Pune City Connect: Transforming Pune the Collective Way

                 “Sampoorna Pune. Every Life Enriched.”

Pune City Connect, a non-profit whose vision is to enrich the life of every citizen of Pune, is enabling a social transformation in Pune through a multifaceted collaborative model under the able leadership of Ms. Ruchi Mathur. An alum of IIM Ahmedabad, Ruchi wears many hats professionally with work experience in marketing, nonprofits and corporate social responsibility, is embarking on a mission of transforming the city through Collective Action. The collective action here is inspired by the Stanford Social Innovation article Embracing Emergence: How Collective Impact Addresses Complexity by John Kania & Mark Kramer.

Pune City Connect acts as a centrifugal force bringing together Government (Pune Municipal Corporation: PMC), Corporates through Corporate Social Responsibility: CSR, Non-profits, Foundations and Civic Societies on a common platform of social and economic well-being. The Public-Private model helps in attracting resources for an inclusive and equitable Pune through selected development programs.

Pune City Connect is catalyzing a transformative social change through collective action. Mindset behavioural change and scale are the way forward for maintaining a sustainable change.” Ruchi, Pune City Connect.

Listen to Ruchi’s interview with Nishant here.

The development programs plan to empower the less privileged members of the society by bringing the best pedagogy in education for municipal schools, focusing on digital literacy & inclusion and imbibing skills for a sustainable livelihood. Under its partnership with PMC, Pune City Connect works as the interface with the corporates for generating capital and other resources for selected development programs mentioned herein.

The company facilitates resources for programs bringing in best business practices to aid measurable impact, scalability, and enhanced accountability. PMC gives support through fixed and capital expenditures while CSR funds the variable operational expenses. About 30 Corporates, have contributed since Pune City Connect started. Approximately 35 implementation partners are on board, including non-profits for implementing projects in the development sector. All the development projects are focused on driving India towards fulfilling the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.

“Impact lives of 20% of the slum population for catalysing Collective Good for everyone through a spiraling effect.”

To drive its Mission and Vision, an ensemble group of prominent stalwarts and leaders from the corporate sector are working on the board of directors. The education project for municipal schools modelled on the holistic philosophy of imparting activity learning to both primary and secondary students through “Models of Excellence Schools” project and as a support for honing skills of teachers/ mentors/ coaches through the Sahyogi Dal project. Nineteen municipal school teachers were selected as Sahyogis to train and mentor other teachers.

“Coached 1000 teachers in instructional & pedagogical structure across 172 Marathi medium Schools for the last four years.” Sahyogi Dal Project.

Models of Excellence is an integrated approach in developing both qualitative and quantitative skills of all the stakeholders in education. The method uses various pedagogy structure, which includes direct experiential learning through activities, especially those in science and arts, to develop well-rounded personalities.

                                                                  “40,000 students impacted in Schools.” Ruchi, Pune City Connect 

The projects plan to foster a sense of belonging, self-learning & awareness to boost self-esteem among students who hail from low-income background apart from mandatory skill sets for better personal growth and development. The intervention started this year in five Marathi medium schools would increase to other municipal skills to measure its impact over two years. The long-term objective is to develop balanced, responsible citizens backed by intelligence and intellectual ability for making a sustained positive change in society.

Digital Empowerment Pune is an ambitious project to sustain the exemplary vision of the Honorable Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi’s National Digital Empowerment Mission (NDLM). The mission plans to empower at least one person per household in internet literacy. PMC and Pune City Connect plan to train 200,000 low-income families by 2022 impacting at least one person per household. The impact translates into 20% of the low-income households having at least one computer literate member bringing in economics jargon into a Network Effect which would cascade across all the less privileged families in Pune.

The project promotes participatory culture among the masses, bringing a sense of inclusion and pride. The project focuses more on the application of technology rather than just theoretical knowledge. Pune City Connect designed the curriculum which encompasses an in-depth understanding of computers with a focus on an overview of hardware and software and its various applications. Experiential learning aided through 15 Digital Empowerment Centres and 6 Digital Empowerment Buses equipped with computers, Wi-Fi, a projector and screen along with a printer scanner.

            “More than 40,000 citizens in low income households trained in Digital Empowerment.”

Each center has a Mobilizer and a Trainer who trains 2-3 batches per day depending on availability. Further, Pune City Connect coordinates with 800 placement agencies for helping participants, especially those through sustainable livelihood project in job recruitment. All developmental projects work on rising scalability through incremental participation by increasing awareness of the mission, decreasing variable costs, and opening new avenues for sustained empowerment, community building, and sharing. (SDG 1,2, 4,10). A bell weather step if India wants to succeed in its Smart City and E-governance initiative in the fourth technology fueled revolution of emerging disruptive technologies. (SDG 11).

