India’s social sector works in an environment where the magnitude of need and scarcity of resources create a crucible of innovation that can produce insights for the world. In light of this, our second issue of Impact India looks at how successful Indian nonprofits have mastered scaling up their programs and offerings. In our cover story, “Why Indian Nonprofits Are Experts at Scaling Up,” authors Soumitra Pandey, Rohit Menezes, and Swati Ganeti aptly note: “There might be no better lab than India for studying the challenges that nonprofits face in trying to grow while stretched for resources.”
The article describes how leaders manage the tension between scale and scarcity by studying 20 fast-growing, broad-reaching Indian nonprofits, and highlights five distinct ways that their leaders think and act—five mind-sets—to reach hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people in need. Not surprisingly, those same mind-sets echoed throughout the articles in this issue. Some examples:
In an interview, Ratan Tata, one of India’s most prominent business and philanthropic leaders, embraces the “collaborative mind-set.” In particular, he speaks approvingly of nonprofit partnerships with government to extend the reach and impact of social programs supported by the Tata Trusts. Nonprofits like The Society for Nutrition, Education & Health Action (SNEHA), in Mumbai, also pursue collaboration with government. Dr. Armida Fernandez, SNEHA’s founder, writes in “Scaling with Evidence” that the organization partners with government health agencies to advocate for service improvements in programs that already have massive reach. By contrast, in the West, such partnerships may be viewed with suspicion, leading many social innovators to avoid or disrupt status quo institutions like government.
“Radical frugality” is another mind-set shared by many successful Indian nonprofits. It’s the topic of the article “Cutting Costs to Increase Impact,” in which authors Leslie MacKrell, Andrew Belton, Mark Gottfredson, and Jake Fisher draw on both Indian and US examples to explain how nonprofits need to design—or redesign—programs to achieve low cost per outcome if they aspire to reach massive scale.
The “dignity mind-set” prioritizes the needs of individual beneficiaries and helps to create sustainable, locally driven programs. “From the Ground Up,” by Preeti Mann and Amit Chandra, describes why a beneficiary-centric perspective is the antidote for the widespread failure of topdown development programs. This mind-set also fuels the gender-justice movement in India, whose precepts and successes are captured in “A New Approach to Gender-Lens Grantmaking,” by Emily Nielsen Jones, Musimbi Kanyoro, and Neera Nundy. It also motivates the Odisha-based NGO Gram Vikas, whose innovative approaches are captured in Johanna Mair and Christian Seelos’s article “Water Is Power.” Likewise, Jaipur Living founder N. K. Chaudhary explains in “Creating a Social Business” how his commitment to the Gandhian philosophy of nurturing cottage industries rooted in Indian villages and staying sensitive to workers’ needs has powered his company’s international success.
In a reprise of last year’s Impact India, three organizations collaborated to develop and support this publication: The Bridgespan Group, an advisor to philanthropies and nonprofits; Dasra, a strategic philanthropy foundation focused on scale and impact in India; and Stanford Social Innovation Review, a media organization serving leaders of social change around the world. We thank Omidyar Network for funding the research for the cover story.
We hope you find the articles both informative and inspiring.