US, Denver and Charter Schools

The US spends more than any other country on K12 education i.e., preschool to 12th grade and has one of the best education systems in the world. Both K12 and higher education remains one of the most contentious issues in America. Today America has a trillion-dollar student debt problem and to make matters worse K12 teachers in the US are usually burdened with education loans and mediocre pay. This article is a build-up to my paper while pursuing an education in the US and attempts to highlight the Denver success story, primarily through charter schools. Further additions include the present status of the charter school program in Denver.

 

 

# Charter Schools Vs Public Schools 

To make education more impactful, the US diversifies schools, based on the type of funding, governing & regulatory structure, and pedagogy. Schools which receive funding from local, state or federal government are under the umbrella of the public-school system although federal funding never exceeds 9% of traditional funding for public schools.

 

“Charter Schools help minority and low income students disproportionately even more”

Charter and Innovation schools are part of the public-school system except that they are much more autonomous compared to conventional public schools. Charter Schools are free for enrolled students but have an autonomous jurisdiction of private schools to customize curriculum, mandate their regulations for teacher recruitment and training, etc. Charter Schools have measured success in the US with states like New Orléans and Denver showing incredible results. This story is about Denver Public Schools.

 

# Denver Turnaround

 

Denver, an outlier, is a beacon for the US K12 education system considering its magnificent turnaround story. Part of the article is from one of my papers at public policy school. Denver is the capital of Colorado state, one of the most beautiful and majestic states in the US. Known for its breath-taking landscape consisting of wondrous mountains, pristine plateau, and fantastic people, Colorado is a must-visit place in the US. Denver Public Schools (DPS) also known as Denver County School District No. 1 in the public-school system in the city of Denver, Colorado, United States. ‘It’s committed to meeting the educational needs of every student with great schools in every neighborhood. DPS goal is to give every child in Denver with rigorous, enriching educational opportunities from preschool through high school graduation. DPS is composed of more than 200 schools, including traditional, magnet, charter and pathways schools, with a current total enrollment of more than 91,000 students. Of those, 56.1% of the school ‘district’s enrollment is Hispanic, 22.6% is Caucasian, and 13.8% is African American. Additionally, 69% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch. DPS has about 92,000 students with a total of DPS graduates has grown from 2,655 in 2006 to 3,608 in 2014 under the leadership of Superintendent Tom Boasberg. The Denver Public Schools Board of Education had a budget of $911M for the year 2015-2016.

 

Today Denver is one of the best-performing systems of schools in the United States. Denver has received national recognition for its exceptional leadership development programs for teachers, school leaders, and principal supervisors; its school choice program (ranked number one nationally among major school districts by the Brookings Institution); its collaboration among district-run and charter schools; and its creation of promising new schools. The turnaround of Denver was due to the reasonable use of a portfolio of public schools like charter schools, innovation schools, and magnet schools to serve students with differential education needs and skill-sets.

 

The strategy to focus on the portfolio of educational institutes under the leadership of Michael Bennet and later under Tom Boasberg helped transform Denver from a below-average educational system of schools to one of the best-performing systems in the United States. The turnaround for Denver started in 2005 when 31000 out of 98000 seats were empty with many school buildings empty. Under the leadership of Bennet, pay for performance for teachers was implemented, more support from business and communities was encouraged. Bennet encouraged a portfolio strategy to revive the fledgling public school system through a collaborative model. The model, A+ Denver, works on a collaboration of civic leaders, chaired by two former mayors, to push for change and support the board when it promoted reform.

Further, FDPS implemented the School Performance Framework (SPF). The framework measures academic growth, test scores, enrolment rates as forms of evaluation parameters for schools and limited funding to a weighted student-based budgeting system to make schools accountable for ‘student’s performance through funding. A lot of emphases focus on closing non-performing schools with a renewed thrust on charter and innovation schools. Over the years Denver implemented a unified enrolment system based on a point grade system decided by a computer algorithm, and last year about 24,998 students participated in the school choice program. This remarkable feature is useful in the selection of students from across Denver to schools of their choice based on merits to remove favoritism. Denver also offers neighborhood schools opportunity; the school choice program has 11 enrollment zones giving an option to parents to schools although they might not be the vicinity. Few features include schools allocating 40% of seats to low-income students as well as offer free bus service. Left pic source: https://www.dpsk12.org/

“Eighty-three percent of students entering kindergarten got into their first choice school, as did 74 percent of                                                         students entering a sixth grade and 77 percent of students entering ninth grade.” Chalkbeat

The reforms had a startling effect on the public schools in Denver. In 2005-2006 11.1% dropped out of schools while this figure had reduced to 4.5% by 2014-2015 with 62% graduated on time including 72% who stayed at a high school who entered DPS high school and stayed for four years. Although only 48 percent of DPS graduates enrolled in college 1 in 7 low-income students registered in Denver compared to 1 in 20 nationally. DSST, one of the most successful charter networks reserves 40 percent of the seats for low-income students helping immensely in educating the unprivileged section of students.2

DPS focus on charter schools paid off with students showing measurable improvements in math, writing and comparatively less significant gain in reading. DPS also drafted a state-wise Innovation Schools Act to give innovation schools autonomy like charter schools apart from clear perspectives on performance, clear vision, and strategies. This helped Denver with a variety of schools serving all aspects of students. Increasing salaries and quality of teachers helped a lot in improving the holistic development of students while emphasizing needs of special students.

                                          “Denver is the highest scoring large district in 2015 & 2016 ECCI report.”

The proactive reforms transformed Denver as one of the best educational school systems in the United States with increased autonomy to schools to deliver superlative academic results. Denver featured at second place at 80 points next to New Orleans as the top-scoring county/city in the 2015 ECCI rankings. Denver topped in 2016 rankings for top district as well. Denver effectively transited to an advanced schooling system by increasing enrollment at alternative schools and easing enrollment application with flexibility to compare schools based on specific parameters.

