NEW DELHI: Civil society organizations across India are feeling the adverse impact of COVID-19 as they continue to provide relief and support to the underserved communities during the pandemic. The lack of resources has hindered their growth and functioning, while several NGOs have faced the risk of forced closure. In an effort to tackle this, EdelGive Foundation introduced GROW Fund (Grassroots, Resilience, Ownership, Wellness) – a first-of-its-kind unique financial initiative that aims to redefine collaborative philanthropy and help grassroots organizations to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 and become future-ready.
To discuss the creation of sustainable and resilient grassroots organizations, EdelGive Foundation organized a roundtable conversation on January 24, 2022, with the theme of Institutional Well-being. Representatives from leading Indian and international philanthropic institutions, namely Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rainmatter Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Societal Platform, and Dalyan Foundation joined Naghma Mulla, CEO, EdelGive Foundation, to discuss how institutional well-being can prove to be a successful approach towards more effective social change. The discussion was moderated by Smarinita Shetty, Co-founder, and CEO, India Development Review.
Talking about the theme and GROW Fund, Naghma Mulla, CEO, EdelGive Foundation, said, “Lack of support in building institutional well-being and development has led to several inefficiencies as the prime focus is on program-specific funding. COVID-19 proved to be a wake-up call as it severely burdened the already strained resources of grassroots organizations. Through GROW Fund, we aim to make capacity-building more consumable and adoptable by the NGOs by facilitating cross-learning and providing funding dedicated to organization development. We are focusing on our goal of helping the changemakers internalize the learnings gathered over the course of the next two years into institutional structures.”
Sharing his views Sameer Shisodia, CEO, Rainmatter Foundation, mentioned, “Unless there is the adoption of solutions at the ground level, there will only be the short-term success that would fade away once a project cycle is over. The NGOs are the real changemakers and have the necessary social capital and perspective to come up with the right solutions. Their institutional well-being should be promoted by helping them to increase their capacities to absorb technology, financial models, and systemic solutions. We need to empower the non-profits to think bigger and support continuity in their approach and operations. NGOs cannot be event managers and have to be strengthened at the organizational level.”
Discussing the ways to bring institutional well-being in focus, Moutushi Sengupta, Director – India, MacArthur Foundation, said, “As funders, we need to be quite flexible in our approach. We need to provide long-term support to enable civil society organizations and help them figure out their pathway in a more meaningful manner. We need to provide mentorship and hand-holding to help them figure out the best way to deal with a diverse set of situations. In order to successfully drive the conversation on organizational well-being, the power of networks and collaborations needs to be wielded and NGOs should connect with the larger ecosystem.”
Elaborating on the importance of institutional well-being, Sanjay Purohit, Chief Curator, Societal Platform, said, “Organisations and individuals need to introspect their responsibility to help the changemakers that have taken up the mantle of tackling some of the most complex issues at the grassroots level. Therefore, it is imperative that we work to build up their resilience and mutual trust. It should not be about ROI and impact measurement but about building a cadre of leaders and institutions who can hold the civil society in better stead as we go along. We need to change the perception that philanthropic capital should only be used for direct impact.”
Arnav Kapur, Lead – Philanthropic Partnerships, India & South Asia, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Yonca Even Guggenbühl, President, Dalyan Foundation also shared their opinions around reducing the negative stress of the grassroots organizations and focusing on long-term engagements to drive institutional well-being and support future-readiness in a sustainable way.
Traditionally, external funding has been directed towards scaling up existing programs of NGOs. However, there is a need to look deeper into organizational well-being and improve the capacities of these grassroots changemakers. This would help the NGOs in improving their processes, efficiency, financial resilience, and most importantly prepare them for adversities of the future.
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