5 Smart Ways NonProfits Are Solving Indian Social Issues
Amidst cold winters and warm celebrations, New Year is a decision point for most of us. Whether it’s making new resolutions or quitting bad habits, it’s on January 1st when we think of starting things afresh. Living a healthy, financially stable and peaceful lifestyle, in fact, thrives on making regular introspection and then evolving with time. If you’re at a point of transition, isn’t the first day of the year when you think of taking control of situations?
So does a diversified crowd of individuals, organizations including the Government and other changemakers trying to create a more inclusive and culturally sustainable society.
Okay, not everyone does a good job, else things wouldn’t be as jumbled as the political and economic distribution in the society. More than 75% of population in developing countries have to live in societies where income is more unequally distributed than it was in the 1990s. Whilst millions have reasons to celebrate festivals, more than half of the world population still survives on less than $2 a day.
Challenging Inequality through Collaboration
The good stuff about 2018 is that it brings so many change makers and stakeholders in serious collaboration for the first time in human history. From fighting hunger to protecting endangered species, and from building clean energy to empowering and marginalized sections of society, we see a trend of cooperation and commitment amongst communities across the world. Consider a densely populated country like India, which has more than 31 lakh active NGOs, and yet not enough.
Looking Beyond Entertainment and Socializing
Survey reveals that an average Indian uses his/her mobile phone for 200 minutes daily. Indian mobile users spend close to 70% time on social media, music or entertainment applications, in contrast to American consumers (50%) who use smartphones for 300 minutes everyday.
High prioritization of entertainment and social media channels tell us something insightful about Indian population in consideration.
Not only are Indians consuming (and seeking more) content on a daily basis, but are also open about discussing and sharing facts and opinions on social media. If you happen to be one who is curious and really interested in social causes and development, that could actually be a rewarding career for you. Like not just do what you like, and what you care about, but also get paid for it with other job securities.
How about considering a cause-driven career in a non-profit, national or international NGO, or corporate social responsibility program or social enterprise? They have a big role to play in the social development of a country and besides motivating you towards higher magnitudes of social change, a career in the nonprofit sector can always take care of your expenses.
5X More Social Development expected in Future
In order to manage the scale and scarcity, a non-profit organization aims to deliver its services to thousands and even millions of people through:
The Dignity Mindset: To serve many, raise the humanity of each participant
It’s a thing to speak about social issues, areas of conflict and suggest large-scale measures than to actually make a difference. Seeing a problem, not in spreadsheets and project files, Nonprofits like BAIF, Aravind Eye Care System, NM Sadguru Water, and Goonj apply reverse-engineering to uproot a social problem. Thinking small, these organizations have prioritized uplifting each individual’s dignity, thereby exhibiting a “people over program” philosophy.
Nonprofits believe that people in need want respect and a sense of esteem instead of charity or sympathy. For example, when Sukhasan, a village in Madhepura (Bihar) faced flood disasters affecting thousands of lives in 2009, Goonj took the initiative of building bamboo-bridges and other safety arrangements.
The Denominator Mindset: Staying focussed on the size of need while remaining flexible in controlling it
Think in mathematical metaphors. Imagine the social change as a fraction, where the denominator is the size of social need. Similarly, the numerator would represent the current goals of an organization. One way to look at the social need is to estimate the scale this need affects the society. India inhabits a population of 25 million acutely malnourished children and 63 million people without access to clean water and sanitation.
Denominator mindset thinkers approach social change by working in parts (that is the fractions) of the problem and create lot more values than theorizing about the larger solutions that serve relatively few.
That’s what Ramji Raghavan, founder & Chairman of Agastya International Foundation demonstrates by managing an organization that engages more than 1.5 million rural children. Leaving a prosperous career at CitiBank, his leadership has nourished an organization full of creativity and skills to combat rural India’s challenges.
By all means, we can not dismiss the numerator, that is the current accomplishments of the organization. Without benefitting from careful analysis and thorough planning, Raghavan would never have touched millions of lives. So it is essential to set realistic goals, and actionable strategies so as not to let down the people in need of support.
The Radical Frugality Mindset: In situations of scarcity, reducing cost while prolonging the impact
The fundamental constraint in any economy is the scarcity of resources. Most nonprofits operating in Indian societies have emphasized on cutting down costs and even thriftiness in terms of budget allocation. To optimize operational expenses, or utilize existing infrastructure, NGOs often collaborate with government schools, primary health centers, and other government/society-aided institutions.
The best example would be Akshaya Patra. Preparing and delivering hot, fresh lunches to 1.6 million children, Akshay Patra is one of its kind organization that offers its services at the cost of just 13 cents per meal. Supported by government funds, Akshay Patra is expecting to serve 5 million children by 2020, hoping to cut down the cost to zero.
The Innovative Hiring Mindset: Bringing hidden and untapped talent from unconventional sources
Already struggling with a high attrition in for-profit sectors, Indian workforce is essentially confronted with the scarcity of people with the right skills to fill a particular job type. To overcome this challenge, nonprofits have begun searching for people in overlooked but promising corners of the talent pool.
A good example that relies on picking the right talent pool would be Self Employed Women’s Association or SEWA. It’s vital to get an optimal mix of people who have the right attitude (but require training) along with those who have deep subject-matter expertise.
SEWA’s ratio is 80:20–80 percent of the bank’s board of directors, for example, are women who labor in the informal economy while 20 percent are professionals. The 20 percent help support the 80 percent.
With innovative hiring processes, nonprofits are able to engage communities with a better insight. Aravind Eye Care System found a solution by recruiting most of the female nurses (mid-level ophthalmic personnel MLOP) from rural areas. Women from this community used to work as day laborers and so after joining Aravind, they are experiencing a higher lifestyle with a commitment towards improving Indian healthcare ecosystem. With talented and trained MLOPs, Aravind has won accolades all round their seasons, becoming an unparalleled provider of eye care.
The Collaborative Mindset: Aligning development agenda with Government, corporate houses, and socially inclined activists
Thinking out of the box, or upsetting the system is a western concept where anything reformatory cannot occur without any direct/indirect conflict with establishments. In a diverse and historically inclusive Asian society, such as India, innovating within the system is a better approach. Making an ally in the roads of development, NGOs prefer leveraging the government institutions to extend their reach and impact for a social cause.
Apart from providing critical funding, infrastructure and policy planning insights, governments can be very helpful in legitimizing and authorizing the nonprofits with right resource management bundles available.
Rajesh Singh, the Chief Operating Officer of Mamta-Mother and Child, is in favor of collaborative mindset. As most of the healthcare, infrastructure development, and other large-scale agenda have complex administrative and judicial implications, it is better to calculate the trade-offs of partnering with a government institution. If the government intervention is crucial to decision making and abiding by bureaucratic guidelines and policies a criterion for authenticity, nonprofits don’t shy away from collaborating with the executive and legislative bodies of administration.
2018 a New Development-Driven Year
More than anything, the world can learn the key strategies that enable Indian nonprofits’ extended reach to millions. In turn, Indian nonprofits can adapt to global needs to better define and manage their priorities and development goals. With a load of business enterprises participating in corporate social responsibility and government-led initiatives to promote nonprofit startups, we only expect a more robust and renewed social impact this year.
Having said that, the sand in our hourglass is not lazy to run low, so there is always a need for more social awareness, volunteering, innovative modeling and solution so far social issues are concerned. The opportunities are immense. And so is one’s potential to make a difference just like nonprofits do.