City/County Letter Grade Score** Letter Grade Score
New Orleans, LA (Recovery District) A 81
Denver, CO A 80
New York, NY A- 73
Newark, NJ B+ 70
Washington, DC B+ 68
Houston ISD, TX B 66
Pinellas County, FL B 65
Boston, MA B 63
Baltimore, MD B 61
Tucson, AZ B 60

# Drawbacks and Policy Changes

One of the drawbacks of this system is to promote and focus on students who are excel academically for better ratings while debarring students who perform below average. The inflexible grade of measuring success has not gone well with parents, which prompted Denver school to revise its rigid criteria for measuring student success.

Another critical initiative would be to make quantitative oriented subjects cool with students early on in life. The US still lags in churning out Science, Technology, and Mathematics graduates compared to peers around the world. To address this issue, introduce more active and experimental learning during the formative years in life.

To make teachers pay across America market-driven inline with academic qualifications. The performance pay must be bench-marked across a mix of qualitative and quantitative parameters. The payments for loans for teachers can be subsidized with a fixed below market rate repayment spread out over a long term. Further, the loan must have provisions of removing part of principal  for those who pursue a career in education after a predetermined period.

Further, school systems must encourage specialized teaching and customized pedagogy for students who either under-perform academically or have a disability. This initiative would mitigate funding problems for charter schools, wherein funds focus on students’ performance merits.

 

 

 

Read More »

Podcast Episode 2: Nishant speaks with Iconic Anu Aga; Ex Chairperson Thermax

Pic: Ms Anu Aga

Nishant Malhotra talks to Ms Anu Aga  for Podcast Episode 2 on The Middle Road. 

The following is an excerpt of my conversation with Anu Aga and not a substitute for the Podcast.. Listen to the Podcast here.

Ms. Anu Aga is an iconic businesswoman, social change enabler whose contributions to the society are a harbinger of goodness and uprightness. A philanthropist and successful businesswomen, Anu led Thermax into a global engineering company focused in energy and environment. She strongly supports initiatives in the social sector, especially in advancing equitable and quality education for less privileged people of the society in India.

Anu is an alum of the well known St. Xavier’s College and the prestigious Tata Institute of Social Sciences. She is a person of prominence known for her business acumen, philanthropy and sense of humour. She has featured in leading publications including Forbes.

 

Nishant: Anu, you are an iconic leader not only in business but also in social change. You turned around Thermax when there were very few women entrepreneurs in India. You have also been awarded Padma Shri award, by Government of India for your social work.  Would you like to talk about your journey?

Anu is very modest about her achievements and graciously credits family, friends, and professionals for their support. Anu talks about her family, her education, and her marriage to her loving husband MrRohinton Aga. Rohinton, studied at Cambridge and was sent to Harvard on a four-month programme on a scholarship from IIM-Ahmedabad. He was instrumental in kick-starting Thermax into an innovative business. Thermax, under his leadership, was the first in India to foray into futurists or sustainable industries like information technology, wind turbine, and grain silos. Anu talks about her love for her husband, his excellent qualities and pure grit, his life after his stroke and his untimely death through a subsequent heart attack. Read an excellent, thought provoking article which conceptualizes a framework in sales management by Mr. Rohinton Aga titled “The Death of a Salesman” here.

She further discusses her apprehension of taking over an engineering company, her mentorship under Thermax’s nurturing Human Resources Head Mr. Prasad Kumar, fortuitously meeting a friend from the Boston Consulting Group, a leading global management consulting firm and her ascent as the head of Thermax. She gives a detailed overview of subsequent decision, hurdles, and strategies in turning around Thermax into a worldwide business powerhouse. Anu finally stepped down to hand over the reins to her talented daughter Meher, who has a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the Imperial College London.

Podcast: Nishant talks to Ms Anu Aga  

Anu’s critical insights for successExiting non-core businesses, promoting a performance culture with a crucial emphasis on the bottom line (profitability) rather than topline (order booking).

                                   Poignant and Impactful Anecdote

A letter from a shareholder addressed to her during the time of Thermax woes (Thermax share fell from INR 400 to INR 35) and Anu’s determination and focused attitude in addressing the concern.”

Side pic: Anu with daughter Meher and son in law Pheroz

Q2: Nishant: Thanks for sharing a comprehensive and poignant journey. Anu, you have been a stalwart in social space. You have supported initiatives in promoting equitable and quality education for less privileged people in the society and promoting gender equality.  Take us through your work with Akanksha Foundation, Teach for India wherein you are a co-founder and Thermax Foundation.

Podcast: Nishant talks to Anu. Listen to the Podcast here.

Anu talks about her son Kurush, who nudged her towards altruist endeavour, relationship dynamics within the family and her son’s unfortunate and untimely death in an accident. Kurush’s death propelled Anu to look at accountable and impactful nonprofits, especially The Akanksha Foundation. She teamed with The Akanksha Foundation’s founder Shaheen Mistri to spread quality education among low income members of the society.

Further, Anu helped structure along with Pune municipality a Public-Private Partnership model for Akanksha schools in Pune and Mumbai.

                       Anu Today the Akanksha Foundation has 21 schools in Pune and Mumbai.”

Going forward, Shaheen founded Teach for India, 10 years ago and Anu supported her from day one. TFI is a non-profit in education along the lines of Teach for America. Both educative initiatives are highly effective in churning out well-rounded citizens with qualitative and quantitative skills. Example, Saurabh an IIT alum, a product of Teach for India today heads The Akanksha Foundation.

Anu ” Way before CSR was made compulsory in India, Thermax gave 3% of profits to charity.”

Q3: Nishant: Here, I ask if the CSR rule in India would be a game-changer.

Nishant Malhotra chats with Ms. Anu Aga. Listen to the Podcast here.

Anu has a very holistic rule on social good. She is not in favour of compulsory CSR because she values emotive aspects of giving.  But now since CSR is mandatory, she would like to focus on how it can be most effective. We chatted about her daughter’s involvement in various social causes, especially Pune City Connect. My previous Podcast was with Ms. Ruchi Mathur, CEO of Pune City Connect.

Podcast: Nishant talks to Anu. Listen to the Podcast here.

Q4: Nishant: My next question is on Thermax’s inclusive Sakhi initiative, women rights and empowerment in India and enablers.