Finally, the other major development project is to provide skills and personal development for urban disadvantaged youth. Launched under the appropriate moniker Lighthouse, the plan envisions to promote gender equality, economic growth, social harmony, and leadership skills through skill building, coaching, and mentoring. Below Ruchi speaking on the television. Ruchi, CEO Pune City Connect in the video below.

                                           “6 new lighthouses launched on 8th July 2019.”

Majority of the enrolled participants are between the ages 18-30, with 60% of them women. (SDG 5, 8,9,10,11,17). Further, the project trains and mentors’ participants in technology-related coding and non-coding skills like MS Office, C, Java, etc. The project has made huge inroads in its mission, and in this video, Ms. Ruchi talks about their approach on the ground.

           “Value-based personality development for 6000 youth across five lighthouses; 1750 youth placed.

                                                      Social and economic development in 20 slum communities.”

Pune City Connect is playing a significant role in transforming the city through the novel approach of driving innovation at the bottom of the pyramid through collective action by incorporating multiple stakeholders. Today, there is more accountability through the participation of various actors, measurable impactful interventions at less privileged members of the social work as enablers for attracting more capital through philanthropy.

“Lighthouse are centers of love and compassion to build a change from within for a ripple effect in society. A community building effort to promote economic landscape through increased jobs in the organized sector, expand gender equality, enable leadership and peer, support groups, enhance a sense of citizenship, and spread social harmony.Ruchi, CEO, Pune City Connect. 

Listen to the Podcast here.

A step forward, indeed, still a lot needs to be done. A lot will depend on Puneites playing their small part in transforming the city for good, an uphill but achievable task. Last but not the least a great appreciation to numerous volunteers who devoted valuable time for spreading well-being in the most real altruist sense. Learning is more suitable if it’s fun. Leave you with the music of wannabe rappers.

I suggest the following further readings here.

Sustainable Development Goals: Pioneering Solutions for India

Philanthropy, Social Entrepreneurship and Nonprofits


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NITI Aayog and India’s march towards Sustainable Development Goals 2030

“India’s success in 2030 UN SDGs can change the face of the world” Powerful and impactful words of UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa

I wrote this report for publication in a journal and will post the link if and when it gets published.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by 193 countries at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in Sept 2015 and came into effect from 1st Jan 2016. SDGs remarkably increased the umbrella of initiatives from the set of 8 international development goals with 18 quantifiable targets under Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to set off 17 Goals with 169 Targets. To circumvent the pitfalls of global imbalances during the MDGs era, SDGs formulated a wide range of goals for making sustainable goals more universal and inclusive. In India, Niti Aayog, India Government top think tank is involved in driving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation in India. Pic. Niti Aayog

To achieve the set agenda, the Indian Government launched some very innovative policies to catalyse financial inclusion, increase technology, promote universal housing, healthcare, education, gender equality and clean tech through its flagship policies namely Swachh Bharat Mission, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 5: Gender Equality), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jan- Dhan Yojana, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana, and Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.

SDG Goal 1: No Poverty

These policies signify the seriousness with which the Indian Government is implementing the vision of the United Nation on SDGs through strategies, interventions, and attracting private capital within the Indian and Global business ecosystem.

# Niti Aayog and India 

NITI Aayog, the premier government policy think tank formed under the tutelage of Mr. Narendra Modi and headed by Mr. Amitabh Kant, is mandated for coordinating work on SDGs in India. It works as the central force with all the stakeholders involved in implementing SDGs within the economic, social and environmental ecosystem through policies and interventions, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation backed by a framework of best ethical business practices. To map progress across India, an SDG India Index is formed to assign policies to respective SDGs with a numerical number ranging between 1 to 100. The SDG index tracks the progress of all the States and Union Territories on a set of 62 Priority Indicators, to measure impact evaluation of policies and interventions of the Government of India.

