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.

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

You can find more Insights from Sattva here.

To talk to us for collaborations or partnerships, you can write to us: impact@sattva.co.in

Niharika Bora

Niharika is part of our People team in Bangalore, leading the internal talent acquisition practice at Sattva and also anchoring the engagement with the talent network in the social sector. She is passionate about talent and brings in deep expertise in attracting talent to technology companies and non-profits spread across India, US, Canada and Malaysia.

Prior to joining Sattva, she consulted non-profits and start-ups on their people strategy. She also runs an online community of professionals working in the social sector. She regularly writes on Quora and LinkedIn on career paths and choices.

She has an engineering degree in electronics from Nagpur University and a post graduate diploma in Human Resources from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies.

IT spent Rs 5,091 crore on CSR between 2014 & ’17

Education is the most favoured choice of Indian IT cos, followed by central govt schemes that get about 14% of CSR money.

IT firms have spent over Rs 5,091 crore in corporate social spending between 2014 and 2017, said Sattva, a startup that looks at data to measure social impact by companies. Tata Consultancy Services led the spending with over Rs 1,091 crore in the period.

The government mandates that firms should spend at least 2% of their average net profits made in the preceding three years on CSR. The trend, in terms of geography of spend by IT services firms, differs from the overall trend.

After pan-India projects, which is the highest in every category (in case of IT firms accounts for half their CSR), overall CSR spend by corporates is concentrated in the Western region.

In case of IT firms it’s concentrated in the South (1/3rd of their CSR). Education is the most favoured choice of Indian IT companies, followed by central government schemes that get about 14% of CSR money.

In the category of ‘startups’ (tech/innovation, etc), Sattva found only Chennai-headquartered Zoho Corporation contributing any significant sum to CSR. Zoho has reported CSR spend of Rs 25.5 crore on Zoho University.

(This article was originally published in Economic Times. All pictures and images, courtesy the publication.)

How we halved open defecation in a New Delhi slum in a year

With 1.1 billion people relieving themselves in the open, India accounts for more than 59%, of open defecation worldwide (source: WHO). Open defecation is the leading cause of diarrhea and worm infections, which result in more than half a million children in our country dying annually. Even of those who survive, many are physically and cognitively stunted for the rest of their lives (source: WHO). According to World Bank, India loses 2.4 Trillion Rupees each year due to poor and inadequate sanitation conditions (Source: World Bank) While over 1.2 million of Delhi’s slum population is dependent on community toilets, only 55% of this infrastructure is usable (Source: Action Aid), leaving half a million people defecating in the open.

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To truly understand the problem at its core, my team in Enactus – an international student-led social entrepreneurship body – studied the demand and supply factors of public sanitation. We learnt that:

1) People in slums avoid using toilets, given their filthy state. This, along with age old misconceptions, leads to rampant open defecation. Lack of ownership towards community toilets provokes vandalism, rendering them defunct.
2) Currently, the community toilets are developed by the government and then the operationalisation of these toilets is handled by maintenance firms who file a tender for it. The toilet maintenance firms face shortages of trained staff resulting in substandard operations.
3) Despite efforts by the govt to expand infrastructure, funds end up being utilised for reconstruction of defunct complexes.

Seeing an opportunity to work on systemic failures, four colleagues and I created Project Raahat in 2016.

Raahat has a twofold mission – to eradicate open defecation and provide safe sanitation to urban slum communities by innovating in management of community toilet complexes and sensitising people on good sanitary practices

We took our model and pitched it to different Urban Local Bodies and Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) who finally gave us a pilot site in Sultanpuri, a slum cluster in North Delhi. Our intervention comprised the following:

Entrepreneurial Model: To overcome the problem of substandard maintenance our team developed an entrepreneurial model. We selected two unemployed yet aspiring individuals from the community as caretakers. Through extensive and continuous training, we equipped them with the knowledge of plumbing and cleaning practices, interpersonal skills and bookkeeping.

Revenue Model: Further, as mandated by the Government, a nominal fee is charged from the toilet users which forms the income of the entrepreneur after allowing for maintenance expenses and reserves.

Customised Sensitisation: We customised sensitisation activities to suit different demographics. For example, we gamified the topic with hopscotch and relay races to educate children on proper use of toilets. We created a own fictional character called Raahi, who became a mascot for propagating sanitation amongst slum children. Our campaigns for women covered topics such as healthy pregnancy and menstrual hygiene. Aesthetic modifications were made using wall art based on popular Bollywood and cartoon themes to encourage people to use toilets.

