Thursday, July 08, 2010

Are NGOs required in India?

Lately, I wonder as to why NGOs exist? Are non-profits required? Is the govt not sufficient? Do we need NGOs in traditional sense or more as catalysts / facilitators? You might wonder why am I saying this.

I have been in the social and development sector for last 2 decades. Every few years, I analyse the work I am doing and the sector itself and ask myself if my direction and strategy will lead to a developed India by 2025. My recent analysis, led to the above questions.

Today, Indian govt both at central and state level has welfare schemes for everything. Children, women, health, environment, wildlife, education, livelihoods, social security, electricity, road, school, water, sanitation, ..., you name it and there is a Scheme run by Govt of India. GoI has even launched a website so that you can find a scheme relevant to you.

Now, there are schemes and the resources behind them. Both are unlimited and mostly unutilised. Still NGO sector in India scrambles to raise funds to do the welfare of the poor Indians. Why cannot NGOs act as catalyst or facilitator and bridge the gap between people and govt schemes? Can't they empower people to ask for their own rights and teach them how to access their rights? Isn't it far cheaper to be a catalyst, then to run these schemes themselves. It can easily be done at 1/10th the cost of running an actual scheme. So why raise lakhs and crores of Rupees when you can do it for few thousands or lakhs of rupees. Also, NGO resources are always limited but govt resources are practically unlimited. Is it not better to teach people to tap these unlimited resources than go after limited donations to do welfare yourself?

It leads to the age old conundrum. If i do it myself, i get the name, credit, fame. If i show the way, I will hardly even get recognition. So is it that NGOs in India want to survive for generations and so unable to do the right thing. As soon as I put this question before NGOs, I know what the response will be. We are different, we are unique, we provide quality, there is corruption in govt, we cannot work with govt, govt is inefficient, govt cannot do it the way we can do it, govt does not provide what i provide and so on. I wonder if we can put our differences aside and get united to help the poor instead of funding our own survival.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

India Social Entrepreneur Award of the Year - 2010

The Jubilant Bhartia Foundation and Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, in collaboration with The Hindustan Times and Mint, are inviting applications for the India Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2010. The Award aims to identify and celebrate visionary social entrepreneurs who have demonstrated large-scale, systems-change models and are at the stage of scaling/replication their ideas across India and in other countries.

The deadline for receiving applications is July 1, 2010.

Following an intensive search and selection process including expert reviews and site visits, four to five leading social entrepreneurs will be selected for the India Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The winner(s) will be announced in a ceremony coinciding with the India Economic Summit in November 2010.

The Award benefits for the winner(s) will include participation in the Regional Meetings of the World Economic Forum, inclusion in the Schwab Foundation network of leading social entrepreneurs, possible nomination to the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the Global Agenda Council, and eligibility to participate in the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

We request you to circulate this mail widely to your networks of social changemakers. The attached document details the criteria and other relevant information on the Awards. If you wish to apply, please visit

Start Up!, an incubator and advisor to social entrepreneurs,- will be managing the outreach and due-diligence of the India Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2010 on behalf of the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation. We will be happy to respond to your queries via mail. Please feel free to connect with us at or

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Social Entrepreneurs in the making

Check out these interesting men and women and their meaningful "next" lives
Rahul Verghese (Ex Motorola, gave up his high powered marketing job and started
"I started enjoying the tremendous psychological, health, and other benefits of running only after the age of 40. My mission is to help every man woman and child, unleash their personal potential by rekindling their joy of running. It's amazing what such a simple thing can do for you. It's no wonder that running is the most participative and fastest growing 'sport' in the world. Our goal is to get 200 million people to take up running"

Abodh Aras, (Abodh was formerly with the customer services and sales department of DHL Worldwide Express) now works with Stray dogs!

Chief Executive Officer, W.S.D (Welfare of Stray dogs), Mumbai

Manish & Arti Jain, Founders, (Manish is a Software Architect who built software in the US for several years, before returning to India. He is an IIT Roorkee and Texas Tech University alumni, who loves to read as much as he loves to code. is his labor of love.Arti has a BA in English from Delhi University, an MA in Mass Communication from Jamia and an MFA in Cinema from San Francisco State University. Arti is an independent media professional in her "other" life.). They started up an online library from where books can be rented.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Where are the philanthropists who can fund real Scaling Up

Last two decades have been decades of scaling up businesses all across the globe. The social sector across the world began to realise the need to scale up in the last decade or so. In India, social sector scaling up is still at very nascent stage. We did see some examples recently - CRY, Give India, CAF India, Concern India, Srijan, Prison Ministry India, HRLN and a few others. But real scaling up is yet to be seen in India.

