Scaling Social Impact through Organisational Capacity Building

Scaling Social Impact through Organisational Capacity Building

The discourse around social impact organisations, more often than not, includes the need to achieve scale. One side of the coin is the denominator or the scale at which the social problem exists, and the breadth that needs to be covered to solve the problem. The other side of the coin is the organisation’s capability – both in terms of quality and quantity – to achieve the requisite scale. Simply put, scaling up both programmes as well as organisations to achieve the desired impact in the ecosystem go hand-in-hand.

Non-profit leaders will concur that scale means different things to different organisations. It depends, among other things, on the problem they are trying to solve, the geographies where the problem persists, and the beneficiaries they are focusing on based on their theory of change. Accordingly, the pathways to scale differ as well. There can therefore be no cookie-cutter approach to scaling up for impact.

Sattva’s decade-long experience of engaging with non-profits of different sizes and maturity levels has however, helped us identify a key tenet – organisational capacity building – which when customised, can enable an organisation to become ‘scale up ready’. There are multiple components to this exercise, and our experience says that every non-profit that wishes to scale requires one or more of these.


  • Re-alignment of Mission and Vision: Before embarking upon the creation of a scale-up strategy, non-profits caught in the throes of growth need to relocate their North Star. This holds true even for large scale mature non-profits who have been in the ecosystem for ages. For instance, Sattva helped a 40-year old organisation working on child welfare to re-create the mission of the organisation in the context of the larger vision, which then enabled them to focus on depth of impact, instead of spreading themselves too thin to achieve breadth alone.

  • Development of Fundraising Strategy: The ability to create impact is contingent upon the non-profit’s ability to stay in business and scale, which in turn is largely dependent on the availability of funding. A robust fundraising strategy is therefore very important for any non-profit. Sattva has worked with diverse organisations across various sectors, and some as old as 20 years, to develop a deep understanding of what makes fundraising strategies work. It often starts with conducting fundraising diagnostics to understand past performance, which feeds into new fundraising strategies that define target funder segments, key value propositions and critical success factors. This is then further reinforced by building fundraising capacity of the organisation across people, processes, messaging and networks.

  • Restructuring of organisations (Systems, Processes, People) and Change Management: As organisations grow to scale their impact, their people and processes need to accommodate the changes that come with scale. Sattva has encountered examples of large organisations which have scaled to 400+ districts in India while holding on to centralised decision-making structures, resulting in bottlenecks across the organisation. The solutions in such instances have included developing a second line of leadership to decentralise decision-making, organisational restructuring to create new departments and restructure existing ones, developing standard operating procedures for old and new processes, developing capacity building plans for people, and creating change management plans to help these changes percolate across roles and ranks within the organisation.

  • Developing Scale-up Blueprints and Products for Programs of organisations: Growing an organisation and its programmes requires various strategies and levers. Sattva has demonstrated that standardising blueprints for scale and developing innovative products can enable organisations to implement their programmes at scale. Designing programmes and processes, building monitoring and evaluation frameworks for measuring effectiveness and efficiency of programmes, and using technology as an enabler to scale programmes have been some of tried and tested ways in which we have enabled organisations to scale their programmes and impact, the most shining testimony of which has been an education non-profit which grew its programme from 4 to 13 states in the country in 3 years.
  • Since the need of each organisation on its pathway to scale is unique, the solutions have to be customised as well. Programme and organisational diagnostics to understand the gaps that need filling, custom-made strategies to address the specific requirements of an organisation, and implementation support on an organisation’s scale-up journey are, therefore, all integral cogs for enabling an organisation to achieve the scale that is necessary to create the intended impact. While externalities like regulatory environment and availability of funding may limit the growth of organisations at times, organisational capacity building can help overcome some of the challenges associated with becoming ‘scale up ready’.

    Sattva has been working with various non-profits and organisations to help them define their social impact goals and optimise their capacity building efforts. Our focus is to solve critical problems and find scalable solutions.

    ● To read more about our work, check:
    ● Talk to us:

    Parvathy Ramanathan

    Parvathy leads the Transformation Advisory Services portfolio at Sattva, where we focus on enabling ambitious organisations achieve their highest impact. In addition, she also leads Sattva’s technology CSR Programme Management product – SHIFT.

    Parvathy has worked extensively in both the US and India at the intersection of systemic transformation and technology, in sectors including Government, Healthcare and Education.