Payment Alternatives: Pay and use toilets are characterised by long waiting lines and the compulsion of having to pay each time, deterring people from using them. To resolve this, we introduced the Raahat Suvidha ticket. These tickets can be purchased in bundles at a discount and offer user convenience and flexibility.

Security: By employing nightguards and installing surveillance mechanisms, the toilet facility was operational 24/7. Women no longer have to relieve themselves in the open in the darkness of night.
Data Analysis: To effectively monitor usage levels of the toilet complex, we installed a people counter which measures footfall and segregating the population according to demographics. When usage statistics decline, remedial action is taken by the entrepreneurs in the form of targeted sensitisation to ensure continued usage.

Exit Strategy: We defined benchmarks in terms of number of users and rate of open defecation. Once these were surpassed, all responsibilities of complex management were transferred to the entrepreneurs.

With a baseline and endline done by DUSIB, Sultanpuri showcased a reduction in open defecation from 70% to 35% in a year, a first-time achievement in any slum cluster of Delhi. We were also lauded by Delhi’s deputy chief minister, Mr. Manish Sisodia.

We developed a Standard Operating Procedure with DUSIB for all maintenance firms of Delhi. We have been consulting these firms on such maintenance practices too. Rs 9.8 million worth medical expenditures have been avoided through our intervention.

Key Takeaways

1) Giving ownership of sanitation to the community itself by including a community member for maintenance and care taking
2) Developing the area as a community space to shatter the image of a “dingy dirty place” to a place where you can visit without any fear or discomfort
3) Helping sustained usage of the facility by reducing the per usage cost and using data analytics to solve area specific problems

3 years later, Raahat has come a long way. We are 40 members strong, running 15 community toilet complexes in Delhi. We are now working with the Andhra Pradesh government to run our programme through government volunteers.

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For data on households in India that have access to a toilet, look at our data here.

The Government is serious about CSR Compliance – Are you?

Introduction

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) suggests that the responsibility of the for-profits operating within society, is to also contribute towards its economic, social and environmental development and well-being. The core objective of enforcing a CSR mandate is that businesses cannot succeed in isolation, especially when society at large fails to prosper. The Companies Act, 2013 is therefore, a landmark legislation that made India the first country to mandate and quantify CSR expenditure. This move was an attempt by the government to partner with business houses on the national development agenda.

The Story So Far

It has been close to 5 years since the government mandated that corporates with :
● a net worth of INR 500 cr. or more
● or a turnover of INR 1000 cr. or more
● or a net profit of INR 5 cr. or more

in a given financial year, must spend 2 percent (to be calculated as per Section 198 of the Act) of their average net profits on socially relevant projects as defined in Schedule VII of The Companies Act.

However, even today many corporates eligible for CSR do not contribute to development projects and therefore run a risk of being sent notices for non-compliance and non-conformance of CSR norms.

While a large chunk of eligible corporates have adopted the mandate as an opportunity to further their corporate citizenship and not just as a tick box activity, there is still a large share of eligible companies who are yet to deploy their CSR funds.

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Three years after the law came into existence, that is till 2016-17 – close to half of 19,933 eligible companies have not spent any money as part of their CSR obligations (~9468 companies) and as many as 15,422 companies spent less than the prescribed CSR amount during the same period. In addition to the above citations, there are examples of companies as well who have spent upwards of four times of their prescribed CSR budget in the financial year.

However, as we see non-compliance has reduced year-on-year. A recent survey published by NGOBOX (
http://ngobox.org/full-news_CSR-Outlook-Report-by-NGOBOX-analyses-top-359-companies-NGOBOX_22359) revealed interesting insights on CSR compliance among India’s biggest 359 companies which together account for 3/4th of the total CSR spend:

● CSR compliance among these companies stood at 93% for the year 2017-18 up 2% points compared to previous year.
● Metal, mining and mineral (138%) followed by Oil, Drilling, Lubricants and petrochemicals (104%) sectors emerged as the highest CSR compliant industries followed closely by Auto and Auto ancillaries.

Government Initiatives/ Steps Towards Compliance

Things are looking up. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has also stepped up its effort to encourage corporates to comply with the CSR provisions by setting up:

● National CSR Data Portal –The National Corporate Social Responsibility Data Portal is an initiative by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India to establish a platform to disseminate Corporate Social Responsibility related data and information filed by the companies registered with it (https://csr.gov.in)

● National CSR award – The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has instituted National CSR Award (NCSRA) to recognise CSR for inclusive growth and sustainable development. This Award seeks to recognise the companies that have made a transformative impact on society.