Anu’s insight is remarkable on women rights and needs utmost respect and pro-activeness for bringing a measurable change. She specifically mentions Vishakha guidelines, a framework of guidelines for pursuing sexual harassment in India.

Anu” The critical enabler for women empowerment is education.”

Anu enunciates about India Philanthropic Initiative a key enabler for driving philanthropy among high net worth individuals kick-started in India by Azim Premji along with prominent names including Rohini Nilekani. The idea is inspired by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet tireless work in promoting philanthropy globally among the rich and famous. Further Anu discusses essential qualities for her success, her experience with Vipassana meditation and mindfulness, her family values, and love for her daughter Meher. Anu genuinely believes that quality of education can make a huge impact in helping the poor come out of poverty.

Anu is a speaker par excellence; she articulately details key qualities, experiences, and alterations in her life with equanimity. Eloquent, modest with an elegant charm, she guides the conversation cementing her stature as a wholesome role model for scores of people out there. It is an honor and privilege to chat with Anu and will cherish it for a long time.

 

Suggested Readings

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/interviews/anu-aga-suggests-companies-should-pool-csr-funds-to-create-deeper-impact/articleshow/59434747.cms?from=mdr

http://www.forbesindia.com/article/recliner/anu-aga-a-lifes-shaped-by-tragedy-and-the-courage-to-face-it/44109/1

Read More »

Sujjest: Social Innovation for Everyday Group Decisions

Guest feature kickstarts here with this post. I had met Jeff Cole, CEO Sujjest at a networking event in Seattle and came to know about his venture with his friends. Finally, I bring you the first guest article here, and this is the beginning of numerous reports by guest writers here.

# Sujjest: Turn friends’ ideas into a clear plan 

Technology in recent years is working as a double-edged sword, enabling increased connection in some social circles and communities while at the same time leading to divisions and antisocial tendencies between and within others. Although social media enables a broad association across demographics and geographies, it can also remove the much needed personal human touch, especially among teenagers and youth. Remembering human touch, let’s listen to the breakout touching classic song by the fabulous Bruce Springsteen.

Further, social media can also lead to confusion and misinformation, with anonymous accounts or bots who could be bad actors playing a role in creating conflict. Social divisions exacerbated through unhealthy online behavioral practices can negatively impact well-being, an essential component of Sustainable Development Goals. The United Nations defines social division as a driving factor leading to disparities of outcome, decreasing equitable opportunities among disadvantaged people based on age, sex, disability, ethnicity, etc. in developing and low-income countries. Although the context and market to be addressed here may appear tangential to these UN objectives, nevertheless, in its larger implications, it’s a tool that may ultimately have the potential to ripple out and make a positive social impact both locally and globally.

 

# Midwest to West Coast: Introducing Social Innovation and Sujjest 

Three friends, Jeff Cole (Seattle), Kjell Hansen and Sol DeLeon (Minnesota) from the US are creating an innovation in how groups make decisions together through positive disruptive use of technology. Enter Sujjest,  an app for planning collaborative activities together. While the primary goal is to bring friends and connections together in real life, the creators also hope that Sujjest provides an outlet to new experiences. “We see Sujjest as a tool of social innovation says CEO Jeff Cole. “So much of online social interaction has become toxic. The purpose of Sujjest is not to be an exhibitionist or a voyeur, but to use technology to connect individuals and make decisions for online activities.”

The idea of the tool arose, looking at vast limitations among the existing application in promoting curated and informed social get-togethers. The existing tools don’t support collaborative decision-making,” says Sol DeLeon. “Either tool are entirely unstructured, like email and text messages, which results in a lot of back and forth discussion. On the ip side, tools like calendar invite or Doodle force one person to do all the planning.”

“Sujjest is leveraging technology to drive social innovation”

In addition to wanting a tool that allows groups to make better decisions, the team also wants to create a technology that brings people together in real life. The aim is to enhance the quality of socializing, making it more interactive in personal life. By applying innovative development techniques with web sockets and service workers, the team created an elegant interface that allows users to brainstorm and vote in a game-like fashion. Sujjest, as the name implies, intends to be both fun to use (hence the “jest”) and to allow participants to provide suggestions for fun activities or decisions.

 

# The Flavors and Methods of Sujjest 

Sujjest and Social Innovation go hand in hand. There are currently two flavors of Sujjest, one for general purpose use and one focused on lunch decisions. The mechanism for the two flavors is the same. First, an initiator starts a group-decision with a prompt and invites others to respond by suggesting options and approving options added by other participants. Rather than discuss various possibilities back and forth, users enter their ideas as options onto a racetrack. The goal is to get an opportunity past the finish line at the end of the racetrack, at which point it becomes the group’s decision.

Unlike a run-off election, users can vote for as many options as they like known approval voting. It allows users to indicate all the options that they’d be happy to implement. Users tap on an option to approve it, and the option moves forward. Ideally, the group will reach a consensus decision, but if that is not possible, all participants can tap the finish line closer to lower the number of votes it takes an option to win by a majority, thus speeding up the decision process.

In the general-purpose form of Sujjest, users can add multiple related prompts to make multifaceted decisions, such as to determine what movie to see, on what date and at which theater. The tool works as a web app, and natively on Android and iOS, and only the initiator needs an account—others invited can participate by clicking a confirmation link in their email. However, the creators of Sujjest want to create an even more straightforward invitation process. Sujjest Lunch is a lightweight version of the tool that focuses on one particular common question: Where for lunch? Anyone can start a session just by going to sujjest.com/Lunch, grabbing a unique link, and sharing it with anyone they want to participate, through any messaging service.

Once someone clicks on the link, they enter a session where they enter their name and suggest new options, vote on existing options, move the finish line and comment. Sujjest Lunch was released just three weeks ago and is already showing a lot of promise with hundreds of individuals coming to create links or interact with them. So far, users have primarily used Sujjest Lunch to decide on casual restaurant locations.

 

# Next Steps 

In the future, the creators of Sujjest see the power of providing curated recommendations and promotions for nearby restaurants based on a user’s past behavior. Not only would this further facilitate group decision- making, but inform the user about opportunities outside of their usual routines. The team is hopeful that Sujjest becomes a widely used and influential app. Currently, the team is looking for feedback on the ease of using and sharing Sujjest or Sujjest Lunch and if it solves the common issues around decision-making.

