Strengthening Leadership Development in Social Enterprises

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Strengthening Leadership Development in Social Enterprises

Arthan in partnership with Social Finance India hosted a roundtable discussion on Strengthening Leadership Development in Social Enterprises to Create Greater Mission Impact on February 20, 2020, in Mumbai. The aim of the roundtable was to curate an insightful conversation amongst corporations, corporate foundations and practitioners from the development sector, around the need for investing in organisational development and encourage corporate foundations to share how they have enabled learning and development for their grantee partners and about other corporate responsibilities for NGO and development sector.

The participants included Satyam Vyas, Anchal Kakkar, Mahamaya Navlakha, Mridhula Sridharan (Arthan), Ashutosh Tyagi, Saurabh Nigam, Rishad Abraham (Social Finance India), Richa Pant (LTFS), Arun Nathan ( Landmark Group), Manav Yagnik ( Caring Friends), Abhijeeth Agarwal ( Axis Bank), Manas Rath (BORDA), Aditya Golatkar (LTFS), Amit Garg (Global Fund to end modern slavery), Dr. Neeta Rao ( USAID).  A diverse group of people who candidly shared their experiences and expertise, offering insights from the funder and the NGO/ implementing organisation’s lens.

Key Questions Answered

The discussion began with the key questions- “What is a company’s social responsibility?” and “What is the right thing for corporations to do outside of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) law?”

The CSR leaders around the table offered insights about the evolving role of corporations in solving systemic challenges in India. Because a vast majority of corporations provide funds to non-profits in India, discussions steered towards the challenges of what can an NGO do when the founder/ CEO decides to step back? Often, NGOs are a single person team, that is started with passion to do good, and not enough investment is made in building a team to support this single entity. Participants spoke about the ways they mitigate this risk. For instance, few corporations utilise a workshop based capacity building model bringing together their grantee partners for two-three day long skill building workshops. Some corporations leave the capacity building to the NGOs themselves but ensure the cost for such services are tied into the budget approved by the corporations for these NGOs. 

Why invest for a short-term?

But, why will corporations invest in building the capacity of organizations who they will fund for one-two years? What is the net-impact for CSR? 

Members on the roundtable agreed to the need for longevity and sustainability in the sector with long-term grants that go beyond three-five, even nine years. Such long-term commitment helps NGO leaders go beyond the need for constant fundraising and focus on organization building and strengthening, resulting in greater impact across the spectrum, activities they seldom have time for since fundraising takes up much of their bandwidth with short term grants. CSR leaders stressed that such a process requires support of the boards of organization and buy in from senior leadership to look at this as the company’s social responsibility and not just abiding by the law.

Innovative Ways to Accelerate Impact

What are new innovative ways CSR and NGO’s can accelerate impact? An often repeated statement is that NGOs are not as efficient as corporations. The members agreed that efficiency in corporations is also debatable but what can we do to build collective efficiency in CSR and in the non-profits we support? A way to address this was proposed as a two-path strategy: One- Corporates and NGOs come together to create a uniform outcome metrics for the sector that everyone in the sector will use. This will help NGOs and funders track impact in a standardised format. Second: Corporates utilise skill-based volunteering with impact organizations. Will NGOs gain from such a program? Something to think about here is will that build efficacy in the program and on the flip side how can we measure the success of such a program?

The sector thrives on trust-therefore interactions and communication are key. Have NGOs themselves undersold the nature of work to be done to donors? Resulting in mismatch of expectations and delivery. On the other hand, what is stopping the CSR team from venturing onto the field more, speaking to partner organizations, understanding the challenges they face on a regular basis. There is a mindset shift required, the participants agree on, that CSR must view the grantee organizations as partners and not just as service providers as the corporate responsibilities for NGO and development sector tend to be vast.

Closing Call for Action

As the session drew to a close, participants agreed that as more and more corporations become purpose driven, the nature of corporate sustainability will change, the nature of impact workforce will change as more and more millennials join the workforce. To adjust to changing tides, capacity building support has to be more thoughtful- with a focus on skills, leadership and ethics across the organization and not just the senior management to create long-term sustainable impact.

While it was still undecided who the onus of capacity building of NGOs should fall on – the funders or the NGOs or a combination of the two- there was consensus in the critical need to equip NGOs with skills necessary to deliver their programs and strengthen their organisations, efficiently and effectively. 

Many such dialogues are needed to pool together our collective knowledge, perspectives and insights on the best path to move the corporate responsibility on the most strategic path.

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