The index constructed for 13 SDGs, works as ready reckoner for policymakers, businesses, civil society, and the general public. The Indian SDG index excludes Goals (12,13, 14 and 17) due to unavailability of comparable data across States for the first three Goals while no available framework for Goal 17 due to a lack of key performance indicators. NITI Aayog’s comprehensive SDG Index Baseline Report 2018, is the platinum standard of policies and interventions in India across SDGs mapped at local, state and union territories. Continue reading “NITI Aayog and India’s march towards Sustainable Development Goals 2030”

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Philanthropy, Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The nonprofit sector in the US is very fragmented. GuideStar estimates as of July 2015, more than 1.5 million nonprofits registered with the IRS as tax-exempt, not including 6000 nonprofits not registered with IRS but included in GuideStar database. Nevertheless, the nonprofit sector is the third largest workforce in the United States, helped by the emergence of new age philanthropy, social entrepreneurship and innovation. The US nonprofit workforce ranks third in size among the 18 major US industries, behind only retail trade and manufacturing.

An analysis by Bridgespan revealed that very few nonprofits could recuperate their profits when accounting for their direct and indirect costs.1 Many nonprofits are becoming more entrepreneurial, diversifying into alternate sources of funding. Even mainstream nonprofits have become entrepreneurial; Chronicle of Philanthropy publishes a list of top 400 nonprofits in the US ranked on the merit of fundraising. The growing importance of self-financing in the social sector shows the blurring edge between nonprofits and social enterprise.

# New Age Philanthropy. Rise of the Geeks and Technology for Giving 

A resurgence in philanthropy through an altruistic thrust by young technology billionaires has made the social sector more transparent, causing a paradigm shift in the prevailing social business model. The structural shift boosted nonprofits efficiency and channeled social entrepreneurship. In recent years, new age philanthropists like Bill Gates and Melinda Gates, Paul Allen, Pierre Omidyar, Thomas Siebel, Michael and Susan Dell to name a few, brought more accountability into the nonprofit sector. The significant structural change brought by new age philanthropists resulted in an increase in capital resources, innovation, and technical know-how within the giving ecosystem. The new age of giving percolated among many billionaires and millionaires around the world, increasing the number of philanthropists. Example, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates giving pledge movement.  Pic source below: givingpledge.org.

Focus on critical sectors, including defining a measurable mission, example, eradication of malaria by a specific date brought a renewed focus on addressing critical issues facing the society. Bountiful budget helped in designing creative solutions as well as attracting the best talent in the industry. A formative change in philanthropy started through a rigorous scientific method for identifying and evaluating critical solutions using statistics and other data-driven models. Furthermore, new age philanthropists are usually successful tech entrepreneurs, well-educated with tangible skill sets, who leverage their contacts to motivate and collaborate with other entrepreneurs, government officials for sustainable social missions.

                                  “Warren Buffet has pledged 99% of his net worth to charity.”

The new age philanthropists provide an impetus, bringing about a mindset change around the world with the rise of for-profit social enterprises, think tanks, micro-lending organizations, and foundations to work towards measurable social change. Philanthropists today take an active participatory role, driving sustainable social change by fostering innovation and best business practices in nonprofits. Further, philanthropists enable social entrepreneurship within the business ecosystem. 

# Technology, New Investment Avenues and Social Transformation 

Giving has evolved into an impact-driven social transformation mushrooming into evidence based philanthropy.  Further, technology plays a pivotal role in bringing awareness and collaboration for social causes complementing the rise of millenniums as a percentage of the global population. A joint effort by countries in implementing a social transformation through MDGs and SDGs boosted global philanthropy.

The Digital Cooperation agenda backed by the United Nations envisions emerging technology as a key enabler for social transformation and inclusion.”

Microfinance, crowdsourcing, and impact investing became potent tools in helping the less privileged in the society through social innovation and entrepreneurship. Few nonprofits have built a sustainable business model using internet through crowdfunding to connect investors and small and micro social entrepreneurs. Kiva, a rare exception in the micro-funding space, effectively leverages technology for international development. Kiva’s business model keeps operational cost minimal by eliminating intermediaries and connects investors with social entrepreneurs and students on an online platform. Kiva model limits overheads, saves costs, and improves efficiency. Grameen Bank is an excellent example of a micro-finance bank providing micro capital effectively at the bottom of the pyramid for funding, sustaining, and capacity building purposes.

China has done a commendable job in leveraging technology to power inclusion using platforms like crowd sourcing, blockchain. etc. China is using blockchain technology to kick-start a philanthropy revolution within the country. Recently GCNI organised a national convention in India to facilitate nonprofits, businesses and wannabe social entrepreneurs on pioneering solutions for SDG implementation in India. 

In recent years impact investing has become increasing efficient deploying capital with above average returns in social sector. McKinsey estimates impact investors making above average IRR (Internal rate of return) in India. Innovative financing using Blended Finance are backbone of Public Private Partnerships model in developing and low income countries especially in infrastructure sector. The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) estimates impact investing assets under management to be $502 bn with 1340 organizations managing capital. However, this is still less than 1% of global capital markets with asset managers dominating impact investing with a market share of 51% viz a viz development finance institutions (27%). 