You can reach the Sujjest team directly at admin@sujjest.com or follow them on Twitter @sujjestion

 

Read More »

SEDA, Well-being and Social Equality

Boston Consulting Group’s Sustainable Economic Development Assessment (SEDA) inspired by leading economists such as Amartya Sen, Michael Spence, and Joseph Stiglitz lays a foundation of measuring economic and socio-economic developments of countries. Further, it aids in peer comparison to benchmark global best business practices. SEDA is a step forward in understanding how wealth creation is translating into well-being and social equality. Pic source: BCG

 

# SEDA Framework 

SEDA measures the progression of countries in generating social equity and well being. It has ten dimensions selected over three categories: Economics, Investments, and Sustainability, which translates into 40 indicators for measuring well being. Economics category has only three variables income, economic stability, and employment while Investments includes health, education, and infrastructure. The third element of Sustainability measures social impact and includes income equality, civil society, governance, and environment. The ten dimensions are normalized on a scale of 0 to 100 and aggregated for respective countries to arrive at holistic scores. These scores help in peer comparison of countries on the well-being index apart from understanding the effect of well-being and quality of living.

To understand relative effectiveness of conversion of wealth to well-being, a measure wealth to well-being coefficient is tabulated. The score gives a comparison compared to the actual scores computed using GNI (gross nation income) indicator. GNI includes economic wealth created by citizens both within and outside the country in comparison to GDP which focuses on income creation within the country. Usually countries which have high foreign direct investment or aid have GNI higher than GDP. Remarkably the US has GNI and GDP comparable since its out bound investment equals inbound investment. According to BCG model, a coefficient of 1 indicates well being in line with expected outcome based on income levels, a figure greater than 1 out performs and a figure less than 1 under performs.

# Key Insights

The analysis relies on both objective well-being (SEDA and wealth to well-being coefficient) and subjective well-being through UN-sponsored World Happiness Report. The review is a mixed bag, some predictable and at the same time, some baffling. Income equality generally considered the most important yardstick for well-being, does not necessarily translate into high SEDA scores. Example, Pakistan and Germany have comparable income equality scores, but Germany is in the top SEDA quartile and Pakistan in the lowest SEDA quartile. This is where critical parameters in sustainability and investment play a pivotal role in defining well-being esp. social equality. Social equality is more significant in explaining well-being in SEDA matrix as compared to income equality keeping other variables constant. E.g., top-ranked global powerhouses and SEDA leaders, Finland and the Netherlands have both high social and income equality. Pic BCG
Although usually both well-being and happiness move in tandem, countries which score high on well-being don’t necessarily score high on the happiness index. This suggests that there are other variable factors affecting happiness. This further suggests that happiness is highly intangible and in many ways demographically aligned could also be based on cultural influences apart from reasons cited in the report. Further, wealth-to-well-being coefficient and happiness has no significant evidence of correlation and is a bit of an enigma. We will discuss it in a subsequent article.
The report hugely focuses on four dimensions: education, employment, health, and infrastructure as critical enablers for improving well-being and also promoting social inclusion. China, India, Indonesia, Colombia, and Rwanda have made above-average improvements in three of the four dimensions mentioned above, improved their conversion of wealth into well-being at above-average levels which translates in their excellent improvement in overall SEDA scores.

# Well-being, Innovation and Financial Inclusion  

Innovation, although not calculated as a separate dimension in the SEDA framework for well-being, performs well in explaining an increase in well-being. Innovation is the critical enabler in promoting productivity, income and employment growth, and social inclusion. Take, e.g., Global Innovation Index 2019, which ranked Switzerland, Sweden, and the US as the most innovative countries, all top quartile powerhouses on SEDA. India has shot up to 52 and on track to figuring among the top 30 soon under the excellent leadership of Mr. Narendra Modi. Today India leads in ICT services and creative good exports, quality technology professionals backed by a few world-class institutes. Further, few African countries performed good on well-being also lead in innovation relative to their level of development esp. Rwanda.

Pic right: https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/Home

One of the key driving factors behind a rapid rise in selected Asian and some African countries on well-being attribute has been their ability to leverage technology in promoting financial inclusion among the less privileged people in the society. Digital payments is one of the enablers in this space.

Sweden is a global leader in adopting innovation and emerging technologies. It plans to be a cashless economy by 2023 and its world defining project Swish; a mobile payment platform is a global role model in electronic payments. Today cash accounts for less than 1% of total transactions in Sweden. Left side pic: BCG

 

Today, Sweden is one of the most accomplished economies around the world in integrating financial inclusion within society. It has helped in effectively fighting money laundering, crime, etc. An excellent read on Sweden’s inventiveness here.

SEDA framework highlights the importance of social equality as a critical variable in measuring well-being. Further, innovation and its comprehensive application acts as a considerable leveler in making society more inclusive and therefore improving social equality and well-being among all.

To be continued.

Coming up articles on other vital insights and limitations of SEDA model.

How to embrace technology.

 

Read More »

Impact Investing: Global and Indian Perspective

You can also read the article here. Impact Investing is fast becoming a rising phenomenon of delivering social good globally and in India. The term “Impact Investing” was coined in 2007 by the Rockefeller Foundation to distinguish investments for generating both social/environmental impact and financial return. In the recent years, with the rise of Generation X in leadership positions and millennial entrepreneurs primarily in private and public companies along with a sustained thrust by UN through its ambitious collection of 17 SDGs has boosted awareness on social and environmental causes. The set of SDGs forms the central thesis of social equality and economic betterment today and includes removing extreme poverty, driving economic growth, quality education, healthcare, and sanitation for all along with increased use of alternative energy by 2030.  This is republished from Publication page.

IFC estimates a transfer of $30T in wealth to Gen X and Millennials over the next three decades in North America alone. Gen X, “the kick-ass generation” which grew up on MTV; rock, grunge and metal music and millennials over the years have shown an increasing penchant for driving positive social/environmental change through social innovation and social entrepreneurship at the bottom of the pyramid.

