“Take a Front Seat and Learn” in India

Tracy Mack Parker
Chief Executive Officer
The Philanthropy Workshop

India is a global social innovation hub, where problems meet solutions. As shared by Lisa Kleissner (TPW 2003-04) during the Dasra Philanthropy Forum at Stanford this week: “Working in India as an impact investor, with its vibrant deal flow, allows you to take a front seat and learn what works and doesn’t work to make social change.”

Indeed, what you learn in India can help you be impactful beyond India, which is why we’re returning February 21-26, 2016 for one of two global journeys for The Philanthropy Workshop members. (Ethiopia being the second.)

We’ll be partnering with Dasra, a trusted intermediary on the ground in India; and we’ll be joined by experienced TPW members, several who served on five of the seven panels of the Dasra Philanthropy Forum.

I share with you some of the many insights offered this week:

Joan Platt (TPW 2007-08):

Joan emphasized the importance of general operating support—unrestricted, flexible funds to allow promising organizations do what they do best. For Joan, strong leadership within the organization must go hand in hand with this kind of funding. Over a decade ago, Joan and her TPW cohort traveled together to India and spotted such leadership in Neera Nundy, who, with her husband, Deval Sanghavi, was just launching Dasra. Joan had “total trust and believed in them,” so much so that she and the cohort provided Dasra with pivotal early-stage, unrestricted funding.

Today, Dasra has grown from a husband and wife duo with potential, to a team of 90, receiving mezzanine funding from the Omidyar Network and others who followed in the footsteps of the angel investment Joan and her cohort made. Joan will be joining us in Mumbai this year, where you also can meet Deval and Neera and explore their evolution as well as philanthropy’s emergence in the country.

Sapphira Goradia (TPW 2013-14):

Sapphira remarked that “as a philanthropist, you have to reconcile being humble with being a visible partner for the organizations you support.” Over the years, Sapphira’s father and family increasingly stepped into the spotlight to raise awareness and capital for Pratham, an organization we’ll visit with Sapphira during our trip. Pratham started as a partnership between the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai, UNICEF and individual donors and over the years built a track record and the evidence base (including a Poverty Actions Lab randomized control trial) to warrant its program going to scale.

Lynne Smitham (TPW 2008-09):

India’s challenges and opportunities are inextricably linked with the state of 600 million women and girls living within its borders. Lynne and her husband, Peter Smitham, have been working in India alongside Dasra for years and are partners in the Dasra Girls’ Alliance, a $14 million, 5-year partnership between Dasra, USAID, Piramal Foundation and Kiawah Trust focused on India's 125 million adolescent girls.  Lynne believes the only pathway to large-scale change is through collaboration. “Joined-up thinking is needed for joined-up solutions.”

Someone asked: “How do you measure girl empowerment?” Lynne shared four indicators, including a girl: (1) achieving 8 years of education; (2) gaining knowledge about her health and her body, including reproduction; (3) building her job skills; and (4) having a voice in the system, that is, being able to express herself and her aspirations and to be heard.

Charly Kleissner (TPW 2003-04):

Charly, along with his wife, Lisa, is a trailblazer in not only blurring, but also eliminating, lines drawn in investment portfolios between doing well and doing good.

Someone asked: “What does it mean to be ‘all in,’ investing 100% of your financial capital for impact?” I leave you with Charly’s parting words: “It’s putting everything on the line. It’s the complete expression of the change you want to see in the world.”

Join us in India this February, and take a front seat to learn from those on the front lines of social change. Please click here to register.


Tracy Mack Parker is chief executive officer of The Philanthropy Workshop.  

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