Lakshya Jeevan Jagriti (LJJ), New Delhi
2019 - Present
Drawing in experiences from their own personal transformation journey, the founders of LJJ realised the need for building requisite abilities and skills in the marginalised children, youth and women to bring about a holistic development in them. They formally started LJJ in 2009 as a non-profit and engaged underprivileged communities from the bastis in Delhi. A key element of their programs (Eklavya & Aao Saath Maa) is the focus on self-learning and reflection activities which helps to boost the self-esteem of the individuals leading them to use the acquired skills and abilities in their own personal and professional spaces. These have helped the community members to be self-reliant and financially independent. Over the years, the organisation started providing vocational skilling programs to the marginalised youth and also collaborated with corporates for delivering leadership development trainings. In the recent past, it has partnered with Teach for India & Singapore International Education who have helped them to build new perspectives in their learning programs.
During the COVID pandemic, LJJ was quick to discover and support (through dry rations, cooked meals) the communities who were grossly affected by the abruptness of the lockdown. In the process, they have been able to expand their reach to new communities who were in need of this services. The pandemic situation demanded that LJJ graduated towards an online medium for conducting their learning programs. This virtual learning model has helped the organisation to increase their community outreach with the added benefits of reduced operational costs. Moreover, to meet the increasing community base of their learning programs, LJJ has been able to develop a pool of trained volunteers. Demonstrating their work on social media platforms, LJJ utilised the crowd funding model to reach out successfully to donors (individual & corporates) for expanding on these support areas during the pandemic period. The entire succession of events has demonstrated the ability of the organisation to contextualise and evolve its intervention form to address the pressing concerns of the community. This organisation sees itself at a critical juncture from where it looks to strengthen its presence among the community and build a healthy relationship with the growing base of donors.
SSF has been in touch with the founders since its early days. Seeing that the initial founding team has stayed for over a decade, SSF realised that real sustainability of the organisation, in face of the rising operating costs and with no grant funding model in place, laid in continuation of this spirit of commitment. Hence, from 2019 onwards, SSF decided to deploy part of its accumulated earnings as a grant to be invested in staff welfare measures of LJJ. This also provided us an opportunity to demonstrate our “FIG” idea in action where continuous marginal investments deployed in a strategic manner at the right time helps in building institutional capital. Along with grant support, we also began conversations with LJJ to help them focus on the key foundational aspects required to better prepare the organisation in the coming years. This resulted in working towards strengthening their book-keeping systems, articulating their work and reflecting the same in the communications and fund raising strategy and allocation of financial resources in a prudent way.
To know more about LJJ and their work please visit https://www.meralakshya.org/.
2018 - March 2022
Welthungerhilfe (WHH) is committed to fighting hunger worldwide and is focusing its work around the Sustainable Development Goal 2: “Zero Hunger by 2030”. In India, it supports and builds the capacity of civil society to ensure the right to food and nutrition security among marginalised communities. WHH’s India portfolio consists of over 20 small and medium-sized Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) with more than twenty years of operating history and spread across rural India. These CSOs are working mainly with tribal communities on issues such as natural resource management, food and nutrition security, and mitigating the adverse effects of climate change.
Our relationship with WHH began in 2018 as a partner in a "domestic resources mobilisation program", co-funded by the European Union. The program aims to strengthen capacities of traditional grant-based CSOs through organisational development and social business planning workshops without compromising on the core values of the CSOs. The opportunity to work on institution building of these CSOs and WHH agreeing on our approach interested us in being part of the engagement.
Through multiple discussions, visiting the operations, and meeting each of the grassroots leadership and their team, we developed a deeper understanding of the intangible assets they had built over time. It allowed us to understand better the communities they work with, the issues that they are trying to solve and the organisational challenges they are experiencing. Through workshops, we tried to bring the focus of the grassroots leadership and that of WHH on the organisational needs and approach to be taken to address it.