To catalyze sustainable social businesses and address the increasing funding gap in the social ecosystem, major multilateral, and development financial institutions shared financial innovation and best business practices in the public sector. Further, civic societies, broad-based activism through social groups, shareholders, and corporates backed by collective political goodwill drove asset managers, foundations, and philanthropists to promote evidence supported solutions in social impact. New ways emerged in tapping capital markets through Corporate Responsibility, Social Bonds, and Blended Finance for funding development projects in the social and environmental sector. Pay for success bonds refreshed partnerships between public and private sector through financial incentives for achieving measurable interventions and social goals.

The Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG) formed in 2015, set a platform for bringing global leaders from the world of finance, philanthropy, and business to drive impact investing and social entrepreneurship. Twenty-three countries and EU are members of GSG highlights the convergence of blending measurable social impact with financial return. The development of Social Impact Investment Framework by OECD and the recent establishment of Operating Principles of Impact Management by IFC and other institution is a positive step in the right direction for promoting development in impact space. However, still, it’s a long way forward. Majority of the investors still expect market-driven returns (evidence suggests gains in line with market returns), the precursor of increase in blended finance deals in the development sector. This mindset needs to change for social impact to become a mainstream theme in investing. It is pertinent to note that impact investing is less than 1% of global capital and far from a panacea in the development sector. India leads in impact investing in South Asia and is a major force globally.

 

Nishant Malhotra

Founder, Researcher, Thinker, Consultant, and Thought Leader

 

Global Landscape of Impact Investment

The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) defines impact investing as investments made into companies, organizations, and funds to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. Impact Capital has a dual goal between social (priority) and financial gain. Impact investing or impact capital’s mission is to create a positive social impact related to social or environmental cause along with a financial return. The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) estimates impact investing assets under management to be $502B with 1340 organizations managing capital.

However, about $269T of financial assets are held by institutions and households across the globe, suggesting the untapped opportunity in impact investing.1 The private market demand for its investment is estimated to be $5T, which is predominantly alternate investments incl. private debt and equity, real assets, infrastructure, and natural assets and approx. $21T in public markets. Public markets here refer to capital markets incl. social bonds.1 The mentioned figures don’t include funding by Development Financial Institutions (DFI).

Asset managers dominate impact investing with a market share of 51% viz a viz development finance institutions (27%). Nevertheless, Impact Investing is fast becoming an essential and potent tool for bridging the yearly $2.5tr gap to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals target by 2030.

The recent GIIN Annual Impact Investor Survey included 266 respondents with $239B under investible surplus; a two-thirds of respondents are asset managers. Interestingly majority of the impact investors (more than 60%) have aligned their investments to UN Sustainable Development Goals with decent work and economic growth (73%), no poverty (61%), reduced inequalities (59%), and good health and well-being (58%) SDGs as the top four. Further, although a majority still target market-based return, about 34% of the respondents aim closer to market rate and capital preservation. Energy (15%), microfinance (13%), and other financial services (11%) were the dominant themes. Impact investors are planning an increase of 13% in investments to $37B over $33B in 2019 with a mean deal size of $146M.

The primary focus of the impact investors is a combination of social and environmental causes followed by social causes, with only 7% of the survey citing the environment as their core focus.  Primarily the rise of Gen X, Millennials, as the younger generation of leaders backed by a global thrust to implement SDGs, boosted capital in social impact. The impact has been measurable in South Asia, particularly in India and also globally. 

Impact Investing in India

Impact investing in India is the largest in South Asia and second in the world according to a report published in May 2016, titled A decade of impact investing in India. The ecosystem in India and Asia is fast developing in the impact capital space. According to a report by McKinsey, between 2010 to 2015, India attracted $5.2B in impact investing. The rise in impact investing is to address market failures by sustained entrepreneurship at the bottom of the pyramid. The rapid economic and industrial growth in India has drastically reduced poverty, but still, a large chunk remains in extreme poverty.

Impact Investments not only generated a median gross IRR of 10% but also touched the lives of 60 to 80 M people in India. McKinsey estimates the top quartile of impact investors generated a return of 34% withholding period of exits at an average of 5 years, far less than the average holding periods in venture deals.

Pic Source: IIC Members survey, VCCEdge, McKinsey analysis

The data highlights the rise of maturity within the social entrepreneurship in India, especially in energy and microfinance sector. The average deal size increased to $17.6M in 2016 from that of $7.6M in 2010 with a rise in deals in education, healthcare, and agriculture sector.

“Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) launched in 2013, in Singapore serves as a social stock exchange for impact investors investing in Asia.”

The enablers in catalyzing social entrepreneurship in India are not limited to impact investors. Private equity and venture capitalists play a defining role in India. The increased participation by PE/VC signifies the ease of scalability among the companies where price works as the most significant differentiator keeping other factors constant.

 “Aavishkaar Venture Fund, a leading impact investment manager in India, has a $94mn India focussed fund to provide capital to entrepreneurs serving rural India. The fund has private investors like CISCO and development funders IFC, KWF, CDC among others to invigorate health, energy and education sectors among the low-income consumer base in India. Aavishkaar has made 61 investments in four countries and eight sectors with $300 mn assets under management”.

The McKinsey report highlights the growing holistic vision of General Partners (GP) in aligning sustainable development goals in their mission as compared to Limited Partners. This is one of the most refreshing and positive indicators of future growth in funding social enterprises in India.

Key Insights in Impact Investing in India

Holding Periods Vs. Returns: no clear relationship; McKinsey Report  

The McKinsey report regressed return (IRR) on the holding period of impact investors with exciting analysis. The regression analysis of regressing IRR (return as the dependent variable) with holding period as the independent variable does not show any clear relation. The R2=0.0439 signifies that the holding period only explains 4.39% of the return. The analysis further implies that the regression has high Omitted Variable Bias, i.e., many regressors (independent variables), which better describe the performance of companies are not included in the regression analysis.

The two conditions of omitted variable bias are as follows:

  • The independent variable must be a determinant of the dependent variable.
  • The independent variable correlated with other independent variables (correlation cannot be zero and not be equal to one).