Along with the initiatives mentioned above, the ministry has also taken a few steps to increase compliance by:

● Reconstitution of a high-level committee on Corporate Social Responsibility 2018 (HLC-2018) under the Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) to review the existing framework and guide and formulate the roadmap for a coherent policy on Corporate Social Responsibility.

● Centralised Scrutiny and Prosecution Mechanism (CSPM) to promote enforcement of CSR provisions. CSPM has been tasked to start with examination of records of the top 1,000 companies mandated to spend on CSR. The CSPM team of inspectors are issuing show cause notices and prosecution proceedings against non-compliant companies.

In the latest round, prosecution proceedings against 284 companies and show cause notices against 5,382 companies have already been issued.

In view of these efforts, it is clear that the government is serious about bringing rigour and strong scrutiny to ensure the CSR law is strictly followed in the near future.

Current challenges and what Corporate India Can Do

Corporates often find that they have unutilised funds in the last quarter of the financial year. This could be because of several reasons:

● long cycles in identification of impactful projects or/and credible partners
● uncertainty on the exact figure of what the total CSR budget may be due to the change in company profit
● ambiguity in the legal requirements
● difficulties in developing the strategic vision in a multi stake-holder environment
● challenges in planning and executing operations through the year

Some typical avenues that corporate India chooses to disburse its CSR funds are:

● Contribution to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund
● Contribution to CSOs working in the chosen area of focus by the corporate
● Contribution to Corporate foundations setup to undertake CSR activities exclusively (Own or External)
● Contribution to multi stakeholder platforms founded to address areas of concern.

Although last minute, it would be imperative for corporates to consider some key points while making their social investment decisions in order to move from a compliance-led CSR function to a more strategic CSR function:

● Recognising CSR as a strategic corporate function : CSR law is here to stay. Recognising the strategic and legal significance of CSR and incorporating it into long-term corporate strategy is imperative.
● CSR Vision : Alignment and long term commitment to company’s CSR anchor ( focus area/audience/geography ) is key in creating long lasting impact and corporate legacy.
● Measure to improve, not prove: A robust monitoring and evaluation mechanism acts well as the steering wheel required to continuously improve CSR interventions and make timely course corrections.
● Outcome first: An outcome led approach as against an input led approach goes a long way in establishing the social impact goals the corporate wants to achieve.

There is a need to fund projects which will not only impact the last mile recipient of the intervention but also bring the culture of empathy and service within the organisation.

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:https://bit.ly/2G9g2UZ
● Talk to us: impact@sattva.co.in

From a cushy corporate job to the development sector

I spent over 16 years driving operational excellence to derive value and efficiency for several corporates. I was good at it and I enjoyed every bit of it. Therefore, my transition to the development space was initially a trial with no long-term commitment.

It may not be an easy transition for everyone either. Corporate life provides some financial comforts. The larger the organisation you leave behind, the more startling is the perceived difference in the sector, and so, it takes time to acclimatise. The basic amenities of large corporations like air-conditioned offices, travelling in comfort, food and beverages in abundance and sometimes just the option of moving to another role in the same organization gives comfort. Unlike many others, I consider myself fortunate that I could quit my job even though there was a reduced pay cheque and I could take the plunge without worrying.

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“There is no way that a handful of us can comfortably solve the issues that confront us, given their enormity and complex nature.” Credits: Shrutee Ganguly

From the outside it seemed like a space that was unorganised and largely depressing, mainly because all the success stories somehow do not reach outside a selected few. Never did I think that my values, skills, aspirations or even courage, to see reality upfront will align to the needs of the sector. Until then, participating in employee volunteering activities, making donations, frequent visits to old age homes or rehab centres, and even making myself heard by counting the failures of our social system during lunch table conversations, was the closest I had done to make a difference.

Giving back to society originates from the most inherent human need to nurture positive thoughts and recognise self-worth. It is this journey to self-realisation, feeling worthwhile, experiencing gratitude and leaving a legacy behind, that attracts many people.

But I wanted to go beyond the donation of money, material or labour. I was interested in efforts that have scope to scale and sustain.

Tackling the challenges head-on and doing something about it, is the DNA of this sector. Problem solving is required extensively to ensure every challenge, small and big, is quickly dealt with. My new role gave me an opportunity to use my skills of not just problem-solving, but also building systems and processes where data played a role. In addition, this sector has respect for honest efforts. I had the privilege here to work on many functions which were first in many ways like working with partners and helping them grow by building their capability. This sector has so many people with intent, yet corporate brings an organized and systematic approach to the transformation. Together the results are worth taking a notice.

Having said all that, what this sector does not prepare you initially is the magnitude of the problems that we may encounter. There is no way that a handful of us can comfortably solve the issues that confront us, given their enormity and complex nature. So, working together with same goal at various levels of our socio-economic classification, is our hope to bring collective impact on the ground.

