Fund for Inclusive Growth (FIG) - Directing philanthropic capital towards institution-building of small and mid sized non-profits in India

 

Building on our work with clients, Social Synergy Deutschland was launched in December, 2018, as a not-for-profit charitable organisation ("Verein") under German Law. It has been registered in Freiburg, Germany with the aim to promote Social Synergy’s unique approach to supporting non-profits in their engagement with funders and impact investors in Europe. Through its legal status, Social Synergy Deutschland is eligible to accept philanthropic capital and direct it to our portfolio clients in India.

 

Social Synergy Deutschland is governed and managed by a European investment committee. The decision to fund a particular non-profit, the funding terms and the focus areas will be at the sole discretion of the European investment committee.

 

The idea behind FIG is very simple: over the years many philanthropists have invested substantial sums in programmes. This transfer of capital, beside achieving programmatic outcomes, has also resulted in organisations that possess an enduring ability to generate impact. Philanthropists can continue to direct capital in these programmes through these same organisations. But there is an additional possibility: leveraging these historical investments to build institutional capital of these same organisations through smaller but continuous deployment of capital. This is possible provided these investments at the margin are directed towards nurturing the fundamental capabilities of these organisations. Sometimes it may mean supporting a strategic programme, at other times hiring of persons or building their potential, and still other times running a straightforward organisational development process.

 

A large number of organisations comprising our portfolio possess these common characteristics:

 

  • Over a decade, in many cases more, of operating experience

  • Not confined to a single sector, but being cross-sectoral focused on specific agendas, communities, or geographies

  • Elements of advocacy, capability-building or grassroot engagement being central to their models.

  • Working with issues and questions that are either not of interest to or cannot be resolved alone by governments and/or market-forces

  • Solutions based on ideas that are not necessarily mainstream or popular

 

 

FIG is inviting you to participate in this very institution building of grassroots organisations, and thereby ensure that the results of the historical investments endure. FIG will commit, in principle, to the organisation for a period of 5 - 7 years and, if required, the support will be provided for an extended period without any financial assistance. By 2025, FIG aims to raise sufficient capital to 15 - 20 not-for-profits.

 

Following are a few such initiatives we have identified across our clients. A summary of these organisations and our work with them is laid out in the Portfolio section of our website. Below we list specific initiatives which we feel are central to the respective organisation’s future work. These are arrived at after considerable deliberations with them. If you are interested in any of them, please drop in an email at martin@sosynergy.org

 

While we work across more organisations than those listed below, we only bring forward an initiative when we are convinced about its maturity and need. From time to time we will keep adding to this list and hence those interested are requested to check this page at regular intervals.

VIKAS Centre for Development - Bio Shield
Bio-shield: Covering over 20 km of coastline with multi-tiered, including mangrove, plantation and, involving local community and district-level administration in one of the most environmentally sensitive coast-lines in India in the State of Gujarat.

This initiative has been designed based on over 15 years of pain-staking field-work. Starting with small patches of mangrove plantation in a few villages, it has matured into a full-fledged idea covering a long coast-line across several villages, a model that co-opts participation by private industry, public institutions and philanthropists. It seeks to establish a green cover that can absorb 125,000 tons of CO2 emissions per annum, generate direct wage employment to the tune of Euros 1.2 million, change the quality of soil along the coast aiding agriculture in the medium to long-term, and increasing fish production to directly affect lives of over 1,000 households which depend on fishing as their primary source of employment generation.

Its significance draws from the fact that it is situated in one of the most developmentally backward districts in one of the most industrialised states in India. Even the Government of Gujarat has accepted that it is acting on an important issue which is priority even for the Government and is under discussion to actively support some portion of this work.

It is an ambitious initiative demanding a million Euros over a 5 to 7 year time-frame. However, interested donors can begin by starting with any small contribution possible and increasing their participation as they understand it better and become convinced of its systemic nature. Interested donors can donate through this link.
 
Lakshya Jeevan Jagriti - Focusing on Personal Mastery
Lakshya Jeevan Jagriti (LJJ) was started a decade ago by a group of passionate college students and their Trainer from Sikkim Manipal University Distance Learning, who believed that anyone can be a learner. Led by Rahul Goswami, one of the founders, this group coalesced because of a shared curiosity to learn and grow beyond what was taught in the classroom. Rahul ran workshops and led discussions on a range of issues that interested the students, creating an open space for conversations. The founding group began to participate in competitions at various universities, winning many. A turning point in their journey was when they participated in and won a case study competition at IIM Ahmedabad. The group decided to use the prize money to formalise the space they had been running, and open it up to others from similar socio-economic backgrounds.