Alternative Investments like Angel Investing/Venture/PE have a higher risk and nonnormal returns viz equities and hence IRR as a measure of performance. Investing in unlisted companies based on the business model is far riskier than companies which have evolved to a measurable size with predictable cash flows. Social Enterprises are considered riskier investment compared to other enterprises considering they predominantly cater to less privileged people in the society. Length of holding period is critical to recuperate investment, yet it plays no role as a significant factor of return on investment is a welcome insight about evolving social sector in India.

A few observations. First, the scalability of ventures within the social ecosystem is much higher than expected due to the sheer size of the population. Second, Indian entrepreneurs have been effectively leveraged technology to cut costs, improve efficiency without impacting the quality of either service or product. Finally, it would be interesting to check factors like the role of technology, importance, and stage of seed funding, guidance in capacity building and scaling businesses, etc. as independent factors for regressing returns.

Impact Investment, and Social Entrepreneurship

Both Impact Investing and Social Entrepreneurship play a crucial role within the social impact ecosystem. One of the most enterprising ways to invest capital is to promote social entrepreneurship and sustainable businesses which focus on alleviating poverty. Social Entrepreneurship has been one of the most impactful measures of deploying impact capital for social good as well as for measuring accountability. This form of impact capital helps in funding projects/start-ups, providing strategic and logistic support as well as management competency for a successful transition towards a sustainable business. This not only helps to address social issues but also to generate jobs and act as ancillary support for multinational corporations.

Private capital helps in correcting market failure at the bottom of the pyramid by promoting equity in social entrepreneurship through an assortment of intermediaries, development framework as it forms an integral part of the evolving development sector.

OECD’s Social Impact Investment Market Framework defines the various actors within the social ecosystem addressing a social or environmental need. The framework highlights the growing importance of impact investors like family offices, HNWI, asset managers including institutional investors to form an integral part of funding the social entrepreneurship ecosystem along with government, foundations and financial institutions.

Role of Technology: Impacting Social Enterprises 

Utter addresses the problem of educating low income low skilled workforce in a cost-efficient manner i.e. unorganised and blue collared segment. Both these segments account for 78% of the workforce in India. Utter leveraged technology using chatbots to educate its target market segment economically.

As of 2017 number of smartphone users in India stood at 468M growing at CAGR of 12. 9%. According to Statistica in 2018, about 36% of all mobile phone users in India used smartphones, less than the global average of 50% but growing steadily. With an average speed of 6.5mpbs, even low-income people can access applications like a chatbot. Utter uses an AI-based multilingual mobile education platform chatbot and tutors to provide skill development in 109 local languages at plans as low as less than a dollar. The company got seed funding from Unitus Seed Fund and some angel investors and has 500,000 institutional and about 100,000 retail users. Utter case is a shining example of leveraging social innovation through emerging disrupting technologies and promoting positive structural change for low income/less privileged people of the society.

Arvind Eyecare is one of the most visible success stories in India. Acumen Fund, a global impact investment fund, supported Arvind Eyecare to build a telemedicine network for five hospitals to serve low-income patients in rural areas at a subsidized or no cost. Today Arvind Eyecare has conducted more than 4M eye operations a year with more than 50% at low or no cost.”

Forward-looking policies to enable start-up ecosystem through accelerators & incubators and the emergence of impact accelerators and venture philanthropic funds have played a key role in invigorating the social landscape in India.

Dasra, a leading venture philanthropic fund in India, specializes in scaling businesses of nonprofits in India, among other services. It advises corporate, and foundation on giving while consults nonprofits and social enterprises on scaling their businesses. It has kick-started a culture of giving in India through its flagship Philanthropic week building collaboration among corporates, foundations, and philanthropists in India. Social Alpha, a Tata Trust enterprise and a joint venture with Government of India, is spurning social entrepreneurship through its periodic competitions in selected development sectors for incubating promising start-ups. “

Green and Social Bonds, Social Impact Bonds and Blended Finance

To attract capital, impact investors have tapped capital markets through social bonds (green/ blue bonds etc.), promoted public-private partnerships through pay for success bonds/development impact bonds and introduced private sector finance innovation through Blended Finance. Pic Source: Danske Bank

Green and Social Bonds are debt instruments issued for social and environmental purposes. The largest DFI by assets the European Investment Bank and the World Bank issued the first green bond.

The total outstanding issuance of these bonds is $456B, less than 1% of the global debt market, which stands at $100T. Globally governments are the largest issuers of these bonds. India is the second largest emerging market green bond market with a total $7.2B issuance till date according to climate bonds initiative. BSE, India premier exchange trading platform along with Nifty, recently launched an exclusive trading platform for green bonds, GSM Green. The launch included a listing of $500M green bonds from three subsidiaries of Adani Green Energy Limited. In recent years, the issuance of green bonds in India has been phenomenal keeping in step with low carbon usage policies under the smart cities project.3                                                                                             Source: Climate Bonds Initiative Total Global Bond Issuance

India’s bond market is still in the nascent stage as compared to developed countries. Pune Municipal Corporation, recently raised $29M towards better water management. But such cases are far, and few considering limited liquidity in municipal bond markets in India.

Social Impact Bonds “Pay for Success Model” pioneered by Social Finance UK still are not a mainstream mode of financing social projects. The pay for success model works on a collaborative Public-Private Partnership to direct government funds towards social projects with measurable outcomes. In social impact bonds, outcome payer is the government and are like development impact bonds (deployed in emerging markets). To measure intervention, a third-party impact evaluation specialist is used. India implemented the world’s first operational and successful development impact bond through Educate Girls project where UBS Optimus Foundation provided the capital and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) is the outcome payer. The project has achieved more than 100% of its stated objectives in driving inclusive and learning targets. Social Impact Bond suffers from market efficiencies concerning high legal costs for setting up the collaborative model. (Service provider, outcome payer, evaluator, investor etc.) Pic Source: idronline.com

Blended Finance

Blended Finance works in offering private investors a first loss guarantee, mezzanine or senior debt to cushion against potential losses with actors from development space, i.e., donors, multilateral development banks and development finance institutions taking equity first loss. The capital is primarily deployed for infrastructure and climate change, with Africa attracting 30% of total contributions followed by Asia (15%). Various kinds of instruments are used to mobilize capital like Shares in CIVs, Guarantees, Syndicate Loans, Credit Lines, and direct investment in companies.