    Parvathy is an entrepreneurial leader, now focused on solving urgent problems in the development sector, leveraging over 18 years of global experiences in strategy, marketing, product innovation, services delivery and business development. She has launched, generated and managed global revenue streams across products and services. Her leadership roles range from Accel-Partners funded Big Data Analytics start- up to Fortune-500 firms like Amazon, IQVIA and McGraw-Hill. Her experience spans sectors including Government, Healthcare, Financial Services, Education and Retail.

    Parvathy has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and a Bachelors in Engineering from RAIT, Mumbai University.

    Equal Economy: Women’s Participation in the Workforce

    The Problem of Low Female Labour and Work Force Participation


    India’s Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLPR) stands at 17.5% as per the latest estimates. In the global context of women’s employment, India is among the worst performers, bettering only countries like the Arab nations.

    Not only are we failing to bring more women into the folds of gainful and meaningful employment, we have also been unsuccessful in arresting the untimely drop out of working women from the labour force.

    What is stopping Indian women from being part of the paid workforce?

    Primary Responsibility of Care
    Women bear the burden of familial care, often having to give up promising careers to shoulder domestic responsibilities

    Entrenched Gender Norms
    Gender norms in India do not recognise women as active economic agents. India exhibits a well-documented pattern of women’s participation in the workforce during times of financial distress, only to withdraw under prosperous circumstances.

    Lack of Support Systems
    India’s public infrastructure needs to evolve a gender-consciousness. Women are hindered by issues like lack of mobility, absence of career counselling, migration support among others.

    Lack of Quality Jobs
    The economic growth of the country has not translated into quality jobs. The informal sector represents 81.6% of the employment for women but is characterized by poor and unsafe working conditions.

    Lack of Role Models
    The potential of role models and peers to motivate women to join the workforce are well-known. However, unless such role models are identified, and their stories channelized effectively, and transformed more concretely into opportunities of learning, counsel and mentorship, it is a lost opportunity.

    About Equal Economy

    EqualEconomy is a multi-stakeholder platform which design and execute contextual, scalable and sustainable solutions towards increasing workforce participation of women. All solutions are driven by data, with a focus on adoption and sustainability.

    We recognise the need for solutions that are systemic and comprehensive, and rooted in the knowledge that women’s inability to participate in the workforce is an interplay of several contributing factors.

    What we do

    Underpinning our solutions are the key levers that enable systemic change:

    • – Building Gender sensitive workplaces and Understanding and exploring untapped segments of potential employment and growth for women – the MSMEs, customer experience roles, flexi-work, technology jobs.
    • – Ecosystem-level support interventions, such as, affordable and safe transportation, childcare services, counselling etc.
    • – Households that encourage and support women’s aspirations.
    • – Understanding and exploring untapped segments of potential employment and growth for women – the MSMEs, customer experience roles, flexi-work, technology jobs.

    Training and On-The-Job Interventions

    An employer-led, experiential, skilling program that enables young women to enter customer experience roles through a systemic intervention that involves skilling for employability, counselling and mentorship support and On-the-Job training.

    Counselling and Awareness Building

    Solution to foster agency and awareness among college students and build resilience and aspiration amongst women in the world of work.

    Advocacy Initiatives

    Action-oriented research undertaken to inform policy and civil society initiatives. Read our report: Work and Labour Force Participation in India – A Meta-Study – A 360-degree study that takes stock of academic, policy and civil society discourses on the reasons for low female workforce participation in India.

    We are also working on several other solutions including, role-modelling and mentorship solutions, employer interventions for gender diversity, childcare, among others, for different profiles of women.
    Sattva_EqualEconomy_Gender Engagements

    Talk to us today to find out how you can partner with us or get involved:

    Business Case for Gender Mainstreaming in Cotton in Maharashtra

    Business Case for Gender Mainstreaming in Cotton in Maharashtra


    India is the largest producer and second largest exporter of cotton in the world, providing direct livelihood to 6 million farmers, and indirect livelihood to about 40-50 million people employed in cotton trade and processing.

    Women perform a majority of the tasks involved in cotton cultivation, but play a limited part in agricultural decision-making, have low involvement in market-facing roles and little control over profits. Typically, women cultivators don’t have land titles in their name, and are often ignored stakeholders in farm-related interventions. They also have reduced access to agronomic training programs and information, and agriculture extension services provided by the government.