Over time, this idea evolved into a belief that quality education and personal development will enable those from underprivileged backgrounds to gain the requisite skills to not only be ‘market-ready’, but also evolve personally. LJJ works primarily in Karol Bagh, New Delhi, and has, over the past decade, worked directly with over 5,000 community members.

Their work has been unique for two reasons: a) they have focused not just on youth, but also mothers of the youth and, (b) the emphasis on personal mastery, a theme that runs across all their programmes for youth and mothers. The leadership development programme brings together both hard and soft skills, creating an environment for community members who would otherwise lack this opportunity. Every programme places emphasis on personal mastery, emerging from the founding members’ own experiences of personal transformation. Personal mastery workshops are designed specifically for the audience, and a safe space is created for many who lack access to one.

The two foundational programmes LJJ runs are: ‘Ekalavya’ and ‘Aao Saath Ma’. ‘Ekalavya’ is an after school support programme for students who need additional help with their formal education. This programme caters to school students from Kindergarten to 12th grade. With the help of activities like study buddy, self-expression and leadership development, students learn their lessons and engage with each other in an informal space. The ‘Aao Saath Ma’ (Come Along Mother) programme is unique in that it focuses on mothers, providing them with basic education, English language training, Computer skills and Basic Financial skills. It also builds self-esteem and confidence, encouraging them to use these skills both professionally and personally. Through this, the women are not only able to play an active role in their child’s education, but also seek employment or pursue their own small entrepreneurial endeavours.

The organisation completes a decade of existence next year: a notable accomplishment for a group of blue-eyed youngsters led by their teacher. One could say that the idea and its dogmatic pursuit consumed the prime of their youth. Moving from passionate youngsters to a phase in life wherein the realities of life seep in is not easy for most of us: least of all when you have little money in your pocket in a metro like Delhi, pressures from parents to ‘grow up’, and expectations of one’s own partner.

Obviously, the organisation cannot sustain on the cost structure it once had. Our involvement is first and foremost financial: we intend to deploy, as a grant, a part of our own accumulated savings towards adding to the ability of the founding team to pay itself a little more. As a small firm ourselves, we have our limits. Our hope is threefold. Given the size of LJJ, whatever contribution we make at the margin is still an appreciable fraction of their expenses. Secondly, in return, we are able to engage in conversations with them that may help them focus on some of the foundational aspects of preparing the organisation for the coming years. Thirdly, and importantly, we hope to demonstrate the idea of ‘FIG’ in action ourselves, how small sums matter and that social change, or more broadly development, requires not always large sums of money or devotion of time, but the strategic deployment of resources in the right measure at the right time.

We eagerly solicit funds, specifically from individuals for this little venture.
Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT)
This initiative builds upon the nearly 10 years of effort put in by MHT to build capabilities of women in local communities. The core idea is to further invest in their capabilities and gradually link them to democratic decision-making processes at the level of their respective wards and zones in the city. If this process performs reasonably well, it may also be possible for it to bring women together to address some pressing issues at a city-level. This initiative, we believe, is also central to the future of MHT: it institutionalises the learnings of MHT over its long operation history by transferring it to these local women. In some ways, we see this as an important way of ensuring continuity of value MHT has created so far. Those interested should be prepared to support this initiative on an on-going basis for a period of at least 3 years, starting from as little as Euros 10,000 per annum to a maximum of 40,000 per annum.
Zubaan - Preserving a heritage
Preserving a heritage: The Indian publishing and media industry has been undergoing fundamental structural changes over the past several years. Without adequate financial-backing, it is a serious challenge even for long-standing and reputed publishing-houses to remain in business. Zubaan is a small but landmark name in the independent publishing industry in India, known for its independence of thought, quality of writing and relentless focus on issues of women and other gender and sexual minorities.

Our objective is to preserve its independent voice by helping it build financial resilience. Soliciting more publishing projects is an important part of its sustenance. However, the organisation also recognises the importance of engaging directly with the publishing market through blending-in a market-based model. However, to accomplish this it needs to think through organisational structure, legalities, co-operation between a for-profit and non-profit model, and continuous support on building commercial, financial and governance capabilities. It seeks an individual or institution that is sympathetic to its work, understands the struggles of independent publishing, and can give an assurance and confidence that it will stand by it over a period of time. The capital required will mostly go towards hiring of one or two professionals and meeting some portion of the indirect operating expenses. In short, the capital requirements are not very high. What will matter is a firm gesture of commitment.