                            “India uses blended finance in promoting projects in renewable space. Further, India has ambitious plans to generate 40% of electricity from renewables by 2030. To meet its demand, India will need $189B as additional investment by 2022 and $292B by 2030. US India Catalytic Solar Finance Facility uses the catalytic first loss of capital for capital infusion, currency hedging, and payment security mechanism.”

India Innovation Lab provides long term debt with concessional financing to rooftop solar PV developers. Sustainable Energy Bonds, Solar Investment Trusts are some of the impact investment blended mechanisms used to fund green infrastructure projects in India.”2

“India stood third among middle- and high-income countries between 2012 and 2014, attracting $1.28B of blended capital.” 

One of the critical strategic use of blended capital is to enhance funds in the development sector, especially in low and middle-income countries. To attract capital from the private sector, especially institutional investors, the idea of catalytic first loss capital evolved.

Although mixed capital can include both concessional and non-concessional Finance, IFC deployed about $560M of concessional development funds between 2010 and 2016 to support more than 100 projects in 50 countries. The data signifies the skew towards concessional finance as part of blending. Pic source: All blended finance transactions till date in Asia; Convergence Finance

Types of Blending Instruments

Development Finance Providers take the first loss of capital through guarantees, grants, insurance working as different ways of blending capital for credit enhancement. Guarantees work in covering the first set of losses while Grants might include first loss guarantee or deployment of capital without any repayment over a fixed time. Grants also include money for technical assistance for completion of the project correctly to develop capacity and scale up the business model. While guarantees are the most widely used in blending capital especially in infrastructure projects, more instruments including pay for success (social and development bonds among others), securitization, hedging, and junior equity/ subordinate debt and collective investment vehicles are incorporated today.

OECD estimates, $81B blended finance invested in development space in four years, a puny amount compared to $200T in global capital markets. Rise of impact investments globally will help in structuring new sources of finance and boost blended finance as a form of capital source for addressing sustainable development goals. A lot will depend on how the rules and regulations support the emergence of innovation in development space backed by political goodwill.

The Road Ahead

Impact Investing is slowly but steadily transforming social ecosystem. IFC along with other major DFI and institutions are developing essential regularity guidelines defining impact investing. Below are few thoughtful recommendations which would catalyze impact sector going forward.

Escrow Account: In India, businesses must donate 2% of their profits to projects related to corporate social responsibility. This rule is based on specific parameters. This policy must be replicated globally. To drive accountability in execution and deployment of capital, its best to open an escrow account. A committee must independently manage this account. The committee must include leading practitioners from DFI and multilateral organizations, asset managers, foundations, philanthropists, businesses, academia, and the government. The funds must be utilized only for projects in the development sector with a well-developed regulatory framework detailing the projects funded. Updating funded projects real time through a website to inform the public fortifies transparency and accountability. A government-backed think tank must take the lead in coordinating and implementing the rule. In India, e.g., it would be Niti Aayog. Further, each country should contribute to an international fund for enforcing development projects mainly in low-income countries. The fund would implement critical projects aligned with key SDGs.  The contribution of the states could be proportionate to GDP, GDP per capita, etc.

Awareness: To promote awareness of SDGs; UN, DFI, government institutions, and global compact arms of the United Nations must closely coordinate with businesses and academia. Periodic seminars and dedicated national conventions should be conducted to highlight innovation and pioneering work in social impact and facilitate nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, individuals exemplary work in the social sector.  Further, all television channels globally should dedicate free advertising time esp. in prime time to commercials focusing on the social industry. The ads must promote how accountability is driving social impact to boost philanthropically among institutions and individuals.

Tax Incentives: Key tax incentives to impact asset managers and asset holders to balance subpar market returns in projects dedicated to addressing key SDG esp. removing extreme poverty, quality education, gender equality, etc.

Academia: Academia must play a pivotal role in building the structural impact investing and evaluation courses. Although globally, many universities and institutes esp. in the US have started teaching focussed thematic courses in the given space, yet there is a considerable room for improvisation. Oxford Impact Investing program is an excellent example of academia taking a decisive lead.

Debt Capital Markets: This a key sector from where capital can be raised, especially in developed economies. The global bond market is about $100T, and total issuance of social and green bonds have been less than 1% of the global bond market is a tell-tale sign of refreshing mobilization of capital. Structured blended funds utilizing mezzanine funding and with equity kickers (prolonged gestation period) can be used to fund development projects.

India and China have used technology remarkably for enabling sustainable goals. Some of the work can be used in a few other emerging economies. A key element in allowing social entrepreneurship is scalability. To promote scalability thrust must be given to impact enablers who consult, advise, and build competencies at hugely subsidized rates.

In a nutshell, it’s cool to invest in asset managers targeting social impact as their primary objective. Association of coolness signifies empathy is going to be the killer attribute for making impact investment mainstream, especially with millennials. So, are you cool?

 

Sources Referred:
Making Blended Finance Work for the Sustainable Development Goals, Better Finance Better World,
Blended Finance— A Stepping Stone to Creating Markets

Blended Finance Giving Voice to the private sector

River of Dreams: Sprucing up the Front Porch of Downtown Memphis

TCX fund.com

Blended Finance Vol 1: Primer for Development Finance and Philanthropic Funders

Fig 1: https://www.convergence.finance/blended-finance

*Social Impact Investment: The Impact Imperative for Sustainable Development

https://acumen.org/blog/reflections-on-aravind-eye-hospital-and-the-gates-award/

Aavishkaar impact report 2018

https://entrackr.com/2018/04/chatbot-startup-edmobile-utter-fund/

UBS.com

1.Creating Impact: The Promise of Impact Investing

2.Blended finance in clean energy: experiences and opportunities

2.Indiainnovationlab.org

3.https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/markets/stock-markets/bses-india-inx-launches-dedicated-platform-for-trading-green-bonds/article27888787.ece

 

 

Read More »

Impact Investing Blends in India

This article is a shorter version of the publication Impact Investing is Cool, which can be accessed here. However, there are a few additions to this report including specific India focused examples.

