanthropy sector, followed by panels on building a philanthropic ecosystem and on domestic violence, highlighting Dasra’s newest report on the topic, No Private Matter: Confronting domestic violence in India. The day ended with talks by three well-known philanthropists, Harsh Mariwala, Roshni Nadar Malhotra and Peter and Jennifer Buffett (by video link) on their giving strategies.
Two highly appreciated additions to the conference this year were short 15-minute sessions termed Dasra Changemakers and Dasra Heroes. Dasra Changemakers highlighted individuals in various fields who had the courage to fight their circumstances and change their lives. Nadia Zouaoui spoke about her documentary describing her forced marriage at the age of 19 and her journey to freedom and empowerment. Bani Kohli, a 16-year-old girl from New Delhi, founded Jai Jan, a Delhi-based non-profit that helps feed the underprivileged by collecting and distributing unused food from local restaurants. Selvi spoke about her journey from defying patriarchal traditions and an abusive child marriage to become Karnataka’s first female taxi driver, empowering both herself and her community in the process.
Dasra Heroes brought to the forefront stories of people who have worked with or been influenced by the efforts of Dasra’s more than 20 portfolio organizations. Meena Bhati, a communications officer for Educate Girls, spoke about her hunger for education from a young age; with her husband’s support she fought her family to go back to school after marriage. Mohammad Arif spoke about Sarathi’s work with adolescent girls. Reena Hogani and Pramila Peter, both child malnutrition workers from SNEHA, and Chhaya Jadhav, a teacher from Muktangan, spoke about their experiences. All these heroes spoke in their local language and their passion and dedication to their cause brought tremendous hope and inspiration to the participants.
The Dasra Girls Alliance was created in 2013 as a $14 million partnership with USAID and the Kiawah Trust for building the ecosystem for empowering India’s 113 million adolescent girls. This year, at Dasra Philanthropy Week, a new partner was announced: the Piramal Foundation joined the alliance with a contribution of $3 million.
This was also the inaugural year of the Dasra Girl Power Awards. 196 organizations were screened under the three categories of health, education and life skills. The 17 finalists were supported through a Dasra-led executive education workshop and invited to the awards ceremony. Three winners, one from each category, walked away with an award of $16,000 as well as further Dasra capacity-building support. The three winning organizations, CULP (education), Ashish Gram Rachna Trust (health) and Vacha (life skills) spoke about their journey so far and their future goals.
Karishma Shanghvi volunteered at Dasra as a Fellow conducting research on the social sector. She has a strong interest in private and public healthcare management, having prior experience working at her family’s business Sun Pharma.