Corporate experience is a definite plus. The tools and techniques which often work for making profits are tweaked to generate better social ROI. Projects selected are based on social importance along with strategic alignment to have long term impact. Change management, which is restricted to a few stakeholders in the corporate world has a much larger connotation here.

Some of the radical work in the sector today requires the best of organisational practices, process expertise and thought leadership by the people who have been there and done that.

The best results are delivered by people who have the choice to do something else, but choose what is important – no money and no designations can alter their grit. They are achievers and have chosen to follow their life’s calling. During my transition, I have met many such incredible people who have largely influenced my thinking today and will shape our tomorrow.

India is maturing as a country, where the need is to balance modern practices with old traditions. As the saying goes, deeper the roots, more difficult it is to shake the tree. Often there are moments of uncertainty, as there is no quick success. So, what really drives us? And my answer to this is simple. Here we are not in the business of selling hope, but hope is what drives our business. In other words, the only driver is to create impact and make a change. The mind shift becomes more real when the ‘I’ becomes ‘we’ and ‘them’ becomes ‘us.

I know I am here for my own selfish reasons. Where else will I get to meet amazing people, witness stories of perseverance, learn from real life experiences, apply skills to solve challenges and to top it all rebuild my faith that the world is getting better.

I think I can safely say that I am here to stay.

This blog was previously published in Qrius.

Rahul Shah

Rahul is part the Consulting Services team in Mumbai, with experience working on organisational development with both small and large NGOs, CSR design and implementation, development impact bonds, fundraising and impact assessment.

His diverse experience in the development sector has evolved from his time working at the grassroots level in Ahmedabad, India, to community organising in his hometown of Washington, DC, consulting with social organisations across domains and managing multi-year development projects. Prior to joining Sattva, Rahul worked with TechnoServe India where he managed a CSR funded accelerator programme for women-led social enterprises and NGOs, and a USAID funded project transferring frugal agricultural innovations from India to Africa. In addition to his development sector work, he has five years of progressive experience in corporate finance with industry leading, Fortune 500 corporations in the United States.

Rahul has an MBA and an MS Finance from the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business and an Executive Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Georgetown University.

Chaitanya Pathak

Chaitanya is a part of the Consulting Services (Implementation) team in Mumbai, working on design and implementation of CSR projects.

Before Sattva he has worked in the IT services industry with a business intelligence firm. He went on to a Gandhi Fellowship with Kaivalya Education Foundation, working with government systems and stakeholders in rural Rajasthan. Through all these years he continued to volunteer at Make A Difference (MAD), an organisation that works in improving life outcomes for underprivileged children. He is committed to using his knowledge and skills to make lives better, while being a catalyst for social change.

Chaitanya is a Gandhi Fellow and has a B.E. in Computer Technology from Yeshwantrao Chavan College of Engineering, Nagpur.

Urmi Patil

Urmi is a part of our Consulting Services team in Mumbai, supporting the design and implementation of CSR projects.

Before Sattva, she worked in southern Gujarat assisting Ph.D. scholars with their primary research and learning different participatory tools of engagement. She has worked in Government Primary Schools in Uttarakhand for two years where she was able to support schools on processes that improved the learning outcomes of children and enhanced participation of the community members. She has also worked with Mahila Mangal Dals, Yuvak Mangal Dals and Self Help Groups for their capacity building through community-based stakeholder mapping.

Urmi has a Bachelor of Arts, with Economics Honours from Christ University.

Shrutee Ganguly

Shrutee is part of the Consulting Services team, Delhi, and leads engagements with corporate and strategic account clients. She manages a team that works with various implementation partners and NGOs to create long term sustainable impact. Her role demands her to manage customer experience, define strategy and create valuable outcomes in the ecosystem.

Before Sattva she has had 16+ years in diverse corporate domains – banking, product management and consulting. Her key areas of expertise are Operational Excellence; Process Re-engineering, Programme Management, Coaching, Relationship Management & training. She has worked with senior leaders and operations staff to understand cultural dynamics, manage expectations, streamline processes and deliver results. It is her belief that the social sector needs some of these skills to streamline and structure their efforts to create impact and value. At Sattva, Shrutee has worked with the largest education non-profit in India to co-create models to recognise needs of middle management govt officials who are responsible for the policy and implementation at schools. She also worked closely with the client’s programme team to run pilots and gather relevant inputs from teachers and community on teaching practices, child engagement, good practices and challenges.

Shrutee is a post graduate in computer applications from Madras University and an IBM certified Lean coach.