The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) defines impact investing as investments made into companies, organizations, and funds to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. Impact capital has a dual goal, between social (priority) and financial gain.

Impact investing or impact capital’s mission is to create a positive social impact related to social or environmental cause along with a financial return. The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) estimates impact investing assets under management to be $502B 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%).

Nevertheless, Impact Investing is fast becoming an essential and potent tool for bridging the yearly $2.5tr gap to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals target by 2030. India Impact investing in India is the largest in South Asia and second in the world according to a report published in May 2016, titled A decade of impact investing in India. The ecosystem in India and Asia is fast developing in the impact capital space. According to a report by McKinsey, between 2010 to 2015, India attracted $5.2B in impact investing.
                 

Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) launched in 2013, in Singapore serves as a social stock                                                                         for impact investors investing in Asia.

Aavishkaar Venture Fund, a leading impact investment manager in India, has a $94M India focused fund to provide capital to entrepreneurs serving rural India. The fund has private investors like CISCO and development funders IFC, KWF, CDC among others to invigorate health, energy, and education sectors among the low-income consumer base in India. Aavishkaar has made 61 investments in four countries and eight sectors with $300M assets under management”.

“Mera doctor offers affordable primary healthcare service through licensed doctors, including access through mobile-based application impacting lives of 278,685 people. Aavishkaar invested in Mera doctor in 2011.” 

One of the most enterprising ways to invest capital is to promote social entrepreneurship and sustainable businesses which focus on alleviating poverty. Social Entrepreneurship has been one of the most impactful measures of deploying impact capital for social good as well as for measuring accountability. This form of impact capital helps in funding projects/start-ups, providing strategic and logistic support as well as management competency for a successful transition towards a sustainable business.

This not only helps to address social issues but also to generate jobs and act as ancillary support for multinational corporations. The emergence of a private sector capital, primarily through philanthropy around the world, is proving to be a panacea for addressing social issues long ignored or neglected by governments. Private capital helps in correcting market failure at the bottom of the pyramid by promoting equity in social entrepreneurship through an assortment of intermediaries, development finance institutions, foundations, and impact asset managers.

“Arvind Eyecare is one of the most visible success stories in India. Acumen Fund, a global impact investment fund, supported Arvind Eyecare to build a telemedicine network for five hospitals to serve low-income patients in rural areas at a subsidized or no cost.

 

Today Arvind Eyecare has conducted more than 4M eye operations a year with more than 50% at low or no cost.”

“Success of impact investing in India rests a lot on the tremendous growth in microfinance in India, which posted a 38% growth last year. Unitus Ventures recently invested in Utter, an AI-based multilingual mobile education platform which uses chatbots and tutors to teach blue collar workers English and work-related skills. 78% of the workforce in India is blue collared and Utter addresses the problem of educating low income low skilled workforce in a cost-efficient manner.”

Blending the Impact

One of the most innovative ways of attracting private capital in impact investing is through Blended Finance. Blended Finance is not a panacea for the global development crisis but works as a creative 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 funding for sustainable development in developing countries. The new definition 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 inequality. The means to attract additional capital for development through governments, foundations, development finance institutions through concessional (soft loans with lower interest rates and longer repayment duration) or non-concessional resources or public or private relationship gives a defining new policy perspective to blended finance. Pic Source: OECD Library

Blended Finance

Blended Finance works in offering private investors a first loss guarantee, mezzanine or senior debt to cushion against potential losses with actors from development space i.e., donors, multilateral development banks and
development finance institutions taking equity first loss. The capital is primarily deployed for infrastructure and climate change, with Africa attracting 30% of total contributions followed by Asia (15%). Various kinds of instruments are used to mobilize capital like Shares in CIVs, Guarantees, Syndicate Loans, Credit Lines, and direct investment in companies.

“India uses blended finance in promoting projects in renewable space. Further, India has ambitious plans to generate 40% of electricity from renewables by 2030. To meet its demand, India will need $189B as additional investment by 2022 and $292B by 2030. US India Catalytic Solar Finance Facility uses the catalytic first loss of capital for capital infusion, currency hedging, and payment security mechanism.

India Innovation Lab provides long term debt with concessional financing to rooftop solar PV developers. Sustainable Energy Bonds, Solar Investment Trusts are some of the impact investment blended mechanisms used to fund green infrastructure projects in India.”

“India stood third among middle- and high-income countries between 2012 and                                                                                  2014 attracting $1.28 B of blended capital.” OECD

One of the critical strategic use of blended capital is to enhance funds in the development sector, especially in low and middle-income countries. To attract capital from the private sector, especially institutional investors, the idea of catalytic first loss capital evolved. Although mixed capital can include both concessional and nonconcessional Finance, IFC deployed about $560M of concessional development funds between 2010 and 2016 to support more than 100 projects in 50 countries. The data signifies the skew towards concessional finance as part of blending. Pic Source: Convergence Finance

 

Types of Blending Instruments

Development Finance Providers take the first loss of capital through guarantees, grants, insurance working as different ways of blending capital for credit enhancement. Guarantees work in covering the first set of losses while Grants might include first loss guarantee or deployment of capital without any repayment over a fixed time. Grants also include money for technical assistance for completion of the project correctly to develop capacity and scale up the business model.

While guarantees are the most widely used in blending capital especially in infrastructure projects, more instruments including pay for success (social and development bonds among others), securitization, hedging, and junior equity/ subordinate debt and collective investment vehicles are incorporated today.

OECD estimates, $81B blended finance invested in development space in four years, a puny amount compared to $200T in global capital markets. Rise of impact investments globally will help in structuring new sources of finance and boost blended finance as a form of capital source for addressing sustainable development goals. A lot will depend on how the rules and regulations support the emergence of innovation in development space backed by political goodwill.

I end this article in my signature creative style with a fantastic song by Enya. 

 

 

 

 

Read More »

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

 

Read More »

Categories

Categories

Archives

Archives

Subscribe to The Middle Road

Recent Posts

Follow me on Twitter