    To further understand the potential of women cotton cultivators in driving improved business outcomes and profitability in cotton production, Sattva and IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative conducted a gender analysis of cotton cultivation in the Vidarbha and Marathwada regions of Maharashtra between September 2018 and January 2019. This included exploring and quantifying the gender division of roles, responsibilities and access to resources, current farm practices, and the labour burden of male and women cultivators in the production process. The study sought to understand current gaps in cotton production and identify opportunities that could enable ecosystem players, cotton value chain actors, businesses, and programme implementers to make well-founded decisions based on a business case for strengthening the involvement of women cultivators.

    Key Findings

    1. Social norms impact the way women cultivators engage with the agricultural ecosystem

    • Tasks undertaken by women cotton cultivators are perceived to be ‘lighter work’, even though these tasks are highly manual, drudgery-prone and time intensive.
    • Women cultivators spend more farming days (80-90%) on the field compared to men (10-20%) through the cotton production cycle. In addition, women cultivators spend 8 additional hours engaged in household tasks daily. While household responsibilities are unpaid, the economic contribution of women cultivators on their own field also goes unmeasured.
    • Social norms limit mobility and the ability of women cultivators to take on front-facing, ‘high value’ roles. They also limit access to productive resources such as land, extension services, tools and finance, that are relatively easier to access for their male counterparts.
    • Women cultivators were typically paid INR 150 per day and men were paid INR 200-300 per day. Lower levels and reduced control over income limit the level of empowerment women cultivators can achieve.

    2. Tasks undertaken by women cultivators directly impact the quantity and quality of cotton produced

    3. The time spent by women on the field can be leveraged to implement integrated pest management

    • While engaged in weeding and fertilizer application, women are on the field during the early schedule of pest monitoring (June to September)
    • The time spent by women cultivators on the field can be leveraged to monitor for pests and reduce the incidents of pest attacks

    4. Though women undertake majority of the tasks in cotton production, primary decision-making still lies in the hands of male cultivators.

    • Women cultivators were more likely to say that decisions were made by both men and women. Male responses for the decision-making category ‘both’ are consistently 8-10% points lower than women’s responses.
    • Even when decisions were taken together, there could be varying degrees of participation by the women cultivators. The final decision was almost always taken by the male member of the household.

    5. Despite their role in cotton production, women cultivators have limited access to resources.

    • 33% of the women cultivators had attended any training in the last two years. Yet, if training was provided to women, there was a 30-40% increase in adoption of best farm practices.
    • 16% of the women cultivators surveyed held land titles in their name.
    • 15% of the women cultivators surveyed had accessed any government schemes, with lack of knowledge cited as the main limiting factor
    • SHGs remain an un-leveraged source of financial support for cotton. While most farmers depended on store credit, only 28% of the women cultivators shared that they get credit for cotton from SHGs.

    The study found that solving for the restrictions and challenges faced by women cotton cultivators has the potential to achieve improved business outcomes, including an increase in the quality and quantity of cotton produced, ultimately increasing household incomes. It also results in better social outcomes such as increased participation of women cotton cultivators in decision making.

    The full report can be accessed below.
    Business Case for Gender Mainstreaming in Cotton in Maharashtra – Full Report

    Approach and Framework

    The gender analysis framework developed by Sattva helped build an understanding of the gender division of roles and responsibilities on the farm, participation in decision-making, and access to productive resources. The framework also analyzes the underlying gender and socio-cultural norms which could influence the division of roles and access to ecosystem support. The study is the first to build a business case for gender mainstreaming in the agricultural value chain.

    Using quantitative and qualitative research methods, the study sought to answer the following questions:

    • What is the role played by women cultivators in the production of cotton and how does it contribute to the quality and quantity of the cotton produced?
    • How can business outcomes in cotton production be strengthened by enhancing the engagement of women cultivators on the farm?
    • How are women’s roles on the farm influenced by underlying gender norms? How can these norms be influenced or changed to improve and enhance women’s outputs and profitability?
    • What is the current ecosystem around women cultivators? How can it be strengthened to influence the contribution of women cultivators in cotton production?



    The study included quantitative surveys 515 women cotton cultivators and 164 male cotton cultivators. 19 focus group discussions were held with over 125 respondents across Amravati, Yavatmal, Aurangabad and Parbhani, while qualitative interviews were conducted with 26 relevant stakeholders including NGOs, Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), ginners, brands and experts in the field.