We then followed it up with monthly handholding support, where we engage with one or more members from their team to work on the agenda we mutually agreed. In 2020, WHH has added 13 more CSOs to the cohort, which we helped shortlist and onboard. In total, we are currently providing monthly handholding support to 33 CSOs, intending to bring the focus to their intangible assets, streamlining how the decisions are made and integrate it with the market where needed. The support will continue till December 2021.
We are thankful to WHH for this opportunity to work with their entire portfolio. We could positively influence their program strategy, shifting from Social Enterprise model development to organisation development of CSOs. It has opened the door for WHH to gradually integrate the aspects of institution building into their decision-making process. It also allowed us to understand over forty (and deeply engage with over thirty) non-profits that fit our long term mission, challenging us, and refining our practice. We are hopeful that these non-profits, at least some of them, will benefit from our constant interactions spread over three years. Some of the improvements that we have seen materialising include—non-profits taking a step back to look at themselves as an institution beyond the programs, some are actively making communities participate in their operations, while in other cases, some of the overlooked structures within the community are being surfaced.
To access the list of organisations we engaged with please visit https://bit.ly/WHH32
Womanity Foundation, Geneva
2014 - Present
Womanity has undertaken the mission to empower girls and women in developing countries to shape their future and accelerate progress within their communities. Womanity Foundation’s approach to carrying out its mission focuses on a close collaboration with social entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial organisations addressing women’s empowerment and progress. Womanity also champions innovations in social change and seeks to find programmes that have potential to be replicated and scaled. Our relationship with WF began in 2014-15. It is on the back of this relationship and the engagements that have emerged which have really helped SSF practice its approach. A fair number of clients and engagements outlined below are largely on account of our work with and for Womanity Foundation’s Women Change Maker’s programme in India. This programme looks to select two organisations every couple of years to provide them capability-building support. We remain grateful to WF and treasure this association.
The fellow selection programme, after a hiatus of 3 years, recommenced in 2021 with a focus on very small non-profits working with very marginalized communities. Our continued association with Womanity has led us to engage with such organisations for the first time. Some of these organisations are also hard to reach physically. This additional portfolio of Womanity and the systematic and concerted focus it has brought to it is, in our view, rare in case of institutional philanthropy. We, as an organisation, have personally benefited as it has increased our sensitivity to issues that revolve around ecology, land, local culture, sustenance, and dynamics that lead to general societal indifference. It has also provided a window into how such organisations come into being, how they work and perhaps what the future holds for them.
VIKAS Centre for Development, Ahmedabad
2012 - Present
VIKAS started in 1978 as a small not-for-profit which has worked largely on issues of urban and rural settlements. Over the years, it has gradually consolidated its operations in two main regions: Jambusar taluka in Bharuch district, and Surendranagar district in the Kutch/Saurashtra region of Gujarat. In the former it addresses itself to questions of bonded labourers, and in the latter of salt workers (Agariyas). For a small organisation, it has been notable for the fact that it was probably the first not-for-profit to venture with Public Ltd. Company (Saline Area Vitalization Enterprise) in 1995, and over the years has experimented with a number of organisational forms, with mixed success. Presently, it has two major initiatives: a ‘Bio-shield’ programme that implements a multi-layered plantation along the coast of South Gujarat and replacing diesel as the primary source of energy for Agariyas with solar pump. In both it has conceptualised the design of the whole programme and created an ecosystem involving governments, other non-profits and private sector participants to create replicable models. SSF has been engaged with this organisation since May, 2012. The original reason for our engagement was to put in place a mechanism for succession, a task which has no ready answer. Rather than address the question directly we have helped the organisation think through its choices, bring stability to its operations and better define the inter-relationships and roles of the various entities, and as a consequence, better prepare itself for succession. We would like to emphasise that whilst small, this is one of the most innovative and changing organisation we have worked with. Hence our thrust has always been to ensure that the spirit of the organisation does not over-reach the real limits and bounds. VIKAS presents, in our opinion, a classic example of an institution which has constantly responded to changing external circumstances by changing its form: a subject which has found expression in a study developed by Prof. Vishal Gupta, at the department of Organisational Behaviour, at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT), Ahmedabad
2015 - Present
MHT was founded in 1994 by the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), in order to facilitate better housing and infrastructure for its members in the state of Gujarat. MHT works to improve the material living conditions in urban areas, i.e., habitat improvement, through the agency of women. We call this ‘city within a city’, or responsible urbanisation. Over the years it has evolved many forms of intervention to address issues of mass unplanned urbanisation including a not-for-profit, credit co-operatives and a for-profit social enterprise. Present in 7 cities across 7 different states, it is today one of the larger non-profits of its kind in urban India, working at the levels of grass-root, local and state governments and with private sector. SSF has been providing OD support to the organisation since November, 2015. It is amongst one of our more complex engagements spanning as it does multiple organisational formats (non-profit, for-profit and credit cooperatives), intellectual inter-weaving of gender, habitat and urban governance, and operational effectiveness. Consequently, we have been involved in a range of decision-making from strategic planning, communication & fund-raising, compensation, governance, capability development of middle-management and significantly, organisation re-structuring.