# Venture Philanthropy, and Social Entrepreneurs 

Ease of capital for social entrepreneurs pioneering solutions at the bottom of the pyramid became enablers of social change. Companies like Ashoka, Rockefeller Foundation, Avishkaar, Acumen, and Bridgespan help facilitate seed capital and expertise to help develop and scale up the business model. Scalability of businesses is a significant hindrance for social enterprises, especially for those operating in the niche segment.

The role of venture philanthropy in encouraging social entrepreneurship cannot be understated, especially during the 90s and early part of this century. Venture funds gave preference to the social return of capital, provided seed capital and mentored wannabe social entrepreneurs to set up successful businesses.

# Social Entrepreneurs and Social Impact 

A social enterprise is defined as a business venture created for a social purpose-mitigating to reduce a social problem or a market failure and to generate social value while operating with financial discipline, innovation, and determination of a private sector business.”2

Social Enterprises are self-sustaining businesses making a social impact at the bottom of the pyramid. The social enterprise works through various business models; one example is of an integrated social enterprise, wherein they share costs and assets through shared business activities.

Scojo Foundation in India, a healthcare social enterprise, specializes in providing eye-care to less privileged people in the society. To fund its initiative in providing free ready-made reading glasses to rural people in India, the foundation launched its for profit operation in urban areas. Leveraging shared resources, Scojo subsidized free reading glasses for poor people from the profits generated by the urban eye-care section. It started as a nonprofit and realized it could not be able to sustain its business over a longer time. The concentric diversification model into an urban segment helps it to self-finance its mission in providing healthcare to people suffering from presbyopia- blurry close visionArvind Eyecare in India is another excellent example. Project Shakti, a HUL initiative, empowers rural women in India providing a sustainable livelihood. The project has over 1,00,000 rural women entrepreneurs across 18 states.

                 “Michael and Susan Dell Foundation has deployed 60–70 percent of their funds in                                                                        India as impact investors in three years.” McKinsey 

# Social Entrepreneurs Complement Nonprofits, Businesses, and Government

Philanthropy aids nonprofits and social entrepreneurship, to become more efficient and impactful. In many cases, social entrepreneurship form alliances with other nonprofits bringing in better management and innovation, working as partners in eradicating the same social problem. Nonprofits have their own space in addressing social issues, especially in poverty eradication programs, where it’s challenging to build a sustainable business model for low income and less privileged people open to price sensitivity. Social Entrepreneurs, in turn, complement nonprofits in their goal to serve less privileged people effectively. Take the case of Minneapolis where philanthropy gave rise to community service, which in turn helped nonprofits.

Social enterprises are unique in partnering with corporates for a symbiotic good. Share Our Strength leveraged its mission of eradicating hunger through a partnership with American Express. Percentage of proceeds of purchase through American Credit cards go towards a fund providing food for the less privileged people. The campaign raised money and consciousness for hunger relief and Share Our Strength.

The new wave of giving has a trickle down effect on a majority of companies operating within the society’s ecosystem. Even large multinationals are involved in bringing a sustained social change.  through best social responsibility practices. Pampers, has partnered with UNICEF in its worldwide initiative to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) in developing nations thorough its flagship one pack = one vaccine campaign. Launched in 2006 in UK, the campaign has been highly effective in alleviating MNT in developing countries.

# The Pitfalls Ahead

Nonprofits and social enterprises risk losing their focus on mission while generating income to self-finance their business. It’s essential to have a very diverse and autonomous board of directors including philanthropists to keep an active vigil on purpose of incorporation and correct any deviations from the vision and mission.

The proliferation of social enterprises effectively addresses market failures in the social sector, supplements nonprofits in niche segments, drives social innovation percolating down to nonprofits through collaboration. The symbiotic relationship improves efficiency through best business shared practices. Social Innovation leads to better accountability, social impact, and productivity making social sector pie to grow through charitable grants, philanthropy, venture & impact investment, and government funding. In recent years, innovative forms of finance are being used to drive sustainable social entrepreneurs including blended finance previously used in the private sector. Blended Capital aims to address the $2.5 trillion gap in capital funding towards the successful implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.