    Event: Farmer Incomes’ and Gender Mainstreaming in Cotton Cultivation

    IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative unveiled the ‘Business Case for Gender Mainstreaming in Cotton in Maharashtra’ with knowledge partners Sattva in Mumbai on May 9. The event featured the launch of two reports ‘Doubling Cotton Farmer Incomes in Maharashtra’ and ‘Business Case for Gender Mainstreaming in Cotton in Maharashtra ’, followed by an interactive session on key findings from the reports.

    Would you like to partner with us to further the conversation around gender mainstreaming in the agriculture value chain? Write in to




    It has been six years since the 2013 CSR law mandated certain companies to start spending a stipulated amount towards social responsibilities. While compliance and implementation have been getting streamlined with each passing year, there are many questions that are asked by the curious: Which corporates have the most impactful CSR programme? What is a typical CSR cycle, from genesis to completion? What makes a good CSR programme? Why do some programmes fail? What has been the impact of India Inc. CSR in the last 5 years? Who are the biggest beneficiaries of CSR? Where are the biggest gaps today in CSR in terms of demand and supply?

    Since 2009, we at Sattva have worked with 70+ corporates on their CSR programmes in a multitude of capacities: To define the CSR strategy of a company, to on-board the most relevant partners, to measure impact of existing CSR programmes, to audit programmes, to design employee volunteering programmes and to be strategic advisors and partners to the CSR unit as a whole.

    As an organisation that has been in the space for the last ten years, what have been our biggest learnings? And how are those learnings helping to shape our CSR practice this year?

    1. The range in the CSR maturity cycle is large: While some have set systems and are pivoting towards innovation in their programmes, some still don’t have their focus areas/strategies defined.
    While mature, corporate giving organisations such as the Tata Group, Reliance Industries and L&T have developed internal processes and standards to execute corporate giving, the ecosystem by and large is still in the process of developing standard practices and processes to execute effective CSR. Even today, many CSR functions share resources with other functions such as Legal, Finance, Marketing or HR. Many companies still lack a dedicated CSR team. Institutes like Indian Chamber of Commerce have started courses on CSR. However, in our view, knowledge is yet to be standardised across organisations, systems and programmes.

    2. Six years into the law, many CSR teams are looking to make data-based portfolio strategy and fund allocation decisions, to ensure highest impact from their CSR investments.
    Based on Sattva’s analysis and projections, the market for CSR has the potential to unlock more than INR 30,000 crore by 2021. As companies grow and become compliant under the law, the need to identify focus areas and regions, and subsequently, to find implementation partners for their CSR programmes will increase. But the existing ecosystem does not support effective matchmaking between NGOs and corporates based on their CSR focus. Companies are also struggling to identify what sectors to focus on that align well with their strengths – in terms of the products and services they provide.

    According to the annual State of CSR report by KPMG,44% per cent of the companies have reported a delay in implementation or exploring opportunities as their reasons for not being able to comply with the law, or having spent less than the prescribed amount on CSR in 2017-2018.

    3. There is an increasing focus on outcomes and impact created, along with compliance to spend the required amount by the CSR law.
    Though the law does not mandate reporting of numbers of people benefitted, it is heartening to see that more and more companies have started to report on people impacted in their CSR reports.

    (Source: IDR Online)

    However, companies are often still confused between output and outcomes. It is not merely enough to evaluate the success of their CSR programmes on the basis of number of people impacted, but it is also important to know what kinds of change their programmes created on -the ground, in the mid-term and long-term.

    How can Sattva help?
    • As CSR cycles are maturing, the focus is now on making programmes more efficient. We are excited to announce that Sattva has developed its technology platform SHIFT, that we envision to be the fulcrum of our CSR advisory services. We have channelled years of CSR experience advising clients on their programme design, implementation, management and evaluation into this innovative technology platform to help corporates and NGOs translate their intent into real on-ground impact. We will cover SHIFT in more detail in our next volumes of this CSR compendium.

    • Sattva’s proprietary CSR framework has been developed to address this lacuna. Over the last 5 years, we’ve used this framework to help 30+ clients define their CSR strategies, focus areas and programmes thereof [We will cover this is in further detail in our next volumes]

    • India Data Insights (IDI) is Sattva’s in-house data visualisation platform to guide corporates make informed decisions while building programmes – a snapshot from the IDI platform below:
    (Source: India Data Insights – Geographies and CSR Spend v/s Poverty Rate)

    This is a foreword to a 24- part annual compendium that will be published over the course of the next 12 months.

