Social Venture Philanthropy – Not just cheque books

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Social partnerships can be built most effectively using a venture philanthropy approach and it is carefully calibrated measures of funds, mentoring and scaling advice that can set a social enterprise on the path to success and impact amplification. Let’s know more about Social Venture Philanthropy (SVP) in this guest article by Dr. Ganesh Natarajan, Chairman of 5F World, Social Venture Partners India and Pune City Connect.

The philosophy of the social sector runs a lot deeper than many of us realise at the first glance. There has been a tendency among funders of NGOs – trusts, corporates social responsibility heads and even individual philanthropists to paint all non-profits and NGOs with one brush – we believe they are passionate and do good work for social causes but we are not too sure if they will listen or have the ability to truly scale and build substantial social enterprises.

Social venture philanthropy

In reality, we discover time and again the immense heart and mind of social entrepreneurs and their ability to scale as well if not better than the most successful business tycoons of our time. It needs a deep understanding of their individual philosophy and psychology to unlock this potential in them. At Social Venture Partners India , we have been privileged not only to encounter such folk in every part of the country and we know that our success will be measured by the way in which we enable their voice to be amplified and their impact to be multiplies from the local to the national stage.

Case in point: Jagruti – NGO from Pune

Jagruti Nurses trainingA case in point is Jagruti from Pune. Set up many years ago by Mrs Jaya Kale to enable women from the underprivileged parts of the city and state to get trained as nursing assistants, their centre in the middle of the city not only provided theory and practical exposure to the women to enable them to find jobs with hospitals and healthcare agencies in the city, it also created a safe space for these women to find their place in society. SVP Pune adopted Jagruti as one of its first grantees and decided to go beyond just writing a grant to truly supporting their service and their scale.

With lead partner Narendra Goidani and his team providing stellar leadership, the capabilities of the centre were enhanced in the first phase and social skills and culture building sessions by SVP became part of the learning processes. Today, the handful of women impacted by Jagruti every year has multiplied to over five hundred with four vibrant centres around the city. Jagruti is also one of the key programs adopted by skills aggregators Pune City Connect and the Natarajan Education Society and the opportunity to take this program to the national stage is being explored and will be realised in the coming months and years.

The advantage of getting over two hundred professionals, entrepreneurs and business to work collaboratively with 40+ social enterprises and non-profits under the SVP umbrella has been that we have been able to match the right venture philanthropy to the need of each entity. While a Jagruti may have benefited from the scaling experience of some of us in Pune, a SEWA will seek the technology and branding experiences of folks in Ahmedabad and Bengaluru, a Vrutti is benefiting by the venture experience of folks from the tech industry in Bengaluru and a Pan IIT Reach for India (PARFI) plan is being assisted one step at a time by the experienced of seasoned professionals in Mumbai.

Different strokes for different strokes, be in local enablement, national presence or just a light touch in marketing, technology, human resource management or governance all this and more is what makes our active involvement for productive, for the entities supported and for the philanthropists themselves!

SVP Approach to funding and holistic support

This is not to imply that grants and funding are not important. On the contrary, the success of the SVP approach is that in suitable measures, money, mentoring and functional support are all available, not just on a one-off basis but as multi-year philanthropic collaboration. And the mix of all three can be modified during the period of a partnership. In many cases, as has happened for SVP with Vrutti in Bengaluru and Youth4Jobs in Hyderabad, the first phase is just an understanding of needs and mutual appreciation of capabilities and partnership roles while the funding may start in the second phase with specific and carefully calibrated interventions on an ongoing basis. A philanthropist serving as a well meaning and capable partner can change the life of a social entrepreneur and set her on a path to significant success!

About the author: Dr Ganesh Natarajan is Chairman of 5F World, Social Venture Partners India and Pune City Connect – Ganeshn@5FWorld.com

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