1. Should nonprofits seek profits?

2. Social Enterprise Topology: Kim Alter

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Sustainable Development Goals: Pioneering Solutions for India

The 14th Edition of Global Compact Network India’s (GCNI) National Convention on Sustainable Development Goals: Pioneering Solutions for India recently concluded at Grand Hyatt, Mumbai. The Convention attracted more than 500 delegates and was well represented by various actors including government, UN agencies, non-profits, academic and civic societies committed to driving sustainable development solutions within the Indian social ecosystem. For the first time, an exhibition was showcased on Best Practices of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). GCNI and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) co-hosted a Round table on ‘Human Rights for Corporate Responsibility’ on 30th May 2019 as a curtain raiser to the convention. This is my final comprehensive article on the GCNI Convention and includes many videos to encompass the essence of the event.

To know a bit about GCNI and United Nations Global Compact, let’s watch my conversation with Mr. Kamal Singh, Executive Director of GCNI.

Dr. Bibek Debroy, Chairman, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister and Member, NITI Aayog, kick-started the convention through his inaugural address (refer to my previous article). The other speakers at the inaugural session included Dr. Uddesh Kohli, Senior Advisor, UN Global Compact, Ms. Renata Dessallien, UN Resident Coordinator in India, Mr. Shashi Shanker, President GCNI & CMD, ONGC Group of Companies, Mr. Rajeev Dubey, Convener– GCNI 14th National Convention & Group President (HR & Corporate Services) & CEO (After-Market Sector) Member of the Group Executive Board Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and Mr. Vishvesh Prabhakar, MD-Operations & Sustainability, Accenture Strategy and Mr. Kamal Singh, Executive Director, GCNI.

SDGs were adopted by 193 countries at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in Sept 2015 and came into effect from 1st Jan 2016. SDGs remarkably increased the umbrella of initiatives from the set of 8 international development goals with 18 quantifiable targets under Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to set off 17 Goals with 169 Targets. To circumvent the pitfalls of global imbalances during the MDGs era, SDGs formulated a wide range of goals for making sustainable goals more universal and inclusive. Continue reading “Sustainable Development Goals: Pioneering Solutions for India”

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GCNI Convention 19: Inauguration and Dr. Bibek Debroy

The hallmark of a great national convention lies in the quality of speakers especially the inaugural speaker. GCNI Convention19 had stellar speakers exemplified by Dr. Bibek Debroy, the inaugural speaker at the convention.  The other speakers at the GCNI Convention19 inaugural session included Dr. Uddesh Kohli, Senior Advisor, UN Global Compact, Renata Dessallien, UN Resident Coordinator in India, Shashi Shanker, President GCNI & CMD, ONGC Group of Companies, Rajeev Dubey Chair-GCNI Present National Convention & Group President (HR & Corporate Services) & CEO (After -Market Sector) Member of the Group Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and Vishvesh Prabhakar, MD-Operations & Sustainability, Accenture Strategy and Kamal Singh, Executive Director, GCNI. In my subsequent article we will look at length at many more moderators and speakers. Refer to my YouTube channel Nish Malhotra for videos of my interaction with moderators and speakers at the convention. Cover photo of all inaugural speakers at the GCNI Convention 19. Continue reading “GCNI Convention 19: Inauguration and Dr. Bibek Debroy”

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Art of Blended Finance and SDGs

Blended Finance will play a critical role in achieving the target of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Going forward, there will be more synergies between Blended Finance and SDGs in the development sector. Blended Finance not to be confused with bending financeis fast becoming an important and potent tool for bridging the yearly $2.5tr gap to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target by 2030. Blended Finance is not a panacea for the global development crisis, but stills works as an innovative way to pool in commercial capital to aid risk-adjusted return for development projects.

OECD defines blended finance as the strategic use of development finance for the mobilization of additional finance towards sustainable development in developing countries. This is a defining change in the scope of blended finance from its work as various financial structuring instruments to its strategic use as a form of finance to eradicate social inequity. The means to attract additional capital for implementation of SDGs through governments, foundations, development finance institutions through concessional (soft loans with lower interest rates and/or longer repayment duration) or non-concessional resources or through public or private relationship gives a defining new policy perspective to blended finance.

Pic Source: Convergence Finance
Continue reading “Art of Blended Finance and SDGs”
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Clear Thinking About Share Repurchase

“A golden rule, companies must only repurchase its stock if the stock price is trading below its intrinsic value and there are no better investment opportunities available.”

As a follow up to my previous article, Clear Thinking about Share Repurchase by Mauboussin of Legg Mason is a great read on how and why stock repurchases replaced dividends as a major form of shareholder return in the US. Continue reading “Clear Thinking About Share Repurchase”

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