We have new age NGOs from India and the world over who are trying to scale-up nationally or globally. The challenge is immense and the biggest challenge is finance required to scale up. Each of these NGOs are operating in business-like manner, working on financial sustainability from the beginning, using volunteer or in-kind mechanisms to reduce the costs, clocking a growth rate of 100% to 1000% every year making software industry look like a dwarf.

Isha Foundation's Project Green Hands have reached a scale of planting 4 million trees a year in a short span of 5 years and they will double this every year till 2020. Their target is to plant 114 million trees in Tamil Nadu in a short span of 15 years taking its green cover to mandated 33% of the available land area. Expected cost $1.2/tree, a total of $140 million. They are ready to scale up across India where they will require to plant 3.42 billion trees across India taking India's green cover to 33% and it will cost them $4 billion.

Ahmedabad, Gujarat based Mahiti Adhikar Gujarath Pahel currently has 1 mobile RTI van. It is ready to scale up across Gujarat in 1st phase with 1 mobile RTI van per district and finally across India where it will need a total of 625 mobile vans and it will expand its services from RTI to include all central and state govt schemes. The funds required is $45 million, $60,000 per district per year.

John Wood's Room To Read has plans to reach 20 million children by 2020 and is on track to achieve that. But if I would ask John whether he will be willing to reach 1 billion children by 2025, he will say yes too. Problem is the staggering $250 billion required to achieve that. His cost per child is quite higher at $275 per child per year. But am sure, he will reduce it by half once he achieves the economies of scale as soon as he crosses the 10 million children mark by 2015. That's a straight away reduction of $125 billion.

When we have minds and business acumen like John's in the social sector today, what we are lacking is the serious philanthropic capital commitment of the likes of Warren Buffett and William Gates II. We need every individual on Forbes 100 Richest People in the World list to seriously look at their wealth and their commitment to the world. Can they open up their purse strings to funds these social sector scale ups? Similarly, Boards of Fortune 500 list of companies need to have a serious board meeting asking themselves if they are really fulfilling their commitment to their stakeholders by hoarding away billions of dollar of profits in banks.

I hope Carlos Slim, Mukesh Ambani, L N Mittal et al are listening. I request Exxon Mobil, Wal Mart, ING, Toyota are to think.

Surya Prakash Loonker

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Social Audit should be mandatory and compulsory in all govt schemes, ministries and govt departments

  • A social audit is a process in which the people work with the government to monitor and evaluate the planning and implementation of a scheme or programme, or indeed of a policy or law. The social audit process is critically dependent on the demystification and wide dissemination of all relevant information.
  • Social audit - conducted jointly by the government and the people, especially by those people who are affected by, or are the intended beneficiaries of, the scheme being audited.
    • Can bring on board the perceptions and knowledge of the people,
    • Can look at outcomes and not just outputs,
    • Can involve the people in the task of verification,
    • Also, much greater acceptability by the government.
The Scope of a Social Audit
  • A social audit is conducted over the life span of a scheme or programme, and not just in one go or at one stage.
  • It audits the process, the outputs and the outcome.
  • It audits planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
Elements of a Social Audit
  • Raising awareness of rights, entitlements and obligations under a scheme.
  • Specifically, about the right to participate in a social audit.
  • Ensuring that all forms and documents are user friendly.
  • Ensuring all relevant information is accessible, displayed and read out.
  • Ensuring that the decision making process is transparent, participatory and, as far as possible, carried out in the presence of the affected persons.
  • Ensuring that all decisions, and their rationale, are made public as soon as they are made.
  • Ensuring that measurements, certification and inspection involves the affected people on a random and rotational basis.
  • Ensuring that there are regular (six monthly) public hearings (jan audit manch) where the scheme and the process of social auditing is publicly analysed.
  • Ensuring that the findings of social audits are immediately acted upon.
  • Also ensuring that these findings result in the required systemic changes.
Benefits of Social Audit
  • Reduction of corruption.
  • Increased effectiveness of a program or project or scheme.
  • Benefits reach the people.
  • Government becomes more responsible and accountable.
  • Power in hands of the public.
I, Surya Prakash Loonker, am proposing that Social Audit should be mandatory and compulsory in all govt schemes, ministries and govt departments. Just like RTI, Social Audit can be a powerful tool in hands of the people. Social Audit is the next step after RTI. RTI gets you information. Social Audit actually helps get results or solve problems. Please campaign to make Social Audit an Act through legislation.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Villgro in association with the Rockefeller Foundation, presents the Villgro Fellowship

Villgro in association with the Rockefeller Foundation, presents the Villgro Fellowship, a 10- month program designed to equip individuals who dare to follow their dreams and to help build a prosperous rural India.