    Sattva has been working with various corporate clients to help them define their social impact goals and maximise the return on social investment. Our focus is to solve critical problems and find scalable solutions. Several corporates have been a partner to many such collaborations where effective CSR programmes have strategically aligned with business and have provided meaningful solutions to social issues.

    ● To read more about our work with CSR, check:
    ● Talk to us:

    Webinar – Role of Assessments

    gLOCAL Evaluation Week is a new M&E knowledge sharing initiative being convened by the CLEAR Centers with support from local and global partners. It aims to support the exchange of M&E knowledge and experiences as a means to promote evaluation capacity development, support evidence-based decision making, and strengthen development outcomes at local and global levels. These goals are central to the CLEAR Initiative’s mission, and are the inspiration for gLOCAL Evaluation Week.


    The first gLOCAL Evaluation Week will take place between June 3 and 7, 2019. During this week, events organized by various academic institutions and organizations that produce, use, or promote evaluations to strengthen development programs will take place around the world.

    Along the same lines, Sattva will be hosting a webinar on ‘Role of Assessments in Multiplying the Impact on the ground’ on 7th June 2019 at 11am.

    Register for our webinar here:

    To know more about the gLOCAL Evaluation Week, visit:

    Giving Tuesday India

    Giving Tuesday India: Insights into how India gave during Giving Tuesday 2018

    #GivingTuesday is a global giving movement that was brought to India in 2017 by GuideStar India, as a celebration during DaanUtsav. In the span of a year, the amount raised through #GivingTuesdayIndia grew seven times to INR 9.03 crore.

    The global #GivingTuesday team, GuideStar India, Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy (CSIP) at Ashoka University, and Sattva Research have collaborated to create data-driven insights on the nature and patterns of giving during #GivingTuesdayIndia.
    The effort sought:

  • To derive actionable, data-driven insights on the nature of participation during #GivingTuesdayIndia
  • To understand the impact of data collection and sharing on boosting the #GivingTuesdayIndia movement in the country
  • To compare #GivingTuesdayIndia’s data collection and sharing capabilities with those of #GivingTuesdayUSA to recommend ways forward for India
  • Click on the DOWNLOAD link on the left for the full report.

    To explore and better understand the behaviours of India’s givers, contact us today at

    Everyday Giving in India Report: 2019


    Everyday Giving in India: Harnessing the potential of a billion givers for social impact:
    A Research Study



    India has always had a long and rich culture of individual giving, largely to religion and community, and more recently, social development. For a country with potentially a billion givers, the contours of the ‘everyday giving space’ — giving by ordinary citizens contributing time, money, voice, skills and more in India — has remained an unknown.

    From September 2018 to April 2019, Sattva undertook a first-of-its-kind study on the everyday giving ecosystem in India, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies.

    The study is a first attempt at obtaining a deeper look into the everyday giving market and ecosystem in its entirety — estimates of the market size, characteristics of the givers, online and offline giving channels, the NGOs that engage with retail givers, and enablers, their practices, successes and barriers.

    We believe India has a nascent formal giving ecosystem, but has the potential to grow this significantly in volume and value. We hope this report proves useful in understanding the everyday giving space in India and brings home actionable recommendations for philanthropists, NGOs, CSR, Indian diaspora communities, and enablers, to further unlock the untapped potential of everyday givers.