Zubaan, New Delhi
2016 - Present
Zubaan is an independent feminist publishing house set-up in 2003 as an imprint of Kali for Women, and looks at issues of women and LGBTQ in India and South Asia. It is facing challenges on account of significant changes in publishing (especially the move away from paper printing), and reduction in availability of grant funding for this kind of work. Zubaan approached Social Synergy Foundation in 2015 to identify ways to explore a profit-oriented approach and mobilise equity funding. SSF’s advice was to not actively pursue this route, and rather invest its efforts in continuing to source grant-driven programmes and look at smaller scale income generation activities. This advice was taken with a pinch of salt at the time, but Zubaan decided to stay with it and appreciates the support SSF then provided. Since then, we continued to remain in touch with Zubaan and recently have initiated, what we believe, is a three-year organisational development process to bring greater clarity, stability and structure to its hybrid model. We remain greatly attached to the underlying cause of the organisation and its burning relevance. In our own limited way, we look for opportunities wherein we can help some of our other clients draw on their strengths. Our present engagement with them is on a purely non-commercial basis.
Swayam Shikshan Prayog, Pune
2017 - Present
Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP), formally launched in 1998, promotes sustainable community development through empowerment of women as entrepreneurs, community leaders and change-makers supported by a wide range of initiatives that offer skill-building, livelihoods, agricultural and health-enhancing opportunities to rural women, girls and communities. Its unique characteristic has been its persistent focus on the most backward districts of Maharashtra: Osmanabad and Latur. The question before it today remains how to consolidate its work and look at ways of expanding its area of operation as well as the quality of its impact. SSF has been providing OD support to the organisation since September, 2017. We believe one of our significant contributions has been to make SSP see its real strength as the investments it has made in women in communities over its years of work. Our present work with SSP focuses exclusively on enabling it to build an organisational capability geared to fully realise the potential of this ‘community investment’ on a stand-alone basis as well as for its projects and desire to enter adjacent districts.
Tribhuvandas Foundation, Anand
2018 - March 2022
Tribhuvandas Foundation, initiated by the founder of Amul, Tribhuvandas Patel, is a mature not-for-profit with a long and distinguished body of work, sizeable spread of field operations, and an approach which has evolved over a 35-year history, focusing primarily on ante/post-natal programmes. Presently, it runs a community-health programme across 840 villages of Anand, Kheda and Mahisagar districts (erstwhile old Kheda District) in Gujarat. The organisation is looking to strengthen its administrative capacity in order to enable it to pivot its focus to home-based care and position it in the context of the current health-care focus on institution-driven care, as well as improve the reach of its programmes to cover all dairy cooperatives of Amul within these 3 districts. Our engagement commenced in January, 2018 and is taking shape at the time of writing. Tribhuvandas Foundation is, by far, the largest non-profit we are working with when measured in terms of its sheer spread of operations. However, it is also one of the most traditional in its management approach presenting us with a challenge of being especially sensitive to the cultural norms of a very established institution while trying to build systems & processes, inducting more professionals and complementing the capacities of some of the senior management personnel. Our sense is that the work we are doing for Tribhuvandas is essentially about helping the organisation identify exactly what to retain, what to discard, and what to infuse into its decision-making process. It is an assignment we are approaching with utmost caution and subtlety and we too are learning in the process.