The Villgro Fellowship offers an exciting opportunity to work for 10 months both independently and alongside Villgro professionals. Since the launch of the Villgro Fellowship in 2009, 7 fellows with varied professional backgrounds and experiences from around the globe, having worked in France, Brazil, the United States, Bangladesh and India have joined the program. During the program, Villgro Fellows contribute to rural prosperity by:

* Mentoring a social enterprise with innovative products or service models, serving the rural markets, by providing their expertise in strategizing, process design and implementation, marketing & business development to name a few, and thus enabling a large scale rural impact;

* Deploying practical, imaginative and decisive leadership in working with innovators, innovations, social entrepreneurs and rural markets;

* Acquiring in-depth understanding of the innovation and social enterprise sectors;

* Developing specific expertise in process management, product development and business planning & strategy;

* Implementing the best (international) practices from industry.
Rural India needs ideas that can deliver inclusive, eco-friendly and sustainable prosperity. A handful of individuals – better known as social entrepreneurs – are making that difference by blurring the boundaries between business and social good. These individuals stand out for their vision, purposefulness , passion , leadership , innovativeness, risk taking ability, and persistence.

If you are one such path-breaker in the making, you need to have a space to hone those instincts, a live laboratory that will help you sharpen your abilities. Above all, you need an opportunity to prepare yourself to launch your dream venture

Fellowship Location , Compensation and Travel

Villgro is pleased to provide you a stipend of Rs. 25,000/- per month to cover meals, housing and incidental costs.

The fellows may be required to travel to or stay at the location of the innovators they are working with. All travel and stay will be in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and some states in the north.

Compensation for the fellows program is designed to cover the costs associated with the program, i.e., local travel to and from the office, accommodation, local transportation for business needs, food, health insurance and incidentals.

Villgro will reimburse the to and fro transportation of the shortest route for all to Chennai from their place of domicile. In addition, travel expenses to the innovator location, for quarterly meetings and any other Villgro meetings during the fellowship will be borne by Villgro


1. How many fellows will be selected for the program this year?

We are launching a second round of fellowships this year and as such will be accepting 5 fellows. In addition to the fellowship, Villgro also recruits volunteers, interns and other professionals for various projects.

2. What is the nature of support that will be offered for Villgro fellows to settle down at the place of work if they are from elsewhere?

Villgro will provide you with accommodations for the first 10 days of your stay in Chennai. During that time, the administrative staff will help you to identify suitable housing for the rest of your stay. Accommodations for work-related travel are organized by the administrative staff.

3. Can Villgro fellows bring their immediate family along with them?

The fellowship program will arrange for travel, work permits and other items only for the fellow. While Villgro acknowledges and respects the needs of fellows to bring their immediate family, they will need to do so at their own expense. It should be noted that fellows may be expected to travel at short notice and according to the schedule of the incubation plan, and that the program is intensive, time-consuming and requires real commitment and flexibility. Fellows should consider these factors carefully before deciding to bring family members.

4. Are Villgro fellows allowed to take leaves of absence during the program?

Villgro fellows are encouraged to take leaves of absence only for reasons of sickness or physical inability to travel to work. Leave requests for exceptional reasons will be considered on a case by case basis.

5. What type of mentoring and support will Villgro fellows receive during the program?

Each fellow is assigned a formal mentor from within Villgro to whom they are encouraged to discuss the progress of their project or any other matters they need support on. This mentor would not be the person he/she is reporting to. Apart from this, Villgro has a very positive and supportive work culture and you are free to seek informal mentoring and support of any Villgro employee you choose.

6. Can fellows expect an offer of employment from Villgro or its partner organizations on completion of the program?

Villgro reserves the right to extend employment to fellows. Upon completion of the program, if such an offer is not made, Villgro can help to recommend opportunities at other organizations based on Villgro's assessment of the fellow's performance and potential.

How to Apply

Send in your detailed resume, along with a one page summary (not exceeding 500 words) of why you are interested in applying for the fellowship and which project you are interested in, to before 20th April 2010

Shortlisted candidates can expect a phone call from us at a mutually convenient time informing them of the same.

Finalists would participate in an in-person /teleconference /video conference interview with an eminent social entrepreneur and senior staff from the Villgro selection board.

The decision on the persons selected for the Villgro fellowship and extension of offers to successful candidates will be announced on 3RD May 2010

Apply now to participate in an exciting journey with us!