    Key Findings

    • India has a rich tradition of everyday giving and citizen engagement. In 2017, everyday givers contributed ~INR 34k cr (USD 5.1 b) to community, religion, disaster-relief and charitable causes. Over the last decade, citizen engagement and volunteering have grown rapidly in India, bearing potential to increase giving through engagement.
    • In contrast to other prominent social economies such as the USA and China, 90% of India’s EG is informal giving to religion and community. Only INR 3.5k cr / USD 528 m (10%) goes to Social Purpose Organisations (SPOs), making it a mere 6% contribution to total philanthropic giving in India.
    • Over 80% of EG to SPOs is acquired through offline telemarketing and face-to-face interactions, but online and mixed channels are growing steadily, backed by rapid growth of digital shopping and payments, and millennials wanting to give back.
    • Formal EG to SPOs could leapfrog to become a significant contributor to total philanthropic giving in India in the next 3-5 years. Indian residents and diaspora’s growing earning capacity, and response to nascent digital giving innovations in payroll giving, crowdfunding and e-commerce-based giving could be central to this growth.
    • India’s everyday givers are motivated by four triggers: convenience, urgency, community and impact. Givers prefer to engage with social causes personally but are impeded in their giving by lack of information on reliable SPOs, relevant avenues for giving, and regulatory barriers.
    • Most Indian SPOs tap into retail giving only when other funding streams are inaccessible. Some leverage external opportunities or international expertise while only a few do so because citizen engagement is core to their mission.
    • Giving channels embrace the unique challenges of Indian everyday giving for effective solutioning. While online channels are growing at ~30% CAGR, offline channels dominate in the Indian context.
    • The support ecosystem of influencers, funders, enablers and regulators play a critical role in creating a tipping point for Indian EG.
    • In order to achieve the potential for everyday giving in India and build a sustainable culture of citizen engagement, we believe it is important to (a) recognise that meaningful engagement is critical to increase giving, (b) take into account the Indian realities of EG and design for them, (c) leverage mainstream communities and existing consumer behaviours, and (d) move givers to mindful ways of giving.

    The key findings can be accessed in a report snapshot below.

    The full report can be accessed below.

    A technical appendix with detailed market calculations can be accessed below

    This is a first attempt at uncovering the everyday giving market in India. We deeply appreciate your feedback, comments, and suggestions. Please write to us at

    Event: A Billion Givers – a participatory dialogue on ‘Everyday Giving in India’ with the giving ecosystem

    Sattva Research unveiled ‘Everyday Giving in India: Harnessing the Potential of a Billion Givers for Social Impact’ at ‘A Billion Givers: Harnessing the potential of India’s everyday people for impact, a participatory dialogue on everyday giving in India on April 24, 2019.

    The event was conducted with the objective of delving deeper into the insights and recommendations of the report and building much-needed conversation around individual giving in the country.


    A Billion Givers saw the coming-together of over 130 representatives of NGOs, enabling platforms, funding entities and channels who participated in robust panel discussions on topics such as ‘Strengthening our citizenship muscle: Everyday giving in a participatory democracy’ and ‘Innovation and growth potential of the formal everyday giving market in India’.

    The event was proud to host philanthropist Rohini Nilekani, who delivered a rousing keynote address on the democratic nature of giving and the importance of citizen engagement, and Victoria Vrana, Deputy Director, Policy, Systems and Giving by All, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who shared insights on giving trends across the world, and how the Everyday Giving in India study is filling a data-gap in philanthropic giving for India.

    Key takeaways from Rohini Nilekani and Victoria Vrana’s addresses were illustrated in a live doodle by Ladyfingers Co.

    Thought-leaders in the giving ecosystem share their experiences and envision the future of everyday giving in India


    L to R: Vasanthi Hariprakash, Pickle Jar, Venkat, social evangelist and Jithin Nedumala, Make a Difference

    Jithin Nedumala of Make a Difference, Kuldeep Dantewadia of Reap Benefit, Venkat Krishnan, the social evangelist and Bharath Visweswaraiah of Omidyar Network discussed the hows of retail giving and realising the giving potential of citizens with Vasanthi Hariprakash of Pickle Jar, the lively moderator for the panel.

    Key takeaways from the panel on “Strengthening our citizenship muscle: Everyday giving in a participatory democracy” were illustrated in a live doodle by Ladyfingers Co.

    This was followed by an insightful discussion on growth potential of the everyday giving market in India with some of the biggest innovators in the giving ecosystem today – Anoj Viswanathan of Milaap, Varun Sheth of Ketto, Atul Satija of GiveIndia, Piyush Jain of Impact Guru, and moderator for the panel, Rathish Balakrishnan of Sattva.

    L to R: Varun Sheth, Ketto and Piyush Jain, Impact Guru

    Key takeaways from the panel on “Innovation and growth potential of the formal everyday giving market in India” were illustrated in a live doodle by Ladyfingers Co.

    Would you like to partner with us to further the conversation around everyday giving in India? Let’s talk. Write in to

    Media Coverage

    Shambhavi Srivastava

    Shambhavi is a Senior Research Manager at Sattva and brings in 8 years of experience in research and public policy projects in the sectors of rural livelihoods, women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion. Shambhavi brings with her strong expertise in quantitative and qualitative research methods using mixed-method approaches, statistical tools and experience with leading outreach and dissemination activities on the field and in the ecosystem. She has served as a Principal Investigator (PI) on numerous gender, public health, financial inclusion and rural livelihood projects.