Akshara Centre, Mumbai
2020 - Present
Founders of Akshara Centre started documenting women’s movement since 1985 and after publishing their first book established Akshara Centre in the year 1992. Since then (over 25 years) Akshara has created a space for activists, students of women studies and youth. They engaged underprivileged young women and men from low resource colleges and bastis in Mumbai. They sensitised them to be gender champions and change-makers with partners like National Social Scheme [NSS] of colleges, women’s groups and organisations. Akshara also engages with local governments and public and private institutions to discuss the policies that can make cities safer and accessible to women and girls. SSF has started engaging with Akshara from April 2020 to bring clarity to Akshara’s application for the Build grant by Ford Foundation. Our initial discussions were to help them think through the existing organisational structure, depth of their long-standing programs and allocation of the resources. We are continuing these conversations, and we plan to shape this engagement further in 2021.
Anudip Foundation & iMerit, Kolkata
2011 - 2015
Anudip Foundation is a dedicated non-profit organisation that creates livelihood opportunities for impoverished people in rural areas and urban slums of India by providing market aligned skills training in SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) and employment opportunities. It operates 150+ training centres in West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar and North East India. SSF provided OD support to the organisation from 2010 to 2014. When we started our engagement, we were mostly involved in discussions with senior management, primarily around shaping thought and strategic planning. The discussions were about exploring as many possible models of intervention and to help Anudip build a relationship with one of the leading governmental skills development programme. Another aspect that the model had to account for is the potential for making trained youth work in the latest technology innovation areas. The initial jobs that started coming in were simple yet unexplored for rural youths. As the skills of graduates were validated by delivering these tasks from new age technology, the job sourcing initiative was formalised into a for profit social enterprise called iMerit. We helped Anudip to secure grants from government initiatives and private foundations in order to run the trainings efficiently. In discussion with donors, the focus of Anudip turned to increase the contribution from earner income and achieve sustainability in the long term. Our support continued on developing required organisational structure, design and process to support the earned income model.
iMerit grew out of the work of Anudip. We were engaged with it since its inception as an initiative to make available latest jobs in emerging technologies to graduates of Anudip Foundation. We worked with the founder to access seed funding and then worked as an extension to the CEO’s office managing strategy, finance, operations and technology delivery. While the founder and senior management focused on building partnerships with Silicon Valley technology companies, we took the responsibility of implementation in India and some part of business development efforts. Gradually as the organisation grew and persons were hired, we assisted the management in building their capabilities. As capabilities improved, our role shifted to support iMerit largely with raising growth capital, specifically, series A funding from Omidyar Foundation. iMerit is now a well established for-profit business. It is a unique engagement for us for two reasons: one it was an exclusive for-profit model we worked with; and we were unusually involved in implementation.
The nature of our associations described above are with organisations with whom we have spent a year or more at the very least, and have a clearer understanding of our role. However, there are associations beyond these which may have commenced at a later date, or wherein we are still gaining a better clarity of our own contributions.
As of January, 2023, these comprise of KHOJ (New Delhi), Indian Social Studies Trust (New Delhi), Jan Chetna (Abu Road), ASVSS (Solapur), Prakriti (Nagpur), Lok Astha Seva Sansthan (Gariaband), Vikas Samvad (Bhopal), Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (New Delhi), Vasundhara (Bhuwaneshwar), Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (Hyderabad), Takshila Education Society (New Delhi).
In due course, as our relationships deepen and sustain, we may able to articulate our work with them in an expanded form.