    Prior to Sattva, Shambhavi worked as Research Manager for Institute of Financial Management and Research (IFMR LEAD), India where she served as the PI and programme lead for policy projects in the Financial Inclusion vertical on multi-stakeholder projects in collaboration with partners such as DFID, Access Assist, SIDBI, Ministry of Finance and the University of Munich.

    Shambhavi holds a Master of Arts degree in Cultural and Social Geography from the University of British Columbia, Canada, a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations and Political Science from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India and a Bachelors in Political Science from Lady Shriram Delhi University, India.

    More than Money

    Elderly self-help groups in rural areas provide more than just financial security.

    National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in India defines Self Help Groups (SHGs) as “small economical homogenous affinity groups of rural poor, voluntarily formed to save and mutually contribute to a common fund to be lent to its members as per group decision.” The loans that the rural poor can avail of is utilized in a number of ways, including generation of income through entrepreneurial pursuits.

    Earning a living, however, is not the sole reserve of under-60-year olds. Given their vulnerabilities, elderly people in villages need it just as much. In the last two decades, HelpAge India has pioneered the creation of Elder Self-Help Groups or ESHGs in rural India to provide livelihood support to the elderly. The success of this model has led to its adoption by the Ministry of Rural Development for the National Rural Livelihoods Mission in India, for 5,543 ESHGs, impacting 67,014 elders across 12 states in India. The ESHG members may save as low as an amount as INR 30 (USD 0.42) per month per person, and then pool their resources to inter-lend within their group of 10-20 people, eventually moving on to larger loans through financial linkages with banks. They may then individually or collectively engage in income generating activities, such as taking on the project of cooking the midday meal for children in the village school.

    While ESHGs have potent financial impact on the lives of the aged, there are also some lesserknown social aspects that are harder to quantify and may often be empirical in nature. However, there is no denying the positive impact they have on the personal psyche and relationships of seniors.


    Increased inter-generational bonding
    Travels into rural West Bengal brought us in touch with 10 such ESHGs, including a few 80-year-olds who walked into the ESHG meeting bent over crude walking sticks. They were too old to earn the INR 1 (less than 2 US cents) a day that they had to contribute to the collective savings fund. They proudly announced though, that their grandchildren gave them INR 1 a day from their own daily “pocket-money” of INR 5 so that the grandparents could be a part of the ESHGs. Though anecdotal in this instance, ESHGs have been known to increase intergenerational bonding within the family due to similar circumstances.

    Improved status within the family
    Old age is sometimes associated with familial neglect. However, ESHG members often enjoy improved status within their families. One of the reasons for this is that they are able to contribute to the family income through their own earnings via the ESHG. Even in the absence of such earnings, the elderly nominate family members who will be the recipient of their ESHG savings and the interest it accrues upon their demise. Having an inheritance to leave behind therefore also contributes to their improved social standing within the family.

    Antidote to loneliness
    Even with improved social status in the family, loneliness is a real concern for the aged. Amidst their own work and household chores, family members may have little time to spare to engage with the elderly folks in the house.

    However, village elders who had become ESHG members said that they had organized outings to picnic spots and religious sites as a group – something they had never tried before. Others mentioned that when ill-health hampered their mobility, the whole group congregated close to their house for the weekly meetings so that they could be a part of it. Interestingly, the elderly having their own social circle led to decreased stress for the care-givers in the family too, and therefore often resulted in more harmonious family relationships.

    Broadened horizons and collective action
    Among the most remarkable effects of the ESHGs however, is the impact of exchange tours to other ESHGs. Not only does this expose members to wonders they had never experienced in their own lives (like travelling by train for the first time, or seeing running water flowing out of a tap), it also gets them acquainted with best practices of other groups. There have been reports of groups who almost doubled their contribution to the savings fund to provide small stipends for more destitute members. Dolon Mukherjee, a Ph.D. scholar in gerontology and a HelpAge India veteran, commented that ESHGs who had met such groups came back to their own villages and started to save INR 2 instead of INR 1 per month. The reason? To set up a parallel avenue of pensions for members of their ESHGs who did not have access to state pensions and social security benefits.

    Elder Self-Help Groups have, therefore, not just helped the elderly financially, but also given them a new lease on their social and personal lives in their twilight years.

    This article was originally published in Impact Magazine and can be accessed here.

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